National Horse Sport Arena – Horse Day Out!

After a few weeks of trying to get ourselves out to the National Horse Sport Arena, we finally managed to find a weekend that suited! This was both Coco and Dante’s first time to this arena and their first time out doing some proper showjumping schooling so we were both really looking forward to this experience. Find out how they each got on below!

Dante

Despite the awful state I got myself into from the night before, I am not one to say no to a challenge! So with a good 5 hours sleep in me, I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning and headed down to Dante to get him ready while we waiting to be collected.

With work being so busy during the week, Dante had the previous day off, so I threw him on the walker while I waited, got that spark out of him! As our lift arrived, Dante had started to get pretty bad at loading, he used to be great but he is quite hesitant at the minute going into the box. He eventually walked in, after 10 minutes of coaxing him, it will definitely makes for another blog post down the line!!

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As we arrived to the National Sports Arena, we were the only people there. Unloading Dante, he was great, a quick look around the place, but his behaviour was very calm. He has great manners on the ground, he will literally stand there while I jump around all over the place! It is one of his best qualities.

We all tacked up & mounted up making our way down to the arena, it was so calm & peaceful, such a good atmosphere to bring them too. As instructed by Sue we were to get right into it, start warming up straight away. I had my draw reins back on Dante for my warm up, I have had a very difficult week with him, where he was testing and trying to get more control again by cocking that jaw up, so I was in no mood to have an argument with him that morning. I wanted to enjoy myself and with the draw reins on him he realised he couldn’t get away with certain things!

Dante was quite nappy towards the two other mares to begin with, trying to get him to trot past Coco during the first 5 minutes was tough! He protested against me when I asked him to go the opposite direction to her,  doing his usual, rear/bunny hop, trying to throw his weight around but I have learned to sit quietly, let him have the strop and kick him on through it! Ignoring his strops is vital! I have learned this the hard way. If he has a strop mid canter or mid trot I need to push him forward in that gait, bringing him back to a walk or a halt tends to let him think he has won.

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Correcting him on his bad behaviour, seemed to knock a bit of sense into him, he didn’t do it again lets just say! But holy god, he was so strong. He definitely knocked the hangover right out of me to say the least. We had a few practice jumps over a cross pole, and his approach to the fences was good, steady canter in but once he got two/three strides away he pegged it for the jump! He is so hard to read when it comes to strides, he needs to be held right up into the fence and he relies on me to pretty much do the majority of the work approaching. If I drop contact too soon he straight away falls apart also. So its something we both need work on!

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As we went into jump in the main arena, Sue had us jumping sections of the course first. Starting of with a single fence, then adding in oxers & doubles as we went along, with a few related distances. Dante was enjoying himself, but was lacking when it came to lifting his legs over the fences! He was running into them, putting in extra strides, getting too close, the list goes on! But regardless of the mistakes he was making, he listened to me when I asked him to do something which is all I could ask for! 

He was getting so excited approaching the first fence, that when we added in more fences afterwards he quickly realised that rushing around the place wasn’t the answer! I was very impressed with his steady canter through out the round we done, bearing in mind some mishaps, and some wobbly turns, there were a few times were a canter circle had to be done before approaching a fence just to get that steady canter from him!

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As we finished up doing sections of the course, Sue put a quick course together for us to do, consisting of 10 fences in total. It was a great test of fitness to both of us! Dante had a few knocks through out the course, again silly mistakes we were getting too deep into certain fences, but as long as I kept pushing him forward that was all that mattered. I did manage to whack my toe of one of the wings from the fences, as we approached the 3rd last fence of the round, Dante was kind of curve balling the fence, on approach we were wiggling and wobbling all over the place, I honestly though he was going to run out, my poor toe took the blunt of it and my stubbornness of not wanting him to run out of a fence didn’t help! We kept going after that, with our double left, he again ran into the first part of the double, but I picked him up fairly quick for him to ping over the second part which was a spread! When he meets fences correctly he really goes for that big jump! 

Overall it has been a huge learning curve, it has made me realise how much of a baby he still is! He relies on me for pretty much everything, but he is very honest about anything & everything I ask him to do. He will still try his heart out to jump anything i point him towards, even if he has gotten in too close or has met it completely wrong. 

To say he was a tough ride was an understatement, he is one of those difficult horses. He can get quite strong at times, which can be difficult to manage, but one of these days the penny will drop with him and everything will fall into place for both of us! Keeping in mind he is such a big animal, I still dont think he has figured out he has a hind end yet!

Until then the fun we are both having together is fantastic, he is honestly slowly turning into more of a pet dog to me than anything else!!

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IMG_4303Coco

I’m going to start off by saying that Coco was just incredible. I couldn’t be prouder of my little mare. 

I didn’t have high expectations for this particular outing. I had learned from previous trips that if I was too excited or if I built it up too much in my head, I would generally end up disappointed. So the superstitious part of me decided to put any expectations I had in the back of my mind and just take everything as it happened.

We arrived at the campus and I unloaded Coco who was keen to have a nosey at where I’d brought her. Usually she’s very skeptical and on edge in new surroundings…today she was calm as ever. She stood patiently while I took all her travel gear off, tacked her up and mounted up (despite a dodgy leg up from our friend who brought us over). I thought maybe this was the calm before the storm? 

We walked them up to the arena and as soon as Coco’s feet hit the sand she instantly felt at home.  The arena itself was bright and very open despite being surrounded by a big brick wall which was perfect for keeping the high winds at bay. Coco was buzzy and eager to get moving so I brought her around the arena in her usual jog as she doesn’t do walking’ when she’s in new places. She had one spooky moment where the flower bed in the corner of the arena was just terrifying but once I got her to bend away from it she got over it and worked on as normal.

CocoI gave her a nice warm up in trot and canter, using our stretching exercises to calm and focus her on what I was asking her to do. She felt incredible, she had such energy! We warmed up over a cross pole a few times and she was jumping out of her skin. She really liked the surface of this arena so she made sure to give each jump extra effort and air.

Next we moved on to do a combination of fences and related distances before moving on Coco_jumping3to a full course. Fun fact today was the first time I had jumped any kind of oxer on Coco which quite honestly scared the bejaysus out of me. It was also the first time we had done any semblance of a course. So while my irrational fear of oxers was getting tested, so was my fitness!

I needn’t have been worried though as Coco took on everything like a pro. She is quite a forward horse; she sees a jump and eats up the ground to get to it so I have the job of holding her right until the last second to ensure she doesn’t just barrel through the jumps. I was concerned that I was possibly holding her too much but Sue assured me that I was doing exactly what I should be doing. 

At one point, Sue spotted a jump with a water tray and decided myself and Coco had to jump it. I had jumped her over a water tray by itself on the ground before and she didn’t seem too bothered by it but these unpredictable youngsters can surprise you so I didn’t know what to expect…Again, there was nothing to worry about as Coco popped the jump without a second thought! I have to say, this was a serious proud mammy moment.

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We then took on the full course and Coco soared around it. She got a bit quick to a few jumps but she was generally very manageable. There was the odd wobble between related distances but as soon as she realised there was another jump coming she locked straight onto it and that took care of that issue.

Towards the end we did have one or two hairy moments. Sue raised the jumps by two holes, and we took on the course again. The last four jumps on the course consisted of a related distance and a double. Coco jumped into the related distance perfectly but out ofCoco_jumping4 tiredness and complacency I left her to do all the work of getting over the next fence and I completed landed her in it. Being such an honest horse, she got us over the jump in one piece so I picked her up and continued onto the double. Having learned absolutely nothing from the last jump, I did the exact same thing again and once again Coco saved my ass. I made the quick decision to pull her out of the last fence as I didn’t think we’d make it out in one piece if we attempted it..although I’m confident Coco would have tried. We gathered ourselves together and tried all four fences again, this time jumping each one properly, ending with a class finish over the oxer of the double.

Coco_jumping1I left the arena positively beaming. I could not have asked for a better performance from my youngster. It was such a fun experience and it had me brimming with confidence. Coco loved every second of it too. Her little face lit up every time she was faced with a jump..even when I was making a mess of it! I am now more convinced than ever that I need to get her out competing ASAP. 

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A massive thank you to Sue Byrne yet again, I think it is safe to say we are all starting to see the difference in both Dante & Coco. More schooling is definitely on the cards in the future!! As for now I think we are both really beginning to enjoy our horses!

#NeighNSlay

Darielle & Orla

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Happy Hacking with Dante & Coco

The last time Orla came over to the yard for a hack, it wasn’t exactly what we had hoped for. The weather was dreadful to start with & well the horses just weren’t feeling it. Dante wouldn’t go by certain parts of the road, and Coco wasn’t used to the traffic passing her by at certain points. It was a battle from beginning to end, so we ended up calling it a day 20 minutes in.

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Recently we both bit the bullet and decided to give it another go. We have both been focusing so much on our arena work, that having a happy hack was just what both horses needed. Some time that didn’t require them to do much work, something they could enjoy and relax doing. What’s the worse thing that could happen! 

Orla travelled over with Coco, accompanied by two older horses. Neither Coco or the 2 other horses had done much road work so it was bound to be an interesting journey.

Take a read below & find out how both Dante & Coco got on in their adventure!

Dante

As Dante was the only horse who has been on the roads the most, it was upto us to be the lead on our group hack! Yes I know what you’re thinking a young horse in front, what a liability, but no he is fantastic on the roads! I really can not fault him. 

It did take time and consistent road work to get him as relaxed as he is, but it has really paid off! There was a stage where getting him to walk forward was a problem, or walking over a road marking would freak him out, but we have come a very long way and his horrific tantrums have finally began to ease off … slightly!!

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On the roads, I kept Dante in draw reins. This is purely because you can never anticipate what is going to happen on the roads or what kind of drivers you will meet along your route, and with the draw reins, I have that extra bit of control over him if he does decide its a good idea to start running off or cocking the jaw up in the air to gain control (Yes my horse is a far cry from perfect!!)  

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Starting off on our hack, Dante did need a bit of persuading to get him going, with the 3 other horses behind him. Getting him to concentrate and moving forward was a bit challenging. He kept trying to turn back to look at them, but I wasn’t having my first 5 minutes on him being the beginning of a war! His confidence up in front wasn’t 100% but once he started listening to me he began to take being the lead horse in his stride, I will say, thank god for my schooling whip! He can get dead to the leg when he gets stubborn so its good to have that as a back-up.

5-10 minutes into the hack and he was in his element. The first part of the road we went on was quite a busy road, so staying in single file was an absolute must. There did come a point where cars would take speed for granted with one almost clipping the back of Dante as it rushed up along the side of us. Slowing down didn’t register in the drivers head, so you really do need to be aware of everything, knowing your hand signals is vital. You can never take anything for granted on any road you’re on.

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Dwelling on these incidents is something you must not do! Pushing him forward was what I done and within 2 minutes he had forgotten it had happened. The last thing I wanted was for him to become sour to hacking!

As we continued down our route, we turned down much quieter roads. The other horses in the group were not so used to hacking on the roads, so we took it in turns leading in front, Not only to build up confidence in the horses but to get them all used to travelling/hacking as a group. Rushing and trying to catch up with the horse in front is not what we want!

The route we chose to hack on was approx. 1 hour long, I will mention that this has been the first time Coco & Dante have done anything together since we went to the beach back in April. There behaviour together this time around was unbelievable. You can really see the progression in the two of them, they still have their baby moments but they’re not as dramatic as they used to be!

Dante gets quite anxious at the back, more so when the ride is trotting, he tries his best to catch up with the horses in front, he will try his hardest to race up to the front. It can be quite a pain, it really starts to wind him up the more I try to hold him back, having him trying to bolt to the front is not something I want him to start doing on the roads. I have tried to keep my road work to just walking so as I keep hacking a relaxing task for him instead of getting him worked up in these situations. 

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On our way back to the yard, they all had a spring in their steps. To be honest I think the group of horses were delighted with themselves, the last time they came over for a hack it was lashing rain, and the horses were not exactly co-operative with things. 

As we approached the yard, coming home we were greeted by a massive tractor with a huge trailer on the road. My immediate thought, oh sh*t!! I had never met machinery on the roads with Dante beside the odd van, so I had no idea if I was going to get a spook from him, a scared reaction or simply nothing at all. I am pretty sure all 4 of us were in the same boat as we met the tractor coming around a blind corner. 

To my surprise Dante took it completely in his stride, he was alert and had his ears pricked but with that bit of assurance from me pushing him forward he walked by it without batting an eyelid. It really is so important to keep in single file as much as you can on any roads you hack on, you never know what you will meet, if its a tractor a car or even a cyclist.

Overall I was ecstatic with Dante during our hack, its not everyday you have a young horse leading two mature horses on busy main roads. He was a great confidence giver to the other horses. That alone is an accomplishment in itself. Our trust in each other keeps shining through and its great to constantly see progress in him, regardless of his minor tantrums! 

Coco

As Darielle mentioned, the first time I brought Coco to Darielle’s yard for a road hack IMG_4114really didn’t work out. The last time we had built ourselves up expecting a great day out so when it ended up being a total fail we were quite disheartened. This time however, I had no real expectations for the day. Myself and Coco were just getting back into the swing of things after our two week break so I just wanted to take things as they happened, with no expectations and see how we got on.

IMG_4123I loaded Coco up and brought her over to Darielle’s yard along with the other two horses. This day was the calmest she had ever been when I unloaded her. She’s usually quite skeptical when she leaves the yard and waiting for something to happen but she was so good this day. So with Dante in the lead we set off I put Coco 3rd in the line as she would definitely not be a confident hacker (roads or otherwise). She’s very happy to sit behind other horses but as soon as she’s tasked with the lead she starts to get very worried. This is something I’ve started tackling on hacks in the field but it’s definitely not something I want to be dealing with on the roads it probably isn’t the best location for a schooling session.

While Coco isn’t confident out in front or by herself, she’s definitely comfortable squished between horses. She was so calm and relaxed where she was which is exactly what I wanted. I figure the more I do these kind of easy-going and stress free hacks, the braver she’ll become in the future. 

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As Darielle mentioned, the first part of the roads we were on were quite busy so I kept a good sturdy contact and a strong inside leg ensuring I wouldn’t have a spotty arse wandering into the roads and subsequently a car!! Once we got onto the quieter roads we decided to go for a trot or at least that was the intention. Unfortunately Coco had other ideas and decided it was all too exciting and she wanted to canter. And with that burst of energy we brought them back to walk. We tried another trot after a while and so long as everyone kept a calm and steady pace Coco was happy to follow behind in trot (thankfully). 

 As we ventured on we decided to test some of the other horses out in the lead. When it came to Coco’s turn I was so pleasantly surprised with how brave she was. She happily took the lead for a while until a pair of dogs behind the gate of a house’s entrance frightened the bejaysus out of her. The one thing I’ll say about Coco is that while she can be spooky, she is a good spooker (if there’s such a thing!?). When she spooks she’ll jump but she won’t spin and run. She has her natural reaction and then waits to see how I react. I generally lock my hands down and sit still until I can feel her stop and then Ill relax my hands and give her a pat. This has worked quite well so far as she used to be quite bad for her spooking and running. Unfortunately after this incident she kind of lost her bravery so I let her settle in behind the other horses again.

IMG_4109From then on Coco had refreshed her fear of house entrances and was quite hesitant any time we came up to any houses. Thankfully with the other horses there we were able to keep moving and we eventually made our way back to the yard in one piece. We did have an encounter with a very large and noisy tractor but to my surprise Coco didn’t even look twice at it. She’s quite funny in that she won’t react at all to the things that should terrify her and yet a random rock will stop her dead in her tracks.

 Despite her spooky moments I was thrilled with how Coco behaved on the roads. I never once felt unsafe and for the most part she felt quite happy and calm. I think the more we do these kind of outings the braver she’ll become although I do feel that the spookiness is just going to be part of her charm, but only time will tell! 

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All in all we were both delighted with how the day went. Both horses were so well behaved and we’re definitely starting to feel more confident about doing things with the two horses together. I think it’s safe to say we’ll absolutely be scheduling more hacks in the future and who knows, maybe we’ll all get out on the Munny Trail for a spin together!

We’ve got some fun times planned with the horses over the next few weeks so be sure to keep an eye on our Instagram to see what happens as it happens!

#NeighNSlay

Darielle & Orla

The Physio & the Saddle Fitter ~ Fixing Coco’s Back

Over the last few months I’ve found Coco showing some signs of discomfort and pain. Some obvious, others not so obvious. The signs varied from riding issues to hints I’ve picked up from spending time with her on the ground. The one thing they all had in common was it all pointed to back pain which is the last thing you want your horse to be feeling.

What signs was Coco giving me that she was in pain:

  • When I ran my hand across her back with a bit of pressure she would flinch at times
  • She would walk away whenever I started doing up her girth
  • She started walking away when I tried to mount her
  • She wouldn’t track up properly
  • She started pinning her ears back and bucking when I asked for a transition into canter. She would very reluctantly move forward which was the complete opposite to the Coco I know 

Tracking up

Fixing the cause The Saddle:

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The Berney’s GP Saddle

While some of the above symptoms are relatively small on their own, once looked at as a whole I actually couldn’t believe how obvious the problem was. The bucking issue was the last one to arise and as soon as she started this I stopped riding in the saddle I was using. Her saddle was a Medium-Narrow Berney Bros which I had bought when I first got her and to be fair, she has filled out quite a bit since then so it was only natural she would outgrow it. I suppose I just thought I would catch it before it caused any issues. 

I started riding Coco in Darielle’s Wintec saddle that she had bought for Dante. It was a much wider fit and while it wasn’t perfect, Coco was definitely more comfortable in it. Within a week of riding her in this saddle Coco had completely stopped showing that uncomfortable behaviour. The bucking stopped and she was much happier to move forward in her canter.

Wintec Saddle
The Wintec Saddle

Unfortunately all of this happened in the weeks before my holidays to Texas so I really didn’t have the money for a new saddle. I decided to hold off on doing anything until I got back so Coco got a well earned break while I was away. 

When I got home, my first issue was finding a saddle that wouldn’t break the already damaged bank. Thankfully, a friend from my yard was changing her saddle so I tried this on Coco and it seemed to fit her ok. I wanted to be sure though so I booked a saddle fitter to come out. Generally she was quite happy with the fit but I did mention that if I didn’t

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My newly fitted Thorowgood Saddle

use a saddle pad, a small lump would develop on the right side of Coco’s spine, up near her withers. She advised me to keep using the saddle pad but she also reckoned Coco might need a little bit more room so as it’s a Thorowgood saddle with an adjustable gullet, she decided to swap the medium-wide bar for a wide one. She also made some adjustments to the flocking. Within a day, my saddle was ready for collection and we were all set to go! 

Session with the Physio:

While I knew Coco’s pain came from a poor-fitting saddle, I still needed to do something to fix the damage it caused. I had intended on getting an equine physiotherapist out to look at Coco at some point this year as I genuinely think that every horse should have a visit from a physio at least every 6 months or so. And youngsters even more so. They’ve got so many new muscles developing that it’s good to have them checked up on to make sure everything is developing correctly. 

So I organised for a highly recommended equine physio to come out and see Coco one evening after work. She spent a good hour and half working on her and talking me through everything she could see and feel during the session. It’s amazing how much you can learn from just one session. She found that Coco’s left hip flexor was blocked which was stopping her from stretching her hind end forward and using herself correctly over her back. She also noticed that her shoulders were very tight and she was quite tense across the right side of her back, up behind her withers. 

The physio spent the next while working her magic all over Coco’s body, some of which was thoroughly enjoyed by the pony and others she wasn’t too fond of. She finished up with some laser therapy across all the areas she found which were causing Coco discomfort. The laser lightly stimulates the cells which ultimately causes the muscles to relax.

Despite all of the work she did, the physio was generally very happy with Coco. She thought she was in great condition with good muscle and a great topline. She did mention that the old saddle definitely caused some issues but that mostly the soreness was from her muscles building and coming together as she started using herself properly. Nothing she found was out of the ordinary for a young developing horse, which I was delighted to hear, so I won’t need to have her out again for another 6 months. She left me with some carrot and shoulder stretches to do with Coco to keep her supple and so far Coco really seems to be enjoying them..although this probably has more to do with the carrots than anything else!

The Result:

I had both the physio and saddle fitter out in the same week and since then, the change in Coco has been fantastic. She is so much more willing to stretch down in trot and canter and really use herself across her back now. There’s no more behaviour issues, aside from the odd fresh youngster moment of course. She doesn’t move away when I go to do up her girth anymore and while she still moves a bit when I try to mount her, she does give up much quicker than she did before. She generally just feels like a much happier horse! And now that I know for certain that there’s nothing that can be causing her any pain or discomfort, it’s onwards and upwards from here.

Coco Stetching

 

 

 

Try TREC Day!

Recently myself and Darielle did a Try TREC Day at Darielle’s yard. For those who don’t know what TREC is, check out Darielle’s post from her first TREC experience where she gives a brief overview of what it’s all about. The TREC Ireland website has even more information for those who want to learn more and see how they can take part. 

If you’ve got a young horse and are looking for a way of getting them out and trying new things without the stress or pressure of a competitive environment, I couldn’t recommend a Try TREC Day more. This was such a great experience for both myself and Coco. I had never done TREC before so it was the perfect introduction to a sport I knew nothing about. And Coco had never really done anything like this before so it was great for her to be faced with new challenges.

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For Dante, as we have already done TREC before this day was more about pushing him a little further and learning more of the rules so we could continue to enter more competitions. He placed 3rd in the last one he done, with that result it was a shame to not do it again!

The day started early enough and it was absolutely boiling hot! (like 27 degrees or something face with open mouth ). Don’t worry, everyone wore sun -ream including the horses! We were split into groups with Coco being assigned to the beginners group and Dante with a group who had done a TREC event before.

There were 2 Different areas set up for the day the arena and the field. Coco started in the arena and Dante started in the field.

The Arena PTV (Parcours en Terrain Varie) Obstacles / Cross-Country Phase

Here there were a number of different obstacles set up throughout the arena, all being different challenges one might face during an actual TREC event. We started off on the ground and did some in-hand obstacles first, the S-Bend and the Corridor. 

The objective of the S-Bend and the corridor is to guide your horse between the poles without knocking or stepping outside of the poles. This is much easier said than done in the S-Bend but the key is to walk right into the corner to ensure you use all the space you have, the S bend stays the same width no matter the size of your horse!

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Tip: When leading your horse in TREC you must hold your leadrope/reins behind your back with your horse following directly behind you. Look up where you’re going and your horse should follow.

Next we mounted up and tried both obstacles ridden and then moved onto some other obstacles.

One-handed Figure of 8 Pretty self explanatory, you must manoeuvre your horse around 3 barrels using just one hand on the reins. This is a paced obstacle meaning the higher the gait you do it in, the more points you can earn. 

Mounted Immobility you bring your horse into a circle and make them halt. Then you drop your reins and hold your hands out and count to 10, all without your horse moving outside of the circle. 

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Low Branches another paced obstacle, here you must ride your horse underneath a low branch (stick on pegs in this case) without knocking it, this is a good test towards you & your horses trust, you really have to get down low on their necks.

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With Dante in the arena I could feel that his attention span was completely gone! Luckily the arena is an enclosed space, so he had no way of bulldozing off! We started of as a group on horseback walking through the ridden corridors, moving onto the one handed figure of 8, we done this separately. He really began to get adjatated waiting, and when it was our turn, anytime he would turn into the group or face the group he would try to walk and sway over near them, he eventually got it but started to act the same way doing the S bend. His focus was completely gone, until we moved on to the low branches! We had only ever done this in walk before, I kind of had a fear that he would try to jump it at any other pace, but I am glad to say that we rode it in canter! It was great to leave the arena on a good note considering his tantrums were beginning to crawl back in before we broke for lunch, giving him zero chance to act out!!

The Field

Next we moved out to the field where there were a number of other obstacles laid out. When we got out here Coco started to act up a bit. The open space kind of blew her head so she picked up the pace and became quite mare-ish by kicking out at the horses she was napping towards (I don’t really understand her logic). So I kept her moving and worked her away from the other horses which she did happily enough (surprisingly)!

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Dante on the other hand, surprisingly he was very relaxed (for once!!) He was used to the environment he was in and was used to the two other horses in his group, with the experience of the TREC day he had done recently he took everything in his stride! He walked when he was asked and trotted when he was asked, no hesitations! The only down fall with Dante was the mounting & dismounting, it is not his strong point. With a lot of stopping and starting I could feel him beginning to get slightly fed up waiting, but at the end of the day he has to learn his place!

A lot of the obstacles we faced out here are quite self explanatory but I will let the pictures describe themselves. The one thing I will explain however is the MA Corridor. This was quite an interesting challenge. MA in TREC stands for Maitrise des Allures or Control of Paces. Here you must canter down a 150m corridor as slowly as you can and then walk back as fast as you can. 

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Coco was surprisingly good at this (once she got over spooking at a chair, the starting flags, a log and a jeep). Her canter gets very short and choppy when she’s excited so she barely moves when she’s like this and she’s so keen to go fast that she bombs around in her walk so we got one of the best scores of the day on this one!

Dante on the other hand, well he walks like a snail, it felt like it took us an hour to walk down the corridor! Not exactly helping in the points department, his cantering on the other hand is good, on approach to the corridor you are only allowed to circle a maximum of 3 times before entering, this helped us a lot to get a good rhythm, a few extra circles would of helped not going to lie!! Like Coco he had a few looks at the beginning, there were two flag posts at the start of the corridor that he was not familiar with so a lot of leg was needed to get him through! It is harder than you think keeping them cantering at a controlled pace and also having to keep them in between the corridor which is no more than a metre in width!! 

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Ridden Footbridge                  In-Hand Decline                    Ridden Step-Up

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Slalom                                   Mounting                                 Ridden Drop

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The Road POR (Parcours d’Orientation et de Regularite) or Orienteering Phase

Here you’re given a map with a set route to follow. There are a number of checkpoints along the route with a certain speed required between each check point. You don’t know how many checkpoints there may be or where they will be so you really need to follow your map. For this we had to go out onto the roads. We were all paired off and thankfully myself and Coco were paired with a bombproof horse who could take the lead as we haven’t done much (successful) roadwork. 

 

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Our Route is mapped out in pink!

Darielle and Dante went out last, and OMG he really surprised me out on the roads!! He has done a good bit of hacking recently, but with him always in behind a lead horse his new found confidence kind of shocked me! He was paired up with a horse, that was used to hacking but was quite spooky, Dante paid no attention to anything without any hesitation he would give the other horse a lead, which was amazing as he tends to be a sheep and copy other horses! Likewise when I felt Dante getting unsure of things the other horse would lead out in front there were the perfect pair! 

The route was supposed to be done in about an hour however unfortunately myself and Coco missed a turn and ended up about 50 minutes off course. We did manage to find our way back but we ended up being the last ones in and I finished the day with a numb arse and a fed up Coco. 

Tip: Know your rules of the road and your hand signals. You never know what you could face when you’re out on the roads. And wear as much Hi-Vis as possible. Better safe than sorry! 

Despite getting lost towards the end, it was a great day that I was delighted to have brought Coco to. I was quite apprehensive about it at first as I wasn’t sure how Coco would behave. Of course we had a few… ok a lot of baby moments but in the end she did everything I asked of her so I couldn’t have asked for any more than that. 

With Dante, I constantly continue to learn more about him when we do things together! As relaxed as he was through out the day, he needs to be constantly moving or on the go. All the stopping and starting was fine in the field but when we moved into the arena he started to throw a few tantrums and began to get fed up. Despite this he was amazing!!  As for the POR, I cant wait to practise doing more of this especially using a stopwatch!! 

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What did Orla learn:

I have learned that I need to keep pushing Coco and myself to get out and try more things and I also need to give her more credit. While she may start kicking up a fuss, so long as I stay calm and keep her moving forward she eventually gets to where I need her to be. It’s all just learning experiences at the moment and I’m enjoying every minute of it. 

What did Darielle learn:

Trust Dante more! I need to start pushing him on a bit further and not assume he will have a tantrum. For my next TREC competition I am going to start doing a lot of the obstacles in trot, he is well capable! Its a constant learning curve with him and the more we do together the more we really begin to trust each other and click as a team! Once Dante does something good, I do need to start giving him credit where credit is due.

So have we convinced you to give TREC a go? You may find its not really your thing but its amazing how much you’ll learn about your horse in these types of environments so it’s definitely worth a go if you get the opportunity. 

Please be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or if you have any interesting stories from your own TREC experience!

Orla & Darielle

#NeighnSlay

Coco’s First Private Lesson ~ Lessons with Coco

Where we were before the lesson

Before my first private lesson Coco had developed a bit of a head tossing issue. I’ll go into more details about this in a Head Tossing post but essentially what started out as a problem with teeth turned into a habit to avoid doing work. So this was something that I really wanted to get a professionals help on as the last thing I want is a heady horse unwilling to accept the contact. Coco also has a small napping issue when she first gets into the arena. It doesn’t happen all the time but if she’s in that mood it can be very irritating to push her out of. She also has a bit of a problem with picking up the correct canter lead on the right rein and tends to get excited by polework. This is just what I can think of right now but as you can see, we have a lot to work on but that’s why you get lessons right? Enter my new instructor, Sue Byrne, who came highly recommended by Darielle and some other friends. She absolutely didn’t disappoint.

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The Start Getting the baby out of the way

I arrived into my lesson, excited and rearing to go as I couldn’t wait to have a lesson that was solely dedicated to me, my youngster and our problems. I mounted up and wondered if today might be the day that Coco would behave herself. This was wishful thinking as Coco proceeded to nap towards the gate and start her bunny hopping in protest of the work she was about to be asked to do. At the advice of my instructor I pushed her out of it in a light contact until she started moving forward. This was something I had been doing to stop the napping so I was glad to know that at least I was doing something right. After that Coco decided she didn’t want to just walk and she didn’t want to trot, she wanted to go fast. So with the go ahead from Sue I set off for 3 laps of the arena in canter (which unintentionally accelerated into a full on gallop down the longside) with a light seat. Once I felt her tire, I put her on a large 20 metre circle until she was ready to stop. And from there my horse was ready to work.

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Exercise 1: Walking on a circle 

Probably the most simple and basic exercise you can do but one that’s never to be underestimated. I walked Coco on a circle while keeping her on the contact. Any time she tried to toss her head, she got a quick chug on the inside rein to remind her to listen and keep her head still. When she relaxed into the contact I would give with the inside rein to tell her that yes, that’s what I was asking for. From there it was all about getting her to stretch down. 

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Exercise 2: Trotting Poles

Next we tried some trotting poles. Something I had done with Coco numerous times before but definitely needing more practice. Sue set up two sets of 3 trot poles on the diagonal, either side of the arena. We did a figure of eight from one set to the other trying to keep a rhythm…trying being the operative word. When Coco got to the first set of purple poles, she would pop into canter. No matter how relaxed and steady she was going in, as soon as she hit that first pole she would break into canter. When it came to the other set of yellow poles on the other side of the arena she was much better. 

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Exercise 3: Canterwork 

Coco’s canterwork needs a fair bit of, well, work. At the moment she has trouble picking up the correct canter lead on the right rein, she’s also very bunny-hoppy and she tosses her head quite a bit so with all that, we decided that what we wanted from today was to get her into a nice flowing canter. To do this we started a series of transitions from trot to canter and back down to trot again. I asked for canter out of one corner and then brought her back to trot at the next corner, then asked for canter again in the following corner. When doing this on the right rein we didn’t worry about what canter lead she picked up as the focus was on getting her to stop bunny-hopping and to keep her moving forward. Once she relaxed into the exercise she gave me exactly what I was asking for and she started picking up the correct lead too! 

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Exercise 4: Canter Poles

Next we moved onto some canter poles. Sue set up a simple exercise. Two poles, one stride apart. The first few times we did the exercise Coco got quite fast and bolted over the poles. After doing it a few times she gradually calmed down and started coming back to me.

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Exercise 5: Jumping

Before this lesson I hadn’t done much jumping with Coco, just the odd small cross pole here or there so I was really excited about doing some proper jumping. We started off with a small upright with a placing pole one stride out. The first time we jumped it, she met the placing pole ok but was a bit flat so she knocked the pole forward and when she got to the actual jump, she kind of didn’t even realise it was a jump. She treated it more like a canter pole so barely lifted her legs and cantered through it. We did it a few more times and got in or around the same result each time. I really struggled to place her correctly to the jump, it’s always been something that I’ve had problems with. We tried it on the other rein a few times and finally we started getting somewhere. I was able to read the stride better and Coco got a grasp on the fact that we were jumping and not just going over canter poles. Her last jump she jumped perfectly so we left her at that.

3 Things to Work on for next time:
  • Getting Coco to stretch her neck out long and low in the walk to help her relax
  • Sue advised that to help stop Coco’s head tossing, I should give a quick little chug on the inside rein every time she went to throw her head. Once she drops her head I then need to give with the inside rein. 
  • For Coco’s canterwork, I need to not worry too much about making sure she’s on the correct canter lead, but more of achieving a flowing canter with no bunny-hopping.

All in all, I really enjoyed my first private on Coco. It was exactly what we needed to get our arses in gear.

Keep an eye out for my blogpost on my second private lesson. Coming Soon!

Orla

#NeighnSlay

Tips to Slow down a Fresh Youngster

Being a hot blooded mare, Coco can be a bit fired up at the beginning of a session. It used to make it quite difficult to get any work done as I ended spending most of my time in the saddle fighting for her attention. So I needed to come up with some new ideas to control my speedster…

Give them a lunge

An oldie but a goodie. Lunging is probably the most obvious answer. If your horse is feeling a bit fresh, give them a 10 minute lunge to get some of that energy out before you hop in the saddle

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Take a few laps
If your horse isn’t settling sometimes the easiest solution is to let them run. Coco has a habit of bunny hopping, napping towards other horses and running into canter when she’s feeling a bit fresh so when she’s like this I just let her canter. Keeping her on the outside track, I go into a light seat and keep her in a controlled canter until she feels ready to stop. Works a treat every time…

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Keep them moving
Horses like Coco need to be kept thinking. You have to stay one step ahead of them so for the first 10 minutes of your session do plenty of circles, loops, changes of rein and of course plenty of transitions. Keep them guessing.

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Poles, Poles, Poles
Poles are my best friend. They are the perfect tool to get your horse focused and listening to you. When Coco was going through her very difficult phase, poles were the only thing that gave me a sense of control. I would set out three trot poles and focus on these and these alone. I would walk over them and between them and then trot them straight and eventually work up to figure of eights around and between them. You both need to concentrate to do the exercise clean so its perfect for getting your horse focused on what you’re asking them to do.

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Hopefully you might find some of these ideas useful. If you have any of your own tips, please share in the comments. I’m always open to new ideas!

Orla

#NeighnSlay