January Ultimate Exercise – “The Curve Ball”

Welcome to our Last exercise of the month, how time flew!! From the reaction from all you guys loving & sharing our exercises over the last 3 weeks, I feel like it would be quite rude not to keep carrying them out into February… What do you guys think?

This week was a difficult one, I had an exercise all set up to go & well it failed miserably! Dante couldn’t get the hang of it & well to be honest I lost the plot & gave up. This is ok. Sometimes I find myself maybe pushing Dante & myself too far with some exercises, so I took a step back & evaluated the situation.

Which brought me to this weeks actual exercise, and YES it is all about jumping!! How many of your faces have lit up reading that? Of course, I have tried to use what we have been doing in previous exercises and tied it into this one, keep scrolling to see what I have in store!

What You Will Need?

You will need an arena, or a field as always. There is a bit more set up this week, which will require you to have 3 x sets of wings & 9 poles.

Alternatively, if you dont have wings, blocks or barrels can be used in place to create your jumps! I kept the height to 80/90cm, with the fence in the centre at 90/1m. Adjust these to best suit your horse & their ability. Keeping in mind that they don’t need to be big fences.

I have the set up in the diagram below. For each fence, I have put a ground pole on either side. This will allow me to approach the fences from both directions.

The Curve Ball Exercise

What Is this Exercise Good For?

  • Maintaining a collected canter
  • Balance
  • Perfecting tricky lines into fences
  • Flexing your horse around your leg

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • This exercise was one of my favourites. When I got to the end & managed to get the hang of it, I could easily of spend hours perfecting this exercise.
  • Begin by warming your horse up as usual. This week for my warm up, I focused more on holding Dante together on the short side for a collected trot & pushing him out for an extended trot on the long side, the same in the canter (this proved quite difficult & needs some work!)
  • I also began to incorporate, 15m circles in canter, encouraging Dante to hold himself together better in smaller spaces. Once you begin this exercise, having a collected bouncy canter will be what you aim for, giving you more control on your approach and as you land around the bends.
  • Once you are satisfied with your warm up, begin by jumping each jump section by section. See Diagrams below.
  • When you are happy with how your horse is approaching both fences, making sure there is no rushing after or towards the fence, you can then begin to piece this “curve ball” together.
  • Try to keep your bends as smooth as you can, & remember to use as much of the arena as you wish to give your horse more space.
  • On my approach to the first fence, you may have noticed from the video our Instagram, that I didn’t approach either fence bang on centre. If I was to do this my curve to the second fence would be rather sharp, so try approaching your fence at an angle, this will help set you up nicely for your second fence. See Diagram below.
Piece part 1 & 2 together to create your “Curve Ball”
  • Once you are happy with how your horse is jumping over the two angled fences, then you can add in the last section of the exercise.
  • This is where your practice of your 15m canter circles comes into play. Landing after your second fence, you are aiming to land, circling into your fence down your centre line. As you approach your fence, aim to keep your horse collected & balanced in the canter. See Diagram Below for Final Layout
Piece the entire exercise together
  • Dante found this quite challenging as he got himself used to bending and flowing through his corners in the canter, to then having to hold himself together on the straight, a lot of leg was needed to keep his canter flowing & from stopping him from breaking.
  • Again, once you have jumped this exercise off both reins, & are happy with your finish, finish up on that good note. Don’t over do it if your horse is finding the bends difficult, I know Dante found it harder on one rein over the other!

And there you have it, our final January “Ultimate Exercise!”. I wont lie to you all, finishing with a jumping exercise was ideal, this is where I excel most, and well who doesn’t love a good jump!

I have been pleasantly surprised with Dante’s progress over these last few weeks with the exercises. I think it is something I may continue to do, not only for you guys, but for myself also, each week it gave me something to focus on, picking aspects of my training to focus on and perfect. Dante has slowly began to perfect his flying changes, the focus point of most of our exercises, which has helped us massively with jumping a course of fences!

What was your favourite exercise of the series? And what would you like to see us tackle next? I wreakon a few of you are wondering what the original exercise I scrapped at the beginning was to?!

Keep your eyes peeled for more!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

January Ultimate Exercise – Halt, Loop & Go!

Welcome to week 3! I can’t get over the amazing response we have had to these exercises, maybe it is something you guys want to read more off in the future…? Who knows what we have in store!

This week we are focusing more in on our transition work, incorporating a serpentine in canter. This will bring us forward from last weeks exercise still working on our flying changes from our “Figure of Death”, lets see how much your horse has learned!

Keep reading to find out how we got on, do be warned though, prepare yourself for sore legs the next day!!

What You Will Need?

For this weeks exercise, you will yet again need your arena, or a field to layout this exercise.

6 poles are needed, position them in the arena as per the diagram below across the diagonal. Between each pole, walk out the distance of 10 footsteps for a horse and 9 footsteps for a pony.

Be sure to clear your arena of any extra wings/poles as you will need the space.

What This Exercise Is Good For?

  • Perfecting your Flying changes in sequence
  • Developing the riders coordination & seat
  • Approaching poles correctly
  • Suppling your horse around your leg
  • Helping your horses Balance & Rhythm

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • As always, begin this exercise by warming your horse up accordingly.
    Focusing again on firstly your walk on each rein getting them loose & listening, followed by trot work incorporating some 20 metre circles adding in some figures of 8’s , and finally begin with your canter.
  • Once you are satisfied with your horses warm up, that they are listening to your leg aids accordingly, we can start to introduce the first section of this exercise. It is all about transition work, with the poles being there as a guideline to assist you & your horse with straightness. See Diagram below.
  • You can see in the image that between each pole in the diagram there is an “X” marked in the middle. This is your take off point & also your stopping point. Anytime you react an X, you must transition up or down from the original gait you came in. Try this a couple of times in each direction, mixing up your transitions so your horse doesn’t anticipate the exercise. (trot to halt, halt to trot, walk to canter, canter to halt etc.)
  • The most important thing to remember, don’t let your horse run through a transition. Going forward you need to push them forwards, if you need to assist your leg with a flick of a schooling whip do. On downward transitions you will need to sit and hold. Using your seat & leg will be the most beneficial way to accomplish this, or even your voice with a calming “Woahhh”.
Starting off your exercise with a larger, more exaggerated loop of the arena across the diagonal.
  • Once you feel like you have hit the nail on the head with the above, then you can begin to progress to the second part of the exercise, the serpentine. This is where your canter work comes into play.
  • Begin by picking up your canter, and approaching the outer poles in a large 20metre circle. Do this off both reins until you are happy with how your horse is approaching the ground poles. You want them staying in the same rhythm & approaching the poles calmly. See Diagram Below.
  • See the Diagram below for the final stage of the exercise. When riding the serpentine in Canter, try land for two strides after each pole before your approach to the next, use your seat & wrap your horse around your inside leg, using your outside leg to keep him moving forward. You are trying to focus here on using your legs more instead of using your hands when turning your horse. This takes some time getting used to. Trust me, I had to hold a branch to stop me from pulling at Dante’s mouth at times!
  • Once you complete your serpentine, of course the exercise isn’t quite finished yet! You must loop back in what we practiced at the beginning! Marked with a red “X” on the image below, you must transition down to a halt from your canter, this was our rule to finishing out the exercise!
  • To finish off, again if your horse completes this good on the first attempt with the correct leads over the poles, end your session. Don’t over work your horse. You will only end up spending more time trying to fix it or correct it leaving you aggravated & well pissed off, we have all been there!

And there you have it! Our Halt, Loop & GO exercise. I thought it would be best not to use the word death in the title, a lot of you were quite concerned!

Doing this on both horses, again they both gave me different reactions one was good, one was challenging! To my surprise Dante seemed to of brought froward what he learned from our “Figure of Death” and really used his little brain in remembering his flying changes. Coco on the other hand, well she was being coco, attacking the poles and basically loving life with a few attempts to get me off!! Check out our Instagram to see some videos of the horses doing this exercise!

The Branch!! A lot of you have asked why I was holding a branch whilst riding part of this exercise. Well it is quite simple, it was an aid to assist myself with keeping my hands steady & to stop my uneven contact. Give it a go yourself, try riding with a short whip or in my case a branch. Hold your reins like normal, and place the whip across your horses whither’s holding it under your thumbs, It will basically help position your hands in the perfect place & help you forget about thinking what you are doing with them!

How will you get on with this weeks exercise? Let us know in the comments below, & of course tag us in your video’s if you give this video a go!

Thanks For Reading,

Darielle

January Ultimate Exercise – “Figure Of Death”

Wow!! What a reaction to our first “Ultimate series” exercise! It looks like we weren’t the only ones looking to up our game & get right back into work for the New Year!

This weeks exercise, now that you have hopefully mastered the trot we decided to focus in on our canter work. Luckily for me I have both Coco & Dante to trial this exercise on and what a difference both of them gave me!

Keeping a persistant rhythm & keeping the same pace towards the end of this exercise was key, keep reading to see how we approached this weeks Figure of Death!

What You Will Need?

A lot of stamina & energy for starters & patience!!

You will physically need yet again an arena, or an open field with 6 ground poles. The distance between the square of poles should be 9(pony)10(horse) footsteps. But if you want to cheat making sure they are placed exactly parallel to each other as per the diagram below & you should be fine (unless you are riding a very small pony!)

Make sure you have cleared your arena of any other wings/poles as you will need all the space you can get!

What This Exercise Is Good For?

  • Keeping a consistant rhythm
  • Keeping a consistant, even contact with your horse
  • Flying changes
  • Control of pace
  • Improves your eye for a stride

How To Ride This Exercise?

  • Start your warm up as normal, keeping in mind not to over do it, this exercise is a work out in itself! Try 5 minutes walk on each rein getting them loose, followed by trot work incorporating some 20 metre circles, and finally begin with your canter. We focused a lot this week on pushing for a long stride on the long side of the arena & holding for a short canter on the shorter side of the arena. This will get your horse listening, helping you when you need to push or hold on your approach to poles when needed.
  • Begin this exercises by using the two single ground poles, to focus on your 20metre canter circles , once you are happy with how your horse is approaching them & have done them on both reins you may begin to start the full exercise. See The Diagram Below
Start the exercise by doing sections first, once happy with your approach then piece it all together.
  • Picking up canter, make sure you have a forward rhythm keeping in mind your focus is to keep the exact same rhythm throughout the entire exercise (this is why riding it in sections to begin with works wonders!)
  • Riding your 20metre circle first over the single ground pole, continue to ride out into your corner looking for your approach into your square. The use of your corners & your arena is vital!
  • Continue by approaching your square, this is where it may begin to get tricky. Some horses will ride it as if they are approaching a fence so their canter may go up a pace or two. Here you are trying to sit, hold and maintain a steady pace.
  • Once you approach the square, your aim is to get your flying change over the second ground pole of the square, not the first! (This mistake was made a few times!!) Once you land over the second pole hopefully on the correct lead continue to canter out into your corner. Don’t let your horse cut the corner or turn, get rid of those bad habits!!
  • Once you have mastered this then can you proceed to piece the entire exercise together. Don’t worry if it takes a few tries, remember you are asking a good bit from your horse. See the diagram below
  • Do keep in mind, if you complete the entire exercise once & your horse has done it well, stop & reward him! Even end your session there on that good note, last thing you want is to over do it and end up with a fed up horse! Take the wins when you can.
It’s not as difficult as you think! It is quite rewarding when you complete the entire figure of 8 loop!

How To ask for a Flying Change (left to right)

Sitting tall & quiet in the saddle, wrap your right leg around the girth this will keep your horse moving forward when being asked to change, moving your left leg behind the girth you are giving the signal for the opposite hind leg to strike into the lead. Keeping a tight contact on the left rein, softening the right to give your horse freedom to change forward. 


There you have it the “Figure of Death” I would be lying if I said this exercise was easy, it certainly was not! I was so close to giving up on Dante, his brain just couldn’t seem to process it first time round, but persistance was key, never give up!

Coco was the dream riding this, she is quite compact & holds herself together much better than Dante does, she was quite easy to control around all the corners, and way easier to hold for the shorter & longer canter strides I needed.

If you are finding this exercise difficult, stick to Riding the exercise section by section each day, your horse will begin to understand & you will get the results you want over time, I promise!

As always, pop over to our Instagram to have a look at our attempts at this exercise!

Until next time,

Darielle

January Ultimate Exercise – “Trot Til You Drop”

Welcome to 2019, what a “bucking” year it has been! We have had many ups & of course a number of downs too (isn’t that right Orla!!) 

Instead of throwing a shit-tone of throwbacks & giving you a round up from our 2018 year, we thought you guys would appreciate a little gentle push back into getting your horse on track for the spring/summer season. It would be quite rude of us not to share some of our go to exercises with you all, so please take a moment to welcome our “January Ultimate Exercise Series”.

We have 4 fabulous exercises in the pipeline for you guys to try & test out for yourselves. Both Dante & Coco will be put to the test themselves, between the both of them they have had some significant time off over the last few weeks so it shall be an interesting dynamic!

So Feast your eyes below on our first simple, yet effective exercise to ease everyone back into some light work. 


What you Will Need?

For starters you will need an arena or an open field & 12 Ground poles. Set the poles up 3 a piece. See the diagram below.

I set up the poles with the distance of 4.5 footsteps in between, this may need to be adjusted to 4 footsteps for ponies, or if you intend on your horse to stretch, I would do 5 footsteps in between. 

 If you wish to make the exercise that bit more difficult, you can add in wings to make the trot poles into raised trot poles, or if you have them you can use cavletti poles. 

What this Exercise is Good For?

  • Control in your pace
  • Accuracy on approach to your poles
  • Maintaining a consistant rhythm

How To Ride this Exercise

  • Firstly, I would recommend a good warm up before you start, especially if your horse has been off over Christmas. From being in that little bit more over the winter months & being in the stable, getting them warmed up properly before any intense work is vital to ensure no injuries are picked up. 
  • I Focused on a lot of transition work before doing this exercise. With their being a lot of bending around your leg and keeping the consistant rhythm getting your horse to listen to you and your aids is vital. 
  • Start this exercise by approaching each set of poles singularly, a set of 3 at a time. As your horse begins to get into a steady rhythm, and starts to flow through the corners, then you can start piecing the “Pole course” together. See diagram below.
  • Focus mainly on not letting your horse fall in on the corners as you ride around the bends to your trot poles. Use your inside leg to support him around the corners, making sure not to drop your own shoulder as you ride around. 
  • Once you feel confident with your horse going over more than 2 sets of trot poles, then you can begin to piece the entire course together. See the diagram below to see the layout of the course I done.
  • You can see by my video over on our Instagram Page that Dante was quite hesitant and was putting in that extra half step before he went over the poles, this was mainly due to me holding him and not letting him drop the contact on approach. I intentionally done this,  he is the worst for trying to grab and pull the contact from my hands and using this simple trot pole exercise to get him thinking and holding himself together that bit better is a perfect way to start.

Sometimes, the simple exercises are the most effective, this infact really made me aware of how much I tend to let Dante grab the contact from my hands, and how I need to focus more on maintaining an even more consistant contact continually instead of stopping and starting. 

Perfecting these small bad habits over exercises that may seen simple will in the long run really stand to you when it comes to jumping a course of fences or when it comes to learning more complicated flat work techniques. 


Give this exercise a go, it was one that really brought some of mine & Dante’s flaws to light. If your posting on Instagram so we can keep track of everyone’s progress Make sure to tag us & mention the #UltimateJanuaryExercise hashtag

 We can all get fit together, with some great encouragement from one another, its about time the Horse Industry starts building people up with positive comments rather than the negative! 

Be sure to leave your comments below or any riding tips I missed out on that you think will be helpful! 
As always, thank you for Reading & Happy New Year! 

Darielle