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

October Monthly Exercise – The Figure of 8

Its time again for our monthly exercise and this is one we were really looking forward to trying. When the day finally came where we had the arena to ourselves the horses were feeling less than cooperative. It was a dark evening and both horses were grumpy and just not in the mood to listen so it made for an interesting time (and some videos). But we persevered and got through in the end!

What is this Exercise good for?

  • Setting a pace
  • Creating Suppleness
  • Maintaining balance

How to Set it Up

This exercise uses two oxers, a cavaletti and 5 uneven raised canter poles. Depending on the size of your arena you may, like us, decide to just use 3 raised canter poles. We set ours up with 3 and a half steps between each. 

How to Ride it

  1. Pick up a canter, making sure you maintain a nice steady rhythm and start your 20m circle at X. 
  2. Ride from X to your raised canter poles. These are placed on a bend so make sure to look for your horse to bend through their body and up through their neck. As you finish the poles look for your turn to the oxer.
  3. Ride straight to your oxer and make sure to keep balanced as you land so you can be ready for the turn to the cavaletti.
  4. The cavaletti should be ridden as if its sitting on a circle so don’t ride it straight. Your horse should show some bend over this. 
  5. Finish your figure of 8 over the final oxer which sits just a few strides off the fence of the arena. This one comes up quite quickly so you need to make sure you use the full figure of 8 to make the most of the space you have to really prepare your approach to this fence.

What’s great about this exercise is that it isn’t very complicated, but it still gives you and your horse a lot to think about as you ride it. Each of the varying elements in the exercise offer their own challenge so different horses will find different aspects difficult. The main thing is to just take your time and if needs be take on one part at a time until you feel confident enough to put it all together. God knows we struggled on certain parts!

Hope you guys enjoy giving this one a go! Be sure to tag us in any videos so we can see how you got on with it!

Thanks for reading,

Orla & Darielle

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,