I'm SO excited to have been able to team up with CaseApp to give my blog's readers the opportunity of getting a FREE laptop skin or phone case! Go check out their website HERE where you can see pre-made designs, or then you can create your own from your photos or create a whole new design yourself... You can enter no matter where you're from, CaseApp are more than happy to provide free world wide shipping to the winner!
My CaseApp skin ♥︎
I love my readers and I've wanted to do a blog giveaway to celebrate 50 followers, but it all passed by a in a blur, and we're now onto 60+ followers, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give something back :)

I'm doing this the old fashioned away, so that all you have to do is to be a follower of this blog (whether that be on blogger or on Google+) and then comment below that you want to enter. And if only one person enters then that person is guaranteed to win :D And of the followers who comment below, I'll do the traditional pick names out of the hat. 
Some of my favourite phone cases



Christmas present ideas: cases and skins from CaseApp

The lovely people at CaseApp contacted me a while back enquiring if I was interested in doing a blog post about them, and then holding a blog giveaway! I'm so excited, this will be my first ever blog giveaway!!! (I'll do the actual giveaway once the final details are cleared up, hopefully soon)
If anyone wants more ideas about what to get, go visit http://caseapp.co.uk (or on their instagram) where there are designs that you can choose from, or like me, you can design your own, or upload your own photos to make your cover or skin totally unique! ♥︎

My wonderful friend Hannah designed mine for me. I wanted a skin that was patterned, but I couldn't find one that I loved, so Hannah and I worked on making a unique one for me. I wanted something different to just having a photo of Vallu or one of the other horses, so we came up with this. It has horseshoes on it (obviously needs to have hint of horseyness to it!) and also roses and flowers, and my all time favourite quote "the flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful and rare of all"
I think this would be a great Christmas present for that person who has everything and you don't really know what to get for them. CaseApp also does phone covers too, and all for a reasonable price. I love mine, and it was very easy to stick mine onto my laptop. It's very easy to design and delivery doesn't take long. Anyone interested for the giveaway? :)


Rebecca Taylor Art

Rebecca's website HERE
My dear friend from secondary school has just completed this absolutely stunning drawing of Rama for mum as her Christmas present! Isn't it just lovely? We've been following the progress over Rebecca's Facebook page, but it was still a shocker to see how realistic the drawing is, and how well she has done to capture Rama's personality too ♥︎


Hairy beast!

Poser posing...
 Hairy beast got his flu jabs today *sad violin song* and he got clipped. Poor horsey, what a horrible life he has ;) After Thursday's proper training ride where he was covered in white sweat, I knew that he had to be clipped asap, and fortunately there was enough time tonight to do it. And his winter coat is blooming lovely, I can't wait to ride him on Sunday. Next weekend (Thurs-Sunday) the yard has the High Profile show, so it will be incredibly busy, but I find it so inspirational watching professionals riding and competing, and apparently the Eilbergs will be competing (fan girl moment, they are keeping their horses stabled in the same part of the yard as Vallu!)
SCARY chairs
Touching the scary chairs!
In his pink and purple rug ♥︎


Withdrawal symptoms

Vallu's face says it all, it is too windy!

Having had two days of not being able to go to the stables to see Vallu, I feel I'm going through withdrawal symptoms... Anxiety, restlessness, irritability (sorry housemates!) headaches and poor concentration. Proof that horses are like drugs?! ;D Hopefully the mood swings and irritability will go away today when I get to go see Vallu ♥︎


Coming back

After our AF lesson, I rode Vallu on Tuesday evening and he felt very tired. Not stiff or tight anywhere (which is very good!) but just incredibly tired. I did 20 minutes of walk, followed by 5 minutes of trot and then canter, and I had to make him go forwards so much that it was only fair to spend the rest of the week giving him time to come back to normal.

This meant that on Wednesday he got a day off, and got turned out for a bit, put on the horse walker as well as me hand walking and grazing him in the afternoon!
Oh those views ♥︎
 On Thursday, we went for our first hack round the village since thanks to the appalling weather the bridle path was far too muddy to go on (as in one tiny misstep or spook and we would have fallen flat on our bums!) I was expecting a quiet hack since this is a tiny village and it was 10.30am, so not a rush hour time, but instead we had the pleasure of having to deal with massive tractors, two busses, vans, little children and prams, builders on top of roofs and hanging out of windows, and big tents in someone's garden (I have no idea why someone would want to have a tent outside in this weather!) Only one tiny spook from Vallu for a totally acceptable scary reason, and compared to how our hacking buddy, a 20 year old ex-hunter, reacted to the tents - as in he nearly refused to go forwards and Vallu just kept on walking calmly and looking at his friend like wtf are you doing that for, I'm very impressed!

And yes I did realise afterwards that a year ago I wouldn't have ever gone for a hack after a day off! Very happy :)
 I still felt like Vallu  deserved another light day instead of having to work properly, he got a session of pessoa lunging on Friday. I've never pessoa'd him before, he's only been lunged either without nothing or then with side reins. When Basse was young he got lunged in a pessoa a lot, but after that we just kind of stopped using it. But I do think this was quite a good change for Vallu, he was more than happy to work with it on, and the pessoa really encouraged him to put his head more down and work through his back better. When lunging with side reins, Vallu is very sneaky at keeping his back a bit tight and short and not fully relaxed, but he couldn't do that with this! I'll be very interested to see how the next time I lunge him, whether that be with nothing or with side reins, if there is a change  in the way he works.

And tonight I get to ride him! Hopefully he'll be more up for it this time, otherwise I'll start to get worried. With the weather is still being unpredictable, thank god for the indoor so that we can carry on training without having to try to keep up with the typical British weather, you think it looks good and sunny and then within 5 minutes it'll be grey, wet and miserable. To all those who don't have an indoor and manage to continue riding no matter what the weather, I salute you.


Dressage lesson with Andrew Fletcher: preparation

Vallu says HIIIIIII to all the readers! :D
Oh my god, can I just spend the first few moments of this blog post just loving my horse, and loving how nice Andrew is. Had a super, super, super lesson with him on Monday, and I am so incredibly proud of my horse, I don't think that I will even be able to articulate it properly on here. Gone is my spooky, untrusting and hot horse, and now I have a happy, relaxed little superstar who trusts me! Life is good ♥︎
I wanted to get Andrew's advice about starting competing, and when I suggested starting at medium Andrew just shook his head and said why would you do that because Vallu has really good flying changes, and so we spent the lesson Andrew proving to me that we could (after some polishing) easily do an Advanced medium test, so we practised AM98. Andrew even muttered that we should aim for PSG (*horror*) for next summer/autumn!! :D
After warming up, we started working on doing a canter half 10m circle and then ride back to the track (so a teardrop) followed by a flying change after a bit of counter canter. This was a very useful 'warm up' exercise, it gets Vallu to wait for my aids, instead of doing flying changes where he wants to, and by using the wall we get very straight flying changes!

We then moved onto doing full length diagonal half pass, followed by a short bit of counter canter, and then a flying change. The right half pass was a lot more difficult, because Vallu doesn't bend as well through his body to the right and doesn't cross as well behind. To help this, we did travers along the long sides for a bit. Andrew explained that during training, he needs to be ridden more on a 4 track than the 3 track you'd do in a test just to push Vallu's body to become more flexible and try to get him to cross over behind better. After a successful long side of travers, we did right half pass again and it was much more fluent, and just lovely. This one went right at the top of my homework list!

Canter travers along the track to help the half pass
In the AM98, there is a serpentine with a flying change every time you cross the centre line. I have ridden canter figures of eight with a flying change in the middle before, but never a four looped serpentine in canter. But it went okay! The flying changes weren't exactly right on the centreline, one change was bad, but for a first time it was surprisingly good. Vallu is just so clever, he saves my ass so often, and is so kind. He'll just do it even when I'm not riding the best or when I don't even really know what we're doing. This is another of our homework exercises, and we need to get it good before going to do the test!

We used trot as a break from the canter work, focussing on different types of trot (basically we did transitions within trot) But this time we did it in rising trot, and not sitting trot. Shocking! You're only allowed to use upper body and core, and no use of hands to try and get Vallu to slow down. Never done this before, we've always done this with half halts and in sitting trot so it was a very interesting experience. Vallu responded incredibly well to it, so once again I got thoroughly reminded that you don't need to use your hands to half-halt or slow down your horse! Going from working trot to collected trot to medium trot and this repeated a lot really helped me to get Vallu to listen to me. 
Another little trick that helps with improving Vallu's walk and trot, was to do rein back for 10 steps. This helps him release his back better, and is good for improving his halts too! Right now, we're good with 5-6 steps of rein back, but after that we struggled with either keeping Vallu straight, or the rhythm. Although you only need 5-6 steps for the tests, it's good to be secure for 10 steps so then 5-6 steps feels easy! 

The final exercise of the lesson was meant to be the most simple one... A diagonal of extended canter, with a flying change at the end. Sounds rather simple, but Vallu then decided to spice things up by doing flying changes wayyyyyy before the end. All the flying changes are good both directions,  but why on earth can't Vallu wait for the end in the left canter?!? Andrew reminded me to keep my right leg back and don't lose the outside rein contact, which would give him the space to do a flying change, but this didn't fully fix it. We also tried starting the diagonal with shoulder in so that his shoulders are a bit more to the left than straight so that he wouldn't change... In the end we'd improved from having a flying change over X to nearly at the track, so just going to try keep working on it in order to improve it.
I'd forgotten how good of a trainer and general horseman Andrew is, we ended up having a lot of breaks the moment that Vallu looked like he was puffing too much or looked a bit tired. Andrew again emphasised how much more patting and rewarding I should do. Since I'm so focused on riding and thinking about everything I tend to just  say good boy, but don't pat/reward Vallu in any other way, until the end of the riding session where I then obviously pat him alot. More patting is needed, and more frequently during riding.

Next lesson is on 3rd November, and I can't wait! Lots of homework to do and things to focus on, but it was lovely to note that nearly everything we have to work on is just learning these movements that are in the tests, and less working on how Vallu moves or how I ride. The only thing for me is to sit straighter (more backwards) when things get difficult! My automatic reaction is to hunch forwards when we're struggling with something, and it doesn't help the situation at all. I didn't even realise it until looking at the photos, so a big thank you to Hannah for coming with me and taking lots of photos and videos!


Ice ice baby!

Short post tonight, but I am so pleased with my latest purchase! Eskadron's newest autumn/winter range arrived a few days ago, and it is stunning ♥︎ It's rather bright, but I love it. Never having had anything apart from very 'safe' colours e.g. browns, blues and greys so I'm now bravely venturing to new and unknown colours :D  Let's see what Andrew says tomorrow!


WOW saddle, part 1

I'm so incredibly lucky be getting a new WOW saddle for my 21st birthday! We have WOW saddles for Rama, Basse and Nelli, and now Vallu will be getting his own one too :)
For those who don't know anything about WOWs, the unique features of a WOW saddle are the modular concept, carbon fibre tree, lateral flexion, and interchangeable everything. It is like playing with legos; you can make the saddle to be like anything you want, with the ability to have interchangeable head plates, panels, flap position, and many different girth options. The Y-shaped WOW™ tree encourages better movement from the horse, since it gives more space and flexibility to the horse's shoulders and withers. The main difference of the WOW saddle to more traditional saddles is that it has a Flair, the air flocking system, instead of woollen flocking. The flair flocking uses a system of four air bags which provide a soft and even bearing surface without pressure points. 
Showing the modular concept - all of these can be changed

I emailed WOW to ask who was my closest saddler, and found out that the lovely Lorna Triggs (LT Equine Services) was. Unlike a flocked saddle, the adjustments can made quickly whilst the rider sits on the horse. Once the different parts of the saddle you want to try are put together, you or the saddler can adjust and balance the saddle perfectly (both front to back and side to side) even if the horse has uneven muscle development → super useful! Apparently Vallu and I are both rather equal and balanced, and so for us, we only added a tiny bit of air to the front two bags and it amazing to feel and see the difference that it made to my riding. It was only the smallest bit of air, but it made a massive difference to how I was sitting and made it much easier for me to sit down to Vallu's new massive trot.

What my saddle will look like, extra deep seat and high knee blocks
Saddle fitting was an awesome experience, and now that the saddle is ordered, we now have to wait for 4-6 weeks until it arrives! The saddler will come to visit us for a final fitting when the saddle arrives. 

I'm so excited for this, and eternally grateful for my parents unconditional love and support ♥︎


Meeting friends and horses

The weather...
This week I had one of the funniest days in a long time, meeting Lili and her herd of horses. The weather really wasn't on our side, after only 15 minutes of Lili riding her horse, we got thunder and lightning and a torrential downpour, so I ended up looking like a drowned rat! I should have known that the weather would not stay good, it's just my luck that during the one day when we both have time that the weather will be disgusting.
Unicorn ♥︎
Lili is the wonderful person who owns Fur Feather Meds, and I'm incredibly fortunate to have her as a friend. (My student bank account hates that she owns FFM where all kinds of beautiful totally necessary horsey stuff is) I love how she rides, and her way with horses. I first noticed her and her little super unicorn Paddy when they were competing Advanced Medium at Vale View, and I totally fell in love with the unicorn. This is one of the things I love about dressage in England, you can be successful at advanced level dressage on a Connemara pony that wasn't bred for dressage. In Finland this would never happen (maybe sometime in the future, like in a hundred years...) He's such a clever pony who would do absolutely anything for his rider. Last year when I saw them for the first time you could immediately see their bond and partnership, and I remember saying to the girls on the yard that I wanted a bond like that with Vallu. Such an inspiration for me!
Fons super horse who only I can take a bad photo of :D
Kiki - my favourite because he's so like Vallu
 Last year Lili got an awesome young stallion Fons, and she has made amazing progress with him. It's been so interesting following their journey together, and I was very proud when I was watching her ride in the outdoor arena (which is on top of a massive hill) even though the weather was awful. We did escape back indoors when the thunder and lightning started, but to be able to have a calm, relaxed 4 year old stallion outdoors during appalling weather is something that I am very impressed with!
Sparkly pink bandages! (MUCHLY NEEDED)
The sausage ♥︎
Matchy dressage girl's dreams ♥︎
And OMG, look at her collection of saddle pads and bandages! I'm not jealous at all... Oh dear Lordy, how I wish I could have a collection like that! That is what happens when you own an equestrian matchy matchy shop that sells only super pretty stuff :D


Teddy bear

Apparently autumn/winter arrived here over night?!? We went from nearly ten degrees at night to barely above zero, so even though I increased his rugs, Vallu went all teddy bear on me and is now looking rather fluffy. It's adorable and I love how his colouring is changing, but boo hiss at the amount of rugging and the time I'm going to be spending waiting for him to dry after riding. And thank god for indoor arenas, I don't know how I could have survived the last few days without an indoor!
I've been working with Vallu on lunging without any pessoa/side reins. It's been taking a while, but we might be starting to get somewhere. Every now and then he'll give me a fantastic couple circles of trot or canter his his back totally relaxed and head down by stretching his neck! Vallu loves the lunge work (Vallu is a lazy horse at heart, happy with less work when no rider) but he's so damn easily distracted. There were horses jumping in the outdoor arena and so he had to stare at those at every opportunity... Such a boy. But such a good boy, he even managed to canter over poles today! ♥︎

I have a very exciting horsey day tomorrow, and I'm hoping to be able to blog about it on the weekend! And then next Monday we have our Andrew Fletcher, which I am so looking forward to. It's all good! :)


October Goals/September Analysis

I'm really glad that I started this last month, it's great to be able to track what you've actually achieved in only one month, and how much you can do in such a short space of time! September just flew past for me, and I have feeling that the next two months will be exactly the same, trying to balance university and Vallu and still try to get some sleep too.


Survive travelling from Finland to Nottingham! - Done, we're here, alive and well
Maybe do a full diagonal of two tempis without a temper tantrum - Managed to do this several times
Continue woking on being supple, with shoulders and front legs up and in front - Definitely have a supple pony, don't know exactly about his shoulders and legs yet!
First day back at university!
Get normal looking photos with photoshoot with Ritu - Yes! You can see them, here and here!
Survive driving from home to Nottingham, through Germany and Holland - Amazingly yes, and with no major catastrophes either :D
Survive the start of second year of university - Blergh... 2nd year is much harder than 1st year, who knew?!
Keep working on moving hands up and forwards to keep Vallu's shoulders moving that way too → more active fingers to keep him soft when he's struggling with this - Really trying to concentrate on this, and I think we're getting better.

Be good during Andrew Fletcher lesson
Get new saddle - SO excited!
Be good when turned out, and not be a hooligan everyday
Happy in his paddock (still without a rug cos its so warm!)

Survive the ridiculous amount of uni work I have to do
Try to blog every week
Not lose patience whilst waiting for the new saddle!
Vallu's favourite toy, his pink sweetie ball :D