Back again

Last week I had an awful week with Tarmo passing away, Nelli kicking me in the leg and knocking heads with Rama that gave me a bit of a mild concussion! Once I started recovering from those, I caught an absolutely awful summer flu that has lasted for 8 days, which has had me without a voice for several days, a cough that the entire neighborhood can hear and a bit of a fever. We also had the warmest week of the year, with temperatures consistenly reaching +30c, and I can tell you that it was hard hard work riding two horses a day in that heat and my state of health. Luckily now I'm starting to feel better and hopefully start working the ponies properly once again!

Nelli has come back to us and risen like phoenix from the ashes once again! She had 3 weeks off after getting a really bad allergic reaction to something (she was sweating and I was riding her without a saddle but with a sheepskin and she had fly spray on) Then once her skin had started to heal enough for me to ride her, then she became lame from shoeing and from going a little bit crazy on the arena when mum let her go free. But, she recovered from that as well, and we are now working towards brining her back to her full fitness level. Since Nelli is already 19 years old, I'm taking it slow with her, working her every other day so that she gets to recover well and so that it doesn't become too hard for her.

Vallu has been super star recently. I've been having lessons with Sanna for the last three weeks and we have come on so much, it's nearly unbelievable. Although we're starting right from the beginning again, in a few weeks we've gone from finding the best rhythm for us to getting a better contact and more impulsion. 
Sanna is having a month off from work (such a shame for me and Vallu!) but luckily I have learnt so much recently that I really feel like I now know what direction to us towards, and what Vallu feels like when he is at his best and so I'm going to try and push us on in the next month, working towards being able to focus on collection.
Rama has been a total sweetheart and working with him is a joy that I get to experience everyday. There hasn't been a single day where we would have had a bad day, and that is all thanks to him trying so hard that you just have to enjoy. 
 Unfortunately last night he managed to twist his left hind shoe so badly that we needed to pull it off, and it left a huge mess of his hoof. Luckily our farrier came to the rescue once again and managed to fix it really quickly. Because it's his leg is pretty sore today Rama will get lunged to see how he moves and then if he doesn't become uneven, we will continue with our training.
A big butt and a red toe


Dressage lesson with Sanna: re-learning to use your seat

So apparently, how you sit on a horse really affects how your horse moves! I haven't realized before how super sensitive Vallu is to my seat and posture. It's actually pretty scary how much my seat influences how he moves.

Last Friday I had my second lesson with Sanna and like last time two weeks ago, we focussed on my seat and how I can use it to to straighten Vallu, make him move bigger and better. The difference from the beginning of the lesson to the end of the lesson was enormous, and it was great to hear how much we had progressed on our own in only two weeks. Although I'm really happy with how the lesson went and everything that Sanna said, I've got to admit that the best part of it was at the end when we were finished! Not because the lesson was over, but because Vallu felt so happy. Probably the best feeling in life is when your horse is happy to be working with you. I'll cherish that feeling for a very, very long time.

I still have two things to remember constantly whilst I'm riding:
1. My hips have to move in the correct direction
2. Grow upwards from the middle

One of my biggest problems / greatest weakness with Vallu is how to get him to become truly on the bit and round and fully through. He likes to be just slightly not on the bit, but it's hardly noticeable even though you can feel it really well. Since he has a big fat neck, it doesn't even look too bad. But in order for us to progress and get to practice the higher level movements properly, Vallu has to be properly through, and moving through his back. The way to get him to do this is by working on the basics, and getting Vallu to stay between my two reins. 

By getting a strong but elastic outside rein, and making sure that Vallu isn't leaning against it, it's easy to get Vallu to become rounder in the neck. Once he feels good like this, a slight flex to the inside will get him straighter in the neck, and softer on the inside rein. I have been working on this since last Friday, and yesterday Vallu was really round and good straight from the beginning! I'm really looking forward to my last lesson with Sanna on Vallu tomorrow. Today I have a lesson with her on Rama, and we're going to work on how to ride through my test!



Sleep well my dearest darling dog, the last 16 years together created so many beautiful memories. You'll be forever treasured, and my life is already too quiet without you. 
RIP Tarmo, 1996-2013
"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die."

"Tänään on se päivä,
kun minun matkani on kuljettu loppuun.
Olen sairas ja voimani ovat ehtyneet,
älä siis pyydä minua jaksamaan pidemmälle,
vaan pidä minua sylissäsi
ja kerro minulle kaikista yhteisistä vuosistamme.
Silitä turkkiani niin kauan
kunnes olen kulkenut rajan yli
ja sydämeni on sammunut.
Muistele minua mutta älä takerru minuun,
vaan jatka eteenpäin.
Kun aika koittaa, kohtaamme jälleen,
emmekä eroa koskaan."


A breakthrough?

For the last week I've been thinking a lot about how to ride Rama when he gets super hot during our test at competitions. I know how to ride a hot horse since Vallu is basically like this every single day, and I know how to ride Rama at home or during trainings and I know how to ride a test properly because I did about forty competitions with Basse when we were in England. So if I have all the pieces of the puzzle, then how do I get them fit all together?

I do not want to go to another competition and end up struggling to control Rama and to get him to listen to me throughout the entire test. The problem is that Rama is never hot like he is at a competition when he is at home. Well, I realised that I have never even tried to get him to become super hot, because once I get him working and moving nicely forwards, I don't want or need to push him anymore. So yesterday I tried and succeeded to push him towards that fine line between super-hot-but-in-control and full-crazy hot-not-in-control.

Once again, doing tons of transitions helped! 

Our first exercise was to do collected canter on the short side and then medium canter on the long side of the arena. Rama loves this exercise, and it's really fun to feel how much he can collect and extend.

Then lots of trot → canter → trot transitions, where the canter section was very short and collected, (even nearly a pirouette canter) so that Rama really had to work from behind, activate the hindlegs and get his front up. Every time we went from this type of canter to trot, the trot was fantastic; bouncy, big and forward going. Rama started getting pretty excited during this exercise, and when I stopped cantering and just practised trot, he started running through and not listening. Bingo, I hit the jackpot! This is exactly what he does during the test! 

In order to get him to listen to me, I decided to try doing some trot → halt → trot transitions. The first couple transitions had to be pretty strong because Rama just really wasn't listening to me. But once he realised that there was an in fact a person riding him, we moved to trot → walk → trot and then everything started to click together! Yay!

Notes: I must remember that I need to have a soft outside rein: elastic, very flexible, lots of space for Rama to move, and must not be holding him back at all. The inside rein should still be flexible, but doing lots of squeezes like as if squeezing a sponge dry, resulted in Rama becoming very soft and it seemed like Rama liked it! 

I really hope that this will work the next time we go to a competition, which will hopefully be 30.6 at Vihti Dressage Center.

A few pictures of Rama before and after our competition last Saturday. Have I told you how much I love horse after competition curly hair??


Fun with Rama

 Our competition went much better than last time! Big improvement considering that he didn't spook at the judge, he didn't stare at the people in the stand and he behaved super well at home before the competition and he travelled really well. Even though he was hyped up in the warm-up, he still behaved nicely and didn't become too hot.
The only problem arrives after our first halt and salute. Rama suddenly gets a huge adrenaline rush and becomes pretty hot, so it feels like he is going to explode underneath me. I'm used to this feeling with Vallu, but when Rama does it to me, I feel totally lost because I'm not used to it with him. Unfortunately this means that we make lots of silly mistakes (e.g rein-back → trot becomes rein-back → canter) and he anticipates transitions. Oh well, this just means we need more practice and I need to get my act together and keep cool and collected during the test and remember to use tiny tiny aids so that Rama has no reason to overreact, make mistakes and lose points.

I'm hoping to go to another competition later this month, but it takes a lot of organization to be able to leave for a competition, so we'll see when our next one is.

And a big thank you to mum and dad as well as Satu who helped with the morning stables, my hair and was my groom at the competition. 


Competition time!

Tomorrow Rama and I have our second competition! We are going to a small competition really close by (a 20 minute drive) at a very nice place and I'm looking forward to it. Both my parents are coming there for support, dad is the our appointed driver and mother will make sure that we look good! I'm also really fortunate to have Satu come with us, and she has also been super kind and promised to help me out for the entire day! Thank you so much already! 

Rama and I have been training hard, and I have had a lot of help from our neighbor Sanna who owns the riding school with my posture and seat. She has managed to make riding comfortable again, so that sitting trot doesn't hurt my back and I'm now able to influence both Vallu and Rama's canter much more. Unfortunately this new position is making me use different muscles that are now incredibly sore! Hopefully I can keep myself together at the competition and not fall back into my old uncomfortable position.
Summer is here! ♥

All of the ponies are now going out for 1-2 hours a day on grass and they are loving it! Because it has been so hot here (+30C) they have only been out for about 4 hours because at midday it simply becomes too hot for them to be outside, since the stables are cooler.