Waiting for spring

Because spring should be just around the corner, but it certainly does not look like it, I've decided to bring colour to my riding anyway. Both of my boys were wearing very colourful matching bandages and saddle pads!

Vallu had a light green pair on today; the saddle pad has a darker green piping around it, making it look simple and elegant even if it was a more unusual colour! The bandages are from the brand Jumper and the saddle pad is from Pacific Rim International. The overreach boots are from Horze.

Basse had a pale yellow set on today. The bandages are from Horze and the yellow pad is also from there, but this is a really old set so probably cannot be found anywhere! Basse is also wearing a pair of Eskadron sheepskin lined overreach boots.

Yesterday all of our horses had a day off to rest, so today's riding mainly consisted of easy exercises to get the horses to become more flexible and to be in a low and round shape to get them working over and through their backs. Both Vallu and Basse were warmed up  with shoulder-in and leg yield in walk to get them to flex through their body properly. Shoulder-in improves the horses because it will strenghten the topline muscles and improve contact by the horse stretching to the bit. This stretching to the bit on the outside is where the rider can then regulate collection and tempo as well as angle, giving the rider better control of the horse. Leg yield also has lots of of benefits, and is a very good warming up technique. The legs must move away from the body and towards the body, making many muscles wake up and gets the horses' joints working better. Leg yield also teaches the horse to move away from the rider's leg, giving the rider control over the horse's haunches and gets the horse to listen to the rider better.

Left: shoulder-in on the right rein. Right: leg yield to the left

Ville Vaurio riding

Today Ville came to ride our horses Vallu and Rama because he is super busy and could not come to train us over the weekend. So it was decided that it would be far more beneficial for both mother and I if Ville rode both of the horses.

But because it is Sod's law that everything happens at the same time, we also had Erika Törrönen, our chiropractor come check out one of our horses Basse today. These happened to be overlapping so that I did not have time to go see how Rama went and what exercises Ville did.

However, I did watch the entire time that that Ville was riding Vallu, who turned out to be quite good today! After I had walked Vallu for about 10-15 minutes, Ville got on to ride. He started with canter work, getting Vallu to relax and to soften. Once Vallu had been warmed up in both trot and canter, Ville started to collect the horse in the canter onto a shorter rein and higher neck. Ville carried on in the canter making sure that Valllu became quicker to react to his aids and to make the canter into a better quality canter, and then Vallu was put to work on some lateral movements, such as canter shoulder in and canter half pass on the diagonal followed by a single flying change. Vallu then had to practise his tempi changes - so four, three and two tempi changes were done and they turned out to be much better than before because Vallu was not rushing through them.

After these were good, Ville then practised some piaffe with Vallu, which was something that Vallu didn't want to do because his normally very good and bouncy piaffe was all over the place, and he was kicking back at the whip, which is totally not normal. However once Vallu gave in then the piaffe was quite good with the hind legs coming under nicely and both legs being lifted equally high off the ground. Between all of these exercises Vallu got a couple of minutes break in walk on a long rein to let him catch his breath. So again after a short break the next thing was some basic trot work as this is the pace that he needs most work in as he sometimes struggles to stay collected and thus will be quite heavy on the hand. However, after Karita's lessons it feels like the trot is improving and today Vallu could easily trot forward by himself and stay quite high, which was lovely to see. His shoulders were moving much better, producing a higher quality trot.

It had been about 45 minutes of hard work by now so after the good trot Ville started cooling Vallu down by letting Vallu be long and low in the neck but still having a forward going active trot. A few minutes later he got off and I walked Vallu until he was ready to go back to the stables for some well deserved rest sand some TLC!


New exercises...

Because spring will be here soon and then competitions will start, now is a good time to start toning up and getting just that extra bit fitter! The two exercise sets below are fantastic, as they can be done at home and don't take a long time to do. The "super 100" workout is great but it is a little longer than the "Sexy Leg Workout" which only takes 15 minutes(!) If something as good as this only takes fifteen minutes of your day, why not do this?


New kitty cat!

Today we welcomed a new member to our family! Max is a year old brown and white Manx cat, who is very inquisitive and rather brave! He is very sweet and hopefully will soon come out of his shell once he gets used to his surroundings and us.


Another day in the bag...

Today was one of those days where it really hit home why we have horses, and why we invest so much time and effort into them every single day no matter the weather or the day or the time. Vallu, Basse and Rama were all fantastic today, and once we were finished I felt better than I did three hours earlier when I started riding.

I rode Vallu today in a snaffle because he had a day off yesterday, where he went out in the paddock for four to five hours, and then he was walked in-hand for 15minutes at the end of the day. Normally after a day off Vallu is not the best to ride as he tends to be stiff because of the lack of exercise and jumpy due to the accumulation of energy. He is also pretty strong against my hand in a snaffle just because he is such a huge horse and you can really feel it when he is leaning on the bit. Today, however, he was fantastic. Light in the mouth, big bouncy trot and canter immediately, and best of all, he felt incredibly happy to be working! It felt as if he was smiling away underneath me. And thus we practised some advanced movements, such as piaffe and canter pirouettes. I did several collected trot - piaffe - collected trot transitions which are usually very difficult and today they were no problem! The canter pirouettes were also great, especially the ones to the right (his stronger and better side)

Whilst I was riding Vallu, Satu was riding Basse. Satu last rode Basse on Tuesday in a riding school lesson, then he had been hacked out in the snowy woods (the pictures below are from this) and also I had ridden him twice. Today he was super as well! Satu was able to work on some very lovely collected trot, where Basse was in a very nice and high neck position and Basse's poll was the highest point of the horse. The shoulder-ins and leg yields were good as well!

After these two boys were exercised, It was Ramazotti's turn. Rama had also had a day off yesterday, so he was bound to be a little fresh. I actually prefer it when a horse like Rama is a little fresh because it is very easy to harness that good energy and to get the horse to use it in a very beneficial way! I warmed up in a very simple style, on a long rein doing both trot and canter and big 20m circles just to get some of the stiffness away. Once Rama opened up, his movements became much bigger and the difference was massive. Although Rama was in a very poor muscle condition when we bought him, he has now gained a lot of mass and muscles, and it is now really starting to help him move better. I also did some flying changes with him because these really help him to focus on me when he is a bit fresh, as he prefers to look around and not focus on what we are doing. These are starting to become a little better too than what they were in the beginning. Once he was worked a bit, it was my mother's turn to get on and she rode very well and was incredibly brave.

All in all, today was a fabulous day and I am very much looking forward to more days like these!


Another cold day

For the last couple of days it has been really cold, with temperatures in the range of -10c to -15c, but luckily for us the sun has been out and made everything really beautiful. Here are some photos that I took yesterday morning when I was out walking the dog



Last night our pretty little wildcat passed away from old age at 7.15pm

I said goodbye to you today, little cat.
Fingers caught on bones when I stroked your fur.
You could scarcely raise your head to drink,
yet still you calmed me with your purr.

Were you comfortable curled on the rug?
And did you know your time drew near?
Your wide green eyes held gentle love,
and quiet pain, but showed no fear.

You slipped away so quietly
that we weren't sure that you were gone.
Our bouncy little cat is stilled
but your spirit lingers on.

Little ghostcat, where are you?
Are you happy, are you strong?
I feel your warmth, your life, your love
and still can hear your purring song.

Copyright ©1993, MJ Falango


Cold and sunny winter day

Outdoor arena behind the apple trees

Today was another freezing cold day, but at least the sun came out for a little bit and we used the chance to take some photos!

Niilo ♡

Niilo ♡

Ramazzotti and mother



Wednesday lesson with Karita

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.