Under the apple trees

With exams starting this week, it's going to be a relatively quiet time for the horses as I'll be trying to pass my exams. With that in mind, I wanted to take some photos of Vallu and I before I get too stressed so that I can stare at them and try and relax ;) We have lots of apple trees at home, and right now they are in full bloom and are absolutely stunning. For the next week the horses will get some light work, and lots of turn out so that they stay in shape, whilst I go and do some final cramming of information. I can't wait for these to be over so that I can start relaxing and properly enjoying summer and the horses.

Beautiful horse


Dressage lesson with Ville Vaurio: strength and softness

On Monday we had another training session with Ville, but this time instead of just teaching me, Ville  rode Rama at the same time as teaching. It was so good to be able to have Ville show me what he wanted me to do when I was struggling with something, instead of him having to explain it lots of times. I'm also a firm believer in that you can learn a lot about riding just by watching others (better riders) riding, and to be able to ride at the same time as others is even more of a learning experience. It was like being back in Nottingham in the warm up at Vale View, where both Michael and Maria Eilberg were warming up for their tests. That is the moment when you just stand there going wow... and your brain tries to absorb everything about the way these people are riding.
Because I haven't really trained these properly in Nottingham, Ville has decided that we need to carry on focusing on the canter pirouette work in order to make them really secure. With last lesson's exercise (which you can read about here) safely in my 'dressage rider's toolbox' we started on a new exercise. This one started with riding a 20 meter circle at the end of the arena, with half of it being in collected/ pirouette canter, and then other half being ridden in a BIG working canter. The idea was not to get a fast or long strided canter, but a quick and sharp canter because you need quickness in the hind legs in order to produce a good pirouette. 

Once the transition between the working canter and collected canter is good every time, we then proceeded into doing a working canter pirouette. I never knew that a working canter pirouette could be so much harder than attempting a proper pirouette. I've been fortunate enough to ride a horse that already knows how to do these, so I haven't had to go through the teaching/learning process of getting a proper pirouette e.g. never had to ride a working canter piruoette which is much bigger than a proper tight one. Number one rule is to make sure Vallu doesn't fall in to a very small and tight pirouette. If so then back to walk, shoulder in away from inside leg to get his inside hind leg under and respect for your leg. To help with this, half halting with the outside hand, and asking to turn round with outside leg → LEAVE THE INSIDE ALONE (I will learn this one day, I promise)

Afterwards I realised how important it was for me to learn to ride this, because if I get a new horse after Vallu that does not know how to do canter pirouettes, then I will need to teach them to the horse, and so I need to know how to teach them.

In the trot work the thing to focus on is finding that right balance between Vallu pushing to go forwards, without becoming long and strong in the mouth. The trot we have now is much better than last year, as Vallu is much more powerful from behind, and happily pushes to go forwards. But he also wants to become long in the neck, which leads to him leaning on my hand. Thus, with lots and lots of small half halts to encourage him to shorten his neck and to stay soft, but not slow him down at all, we managed to get close to what we wanted. I must must must remember to relax my hands so that they are not slowing him down, and let 'the power flow through you' during those times when he is soft in the mouth and has a shorter neck. And finally, remember to use the corners to do a slight flex to the inside, and with your inside leg to get his inside hind leg underneath him. Then on the long side just let him go forwards softly and just sit there ;)

I love these lessons! 


Flower bomb

So spring might have finally arrived in Finland, and mum has gone slightly flower crazy in order to make the place even more colourful.  We seem to have agreed on a slight pink theme which is great for me ;) and I decided to take some photographs!

And in order to make this not a totally horse free post, Vallu decided to keep poking me with his head because he didn't like being ignored whilst I was trying to take photos :D And no he didn't eat the flower because he didn't like the taste ♥︎


Dressage lesson with Ville Vaurio: Getting back into it

It's been a while since I've had a training session, so I was very much looking forward to having a lesson, and also looking forward to training with Ville again. The last time I trained with him was Christmas time with Rama. One of the best things about moving back to Finland for the summer is that I get to train Vallu with Ville. He's one of those amazing trainers who will push you to be better, but will not push past your or the horse's abilities. And he has the great ability to simplify everything for me, so that when I'm trying to override or overthink everything he stops that, and makes me ride so much better! 
The main exercise of the day was centred around a canter pirouette practise. We began working on this right at the beginning of the lesson after I'd warmed up with Vallu. We began at walk with riding a square, and at each corner you ride a 1/4 walk pirouette or turn on the haunches. With Vallu, I have to be careful to collect walk, but also makes sure that the walk doesn't become too piaffe-y :D Another thing to focus on was to make sure that I move my outside leg back, but at the same time not use it e.g. don't niggle/nag with it (use it and then leave it, don't abuse it)

Stage 2 was to pick up canter and do the same in canter. Before starting to ride the square in canter, it helped to do one 20m circle in a big working canter. This is just to make sure that Vallu is sharp off the leg, and then to leave my legs off, hanging long down Vallu's sides. This has become so much better than last year, when all Ville did most of every lesson was to shout at me to leave Vallu alone with my legs; and now he probably only told me off for excessive use of leg twice. Yes, progress!! :) Then into the square, and repeat the same as in walk. With Vallu, I need to collect more and be more brave with half halts. It is much better to make mistakes by riding properly, than to try to ride poorly in an attempt to avoid mistakes altogether. I've also got to make sure he goes forwards between the corners, so that it's not constant collected canter. Vallu has a very quick reaction, but these transitions in canter are super good to get his hind legs really underneath him and working through his back.

We also did some flying changes, which then led to practising tempi changes because I swear they will always be challenging for my brain, since I always override and overthink, and then get confused and then also confuse Vallu. So in order to simplify things, I just had to ride and get a good basic canter by counting the rhythm.  straight neck right to left change will always be more difficult, at beginning a lot smaller and tighter, after a while the canter got bigger which made the right to left change much better.
It's lovely to note such a big difference in how capable Vallu is of having his neck in "competition mode" e.g a shorter and higher. Obviously we don't train like this often, during most of our lessons we keep him round and low and soft. However for the more advanced classes that I'm looking at to compete in, his neck has to be shorter and more collected than if I was competing in novice classes or like when I ride him on our easy days/warming up. Last year we both struggled with this, he wasn't strong enough to keep it collected constantly and I didn't know how to ride him properly. But now, it's super easy and a very lovely feeling because he is so soft in the mouth, and seems quite happy and content. But just to make it that extra bit nicer, I have to remember that if Vallu is 'pulling' or holding onto the rein, I cannot under any circumstances keep holding on to that rein, I must do a small slight flexion (a very bad habit of mine is to do too much, I only need to do a small movement with my hands!!!!) The flexion is only slight, down and low so then Vallu gives in, then straighten the neck and pat, pat, pat.

Conclusions: So basically everything is so much better than the last time with Ville. There are lots of little things to improve on, and to refine on, instead of big problems. And basically Vallu in general is just amazing and I am lucky to have him in my life 


Photo Sunday!


Happy Birthday Ramazzotti!

 Rama turned 16 years young yesterday, and he got lots of sweets and hugs as a birthday present. He got to go out for a hack and hopefully had a great extra special day ♥︎

Rama and mummy