Today I had another lesson with Karita Kotikulma, something that I had been looking forward to all week, because last week Karita rode Vallu and he looked really really good. Although this was only our third or fourth lesson, I already feel like we're making huge progress, especially in the trot work. Last week, we agreed that Karita should try out Vallu so that she could really understand what our weaknesses and strengths are, and I think this was really beneficial.
Today's lesson was mainly focussed on getting the horse to straighten and to become more flexible, so basically a gymnastics lesson, which included lots of shoulder-in and leg yields. Because Vallu has been taught all the tricks we don't need to practice those during lesson time, because I can play around with flying changes and canter pirouettes when I'm alone.
The lesson started with a warm up of just walking around the arena with long reins and trying to get Vallu to relax, concentrate and to focus on the quality of the walk. After about 5-10 minutes, we started with leg yields, with the intention of getting Vallu to listen to my leg aids and to get his hind legs to start crossing over. Although normally a leg yield is ridden with the little or no neck flexion, during this exercise Karita asked me to flex the neck in order to get him to relax the neck and to soften from his mouth, and it worked! Even in the walk, it is easy to notice that Vallu struggles more with his left hind leg, and getting him to cross it over properly is something that has to be worked on. Once the walk felt good, we proceeded onto trot and carried on with this exercise, continuing to have the neck low and round. Because Vallu's trot is weaker than his canter, the trot must be worked on more. As soon as we start to trot, I have to ask Vallu to active his hind legs more than what he is giving, because at the beginning he only tends to give about thirty percent of how much he can actually move. The same happened in the trot, Vallu's left hind leg is weaker at crossing over and is therefore much harder, but after a while it felt pretty good.
The main exercise of today's lesson was shoulder in on the long side of the arena, however after a while the horse was asked to bend slightly towards the outside. This was something that I had never done before, and I can honestly admit that I was a little confused at what the aim of this exercise was. However, the results were rather impressive. Once we both understood what was going on, this exercise really helped Vallu to straighten, to become softer in the mouth, to get his shoulders up and moving and to create a bigger movement. This was done both in trot and in canter and is definitely becoming a firm favorite of my everyday riding exercises.