Are you expecting too much of yourself and your horse?

I always knew having horses and completing a master's degree would be difficult, even with the having the horses at home. But I expected it to be easier than it has been, because my bachelor's degree wasn't as difficult as this has been! There honestly have been enough hours in the day, and the last couple of months have been hellish due to a lack of sleep and constant stress. I'm currently SO close to the end, I just need to finish off my master's thesis, complete my last language course and get the results of the test of my last compulsory module. Yet I feel like for the last few months I've been a total failure to my horses, they had to deal with less time and attention from me, and more days off than usual because riding 3 horses every day is just not possible when you're trying to finish up your degree! πŸŽ“
And then a friend said to me that "you're expecting way too much of yourself". A lot of people (without horses!) struggle to complete their master's degrees, and I've been doing it with three horses and a yard to run! And this made me think that the reason I've felt so bloody guilty is because I've had to put university work first ahead of the horses for the first time in my life AND I've been expecting too much of myself. The perfectionist in me has been dying because I've not blogged regularly and ridden every day. But perfectionism means setting our goals too high and having unrealistic expectations. Being averse to failure is often driven by an underlying sense of shame and that's exactly what I've felt.


Riding exercise of the month: control the tempo of your flying changes

Whilst I've been riding my new horse Erkki for the last month now, I've been having fun trying to build up his strength in the canter and especially his flying changes. He has a tendency to rush through the changes if he's doing them across a diagonal, so I've had to get creative and think of ways that I can get him to slow down just a bit and start to listen to my aids and doing the change when I ask him rather than guessing when I'd like them!
The only thing that has really worked well with him has been to practise flying changes on a 20m circle! So if you're riding a circle at the middle of the arena, each time you get to the long side you ask for a flying change (so change at the E and B markers) and if after a couple of repetitions the horse starts to guess and take over, then start asking for the changes when you cross the centreline (so change at I and L if you're riding on 20x60 arena). By alternating where I've asked for the change, he's not had the chance to take over and he really starts to listen to me! πŸ‘πŸ» He is currently still weak behind so I can only ask for two changes on a circle because otherwise he struggles too much with his long legs! But I'm sure in six months time we will be able to do a couple more.


New boy!

In case you don't remember, in October last year my mum bought a new horse for herself when we all thought that Rama (who is 20 years old this year) would have to start his work being slowly reduced to get him to a semi-retired state... Well it's not exactly gone to plan πŸ˜… as Rama is fresh AF and acting like as if he's ten years old rather than twenty and clearly not ready to be retired yet.
So, meet my new super early "well done for getting your Master's degree and 25th birthday present"... Erkki! He's a 14 year old Danish WB gelding (Blue Hors Don Schufro x Racot). Because of his ridiculous show name, he is known as Erkki but I know he'll become Eric once we move back to the UK since I don't think anyone will be able to pronounce it. I AM SO BLESSED that my parents have agreed to keep him for me to ride rather than selling him on, they really the best parents ever! πŸ’–


Trends to watch out for: HV Polo SS18

FINALLY! HV Polo released their SS18 catalogue! This totally made my week as I'm a long time fan of HV Polo - I own tons of HV Polo t-shirt and tops simply because they last the best, are worth the money and also are a bit cheeper than buying Pikeur! For this collection, HV Polo have used bright colours of pink and turquoise which have been mixed with floral prints and more muted and softer colours of white, navy and grey. I think this one of the prettiest and most fun collections that HV Polo have done for a while... But then again I am a sucker for pink, grey and floral patterns! πŸ’
What I personally love about the colours in this collection is that they are so similar to the colours used by other equestrian brands so you can buy matching rider clothing for saddle pads and bandages you already own. I have Eskadron Classic jade (which is a pale minty green) and the Eskadron Heritage rose (pale pastel pink) sets and because I am cheapskate and don't want to pay Pikeur's slightly too well branded/expensive prices, I am going to buy these from HV Polo ⤵️ And whilst I know they won't be a 100% perfect match, they are pretty damn close and half the price of Pikeur which makes them even better in my eyes! πŸ‘πŸ»


Introducing a double bridle to your horse

This is a topic that has been coming up recently with a couple of my friends, who have been worrying about when to introduce a double bridle to their horse, or to even use one on their horse. I've had several conversations where people have been SO worried about the double bridle that they have avoided using it for years! In my opinion, a horse should be willing and able to carry his weight on the hind legs with uphill balance in the snaffle bridle, and only after then introduce a double bridle to them. I'd never put one on until I’m totally happy with the way the horse goes in a snaffle, which has little to do with age - Basse is now already 16, but this was the first time when I felt like both him and myself as a rider were ready to use a double bridle on him whereas Vallu was 7 when he first had a double bridle on (not introduced by me, we bought him when he was 9 years old)!
I think what needs to be remembered is that depending on how the horse is in the mouth, you need to pick the correct bradoon - I'd opt for a loose ring bradoon for a horse who needed more 'play' on the mouthpiece (e.g. Basse) and an eggbutt for one who responded better to a mouthpiece which stayed relatively still (e.g. Vallu who I'm still trying to find the right eggbutt bradoon for!)


"You can't be normal and be excellent"

I recently saw a fantastic video on Facebook which interviewed the Canadian dressage rider Cindy Neale-Ishoy and it was such an inspiring story from her, about her way of thinking and training. In case you don't know anything about her, she is a Canadian dressage rider and was a member of the Canadian team at the 1988 Olympics where she placed fourth in individual dressage, and won a bronze medal in team dressage. She also competed at the 1972, 1992 and 2004 Summer Olympics.
Hands down the most memorable thing she said in this short video was to "train harder and do better" πŸ‘ŠπŸ» You do not get better from simply wishing you were better, you get better by training harder and working more! Stop making excuses and just be the best you can be because absolutely no one is going to do it for you. Train harder and go out there to win and be happy with what you achieve even if it's not a first place result πŸ† Those who are the best riders are the best riders because "they want to know more" whilst those who don't want to know or to learn more will always struggle. It was very interesting for me to hear that for her and George Morris the "biggest problem is that people don't want to know". I'm almost fanatical in my need to constantly learn more in order to become a better rider, and I can't actually see why someone would put so much money and time into a sport like this without wanting to actually learn more!


Petrie Verona riding boots

If you've been following this blog from the beginning you'll know that I've always had KΓΆnigs dressage boots, but for the last 18 months I've moved onto Petrie boots. I chose the brown Verona boots originally because I wanted tall boots from a reputable brand but they needed to under €400 because I was planning on only having them as my second best boots for riding at home and hacking out whilst keeping my KΓΆnigs boots as my competition ones. But these have lasted SO well that I went ahead and bought another pair, this time in black which can be my 'better' boots for training and competing in!
In my opinion the Verona is a super elegant riding boot - it has an extra high bow (6 cm!) and it's been designed to very slim around the ankle, which makes my notsoskinny legs look SO much longer, and therefore thinner! The front zipper extends down past the ankle, so you don't have to worry about that the zipper breaking as quickly as it does on boots where it ends before the ankle. The zipper is finished with a flap with buckle closure at the top, which is actually easy to close thanks to the press button, and I think this makes the boots less boring as there is 'something' going on, rather than the boots being entirely plain. I just now need to find spur straps that have gold buckles on them!
I REALLY prefer having a zipper at the front rather than on the inside or at the back, it makes the zipper last longer and is SO much easier to do up. Just last week the zipper kinda broke, so I took them to the shoe repair shop and they replace the slider because the zip itself hadnt broken, it was the slider! So instead of having to pay for a 50€ replacement, it cost me just 8€ to have the slider changed. SO even after 18 months of hard work, the zips on my brown boots haven't broken yet! πŸ‘πŸ»


30 facts about me

Since so many people have joined in with this blog hop, I thought I’d join in too! Thank you, May As Well Event for this fun blog hop! Without further ado, here are 30 indispensable facts about me that you were probably not dying to know ⤵️

1. I've been riding since I was 5. Those poor Shetland ponies who had to put up with a super excited child.

2. My longest proper break from riding was 2 months when I was studying for my finals of college. Other than that I have never had a proper break from riding and don't see myself ever being able to stay away from horses.

3. My first pony was Briggsen. He was a little sh*t and threw me off everyday for the first 6 months I rode him, but he's the reason why I can sit to nearly all horses' bucks/rears/spooks nowadays! Thank you Briggsen ❤️
4. I was born in Kaarina in Finland, and we lived there until we moved to Reading, UK in 2001. We then moved to West Sussex in 2005 where I completed secondary school and did my GCSEs. We then moved back to Finland 2010-2012, then I spent 6 months in Germany at my brother's yard, then I moved back to Finland for a few months before going to university to Nottingham 2013-2016, and moved back to Finland in 2016. Moving back to the UK hopefully within the next 4 months and will hopefully be there for a good while!

5. I have no desire to ever go beyond advanced level dressage… I'm never going to be good enough/have a fancy enough small tour/Grand Prix horse so those levels are just are never going to be possible for me!

6. I love both dogs and cats 🐢🐱 We've always had dogs, but cats are still extra special to me because we've only had cats for the last few years, since moving back to Finland.


Trends to watch out for: Eskadron Classic SS18

I can totally get why some people think I'm a bit crazy, especially when someone asks me a question about anything that is equestrian style/brand related as I could easily talk for hours and hours and hours... Especially if the topic was Eskadron's collections! I'm always very impressed with each one of Eskadron's collections, and honestly out of all the years I've been following equestrian trends the only one that I didn't like was Eskadron Heritage 2016. But I think this collection is fantastic and deserves 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For this SS18 collection, Eskadron has once again gone for the classic navy and grey that they tend to have for each collection so these colours are no surprise BUT what was quite unexpected (at least for me) was the colour choices for this collection! There is a lovely light mint green (jade) and what looks like a nice strong but soft shade of yellow (sunrise). I'm not a big fan of yellow but this particular shade is really pretty! And I think it was a nice touch was to add a floral pattern in, which for this collection is the 'deep blue flower' which I honestly actually liked already when I first saw it in some leaked photos. I know it's gonna be a love/hate reaction to this floral pattern, but I believe a lot of people will actually like it rather than hate it... Eskadron have already done a floral pattern in their Next Generation SS17 collection, but I do think this one is a lot prettier? πŸ’ But anyway, the official colours are: white, jade, deep blue, sunrise and steel grey. 


Le Mieux's integrated girth product review

Since last October, I've been using Le Mieux's integrated dressage girth (black wool) on Basse and I thought I could do a product review on it now that it's been used for several months. It's been very throgouhtly tested, and overall I love it. 

Basse has a sarcoid on the back of his right front leg, and when I tried using Vallu's Prolite girth on him last autumn it rubbed it open but luckily this girth doesn't which automatically gives the girth extra points - I am all for anything that makes my horses feel more comfortable! I am actually truly really pleased about this with this girth, as the only reason that the sarcoid isn't being rubbed open every time that I ride Basse is because this girth is just so lovely and soft. It also helps that the shape is the exact same as the Prolite girth which I love. Before I got the Le Mieux's intergrated girth I had been riding Basse in the basic neoprene soft girth, and whilst I did expect him to react to suddenly wearing a different type of girth, I didn't expect him to change so much... Our warming-up trot feels a lot looser and the elbow freedom that the design of the girth gives the horse makes a big difference. His canter has a lot more forward and upward reach, rather than being a bit sticky and hoppy!
So much space!


#HorseBloggers challenge #5Photos1Day

Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have noticed that I suddenly posted 5 photos yesterday with the hashtag #5Photos1Day. This was another fantastic challenge set by Haynet for equestrian bloggers to show viewers a typical day in your life and since I haven't done one of these types of blog posts in a while I thought it would be fun to join in - my last blog post of something related to this was last September, which too was inspired by #HorseBloggers. This really was a fab challenge set by Haynet and you too can join! You have until the end of February to take part, so simply by pick any day you want to share with us, take 5 photos that show your typical day and then share them with everyone by using the hashtag #5Photos1Day on Instagram πŸ“Έ It's been so much fun following what other bloggers have shared and to have seen a snippet of everyone's life!


HayGrazer E-Rider January competition, part 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about entering my very first online dressage test with the HayGrazer E-Riders, but I certainly was not expecting my results to turn in up in Finland SO quickly. We got the results on February 2nd and on the 9th I had the score sheet and rosette in my hands! Whilst I was really nervous to open up the scoresheet to see the comments, I shouldn't have been because the judge had written such lovely and encouraging remarks both in the comments for the movements as well as the final comments.
 (This blog post includes a free entry for a dressage test that was obtained in cooperation with HayGrazer E-Rider)

Like I've said before on numerous occasions, the reason why I stopped competing when we moved to Finland was that I was suddenly found the thought of going to a competition nearly panic inducing as I had made it into such a big thing in my head. Also, once my parents gave the ride on Vallu to me, there was no way that I could ride a very hot and spooky Vallu anywhere else than at home - even that was a terrifying experience some days! And once Vallu and I had moved to the U.K for my bachelor's degree at Nottingham University, the first year I was too nervous and then the following two years I had no transport. So the years accumulated up and then coupled with both boys' injuries it has taken me a while to feel like I wanted to compete again. So the opportunity to get back into the swing of things with an online competition was too good a chance to miss.


Trends to watch out for: PS of Sweden SS18

I can still remember the morning when I opened up Facebook and randomly saw a post on one of the matchy chat groups that PS of Sweden was bringing back pale pink into their SS18 collection and for some reason unbeknownst to me I clicked on the photo, after which I saw the all of the other colours that they were also bringing out for their SS18 collection. My heart rate spiked and honestly... it was a much better way to wake up at 7 in the morning than normally with my extra large cup of coffee! PS of Sweden scores 5 stars for this collection ⭐️
Although I've not covered PS of Sweden on this blog before, I have been a long time fan - we already have the pale pink monogram set, two sets of boots and two pairs of over reach boots! I'm a big supporter of all the Scandinavian/Nordic brands because I do believe they are something special, but the reason why I've not included PSOS in my trends to watch out for series before this is because they've taken their time carefully moving on from selling just bridles and accessories towards becoming a true 'equestrian brand' that also produces saddle pads, bandages and boots. I should have blogged about the AW17 collection because this is when I think they achieved this - but hey better late than never! 😜


Riding exercise of the month: 10 meter circles with transitions

It's really not difficult for me to admit that I really struggle with motivation for riding and training in January, which has always been the worst month of the year for me. Although some people find January to be a very motivational month, for me I just go into a slump and my riding becomes more 'just exercise the horse' rather than having a systematic training session each time but as soon as we hit February, I always bounce back. It's bizarre but now it's happened again and I have this fantastic riding exercise for you all which I have been LOVING riding for the last week!
So this month's riding exercise of the month is to ride 10 meter circles with 'a simple change' (canter-walk-canter transition) at the end of each one. What I tend to do is ride a walk to canter transition at A or C, and then down the long side ride THREE 10 meter circles with a transition to walk at the end of each circle - and then obviously pick up canter again after 4 or 5 steps of walk. Note - make sure you space out your circles well enough, the first few times I tried this out my circles were all next to each other rather than being several meters apart.


Trends to watch out for: Le Mieux SS18

 Ah thank goodness, we are finally getting to my favourite part of the year, when the new spring/summer collections start coming out and leaked photos start floating about on Facebook and Instagram. It means that we are getting closer to the end of winter and that we have so much to look forward to - sunshine, longer days and new matchy! ☀️πŸ’πŸŒΏ It gives me so much hope that we might actually survive through this horrible winter and hopefully we can soon reduce the amount of rugs that the horses have to wear...


HayGrazer E-Rider January competition, part 1

A few weeks ago I was contacted on Twitter asking if I'd like to enter a class in the HayGrazer E-Rider's online dressage and showing competition, and of course I said YES because what better way to start the new year by prepping for competitions with an online competition that didn't require me to leave home! At least in Finland there are no competitions held over the January-Feb period as the weather tends to be too horrible so it was lovely to be able to 'do' a competition where I was guaranteed the chance to ride in a warm(ish) indoor arena where there weren't other riders riding over me. And the weather is totally abysmal that day, so having to leave home and drive an hour to get to a competition did not sound inviting at all. Instead I plaited up, then tacked up as normal and we walked over to our neighbour's indoor arena! πŸ™ŒπŸ»
(This blog post includes a free entry for a dressage test that was obtained in cooperation with HayGrazer E-Rider)


Fake it till you make it

After Vallu had his week of very very light work to give his legs a bit of an easier time, he's now lost the balance between a normal, well behaved, forward going horse and a crazy fire breathing dragon that I have worked so hard to achieve over the last couple of weeks beforehand. The last two rides with him have been him trying to trot like Valegro followed by an explosion of energy and it's made me realise how far I really have come with him in the last 5 years. Instead of being petrified of his spooks, they now mostly either make me laugh or then I ignore them and kick on!


#HorseBloggers vlogging challenge

I've purposefully avoided vlogging ever since starting this blog because I've always thought that no one would want to watch me talking on video, but when I saw that there was a vlogging challenge in the #HorseBloggers group, I decided to join in πŸŽ₯
Sam from Haynet who runs the #HorseBloggers group paired us up, and my 5 questions are were sent in by Rachel from Heels Down, Kick On. She writes so well and I really enjoy reading her blog. I'm so glad Sam did this, not only was it a good motivation to try out vlogging but it has also introduced me to so many new blogs to follow! 🐴✍πŸ»πŸ’»


5 year blogiversary!

 I must admit that I am starting to feel a little old now... FIVE YEARS?! How has five years just flown by so quickly? It just feels like just a year ago that I started blogging but in fact it's 547 posts later! 🎁🎈🎊 πŸŽ‰ I'm still SO glad I decided to start blogging all those years ago. I've had the chance to create a great group of equine bloggers, been given great opportunities to review products and gain work and experiences, last year I won Equestrian Blogger of the Year and most importantly, I have years worth of memories and photos of my horses!


Henri Ruoste dressage clinic at Equestrian Centre Aino: don't overcomplicate things

It was a slightly surreal experience going to a dressage clinic where the 'superstar of the show' was your own big brother...! There was already a lot of hype beforehand and I already knew lots of friends and acquaintances who were coming to it, but honestly nothing prepares you for the onslaught of hundreds of dressage fans coming from all over Finland to see your brother teach ⭐️
Photo © Margit Ticklen from Horsemail.fi
The first lesson was the young horse group which had a pair of lovely young horses, and whilst the two riders were a bit nervous Henri just went as said "forget about dressage, just ride", which made both the riders smile and I think this is a good point, sometimes we need to take a step back away from 'dressage' and remember to actually ride! Once the young horses had to started to relax in the new environment, Henri made the riders do transitions within paces, both in trot and in canter and for young horses, the collection back into a smaller trot/canter is just 2-3 steps back and then go! (Note: remember you can't punish the horse if they buck or take off with you because you are wanting and asking forwards!) And coming back is just small steps - it doesn't matter if it's piaffe or passage or a Shetland pony trot, just as long as it is small tiny steps and the horse is reacting to you. Practising these transitions within the pace gave the riders a chance to play with the power and balance of the step  and both horses improved, and in my opinion of the horses became REALLY nice after this exercise. This simple exercise was actually amazingly effective for both riders, as during the transitions between the paces the riders had to become quicker themselves in order to get the horses to become quicker.


January 2018 sales haul

A lot of my non-horsey friends are currently being all frugal and sensible because of one responsible adult reason or another.... But not me! πŸ’Έ Even though I was thoroughly spoilt at Christmas and I did kinda half promise/mention to people that I didn't need to treat myself to anything but come the January sales and I found I just couldn't resist a bargain. Which is how all the below happened! ⤵️

I'm so pleased with all my sale buys this month that I wanted to share them with you. Both are from the Eskadron Classic AW17 collection, I bought the big square pad and bandages in aqua marine and the glossy wave pad in navy from Feather Dressage. Hopefully I won't be an enabler here and encourage any last minute January spending - if I do, then apologies in advance!


"Be strong, you never know who you are inspiring"

 I did a little research and tried to find who was the first to say it but I couldn't find an answer, it seems to be one of those famous motivational quotes where origins are lost to us. I was just surprised that with nearly 5 years of blogging behind me, last autumn was the first time that I'd heard of this saying - and I'm a BIG fan of inspirational/motivational sayings! πŸ’ž
But anyway, "be strong, you never know who you are inspiring" casts quite a wide inspirational net. The higher and more public you are in social media, the broader your potential ability to inspire is. Many people are watching you, and sometimes very carefully - whether you want them to or not. So it's about tone you create, because the small things can make a big difference. Recently I've been told that my blog posts about different riding exercises have been really helpful and that people have even gone back to them to re-read them when struggling with something and this makes me feel SO good! So we all need to be aware of the power to inspire in every single blog post and social media post. By honouring that you honour those who find you motivating. 


#rootd: rose and grey

I hope that you all had a lovely evening, my New Year's Eve was spent at home trying to keep the dogs from freaking out about the fireworks and doing checks on the horses to make sure that they stayed calm too - luckily we had a couple of bottles of champagne at home!! 🍾 But anyway, lets start the new year off with a bang - a rose peachy pink and grey riding outfit suggestion! This could be a "new year new me" riding outfit for those of you who have never used pale peach pink before 😜 But since I've been a long time fan of rose gold, so when I heard that Eskadron were releasing a rose gold inspired collection, I was on it like a car bonnet to order the rose big square glossy pad and bandages from the Heritage 2017 collection. I love the fact that Eskadron and Pikeur follow the colour trends of the big fashion lines, so lots of normal non-horsey shops like H&M have got clothes that match - sorry Pikeur but your prices for sweaters and hoodies are sometimes quite extortionate!

Saddle pad: Eskadron rose big square glossy
Bandages: Eskadron rose
Over reach boots: Eskadron Platinum grey 
Top: H&M sweatshirt in powder pink
Breeches: Pikeur grey Piana breeches
Snood: Pikeur anthracite snood
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