Week overview

Never having done one of these, I thought it might be a good idea to review our week! I've really decided to get us back on track for competitions, we've had a kick up the behind for lateral movements, going forwards and flying changes!

Monday 17th
Hack out (you can read about that HERE) super good boy, very calm and relaxed and very happy rider

Tuesday 18th

Day off so hand walked outdoors in the afternoon when there was clear round jumping going on = crazy wild pony who decided to show off to everyone how well he can rear up and buck, as well as how good he is at doing stallion head shakes! It's so funny how he will never rear or buck when I ride, he only spooks but when he is being lunged or walked, he will never spook and always rears up and bucks. Funny horse. I very much appreciate that it's this way, I don't think I'd be very good at staying on Vallu seems to be quite the expert at rearing up - it would be very high! So I've come to conclusion to always put on all boots (including overreach boots on all four legs) as well as having him on the lunge line with a bridle on.

Wednesday 19th
We got to ride indoors and to my surprise I had a super calm horse! I rode at the same time as the girl who owns the horse we hacked out with on Monday, Vallu really likes him and seems to always  be very calm when this horse is around! :) But Vallu so calm that I had to work hard to push him to go BIG instead of just plodding along happily at his comfortable slow pace.

I tried a new thing which I'd read about somewhere, warming up with flying changes so that in the end they'd be easy for both us. We started warming up with single flying changes on the diagonal, focussing that they were straight but most of all making sure the canter was forwards so that it doesn't slow down after the change. After this we then did flying changes on a serpentine with a change every time we crossed over the centreline.

Once flying changes were good, we moved onto trot work. I mainly concentrated on making sure that Vallu was swinging properly through his back, and then pushing from his hind legs. I sometimes forget how big this horse is, and I become complacent because his normal slow trot feels quite big to me because of his size. A big bouncy trot feels absolutely massive, but that is what needs to become the new norm. Even though there has been progress on this since the AF lesson ages ago when Andrew pointed it out, I still need to make a good trot feel 'normal' to me. In the end I got massive leg yield and superb shoulder-in, and wow what a feeling!

Thursday 20th
My only morning ride of the week, and my gosh what a great way to start your day...
We started with lots of transitions (mixing walk trot and canter so he never knew what he was going to do next - V such a clever horse that if we do just walk trot walk he starts predicting when we're going to do something so mixing the three makes him listen to me) to get him to sit on his hind-end →  in order to have actual transitions, instead of just falling down, becoming heavy and leaning on the bit.

Ended up having to slightly pissing him off to get him to go forwards, and I swear I got an actual growl from him when I really pushed him on :D We worked on two different exercises:
1. Down the long side trot shoulder in, at half way point e.g. E or B in long arena then transition to canter and immediately into half pass spur towards the centre line - confusing for your brain at first ;)
2. The slightly easier version is fully in canter - so first canter shoulder-in down the long side, followed by half pass from the middle point towards the centre line.
After this goes well then progress to a long diagonal of half pass - something we have not practised in a long time,  I'm far more comfortable with just a short bit of half pass than an entire long diagonal of half pass. Need to make sure that after first half of the diagonal to concentrate on the pace of the canter, we need to keep going forwards and it needs to energetic, otherwise canter becomes too flat for the flying change to be good at the end. So much to think about!

Friday 21st
On Friday evening we spent 40 mins in an indoor arena full of show jumps!! So in the sprit of "you must challenge yourself at least once a week" I managed to do a bit of fun canter walk transitions zig zagging around the jumps as well as a bit of just trotting along in a weird serpentine that varied in size depending on how we decided to avoid the jumps :D

I think it's great to always push yourself in uncomfortable situations and we haven't had many times that we've had to deal with massive colourful fillers e.g. 3D dice and big clouds. I'm so pleased with Vallu's attitude to them, he stayed calm and with no pressure on he sniffed them and then afterwards had no problem trotting and cantering around them... Such a good boy! :)


Best hack ever!

When we got back
Short post today but I'm over the moon!! Vallu was amazing this morning out on our regular hack!!! It was absolutely amazing to be able to relax and be able to give Vallu a long rein without having to be worried about staying on. Hopefully this will carry on from now on and I have a happy hacker for the rest of time :)

The video below is Hollie riding Vallu doing some pole work. Varying the work that Vallu is doing has had fantastic results, he's been so motivated for proper training work now! I think (hope) that we've now found the proper balance :D


Coursera's Online Equine Nutrition Course

I was very excited in the beginning of Janurary to receive the news that Coursera was running its online Equine Nutrition course again, which began in 27th Jan. We're now at the end of week 3 / beginning of week 4, and I've been loving it! It's not too tough, but it does take me back to IB higher level biology so if you didn't like biology class then some the lectures may not be for you. 

At the moment week 3 is my favourite, its about nutrient sources so fresh and conserved forage, as well as cereals. Week 1 was about the horse's anatomy (looking in detail about the stomach, large and small intestines) and week 2 about feed composition (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins) You need to put about 2-3 hours of work into it every week, which really isn't too much to ask for. I'm very much looking forward to the last two weeks especially week 5's equine clinical nutrition.

The great thing about this is that even though it's an online course, they have posted videos which makes it feel like you are having your own personal lecture. There are also the discussion boards, which are very active. I love reading through everyone's thoughts and ideas, people on this course are posting great questions/ideas, and the teachers are very good at replying. It's also a very flexible course, which is great as I'm able to pick and choose when I study, so it's easy for me to study this alongside my actual university politics course. And the fact that you can do the end of week exams whenever you want is also really helpful, especially for people who have other things e.g. jobs to do!


Teeth fixed!

Finally the time had come for Vallu's teeth to be done again so that finally everything could be sorted out and we can start training again! The lovely dentist and vet came yesterday and worked so well together to get Vallu to relax so that the dentist could get the work done whilst at the same time Vallu would have the best possible experience. Even a fully sedated Vallu didn't want to have the machine in his mouth, but in the end he managed to relax enough for it to work out well, and Vallu was super brave and well behaved. 
Vallu really didn't like the blue headstand
The best part of the day was after everything was done and Vallu was starting to wake up from the sedation. Since he's by nature a very cuddly horse, when he's waking up from the sedation he is super duper cuddly and it meant that I got to spend an hour just hugging and cuddling him! ♥ 
Poor tired baby

Fun times! He doesn't let anyone do this to him normally
I had a lot of fun taking photos of Vallu and now my phone has at least 50 basically the same photos of him... My friends also received about ten snapchats of him, the one below is the agreed upon favourite! 
Yesterday he obviously had a day off, and today he gets lightly lunged and we'll see how it goes and how Vallu is feeling through the weekend, and then possibly we can start riding properly again next week! The next Andrew Fletcher clinic is 6th March, which is such a long way away, but we'll have to start properly training again once Vallu is back to normal so that we won't embarrass ourselves in the lesson. I'm so happy that everything is now fixed, and hopefully nothing else will go wrong for a while!!! *fingers crossed*


Vallu 08.02.2014

I absolutely adore my friends, who came out on Saturday afternoon when it was very very cold and very very windy to meet Vallu and the rest of the horses! Hannah managed to take some lovely photos, of which I've post a few below ;) 
Will you be a good boy today?
It really was super windy yesterday and because there was so much going on at the stables (unaffiliated dressage competition and BD squad training) I didn't want to risk a wild Vallu in the warm-up so I put draw reins on. Afterwards I realised that I really didn't need them, Vallu was such a good boy. I'm gonna have to start just going out to ride in difficult conditions without draw reins and trust Vallu, for the last week he's been so good and not spooky, fingers crossed this is the start of him being a proper schoolmaster? ;)

LET'S GO!!!!
Leg yielding towards the wind



Plodding along...

Since last week everything has started to get better once again. Vallu's foot is fine, after one scary "OMG is he lame?!" ride on Sunday night there's been no signs of it affecting him at all, and his mouth feels great as well! Right now we're just plodding along quite happily until 11th Feb when the dentist is coming out again to do some more extensive work.
On Wednesday evening I got ride indoors in a double bridle for the first time in a couple of weeks and managed to do some proper training. After tons of canter walk transitions Vallu started working brilliantly well and I'm very very happy with how he felt. By doing walk-canter-walk transitions for ten to fifteen minutes the trot work afterwards felt great!! :) By being able to manage to engage his hind legs then the trot work became much easier! (Surprise surprise...) 
Sunday night at 10pm after riding...
It's great to be able to ride indoors two or three times a week, firstly because it's nice and warm and dry, and secondly because of the mirros which allow me to see how we look. Vallu has always had a better canter than a trot, and so it's easier for him to collect in the canter and to shorten his neck, thus whenever I've tried to collect and shorten his trot Vallu has become tight through his back and strong in his neck and mouth, but not anymore!! On Wednesday he was soft and light and easy to work with. He looked great in the mirror so there's hope for the future ;)
Vallu's favourite toy, my precious Magic Brush
One of the main things I focused on during yesterday's training session was keeping my wrists soft. Does anyone else struggle with this? I know a lot of trainers will tell you to keep your hands soft, but even if my hands and fingers may be soft my wraits can be tense? And what a surprise (not) that when I managed to keep my fingers, hands and wrists soft and relaxed then Vallu was soft and relaxed from head to hooves! Will have to keep thinking about this when I'm riding to see how much I tense my wrists even when I'm feeling pretty relaxed...


Teeth update

Vallu had his teeth checked out on Tuesday and got some work done. He was such a brave boy, the dentist was a total professional and very chilled out, there aren't a lot of men that can get Vallu to visibly relax in under 5 minutes.
As it's been a while since Vallu had his teeth last done, there was a lot of growth and the dentist did as much as he could without any sedation, but we couldn't get right to end as Vallu started getting very nervous. So we've decided to re-book for the dentist to come back in two weeks so that the vet will be there to sedate him beforehand.
What his back teeth look like now..
How they should look like, and will look like after the next treatment
Vallu has been in a great mood this week, even though we have had limited time riding, it's been very  nice and easy! Even riding in the outdoor arena has been surprisingly relaxing, which is great as it's allowed my back to start getting better!! Yay! Hopefully after the second dentist visit I can book us in for our next lesson, I still haven't given up hope on our competition debut being in April. Here's hoping that February goes better than January...