Dante Update: The Changes I made to round my 8yr old horse

It’s been a long time since I done an update on Dante let alone any progress related posts. We have certainly come a very long way! Dante is now 8… 8 years old!!!! What the Fork!

The last year we have overcome an awful lot of obstacles, from behavioral issues to outbreaks in how we works together as a team, we have changed & tweaked a certain amount of things to get us where we are today.

There is a still a good bit to go, but I can safely say that I am extremely happy with our progress to date. Let me run through some of the things below, from jumping to small tack changes, sometimes you have to power through the storm to see some good results & sometimes small tweaks & adjustments are what you need to do!

Keep reading to read all about us, our journey, the changes, maybe you might pick up some ideas, or maybe you might be in the same boat!

Jumping – This has always been something I have struggled to find the happy medium with. Dante loves to jump, he has so much talent jumping also. I think for me I always had the fear of him taking off on me, therfore I struggled to think that I ever had control of any situation. The last year has changed tremendoulsy. We completed our First Meter Course before Xmas & looking back on the first half of the course, it was truly dreadful. I didn’t know then but Looking at it now I am super proud of that metre course we done, we ackomplished a massive achievement. Pushing yourself is something that you should definately do every once in a while, & it has paid off. I have more confidence now & I think we both trust each other a lot more. I certainly trust him a lot more to get me aroudn a course without me having to interfere as much as I thought I had too.

We have been focusing a lot on strengthening up Dante’s weaker rein. I am aware that Rome wasn’t built in a day so this will also take time, I am happy to see the small improvements as we focus on our training sessions at home. I am 100% jinxing myself but right now I am so happy with him, he jumps with a controlled contained energy behind him instead of exploding off into the distance with me, I am just a super proud HOM. (Horse Mom!) Long may the improvements continue.

Tack Changes – Fluffy nosebands, I honestly thought these were kind of stupid before, that people who used them simply just liked fluff. Who can blame them, they are so flufffffy!! Again, I can hold my hands up & say I was completely wrong on this also, yes I am a judge bitch! I noticed that when out jumping a course, Dante was looking everywhere instead of where he was supposed to, so someone suggested getting blinkers & putting a fluffy cover over his noseband to help him concentrate.

It bloody well worked a treat!! The fluff on his nose helped distract him and kind of had him looking down, so no head in the air, and the Blinkers made him look straight ahead of him where he should of been looking when he was working or when jumping. All these small changes have worked & helped us massively, and Yes my ignorance got the better of me, why didnt I listen a few years ago?

Singular fluff piece is from Holmestead Saddlery

Bits – Dante has always been ridden in a snaffle, he still is from time to time. I noticed that I majorly lacked any control at times or struggled to get him back to me when jumping bigger fences or courses. So with a lot of useless googling done by me, I gave up & went and asked my trainers. One suggested to use a A Copper Cherry Roller snaffle, and the other a Rope GAG bit. (Yass, I have two trainers, They are amazing, #Jer #Sue) I learned that interestingly enough both bits actually seemed to work quite well for him.

I use the Gag mainly when out jumping courses or when doing jumping lessons at home & when I am lunging or doing flat work sessions I use the copper cherry roller snaffle. I have two bridles, so the only torture I have is changing the reins over. These 2 new bits used in coordination with each other have also been a factor in softening Dante in the mouth, in turn it has softened my contact a lot, it’s been a win win situation all round.

Cheltenham Gag, rope cheek pieces from Equijump Ltd.
Copper Cherry Roller Bit.

Flatwork Improvements – We can actually leg yield 4-5 steps now without having a tantrum! I never thought I would ever say that! He reacts to my leg aids extremely well now & His arse is actually starting to move in sync with his entire body, it doesn’t have a mind of its own anymore, I am THRILLLLLED!!!! Honestly though, the difference in the way he holds himself is tremendous. Hard work certainly pays off, I will say I have been wearing spurs on him for the extra back up I need to keep him moving forward. I do alternate between days of riding him with & without them.

Lunging – Yes people I use training aids. And to all you people out there that don’t agree with them or troll people that do use them, there are more important things in life that trying to voice or force your opinion about something that is not relevant to you. #BeKind.

I have found the magic ingredient to getting him lunging nicely, relaxed & more importantly something that helps & encourages him to stretch his giraffe neck down. Something he is so bad at may I add. The Reinrite lunge. I try to lunge him once a week and try focus more on transitions & maintaining steady rhythms through out our work. It all seems to be translating into our riding, something that you cant help but be happy with.

The ReinRite Lunge, their newest product! Full review coming soooooon!!

The Riders Journey – Well considering I haven’t left the yard since before Xmas, cabin fever is beginning to set in big time, not having a box was a big factor to this, but…… I am also thrilled to say that I have recently just purchased a new horse box! I am over the moon & still quite shocked that I have one. I have a list as long as my arm of places I need to get back to, the Curragh Water Treadmill being one, This place is just a godsend for horses. If you haven’t been I advise you get your horse there now, Hettie & co, I will over in a few weeks!! Some Big plans need to be set in motion for Summer 2020 ASAP!!

I am also dying to get over to Carlanstown for some XC, Amy Smyth I am not forgetting those insta plans to meet up over there soon!!

I do shamefully need to start looking after myself a bit better, I am not getting any younger & my back certainly is beginning to take the blunt of some of the things I do. It is quite hard to find time to go to the gym between work, the horse & being a mom time is of an essence so maybe I will just have to start doing some home exercises again, my core needs a lot of work!! Anyone any suggestions??

What The Future Holds – Some plans are being put into motion, we are hopefully going to make The RC spring league, along with the festival & SJ Championships in the summer. I also definitely want to move up a class in RC & do some more SJI show. And yes you heard it here first, this year I am going to try do some dressage tests…. he has good movement & potential I just need to get myself some more patience!

Ohh & lastly, I want to go on a horsey trip with Dante, I’m thinking maybe some of you could come too? Il start by Throwing the idea out there….

Some hardcore Dante reminiscing right there, it’s good to sit down & write or even think about your accomplishments to date with your horse. It certainly helps to put some things into perspective.

Patting yourself on the back from time to time & telling yourself you’ve done a good job is also needed.

For now, it’s back to some proper work with Dante, this shitty weather in Ireland has me pushing the pause button every 2nd day. I am counting down the days until Summer!!

Talk soon,


Two Years of Coco

So as you may have read, Darielle and Dante celebrated their 2 year anniversary last week but did you know that me and Coco did too? (Although, we didn’t really celebrate as I had to get some wisdom teeth removed, hence the late post, so Coco ended up having a few well deserved days off!) Yes, me and Darielle both bought our delightful youngsters within a day of each other so between the two of us, the last 2 years has seen a ridiculous amount of ups and downs!

So where did me & Coco start…

When I decided that I was going to buy a young, inexperienced horse, I really didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself in for. I had ridden a number of green horses before

The first time I rode Coco

that needed some schooling, and horses who’s owners let them away with murder and needed to be taught some manners. But taking on a just broken 4 year old, who had only 6 weeks of work put into them is a completely different story. There’s nothing that can really prepare you for your first youngster, no matter how experienced you are.

My journey with Coco so far has been a very turbulent one. We had our issues at the start when my resolve was seriously tested and I wasn’t entirely sure I was cut out for this milark. Then we had a period of improvement until injury struck. After recovering from injury we soared. We became a team and just got better and better. That was until progress was inexplicably halted and we were back to square one. Coco started refusing to jump and began a bucking habit. Once again I questioned whether I even knew what I was doing and my confidence hit an all time low. There is nothing more soul destroying than feeling like you’re only going backwards. But with time and support from good friends and trainers, we slowly started to get back on track. We moved yards which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for Coco. I loved my old yard but it just didn’t suit my highly strung mare. After this we started working on our trust issues and building our confidence in each other. We revisited old problem areas that I had been avoiding and we started going from strength to strength.


When you turn a corner…

This summer I finally started competing Coco. This was one of those goals that I was always striving towards but had never felt we were completely ready for. We had done small training shows and clear round jumping in places that Coco was more than used to but the idea of going out and competing somewhere completely brand new was something that terrified me. Fortunately though I needn’t have been worried. It turns out Coco absolutely loves getting out and about. Ever since we started regularly competing every other weekend she has been happier than ever.



Last Sunday we had our ultimate test – we had a competition at Coilóg Equestrian, a place where all of our confidence issues with jumping started during our very first schooling session there. We had been back once since then and while it went much better than the first time, it still wasn’t smooth sailing. So to come to this particular venue and jump a course of fences without any practice rounds was pretty terrifying. Yet again however, I had no need to worry as we jumped our best round ever. All of our hard work and

Coco flying around Coilóg last week

training kicked in and we flew around the course. We had one knock that was rider error but aside from that I actually could have cried with how proud I was of my Cocopops.

Jumping is the one area of horse riding that I absolutely love but is also where I lack the most confidence. So to take my 4 year old from an aggro hothead who would do anything to avoid jumping and turn her into a confident and happy jumper, that’s something that has made all of the hard times and battles worth it. It may be a small achievement to some but for me, its monumental.

So what’s next for me and Coco? I plan to finish out the year jumping our courses of 80s out competing, while at home I want to start pushing myself to jump a bit bigger. Main focus for the winter though will be improving both of our fitness so that we’ll hopefully be ready to get going with SJI in the new year!


I hope reading about my journey with Coco gives some of you who may just be starting your youngster journey some reassurance that there is actual light at the end of the tunnel. If you put the time, patience and work into your horse, there’s no way they won’t come out the other end the better for it. And what’s more, you’ll find you have a partner for life out of it too.

As always, thanks for reading,



Catch Up with Coco

I was taking a look back through some of our posts over the last few weeks and I realised it’s been a while since I wrote about Coco. A lot has happened since our last post and while you may have kept up to date through our Instagram account, @NoBuckingWayBlog, I thought it would be good to give an update on the little sass-pot that is Coco.

Where we left off…

Last I wrote about Coco, she had developed a really annoying bucking habit which I had put down as a behavioural issue. This meant that I was tasked with the job of showing Coco that I was the one in charge and I wouldn’t take her nonsense anymore. I certainly had a few fun weeks ahead of me.
The first time I rode Coco with my new take no shit’ attitude was a bit terrifying. From the second I got up she spent all her energy throwing her weight around, napping, bucking, spooking – doing everything she can to not work. After a few days of tough riding she eventually started getting the picture and I began to see some progress. 
The bucking became much less but every now and again she would explode with energy so I had to learn how to manage that. We had a lesson one evening with Darielle and Dante, we started off very well but out of nowhere Coco threw a buck and took off around the arena. From there I had the challenge of settling her back down so we could continue with the lesson. We ended well but it showed how much work I still had to do. 
The following week, we were hit with a massive snow storm that stopped me from being able to get to the yard for a few days. Between the storm, the lingering snow and a hectic few weeks in work, Coco ended up having a good two weeks off, which I thought would set us back.
In all that time though, I had made the decision to move Coco to a new yard. 

The New Yard

IMG_6634.PNGThe yard we moved to is the same one that Darielle has Dante in. Its much smaller and quieter which I think suits Coco better. Our first week there, I was able to take my time to get both her and myself settled although it helped that we had been there a few times before so it wasn’t a completely new environment for her. 

The day we arrived (Monday) I put her straight into her new stable which was ready to go with a lovely big bed and a full haynet. Coco definitely wasn’t complaining. The next day (Tuesday) I gave her a little lunge and then hand walked her out to the cross country field for some grass and a look around. To my surprise, she was incredibly chilled out and not spooky at all. I even lunged her over a small log which she seemed to enjoy! The following day (Wednesday) I decided I’d hop up and give her a short session in the arena. I was ready for an exciteable and spooky Coco as she hadn’t been ridden in a good week or two before this. However instead I had a super chilled and happy horse which was actually a bit of a shock – it seemed she was really taking to her new yard! 


This positive attitude continued for the rest of the week so by the Saturday I decided to do a lesson with Darielle and one of the other girls at the yard. It was the first proper jumping session I’ve had on Coco in months and she was definitely on form. She was jumping out of her skin, so much so that I couldn’t keep with her! It was fantastic to see her enjoying her jumping again. Our only problem during that lesson was me – I wasn’t used to this confident Coco so it took a while for that to click.

From that lesson, I decided to bring Coco back to my old yard for their Easter show. I wasn’t sure how she would take going back to that busy environment especially so soon after we had just moved but she didn’t bat an eyelid, despite the miserable weather. She did her warm up like a pro and jumped confidently around the course. We didn’t go clear but that wasn’t our goal. All I wanted was to get her around the course without any stops and without any spooking and that’s exactly what I got. I couldn’t have been happier with her!


Where are we now?

We’ve been at our new yard now for nearly a month. The first 3 weeks were fantastic – I felt like I had finally turned a corner with Coco. Unfortunately this last week has seen the return of spooky Coco. Its almost like a flick has switched and suddenly everything is terrifying. I’m quite disappointed, I really thought we had turned a corner. At first I thought it was an issue with her feed but even after I did some changing around I still didn’t see any improvement.
We recently had a lesson where we tackled her spooking and I’m finally starting to see some progress. I’m going to cover how I dealt with this issue in a separate upcoming post so keep an eye out for that!

What’s Next?

So what’s next for me and Coco? Well, once we tackle the spooking issue, I think its time to start getting out and getting some experience.
  • I want to get Coco to as many different places as possible, even just for schooling sessions, to get her used to new environments
  • With this I want to do some clear round jumping. The plan will be to keep the experience low pressure and the heights low so Coco can keep enjoying herself
  • I hope to start doing some low level dressage shows
  • Our new yard has a cross country field so this summer I plan to get her over some of those jumps
  • Finally, I would love to bring Coco on a horsey holiday so hopefully we can get something planned for the summer!

So I have a lot planned but if experience has taught me anything its that when it comes to young horses, you can’t bank on anything so even if I was to accomplish just one of these goals, I’ll be delighted!

Thanks for reading 🙂
Orla & Coco

You Need To Fail To Succeed

Hello everyone, I must apologise about my absence in the blogging world recently, my last Dante update was about going to the gallops which feels like months ago! I have been upto my eyes with so much stuff, there has been an awful lot going on at home and to be honest I didn’t have a clear head to be dealing with sitting down & scrutinizing my riding and my progress, regardless of the good or bad outcome.
Keeping this post as positive as I can, Dante has been one of a kind, you really dont realise how much of an escape your horse can actually be until you need to get out clear the head and have a big friendly giant put a smile on your face out of no fault of his own but down to his special-ness” and let me tell you, Dante has loads of it!

Our Progress

Dante’s progress has been huge in certain area’s of his riding, I am not sure if you have seen one of our recent Instagram posts, but he is now capable of carrying himself in an outline! This is a HUGE progress step for us, as it has been something we have really been working on.

Photo 31-03-2018, 16 53 37_preview

Over the past few months, he has really matured & quietened down in most elements of his work, I wont lie sometimes he still has his moments, but he is giving me so much more leeway to get work done & to progress further with his training rather than spending time battling his silly arguments! A number of things have come together for us recently,

  • Repetitive Physio Work, every 3 months to keep on top of his progress
  • Dante Finding his Feet
  • Maturing (slightly)
  • Working in that outline (Finally!!)

I myself have been trying to focus on my own riding position. This plays a huge role whilst up on top of Dante. I found that my leg position is actually quite poop! I have so many bad habits.

Photo 04-04-2018, 23 51 25_preview
With the help of Heather @freya_the_connemara she gave me a stirrup-less/rein-less lunging lesson, this is something I would definitely recommend everyone doing at least once. It really exaggerates the proper position you should be holding, it makes you really work toward having that good seat also.
My leg position on Dante is quite crucial, I need my legs for everything, balance, control, giving correct aids, Dante doesn’t tolerate an awful lot of contact, he is extremely sensitive to the mouth so my legs make up for all of that. Doing some no rein work over trot poles, and small fences during our workout session really helped to encourage him to drop the head, and to be fair to him he was a saint, I was grabbing onto my Jesus strap for dear life in fear he’d take off but he was as good as gold. It’s almost as if he hates that being trapped” feeling! Riding him straight away with a short rein just doesn’t do it for him, you get an argument, so on our warm ups he gets a long lose (but safe long rein) and I gradually shortening up.

Attitude To Work

Our attitude to work has completely changed, he has really relaxed into himself an awful lot more. At the beginning it was as if he was too relaxed, it really had me on edge for a good two weeks just waiting on the precautions, but no, I was wrong! Sometimes it just takes a while for the penny to actually drop, and it feels great!

Photo 08-04-2018, 18 31 12_preview
He is so willing to learn, if I was to give anyone advice before they rode him, it would be look at his head, if you cant figure out whats wrong his facial expressions give away everything. Its extremely helpful, and to be fair I think it really helps my instructors on the ground during lessons!
Working out in field again now that the weather is finally getting back on track has been a massive help. We do a lot of canter work out there as it gives him a lot more freedom and space to really open up. A dreadful habit of mine, having strong hands when I ride with short reins, something I really need to bang on the head and get myself out of!

What Our Future Holds

We have a lot of big plans for the Summer, with us recently joining a riding club too. It’s about time we got out and got some mileage under our belt. There honestly is never a correct time to start anything but theirs no time like the present to just throw yourself into the deep end.
Getting more grid work in & some schooling in different venues would definitely benefit us massively, get us back into our jumping grove, not only showjumping schooling, but some XC also!

Photo 31-03-2018, 17 44 05_preview
Thank for Reading, & be sure to keep an eye out for my new blog post all about Joining A Riding Club, I know I was very baffled by the process!

What Goes Up…

After some great weeks of fun and progress myself and Coco have hit an unexpected roadblock.
Warning: this post has some gross pics.
Hover your mouse over each picture to see captions
A week or so ago Coco wasn’t really feeling herself both on the flat and jumping. She was distracted and fresh on the flat which isn’t something new but she wasn’t giving her best when it came to jumping which was definitely not like Coco. This was the day before the Friday Night jumping league at my yard so I just put it down to Coco having an off day but unfortunately she was pretty much the same in the warm up before the course. When we got into the course Coco was spooky, distracted and again not feeling herself! A few of the other mares on the yard had gone into season so I put her odd behaviour down to this.
The next day however, I arrived to the yard to find that Coco had escaped from her paddock. One of the instructors at my yard found her down at the back of the fields and put her into an empty paddock until I got there. When I got to her the first thing I saw was that she had a pretty nasty cut on the inside of her front left leg. I brought her in to give it a clean but noticed that she wasn’t walking right. I decided to trot her up and it turned out she was lame. 

The cut was quite clean so I gave it a hose and put some black powder on it. When I came up the next day it wasn’t as fresh looking but wasn’t showing signs of infection so I did the same again. Knowing Coco though, I decided it might be a good idea to keep her in for a day to give the wound a chance to close up. Lame or not, if Coco’s feeling the mood nothing will stop her from tearing around the field. Roll on Monday morning and I received a call during work from my yard manager Coco’s leg had blown up and become very puffy below the cut so we decided it was best to call the vet in. Thankfully my yard is only 10 minutes down the road from work so I was able to leave work to meet the vet when he got there.

Day 2

The first thing I saw when I arrived was a very sedated Coco with her head practically between her legs as the vet was giving the wound a good clean. Good news though, the vet wasn’t worried as the cut was in a good position and hadn’t nicked any ligaments or tendons thankfully. She did manage to cut herself down to the bone though so there is a possibility that she may have a chipped bone. The vet had a good poke around though and felt that the bone was quite smooth so hopefully there’s nothing there. Unfortunately however, we won’t know for definite for another few weeks. Apparently the wound won’t heal if there’s a chipped bone, in which case her leg would need to be x-rayed to confirm the chip and then it would need to be removed. Fingers crossed this isn’t the case!!

With that, the vet left me with antibiotics and instructions for cleaning the wound, so now we play the waiting game. I’ve never had to deal with an injury this bad before so the last week or so has been a bit of a learning experience and I’ll admit I had a few ‘oh Sh**’ moments! But thankfully, she’s healing up quite well and feeling very good in herself. I’ve been taking pictures of the cut every day so it’s interesting to see the different stages of healing. You can see each day below. One things for sure..bringing her back into work will be interesting!

 Thanks for reading 🙂
Orla & Coco

Progress Post ~ Jumping with Coco

Following our last post about our trip to the National Horse Sport Arena, I decided I wanted to do a post about mine and Coco’s journey into the world of jumping!


A bit of background for those who haven’t been following Coco…

IMG_4001I’ve had Coco for nearly a year now and in that time we haven’t been very adventurous. I’ve played it very safe, doing most of my schooling with her at home in familiar surroundings as she’s quite a spooky mare in new places (and old places apparently, check out my blogpost on Coco’s first time out of the yard for more info on that). 

I was always taught that the key to good jumping was good flatwork and Coco’s flatwork was far from good for quite a while so we didn’t start jumping until about 6 months ago. And while I love jumping, it was always an area where I lacked confidence to really push myself and I always knew I would want the guidance of an instructor when it came to teaching a youngster…enter Sue Byrne the perfect combination of hard ass and confidence giver! Exactly what I needed.


Stretching_2After the first couple of lessons we started to see some problems arise on both mine and Coco’s side. I was unable to see a stride and Coco developed her bunny-hopping evasion tactics. As riding sessions got on Coco would get more and more worked up and it would be nearly impossible to get her over a fence without chasing her into it. She became very very hard work.

2017-06-25 23_41_48I wasn’t the most confident jumper to begin with so once she started this behaviour it really knocked my confidence with her. I started worrying that every time I messed up I was ruining all of the potential Coco had to be a great jumper. Fortunately however Coco had enough confidence for the two of us and despite my blunders she was always willing to go back and try again with me. I’m not sure other horses would have been as forgiving.IMG_4303

It turned out that Coco’s bunny-hopping was a symptom of an ill-fitting saddle so once I got that sorted and a physio out to fix any damage caused, that behaviour stopped. Since then it feels like we’ve really started to click. I feel that I can read Coco so much better now and I think we’re ready to start pushing ourselves to do more. 

In the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of firsts. We jumped our first course of jumps in our first official schooling session at the National Horse Sport Arena. We jumped our highest jump yet 1m 10cm. And last week we jumped in our first ever competition and went double clear, finishing in 2nd place! What more could I want from my fantastic little mare!?

So what’s next? I’m going to take the winter to get Coco out jumping in some schooling shows and get her experience up. Im dying to try her out cross country too so hopefully we can arrange a trip in the next few weeks. And then for next year I hope to register her with the SJI and start competing! I’m looking forward to every second of it!

Coco Jumping_16th Sept_3

Thanks for reading 😀

 Orla & Coco