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,

Darielle

Working on That Bad Rein

Recently I have started to notice a massive difference in Dante’s left & right rein. One rein was noticeably much stronger than the other. His right rein being his bad rein, he really struggled to do certain exercises, and tended to start running off on that rein. Looking back on it, I thought some where bad behaviour issues, but thinking now he most definitely did not have the muscle to support himself, so getting tired quicker was the outcome and running was an option he used to deal with it. Snapshot_63

Horses are like humans, they have a good and a bad side, it’s like asking someone who writes with their left hand to start writing with their right, they are going to find it much more challenging and frustrating once they start trying. So the same goes for horses!

Dante began running away with himself, this happened when it came to jumping & doing pole work, canter poles in particular. When he got tired his legs would literally begin to go in all directions, he would turn into an octopus horse!!  He simply had no muscle to support him on his weaker side, his right rein. I only noticed this a month a go, my instructor & I were working on his weaker side & began to see a noticeable pattern.

Read below some tips I learned, and some exercises I do to help strengthen Dante’s weaker side. 

Bending Exercises

Remembering to keep riding Dante in that forward movement, I try to get him to flex & bend to the right. Try not to do this by pulling at the mouth, but more so to get him working around my leg, riding 20metre circles are great for this, remembering to ride him straight out of the circle afterwards. 

A great exercise I find very efficient for Dante, something that keeps him distracted as well as focused. Setting up 4 simple trot poles in the centre of the arena, and simply trotting in over them in the same 20 metre circle. Changing direction afterwards is a great idea, almost like riding a big figure of 8, once your horse figures out the exercises they can start to predict what your about to do, therefore they lose interest fairly quickly so try keep them on their toes instead. incorporating the trot poles into this exercise will not only get them using their hind end, bending around your leg but it will also keep them supple! 

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Tips

I can sit here all day, and waffle through a number of exercises I would recommend to do, but at the end of the day every horse is different. Below I have outlined a few pointers that I have lived by the minute I realised how much work he needed on a certain rein! 

  1. I would recommend keeping your sessions no longer than 40minutes, 40% work on the Good rein & 60% work on the bad rein. I like to start working first on Dante’s bad rein and finish off on Dante’s good rein. 
  2. Doing a hard session can affect your horse the next day! Remember that, they get sore muscles too just like us humans, so try not to over do it and expect results straight away just because you done 2-4 hard-core sessions on their weaker side. Do a hard session, and  follow it up the next day with a relaxing hack. 
  3. Forget all about their outline, you are trying to strengthen weak muscles not try force your horse to use them. Keep your horse moving forward, the outline will follow naturally afterwards. 
  4. When you feel your horse getting weak, don’t over do it with them. Give your horse a 5 minute break, let him walk & stretch out during your sessions. If I find myself & Dante getting frustrated during a session, I change everything back to his good rein, and then go back to working on his bad rein. Sometimes its good to give them that good memento. 
  5. Dante tends to cock his head to the outside of the arena whilst I am trotting around, When he does this, no matter where I am in the arena, I simply put him on a circle making sure he is bending to the inside correctly, this makes him more supple towards the inside rein. Once he does the exercise correctly I continue on with what I was originally doing. 

Carrot Exercises

Absolutely No1 in the world can go wrong with a good carrot stretch! It is so beneficial to your horse. They are great for before or after exercise. Doing these exercises in a stable is easier than out in the open as it prevents your horse from walking around aimlessly trying to eat the carrot!

Begin by encouraging your horse to bring his head around to the side, in other wards his nose being level with the point of his shoulder, do this stretch on both left & right a few times. you can progress this stretch by asking him to stretch towards his hip, this will stretch out his back also, repeat this on both sides! If your horse has problems doing these stretches call your physio. Snapshot_189

Make sure to reward your horse with the carrot when your done!  

Over the last few weeks, I have focused on making it a point in my work out routines to focus more on his weaker side,  and the difference is outrageous. I used to be dreadful on my right side as well as Dante but to be honest I prefer working on that side now! He is a lot more freedom on his right rein, and is flexing a lot easier. 

Do remember though, working unevenly on each rein is not recommended! You want to have an even horse, so once you notice the difference adjust your work outs back to 50/50. 

If you have any tips of your own, or any exercises you would recommend let me know in the comments below!

Darielle