The Coco Chronicles ~ Back in the Saddle

Well here I am, once again feeling like I’m starting from scratch all over again. Except this time it’s a little different…

A few minutes after I fell

Every owner of a young horse goes through their ups and downs, its all just part in parcel of what we’ve chosen to take on. A lot of the time when we experience our downs, we feel its because there’s an issue with the horse. They suddenly start to act up for no obvious reason, or they’ve been over-faced and have suffered a confidence set back or they’ve injured themselves in the field. But what about when the down is all due to the rider? Well, this is what happened with me and my recent set back…

The Fall

Before I start explaining what happened, I think it’s important for you to see the full video from that day. I’ll be honest, this is pretty hard to share because I know how bad of a rider this makes me look but mistakes happen and as riders we need to learn to accept our mistakes and learn from them which is what I’m planning on doing.

As you can see, I made an absolute BALLS of those first two jumps. The first one I placed Coco completely arseways and the second one she threw in an extra stride. If I had any sense, I should have stopped, regrouped and started again. As soon as I sat up after falling I knew exactly what had happened. As I had made such a mess of those first two jumps, by the time we got to the oxer Coco’s confidence was completely shattered and unless she was on the perfect stride, she was not going to jump. You can also see in the last stride I dropped the contact which gave Coco her out. And I don’t blame her. So the cause of the fall? 1. My crushing inability to see a stride and 2. I dropped the contact at the base of the fence.

How I plan to avoid it happening again?

Seeing that stride…

Well, now that I’m back in the saddle, the first order of business is lots and lots..and LOTS of polework. Its the only way I’m ever going to get a handle on my eye for a stride. But in saying that, what I learned from my lesson this week is that with the right canter I shouldn’t need to be able to see a stride. This is something that applies to most horses and I’m sure any decent showjumper knows all about it. Yet in all my years of riding and taking lessons, it’s something I’m only just learning. For those who aren’t too sure what I’m on about, let me explain…

The key to a good clean round of showjumping is the right canter. If you achieve the correct balance between impulsion and speed and are capable of maintaining the rhythm that balance makes, then your horse will be able to jump out of nearly any stride they are on.

With Coco, it won’t matter if she goes for the long one as with the correct impulsion, she’s more than capable of taking on a long distance. And similarly with a shorter distance, she’s agile enough to get her legs out of the way. My problem comes from my nerves. I have this reflex where I panic on the approach and start messing around with the canter, whether its speeding up or holding too much. When I do this, it completely throws Coco’s rhythm off and destroys the canter she needs to comfortably clear a fence. God how she must hate me sometimes!

One of those “Oh Shit!” moments

In my lesson this week, along with building back my confidence with jumping, we focussed on getting the right canter and then getting rid of my panic mode setting. It took a fair few “oh shit” moments but we definitely got there in the end. Of course it’s going to take more than just one lesson to get rid of that voice in my head that says “Just put loads of leg on and pray!” but now I know how it should feel when we have the right canter. Once I have that all I need to do is keep my leg on and maintain a consistent contact.

While falling was definitely not fun, I do feel like I’ve learned so much from it. I’m actually really happy I got it on camera too because while I had a good idea of how it happened, it was great to be able to show my trainer and have him confirm that I was right in what I first thought. I’ve always said “If you’re going to fall, you may as well get it on video so you can see where you went wrong”.

Knees up Cocopops!

So here’s to learning from your mistakes. I think this whole ordeal is going to make me a better rider overall..but sure, only time will tell!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading. I promise from now on I’m going to stop going on about that bloody fall.

Orla & Coco

Lessons with Coco ~ Rhythm & Bounce

After Coco injured herself, we were out of action for a good 3 weeks before I started to bring her back into work. She came back in great form and surprisingly not very fresh which I was grateful for. We took it easy the first week to make sure she was sound but then I wanted to start working on getting us back to where we were. I popped her over a few fences once or twice and realised we had gotten quite rusty so I decided it was time for another lesson.Lessons with Coco ~ Rhythm & Bounce

The morning of our lesson Coco was feeling super fresh. I had gotten her clipped the day before so I guess she was feeling the winter air. I spent the first 15 minutes trying to get the freshness out of her as she had gone into bronco-mode. She did settle after a while but she was absolutely buzzing. As annoying as her freshness can be, it was fun riding her through it. It’s one of those quirks that makes Coco, Coco.

The Square

Once Coco was relatively settled we moved onto the exercise of the day. Using poles, Sue set up a square on the ground (see pic below). Starting on the left rein go down over the poles and go left to turn back and go over the other side, turn left again to go up over the poles and then left again to turn back over the other side.

This exercise is great for working on a number of different areas:

  • The poles are treated like canter poles so it helps both horse and rider learn how to see a stride.
  • The turn back to the next set of poles helps your horse learn how to balance themselves so they can take on tighter turns in a course.
  • Finally, in order to do the exercise well you need to achieve a consistent and steady rhythm to ensure you meet the poles correctly every time, so it really helps you get a feel for your horses stride.


This was exactly the kind of exercise I needed to help me get back in tune with Coco. It also really showed us which rein is Coco’s weakest (the right rein). On the turns Coco would drop her inside shoulder which resulted in her losing balance and tripping over herself. The way to fix this was to lift my inside had to hold her up and help her balance herself properly. After a few attempts on each rein we eventually started to complete the exercise successfully in a nice rhythm.


Next it was time to add in the jumps. This was Coco’s first time ever doing a bounce. I had been wanting to try them on her for a while so I was looking forward to finally giving it a go. Sue set up the jumps on one of the lines. I popped Coco over it once or twice before trying the whole exercise together. We had a few honest pony’ moments but eventually we completed the exercise successfully with the jumps included. 


For the last 15 minutes of the lesson we put Coco through the bounce a few times and played around with the height. We tried the bounce with the two fences at around 80cms and then we dropped the first fence and gradually pushed the height of the second part up. We ended the session with the second fence at 1m20 giving me and Coco a new height record! It was incredible how easy she found it.

Needless to say I left the lesson absolutely beaming and with my confidence well and truly restored after our break. Now looking forward to getting out to some shows 🙂 

Orla & Coco