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 

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