Dressage lesson with Andrew Fletcher: making you brave

During this lesson I learnt that riding is a very psychological sport. We had awful weather again yesterday, the winds reaching 25-30mph, and I really thought that the indoor arena's doors would fly off. So you can imagine that the rattling and banging of the doors, walls and roof didn't make for a very calm or relaxing setting for our lesson. So obviously the lesson would be centered around Vallu and I being made to relax. 
How we looked after the lesson :D
The main idea was to ride Vallu forwards and in front of the leg even when spooky, and that when he takes off, strong half halt, give reins and pat. This is awfully scary! It goes against all your natural reflexes, but it was totally worth the scare because Vallu started to relax much quicker and be more confident once I started riding like this....
How riding Vallu sometimes feels like ;)
Andrew says that as soon I start (even unconsciously) tensing up, I hold onto the reins and stop riding him forwards, and so Vallu starts tensing up, sensing something is going to happen soon. And then once he spooks I hang on the reins for dear life and trying to stop him. I've got to now change my whole natural reaction to his spooks, and just learn to fully trust him. New mantra: trust him and be brave!
Vallu with his favorite neighbor 
The other things we worked on were a big trot and canter. Oh goodness me, what an amazing feeling.  It doesn't even feel like it's a struggle at all for Vallu, it's just super easy for him. He really pushes from behind and lift his legs, but I have to ride him in front of my leg! And must remember to ride like that all the time, don't let him fool you into going slower. Big trot = big points!!!

We also did some flying changes, but they were so so so easy, that I didn't even feel that he had changed a couple of times! It seems that I have to make my bum more sensitive ;) And also learn to trust that Vallu has done a flying change... but the only way to learn this is to practice practice practice. A great exercise that I've completely forgotten about is doing flying changes on the 3/4 line. This is especially helpful if you're going towards the mirrors, you can see exactly what happens when you change. During the lesson the changes were very straight, thanks to the big forward canter that we had. The more forwards and uphill your canter is, the more likely it is that you will get a good straight flying change.

There was a woman looking at us during lesson who afterwards said that Vallu is stunning (whoever you are, thank you!) and I'm lucky that all he does is just gallop off, doesn't buck or rear or try to get me out of the saddle. This was a lightbulb moment. Being wrapped up in my little world, I'd forgotten what other horses do and what Vallu could do, but doesn't. He's just afraid, he's not bad or naughty at all. 

Trust. Making that final leap of trust in our relationship will be scary, but I'm pretty sure that the results will all be worth it.

Found some old photos of Vallu the other day...
As a 5 year old at a competition!
Baby Vallu, makes my heart melt ♥

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