Vallu today


Life is so tiring 
Oh my god flowers?!



Rosi, an 8 year old mini Shetland pony mare who has come to stay with us! Once Vallu and I go back to Nottingham, she will be Nelli's new stablemate so that she won't be all alone. All our horses love her (Vallu especially) and she's super cute ♥︎


Another reason why...

...I absolutely love this horse
I've been rather poorly, suffering from my yearly summer flu, but this time is the worst that it has ever been. Runny nose, aching joints, sore throat, dry cough, and feeling faint and feverish, added to the ridiculously hot temperatures that we're having (+30c in the shade) has made me feel rather off. I managed to give Vallu a day off yesterday, but lunging is out of the question (I nearly faint every time now) and since I can't give him too many days off or he'll explode. I was dreading riding him, if I'm being brutally honest. My reflexes were incredibly slow, I dropped my bandages several times into the shavings, and I even managed to walk into the wall... I said to dad when he helped me to get on, that if I had to predict a day when I would fall off this horse, then today would be that day.

Nope, this horse just proved me wrong, again! Absolutely no spooking, and he was a total dream to ride. He was forwards going, properly through his back, big front leg action with hind legs underneath him, round neck and soft mouth. Drool... He did everything from tempi changes to canter pirouettes to trot half passes! There was also a group of people watching us near the entrance to the indoor arena, and since this is his favourite place to tense and then spook, I certainly wasn't prepared for him to just trot and canter past these people without putting a single hoof out of line.

Super boy ♥︎


VCBH: Chock Full of Advice

Viva Carlos has another great blog hop going, and since I've missed a few blog hops I thought  I would definitely do this! What is the best advice you've ever received from a Trainer or another rider? What is the worse advice you've received from a Trainer or another rider? 

1. The best advice I ever received was: 
Be brave! Even if you a talented, thoughtful and a kind rider, you will not get anywhere with horse that thinks you are scared of everything... So (even if you're not feeling it) be brave at all times. I literally live by this now, ever since the AF when he said it. Thanks to him, I've now managed to get Vallu to trust me (Vallu thinks I'm brave, hah!) and I'm pretty sure we can cope with any situation just by me repeating "be brave be brave be brave." Horses are flight or fight animals, and Vallu is definitely in the take-flight-immediately category, so if the person riding him is scared then V has even more reason to take flight. If your horses senses that you are not about to take flight, it might encourage them not to take flight either, but to stand there and be brave.

2. The worst advice I have ever received was:
"Just whip him, just keep whipping him until he gives in." Yeah, no I haven't had another lesson from that trainer since the first and only lesson when he shouted this at me. I will not make my horse submit to me by force. No, no, no. The whip is a useful tool/aid when wanting more engagement in the hind legs or when wanting more forwardness without having to use your legs more. But I will never use it as a negative tool. Ergh, some people... You just never know what is going through their minds when they say stuff like that!


Pole work!

Our best result so far, 6 poles!
After another very interesting session with our physio,  Vallu has been put on a 'strict' regime of pole work twice a week. During the session the physio noticed that Vallu's back has lowered slightly and that his hind legs aren't lifting as well as before... Nothing serious at all, but enough to make her notice it and recommend more pole work to help with this (as well as getting a WOW saddle too, which I am super excited about!)

So far he has been very good about this. Along with my 'improved' seat and hands after my mechanical horse lesson, I think with a new saddle and a continuation of pole work Vallu could become better than before :) We've done walk in hand work over poles, starting with just one pole and increasing it so that so far our best result has been 6 poles.  I've also lunged him so that he has had to trot and canter over some poles, and now that he didn't fall over I might be brave enough to try and ride him over some too.
Lunge work over poles
I do love lunging, it is so interesting to see how your horse moves, and I think it also helps Vallu to listen to my voice better. After a year of a lot of work on lunging with Vallu, I don't need to use a whip since he will happily do what I ask for with a very quiet voice. It's amazing to have witness him develop from an untrusting and spooky horse who wouldn't do anything for you on the lunge line if you didn't have a whip, to a relaxed (he's even starting to become a bit lazy!) and confident horse. Truly lovely. Just by moving myself closer or further away from him he knows to move further away or closer to me, so that we can change from a 10m circle to 15m to 20m without me having to say a word. 
Before riding, cute pony!
I'm really hoping that this will help him loosen up through his back and SI joint so that he can become looser and more relaxed. Muscle soreness/tension behind the saddle and stiffness in the SI joint has been a constant thing with Vallu, but we've always had it under control (lots of physio and massaging by me) but hopefully a change of saddle to a WOW will hopefully help us get rid of the rest of it. A break from proper hard training for a couple of weeks will also hopefully help him to feel better too.


Mechanical horse lesson

We're incredibly fortunate to have a high class riding school and livery yard as our neighbour, now even more so because they have the equine simulator! I've been dying to try it out since it arrived last year, but I've never had the opportunity before now. Back in England I had about 15 lessons on a mechanical horse, and found them all incredibly helpful in developing my posture and refining the use of my aids. But for some reason, these are incredibly rare in Finland (right now I think that there are only about 3) so we're exceptionally lucky to have one next door to us!
My lesson was amazing. I know how great learning to ride on a mechanical horse was when I was younger, but now that I've been riding for a long time and having gained lots of experience and knowledge from riding different horses, the mechanical horse was even greater than before. It's great to be 'riding' a big moving horse, but not having to focus on anything else than yourself! Normally you have to work on the horse's outline, way of going, looking around you so you don't crash into anyone etc, but now all your focus could go into thinking about your seat.
Things that we focused on during the lesson were:
1. My left hip joint is more stiff than my right one - this effects how the left side of my seat works. Instead of moving forwards and up, the hip joint moves too much outside, which mean a gap develops between my leg and the saddle.
2. My left wrist doesn't stay completely straight - which affects the straightness and the connection between my shoulder and the horse's mouth, and this can lead to breaking up the connection between my shoulder/hand and the horse's mouth.
3. There's a big difference between my right and left shoulder (left is a lot tighter) - developed from being right handed and mucking out in a certain direction - which means that during riding I easily have uneven hands. Since my left shoulder is tighter, on the right rein it's all fine because my outside rein is steady and my inside rein is flexible and moving with the horse. But on the other rein, my tighter and slower left hand ends up easily blocking the rein and inadvertently slowing Vallu down, and then I 'throw away' the right rein. I've got lots to work on...

If anyone has the chance to go and have lessons on one, I highly recommend it! I've been noticing a big difference in Vallu after my lesson, and all of it has been incredibly positive.


Well that was a surprise!

You know that moment when your horse totally surprises you? Yeahhh, well Vallu did that to me today! We went to a practise competition at a competition venue only a 30 minute drive from us, and Vallu surprised us all by being the most calm and collected horse ever... 
I was very shocked at how relaxed Vallu was, and so ended up having far too much time for my warm up. I'd prepared 45 minutes for me to calm down a hot spooky horse, but ended up spending most of that time walking. He was great in the warm up, but then we ended up with him being tired for the actual test. It was a bit of a shame, but I am incredibly thrilled at how well behaved he was! No spooking, no disagreements and just a very happy and lovely horse. 
I totally agreed with judge who wrote that I needed to ride him forwards and through his back. He was just too tired for me to get him going properly, but we ended up getting 63.25%, and I was more than pleased with this!! Our first competition (even though it was just a practise) and we got a good score from an international judge from a medium/adv medium test :) And with a few 7 and 7.5s, I'm looking forward to our next proper competition
Happy rider!
I learnt a few things today: 
1. Vallu is great ♥︎
2. I still have my 'test nerves', so that I don't freak out when I enter the arena
3. Even when you think your reins are short, shorten them anyway - they're always too long
4. Try to push Vallu just a tiny bit more forwards, even when he feels tired


Little sales gems!

The summer sales have been going on for a while now, and when we visited Horze we managed to pick up a few good deals!

Horze Natalia women's technical jacket
Detailing on the sleeve
Never have I looked so much towards  autumn/winter than now. This beautiful Horze technical jacket was a great steal with 40% off! It's waterproof and supposedly breatheable too, but we'll have to test it once it starts to get colder again. I already have a Horze technical jacket, but it isn't properly waterproof, so I needed - hmm... read wanted ;) - a proper rainy day jacket. Horze is slowly becoming one of my favourite brands for riding clothes, I have several shirts and the jacket and I've been very impressed with their quality and longevity.
Detailing on the pocket

Esperada competition jacket
 I've been on the hunt for a new competition jacket ever since I got my new helmet, because I changed from my old navy Charles Owen to my new black and sparkly riding hat. I was thinking about getting one of Pikeur's new jackets, but they are all so short! Why isn't Pikeur doing a new nice fancy jackets that are long like the Pikeur Diana? Anyway, I found this great little piece in the sale, and although it hasn't got a lot of detailing that I crave for, I did really like the detailing of the pockets and the little bit that is covered in sparkles :)

Roeckl competition gloves
And to go with the upgrade of my competition wardrobe, I picked up a new pair of the good old classic Roeckl grip gloves. Who doesn't love these? I am very old fashioned in my choice of gloves, and think that these gloves will always be great. Roeckl gloves have always, and more than likely will always be a firm favourite of mine. I can't remember the last time that I wore a pair of riding gloves that weren't Roeckl!


Dressage lesson with Ville Vaurio: Forwards and sideways

Canter half pass
 So today's lesson was one of those lessons where everything was good, but nothing was great and nothing was even close to resembling perfection. Blergh, I can't really be dissapointed with the lesson, since I got lots of good moments, but I think because I've had so many amazing lessons in a row now that I'm expecting every single lesson to be like that. But Vallu looks very good in the photos, so I'm pleased :)
Trot shoulder-in
 Vallu was much better than I was expecting considering we have just changed his double bridle bit to a new thinner and shorter one, and this was only his second time wearing it. I just got a shocking  reminder in how sensitive this horse can be, because apparently changing a bit can be very dramatic?! It's thinner and shorter, and Vallu seems to be quite happy with the bit itself, but not so happy with the fact that something has changed. He feels softer and more quiet in the mouth with this new bit, so I'm hoping that he'll feel better about the change soon as well!
More shoulder-in

I love the light in this photo ♥︎
The lesson had a lot of transitions within paces and between paces, as well as shoulder-ins and half pass. I can't remember the last time that I've been this motivated to ride better, but at the same time utterly exhausted... It was a proper workout for both me and Vallu! We began with working on going forwards, so that on the long sides extended canter, and then collected canter on the short side. I know this sounds super easy, but to get your horse to gallop straight, collect at the end without having to brake with your reins, to be round and soft in the mouth is a lot harder than I knew.
Please excuse my right hand, it has problems! But LOOK AT VALLU'S LITTLE FACE!
This was followed by lots of shoulder-in and half pass in both trot and canter, and then some counter-canter. All of these different exercises were great for creating a soft, forward thinking and supple horse. Must do these more often! My new favourite exercise is shoulder-in along the long side, followed by half pass towards the centre line. It was lovely to feel the difference in Vallu after this exercise, and I must start doing it more often!


VCBH: Interested Parties

I've been following Viva Carlos for a long time now, and I've been checking out all the blogs that do these wonderful blog hops so when this topic came up, I decided that I wanted to do this as well.
"Certainly we need great movers and powerful jumpers, but above all we need a partner, not a slave. We need horses who are supremely courageous, fiercely independent and phenomenally agile. Find such a horse and treasure him. Teach him that you will trust him with your life. Give him the education he will need and sit quietly while he does the job you have very skillfully and very patiently taught him. He won't let you down. We owe all this and more to horses." - Jim Wofford.
Vallu with Ville in Oct' 2011
Viva Carlos asked what made you interested in your current horse that lead you to buying them in the first place?
Since mum bought him and not me, I'll have to explain her reason first - before going into why I whined for ages for my parents to not sell him, and to let me keep him and learn to ride on him. Vallu was at Henri's yard in Germany for training and to be sold, and once he had trained Vallu for 6 weeks he'd decided that this could be the horse that mum had been looking for. Mum was looking for a small, nice moving, pretty mare, and she ended up buying a huge big moving handsome gelding. Unfortunately he was too spooky and mum didn't feel safe enough with him.
As for me, what 18 year old wouldn't want a fancy posh horse to ride and learn from?! He could do all these fancy moves, and I'm a sucker for beautiful and talented dressage horses! And also, he was such a poor chap, he needed tons of TLC and I felt like I was the one who could bring him out of his shell and prove to him that humans do love him. Now looking back, I think he might have been too much for me to begin with, but I've never been one to go for an easy horse. Nahh, me I love a challenge! :D And I am so glad that I did, he's the best horse I will possibly ever have to ride.