When times get hard, we all need a little bit of inspiration. Here's three of my absolute favorite videos for motivation and inspiration that I watch whenever I need to remind myself why I do this.

Mother went for an MRI scan last weekend and the results came today. She has one tendon that has snapped away from the bone, meaning that she will need to have surgery on it immediately to try to get it fixed. This means that she will not be allowed near the horses for the next 6 weeks and then after 3 months she can start riding again. This means that I will be looking after the horses and riding Vallu, Rama and Nelli by myself until mother has totally recuperated. Hopefully she'll recover as soon as possible! ♥


Vallu's accident

Horse accidents 1 - 0 Roosa's will to carry on 

Another awful freakish accident happened today with Vallu. Whenever I take Vallu out to his paddock, the first thing he does when I let him free, is to go and have a good roll. Always, no matter what. The ground is never too wet or too hard for him, Vallu loves his rolls. Today that morning roll didn't go exactly according to plan... He rolled too close to the fence, and then got his left hind stuck in the fencing = chaos and panic and a loose horse. In his panic he then decided to gallop off as far away as possible from the fence and into our woods. Vallu also decided to gallop through the thickest part of the woods, even though the was a slightly more open section 5m to the left of his chosen path...
First broken tree
Second broken tree (picture doesn't do it justice, it was massive!)
During his gallop up the woods, he managed to pull down two trees, and the second one has caused some swelling on his right side muscles around his ribs/back :( And when he walks and trot his right hind leg moves differently than the other leg.
Where Vallu could have ended up: on the main road
 Luckily Vallu decided to turn around just before the end of the woods at which he would have reached the main road. Thank God for horses being herd animals and making Vallu decide to turn around and gallop back down the woods to his paddock (more like the remains of his paddock)!

Luckily today we had both our farrier and our chiropractor coming to visit, so if anything good can be said about today is that Vallu chose a good day to get loose. If he'd lost a shoe our farrier could have put it back on and now that he hurt himself, Erika Torronen (our lovely chiropractor) was able to try to help him as much as possible. We couldn't be more lucky with our farrier and chiropractor. Our farrier always comes over whenever we need help for emergencies/lost shoes (and doesn't charge a penny!) is always on time and somehow always has a smile on his face and cheers us up. Erika is a very busy lady who is a very talented chiropractor, yet she still managed to make time to come check on Vallu again on Thursday.

Hopefully Vallu will recover soon, and if it looks like he isn't getting any better then we will have to take him to the clinic at Hyvinkaa to get him checked over.

On a happier note, spring has indeed sprung! Our crocus flowers have started to flower and our horses have been naked outside!


The outdoor arena experience

Switching from riding in our neighbor's big (20x60m) indoor arena to our own little (20x40m) outdoor arena is proving to be very interesting every spring. Today Nelli and Basse had their first ride on the outdoor arena this year, and Rama had his first outdoor ride ever! All of them behaved much much better than I expected to, and I'm really looking forward to being able to ride on our own arena from now on! 

I adore riding outside; after having been riding in the indoor arena for the last 8 months, being able to ride in the sun and breathe the fresh air is just one of the great things in life that you don't fully appreciate until you've missed it. (Photos also turn out much better when riding outside!!)

My favorite of Nelli and I
Riding outside for the first time means that we don't really work on anything, I just focus on keeping the horses working forwards but being calm, and trying to stay on when the keepthemcalm technique doesn't go exactly to plan!

Normally switching to an outdoor arena isn't a problem for me, but what makes the first rides rather interesting is that our outdoor arena is right next to the road, so the horses find the cars and lorries a bit scary at first. The horses do in fact get used to the cars, bikes, runners, prams, dogs and other horses really quickly, but we always have a problem with the lorries. Even though the road is very small and there isn't a lot of traffic on it, when the lorry goes past, the idiots drive incredibly fast (the limit on the road is 50 km/h but they drive more like 80 km/h!!) and the horses
 really don't like them, and to be honest I don't blame them at all.
 I love my facial expression when riding!!
Rama was a very good  boy today, and I was again blown away with how well behaved he is. Not only was this the first time ever in the time that he has been with us that he was ridden outside, Rama also did not react at all when one of the lorry-drivers with the biggest and nosiest lorry drove like a maniac on the road!
Totally in control!


Spring update

Spring has finally managed to properly arrive in Finland, with temperatures of more than +10C The first flowers have started to arrive, such as coltsfoot (above)
Niilo helping!
With spring comes the daily paddock poo-picking! The only person who doesn't find it boring is Niilo who thinks it's endlessly fascinating to dig up rocks and make huge holes in the paddocks!

The snow from our own outdoor arena has finally melted away and we're now able to start using it! I love our arena, the surface is just lovely, and it is great to be able to exercise the horses at home and outside! After 8 months of riding in the indoor arena, I can't wait to start working the horses outside. Unfortunately Vallu is at his worst when being ridden on the outdoor, he constantly spooks and does't concentrate, but I have decided this year to ignore his spooks and work him there all the time (unless it's pouring with rain/gale force winds - I am a bit of a fair weather rider!) until he starts to relax.
Basse being lunged on own outdoor arena

The arrival of spring has also resulted in all of our heavy winter rugs going to be washed. 14 rugs in 8 big bin bags nearly didn't fit in my little car, and I had a very interesting 30 min drive to the cleaners. I must admit that it is a bit difficult driving when you can't see anything out from your rearview mirror!

Niilo and I went for an evening walk in our own woods and watched the sunset! Finland is so beautiful in the spring!


Wild mare

Now that the nearly all of snow has melted away, our own outdoor arena (20x40m) can be used! Nelli had the honor of testing if it is good enough to work on (she won't trot if the arena's surface isn't good enough so she's perfect for this job) You can see how happy our little Nelli was in the video below...


Spring shopping

I know most of our horses go a bit crazy during spring time; with mares being in seasons and geldings thinking that they're stallions, but I didn't realise that springtime for me and mother means getting rid of all our winter clothes and buying lots of new riding gear and horsey products! Apparently spring does affects the human brain as well...

B Vertigo Camelot fleece rug

This rug is ideal for competitions and clinics, but it's also good for drying your horse after a wash as well as using as a warmer for before and after riding. The microfleece fabric helps transport moisture away quickly from your horse. I use mine for riding Vallu to warm him up before and keep him warm after riding. It is such a beautiful rug, the brown colour is very pretty and the fancy braid at the tail makes it look very posh! Apart from how it looks, one of the best things about this rug is how enormously big it is! Even when Vallu has his saddle on, the rug manages to cover his huge belly (which is no mean feat!)

Horze Avalanche Winter Rugs
Turquoise for Vallu 
Purple for Rama (although it's a full neck instead of a high-neck like in the photo!)
I think Horze's rug colours are just so awful that you just have to start to like them! One of the great thins about spring is when horse shops start to have sales to get rid of the old winter rugs. Horze rugs were -30%, so we managed to save over 70e!

Eskadron Brilliant saddle pad
Part of Eskadron's new Spring/Summer 2013 set, the green Brilliant saddlepad. The colour is just amazing, and this product is apparently flying off the shelves. I'm not normally a green person, but this is such a beautiful colour, and it looks fantastic on any horse. 

Pikeur Lucinda breeches 

Now that we have temperatures ranging at about +10C, it was time to ditch the softshell warm winter breeches, and go out and get some new summer breeches! I absolutely love all of Pikeur's breeches, but these just might become my favorite of all time. The full seat is in dark navy set in against a lovely slate grey. Grey is such a functional colour so all the dirt and dust doesn't show up immediately on it, but if it was just all grey I think it would be a little bit boring. The navy and grey go really nicely together, and the stitching work (as expected from Pikeur) is of great quality.

Have you done any crazy spring shopping recently?


Bringing a horse back into work

I have never before had to bring a horse back into work from such a long sick holiday. Vallu had 8 1/2 weeks off and he is now coming back into full work. The vet gave the green light on Tuesday 2nd April and we are now about half way through his recovery training schedule that the vet composed for us, and it has been full of ups and downs, tears and laughter and one pony who only wants to go very fast.

For the first 2 weeks, our daily trot allowance (as the vet put it...) was increased from 0 to 10 minutes. The first week was me holding on for dear life as Vallu sprinted, jumped and spooked. The thought of going slowly, being relaxed or responding to a half-halt seemed totally foreign to Vallu, and I felt like I was riding a three year old! Certainly not my best riding and getting through each riding session felt like I had survived an ordeal like the Hunger Games! Luckily the EquiCalm (calming feed) and the lack of energy started to calm Vallu and I got several good days where he was working through his back, and I actually started enjoying riding him again.

But then spring arrived, and Vallu's testosterone levels went through the roof. I know spring can be a hard time for riders who own mares as they come into season, but bloody hell Vallu seriously thought that he was a stallion again. So last Friday we had a huge argument and a clash of egos. Although Vallu is normally a very sweet horse who doesn't put a foot in the wrong place, it felt like I was sitting on the devil. Somehow I managed to be the winner, and from then on Vallu has managed to relax and start to trust that I know what I'm doing and that he doesn't need to try to get me off. Maybe every spring horses question their riders to see who really is the leader of the two?

During the third and fourth week, the daily trot limit is increased to 20 minutes, but so far we have only done about 15 minutes, because Vallu is starting to get a little tired and I don't want to make him angry or stop him from enjoying the work, so we're going day by day to see how he feels. His leg is looking really good so I'm hoping that by the end of summer we should get a couple of competitions in before moving to Nottingham.
Vallu: I refuse to get up if my food is in front of me
During the fourth week, we can start to do some canter work! I'm really hoping that Vallu won't go crazy like he did we started doing trot work, but even if he does I'm not going to complain (too much!) because at least I know that he is happy, enjoying the work and feeling good.


Dressage lesson with Kirsi Nevalainen-LaCorte: creating straightness and strength

On Monday I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to train with Kirsi Nevalainen-LaCorte, a Finnish lady who has lived in America for the last 30 years. She is a classical dressage trainer, and a U.S.D.F Certified Fourth Level Instructor. Kirsi was on a two week holiday in Finland and we were able to have her come over and give me a lesson with Rama.

It was a great lesson because we practiced nearly everything, and Kirsi was able to fix lots of little things with my position and also fill my head up with lots of great ideas and exercises for creating straightness and strength. 
Kirsi Nevalainen-LaCorte riding one of her own horses in USA
Because Kirsi hasn't seen Rama before, it was really interesting to see what she would have to say about how to improve him. Thanks to my work with Karita, Rama has come along tremendously and now is much straighter than before. But since Kirsi hasn't seen the progress and didn't know his background, it was great to get someone else's viewpoint and ideas. To improve Rama's straightness and strength, we began working on a 20m circle in walk where the idea was go along the 20m and have shoulder-in, resulting in Rama's hindquarters on a 20m circle and his front on a 18m circle. This activates the hind legs, and makes Rama actually use his hind legs instead of just running along without activating the muscles.
Blue circle is where the hindlegs are and the maroon circle is where the front legs are
This was done in both directions in walk, trot and canter and was actually a really difficult exercise for Rama and I. Because Rama is still weak from behind, he struggled to let go and push his hind legs underneath him and so kept offering everything from piaffe to canter instead of doing the actual exercise. During a very difficult bit in trot, we moved back down to walk and did a turn on the forehand to get Rama to really move his hind legs across.Although I only got some good steps from Rama during the entire exercise, the feeling was so strong that I know exactly what to work towards.

From this we moved on to some lateral exercises, which again are incredibly important for improving your horses straightness and strength. During our shoulder-in along the long side, Kirsi pointed out that I must remember to give him space with the outside rein, that even though it is important to have a connection on the outside rein, you cannot expect a horse to be able to move laterally if you don't give him enough space! And to improve your shoulder-in, using voltes at the beginning will give you the correct neck bend and activation from behind. Voltes are an excellent training tool, encouraging engagement and power and I really have to start using them more!

My two favorite exercises were both in canter. At first we practiced half pass in canter, which went fabulously well! I was so pleased with Rama, he really started to pick up and cross over his hind legs well! Then the other exercise was to ride as shown in the picture below:
It looks easy, but it's an incredibly difficult exercise for those who have wonky horses who like to show off their flying changes! Luckily the work we had done before this exercise had straightened Rama so that he didn't feel the need to do flying changes. The only way to get these perfect is to have a straight and collected horse who is listening to you.

Lots to think about! Has anyone ever done these exercises before? Do they work for you?


Dressage lesson with Karita: creating impulsion, lightness and forwardness

I had another great lesson once again with Karita Kotikulma! On Thursday morning I had the lesson with Rama, and we worked on creating more forwardness and impulsion as well as lightness in the mouth and contact. The last time that I rode Rama during Karita's lesson was over month ago, and it was good to hear from Karita how Rama has improved (built up muscles, is more straight esp on the left rein and has the strength + stamina to stay in a higher and more collected outline)
Unfortunately there was a jumping lesson going on at the same time in the indoor, so we didn't get to practise anything else apart from working on a 20m circle since they took up the other half of the indoor arena! And I apologize for the bad quality of the photos, they're blurry and horrible but Rama still looks good. There is a good quality video at the end of the blog.

We began the lesson working on riding a square in both trot and canter in both directions. Here I had to focus on turning from the front, making sure that Rama's shoulders turn as well. At the beginning I have make sure to help Rama have more self-carriage, because he tends to be a little low in the poll and slightly pulling at the reins. The main idea was to make the hind legs be more underneath him and to get the front to come more upwards which gives me a much lighter and softer contact. 
"Have the courage to influence him" Karita 
During the canter, Rama decided to practice lots of flying changes, and some two tempi and one-time changes in an attempt to get out doing the straightening work because it is difficult for him. Having Karita help me ride Rama through this was invaluable because I know how to deal with him when he becomes difficult (he wasn't really being difficult, he was just having so much fun at my expense - little bugger!) Karita pointed out that I have to focus on keeping my legs relaxed and still so that Rama has no reason to start playing around, and to make sure that I am sitting properly on my seat bones. 
"You have the right to use all of your aids, and he has to accept that" Karita
When using my leg aids, Karita reminded me that Rama has to respond. This ensures that he listens to me and uses his hind legs, and is not just ignoring my leg. When does respond and moves forwards, focus on him still so that he doesn't have the chance to escape from under me, and use half halts quickly and often. Another good pointer is to make sure that there is a good contact with the outside rein → make sure he doesn't lift his head up and avoid contact. When riding a square in canter, your horse can't use his inside hind leg if you let his shoulder escape to the outside, thus make sure you have a good outside rein.

After a break, we carried on with the canter work. Karita wanted to check our canter walk transitions, which I knew were pretty good. The transitions to walk are good, collected and soft but Rama must continue to walk well after the transition, so practicing transitions with a longer walk period will help with this so we now have to focus on our walk work. During the right rein, the right hind leg must be active and underneath him so that he takes an equal amount of weight on it and use it as well as his left hind leg. From these we moved onto a smaller circle, making sure that Rama turns well from my outside leg and stays straight. As we turned onto the smaller circle, Rama immediately started to collect the canter which was great. It was a fantastic feeling to get Rama to collect even more so that as the circle became smaller, we got a big pirouette!

In the video you can see the last bit of the lesson, during which we worked on getting Rama's trot to become just that little bit bigger and better, and so we got more impulsion and more forwardness. Getting Rama to move more in front required me to constantly remind him to keep his nose up so that his shoulders had the space to move up and forwards, which meant that the energy from the hind legs moved to his front legs. The hind legs also had to be activated just that little bit more since sometimes Rama likes to drag his hind legs behind him even though he feels and looks good otherwise. During the left trot, Rama wants to push his inside hind leg towards the inside i.e. away from himself, but by ensuring that this doesn't happen, we have a straighter horse and a horse that moves better.

"Feel that his hind legs come underneath him, and then feel how his front legs move much more" Karita


Keep calm and ride on

Here's another horsey update

Basse has now gotten himself some kind of virus/bacterial infection which is causing him to cough a lot when being exercised. When he is in his stable, outside in the paddock or just walking, he doesn't cough but as soon as he starts to move, the coughing starts. It's that kind of cough where he pulls his head down as much as he can and coughs so hard that you nearly fall off. He manages to do some trot work without constantly coughing, but its only possible to get one small circle in canter before he has to start coughing.

The vet visited us in the morning and checked him over. She listened to his breathing which according to her is quite raspy, so there's probably some kind of infection in his lungs. She also took some blood, and the test results come back tomorrow, and then we'll know whether it's a virus or a bacteria. If this is caused by bacteria, then we will start Basse on an antibiotics course immediately. If it's a virus, then we shall just have to wait for it to pass. Luckily the vet said the she is totally sure that it is not the equine herpesvirus! The vet also gave him some cough medicine which he now gets twice a day for a week. 
Basse's cough medicine
Rama, Vallu and Nelli are all doing good. Rama is starting to work more with mother now that Vallu is starting to coming back into work. Mother is still kind enough to let me borrow Rama for dressage lessons/competitions. 
Rama in neon green!
Vallu has started calm down a little bit. The first few rides (which you can read about here) have been like sitting on a live ticking time bomb! Now that he is getting used to the fact we do infact get to trot instead of doing just boring walk work, he has relaxed. Although we still have daily arguments about him wanting to do a continuous medium trot with a high neck position and me wanting a more relaxed, slower and a lower neck position; but I have even managed to get a couple of minutes normal working trot with no explosions! Today we even got some softness to the contact because I wasn't having to always break and slow Vallu down. This week we can do a grand total of 10 minutes of trot work, so hopefully Vallu will start to chill even more once he gets used to the work. I can't wait for next week when we get to start doing some canter work!
Vallu and the dreadful poles which were so scary to walk past


Health scare: Equine herpesvirus outbreak

Last week the equine herpesvirus arrived in Finland from Estonia, and so now everyone is closing their gates, canceling shows/competitions and trying to prevent further spreading of the disease. Let's just hope that this passes quickly and that we can prevent further infections and deaths from occurring. 

What to be on the look out for?

Clinical signs:

  • coughing 
  • fever (38.9℃- 41.7℃)
  • nasal discharge
  • general discomfort
  • incoordination of the hind
  • urine retention
  • bladder weakness
Also keep an eye on your horse's eating - loss of appetite can also be a symptom!

Transmission routes?
  • aerosol transmission → inhalation of droplets from coughing and snorting (NOTE: EHV virus is not as easily spread this way than the equine influenza) 
  • indirect transmission → virus can be carried on people's clothing and skin so disinfectant and clean clothes are important!
Incubation period is 2-10 days after infection by any route, but can be as short as 24 hours!

How to try to avoid/prevent infection?

  • practise proper bio-security measures to prevent people spreading → promptly disinfecting hands after handling different horses, changing clothing and footwear and wearing gloves can all help
  • do not share equipment with other horses →  virus can be spread through contaminated objects such as water/feed buckets, tack and equipment
  • direct horse to horse contact should be avoided → if at a show or competition, try not to let your horse touch/smell other horses
Don't panic (unlike myself, I've already had several panic attacks!), most horses recover from this in one to three weeks. There are several vaccinations available, just ask your vet!


Dressage lesson with Karita: creating softness and suppleness

Life is starting to settle back into a normal training and riding routine now that spring is arriving! My weekly lesson with Karita Kotikulma was on Thursday, and once again it was fantastic. I am so fortunate to have found a trainer who can teach me on any horse with no problems and still achieve so much improvement every single lesson no matter which horse I am riding. I had a lesson with Basse, whom I haven't ridden properly for a long time, and my last lesson with Basse must have been over a year ago!!  Luckily I know Basse so well that I had little trouble adjusting to him.

A great thing that I now admire about Karita is her ability to work with any horse. After having been to her lessons with both Vallu and Rama, I was a little apprehensive on whether she would be able to help me on a less advanced horse, but once again Karita showed how well she can teach any level horse. Those who have read Basse's page know that he is working at elementary level (HeA) whereas Vallu is working at Inter I and Rama at advanced medium (VaB)

Our lesson started with a basic warm up of trotting around the arena with Basse in a relaxed long and low frame to get him moving through his back. After several minutes, Karita asked for a slightly quicker from behind and more active trot, which I had to ask for in a very subtle way so that Basse's relaxation wouldn't disappear. Basse, on the other hand, had other ideas! Whenever I lightly tapped him with the whip or slightly used my spurs, he would either sprint off at a quick speed or then suddenly buck! We were not lacking in energy! 

Whilst on a large 20m circle, we then started flexing his neck to get him to be properly through. One of Basse's weaknesses is that he won't come completely through or relax his neck (even though he looks it and has fooled many a trainer and dressage judges with this!!) and thus he is not totally working through his back. This is something that most trainers don't pick up because it is such a exceptionally small difference, even though you can feel it through the reins from his mouth that he isn't completely soft. Karita noticed this straight away in our warm up and thus we began working on it immediately. On the 20m circle, the idea was to just move the inside hand a bit lower and a bit towards the inside in order to help Basse become totally round and soft in the neck. One of my greatest challenges is to keep my hand steady and still when it is in this position because for some reason I have a need to keep releasing the contact constantly, resulting in Basse becoming empty in the contact, and so all of the hard work goes down the drain! Once I got the hang of it and was able to keep my hands still, Basse became much softer and easier to ride.

After a short walk break where Karita and I discussed Basse's conformation and how Basse moves, we started on the canter work. Basse's canter is easily four beat if it is not ridden correctly, and if he is not collected or supported enough he will continuously fall down to trot. I have often felt that canter is Basse's weakest pace, but with Karita's help it started to feel and look really good! We did so many walk canter transitions that I can't remember the last time that anyone has made me do so many transitions during one exercise! At first, the exercise was just to do walk canter transitions on a 20m circle with a low inside hand. However, when the downward transitions from canter to walk were not very good, Karita suggested to do a small 8m circle straight after getting down to walk.

20m circle in canter with three 8m circles in walk
By using these small circles, Basse's walk improved because he didn't have the chance to lift his head up and thus had to carry on working through his back. Also on the small circles I had the chance to check that Basse was keeping his inside hind-leg underneath him and being totally straight through his body instead. Bu having a better walk, I then also got a much better, stronger and more For anyone who struggles to keep their straight and wants to improve their horse's canter, I really recommend this exercise!

After doing this exercise for a while in both directions Basse improved dramatically, and at the end of the lesson he felt so much better than at the beginning! My contact to his mouth was much softer, better and more elastic, Basse wasn't pulling on the left rein like at the beginning and he was much more active from behind. Near the end during our cooling down trot I was able to do small 10m teardrops for changes of direction without any problems, because he was much more through his neck and more responsive to my leg.

Unfortunately our camera ran out of battery right at the start of the lesson and the few photos that mother was able to take were all blurry which is such a shame! Luckily Karita is coming again next Thursday when we will continue to work with Basse, and hopefully someone will be able to come take some photos.


It was a very good day!

Riding Vallu is like sitting on a ticking time bomb. He isn't really concentrating, he just wants to go fast and whenever there is a slightly different noise, he will spook. With the sun warming everything, the snow is starting to melt, including the snow on the roof of the indoor arena. As it melts, some small chunks fall down and make a small noise which can be heard very well inside, resulting in one very jumpy pony! People moving around can also be a very frightening thing, which also means I have an even more explosive horse underneath me.
Nice hind leg action!
 Today we did 5 minutes of trot work, mainly during the long sides and a little bit on a 20 meter circle. 5 minutes flies past so quickly, I felt like I'd only been trotting for about 30 seconds! When Vallu doesn't want to walk forwards, he starts to piaffe and today he produced some pretty nice moves! Tomorrow we can 6 minutes, and I plan on riding him in the morning to test if he is calmer and more relaxed then.

And again, my wild inner ponyclub girl won the day and I had a short walk on Nelli without a saddle and without a bridle! I love this horse to pieces and I owe her everything, without her I wouldn't be riding today. 
Tomorrow I have lesson with Karita Kotikulma, but this time I will be riding Basse! I'm really looking forward to seeing Karita work her magic on Basse, and hopefully I'll get someone to take a video/photos!

This Saturday I will be doing a dressage competition at our neighbour's riding school with Rama. Mother decided to enter me in without consulting or talking to me first so I now have a few days to learn my test and get ready. I was going to complain, but then I decided to just accept the challenge and see how it goes! 
Learning the test!
And not a day goes by without some sort of hassle happening! Today Vallu decided to break his paddock a little bit!
Trying to look totally innocent!
Vallu had managed to break the pole in half so that the wires were on the ground! I'm amazed he didn't decide to just jump over them and wander off for a little walk... Luckily dad managed to fix it in the evening so that tomorrow he can go out again!
The pole should be on top of the wood shown by the pink arrow, not next to it!