What does your horse's week look like?

Turn out 8-11am
No riding because I was greeted by one very sleepy pony
Just light lunge with just a headcollar on, and a good long grooming session
Lots of kisses and cuddles
Turn out 8-11am
I had a very long and busy day at university, so ended up doing just a light ride where all I wanted was that he was flexible, soft and working through his back. Lots of big circles, alternating between 20m and 15m circles to make sure that he really listened to my seat and legs. 
Vallu was in a very cheeky mood, I really love him when he's feeling happy ♥︎

Turn out am
Riding in the afternoon with walking along fields as a warm up - which was very scary ;) The ducks on the pond kept taking off and flying and making noises and it was all very very exciting...
Then proper riding session and we worked hard. With two days off proper work, Vallu's brain needed to be exercised. Played with trot and canter shoulder-in, and leg yields. For the last five minutes I decided to work on the sitting trot, and as long as Vallu stays in front of my leg, sitting to his trot is not too difficult.
Turn out am
Another proper riding session, this time working on half pass in both trot and canter to get the full diagonal flowing nicely. After my first Brooksby lesson (read here) I've changed our warm up to just basically just doing on proper working trot and cater on the 3/4 line, and this seems to have really helped me to straighten Vallu, and to also engage his hind legs properly - and all of this has helped with the half passes.
He likes his window :D
Turn out am
Since Wednesday and Thursday were both hard work, I decided that Vallu deserved to have an easy day, but I didn't want to give him another day off so I tacked up and headed out riding around the fields and a walk up and down the drive with one of our stable mates. It took a good 35 mins, and we both had very relaxed and happy ponies.
So much love for this view ♥︎
Turn out 9-11am
Proper training session, and Vallu got properly sweaty. 
Focused on going forwards and straightness in canter, especially on the left. Again, we warmed up using the 3/4 lines and finally managed to get to a really straight left canter, with Vallu letting me flex his neck without him doing a flying change. Also I wanted to sharpen and improve the quality of the canter, so used the short side to collect and make Vallu really sit on his hind quarters and then extend down the long side... And not using my rein aids at all to slow down at the end, only my seat and my voice to reduce how much I rely on my hands. A really good exercise, and it resulted in getting  a fantastic set of 4 and 3 tempis. Good pony.
New AMAZING saddle pad from FFM
No turnout, the weather was too bad and the fields were just too soggy so decided to ride in the morning for a change. I warmed up for another stable friend to try riding him for when I am away back home. I haven't seen anyone riding Vallu for about a year, and my god his trot has improved - I have seen it in videos and photos but to see it in real life is so cool. Such a proud momma. After ten minutes of testing his new rider, Vallu settled down and was a very good boy. He's gonna be fine whilst I'm away, he has good people looking after him :) In the afternoon, he went on the horse walker for a good 30 minutes just to stretch his legs after his lunchtime nap.

Normally we would have one day for lunging but because I'm back home this week I wanted to work him a bit more so that he can chill whilst I'm gone. 

But more about you guys. What does your horse's week look like?


Introducing La Valencio with Fur Feather Meds

Fur Feather Meds asked me a while ago if I would be interested in testing out and reviewing a new brand they had picked up for SS15, and of course I said yes! I really love FFM, it's a family owned and run online shop that understands what riders need, want and love. Every brand is tested and tried first before being sold to make sure that the quality is good enough - Lili won't sell something that she wouldn't recommend. It's nice to meet a person who actually cares about the customers, and who wants the best for everyone.

The two things I received were the Dymke polo shirt in royal blue and the Colin dressage saddle pad. The saddle pad has two lovely braids around the edge, a dark navy and a lighter bright blue of which the lighter one is a very close match to the shirt. The Colin pad is AW14 but available from FFM and £33, and the shirt is SS15 and £29.

I will blog again once I've used this more, and washed it in order to review it properly. But at the moment, it looks fantastic. I can pair it with white bandages for competitions/training sessions to look ultra smart, or then with navy bandages for a more day to day look - like in these photos. It's about the same thickness as the Esky cotton pads (or a smidgeon thicker) so if you prefer to have a thinner saddle pad, then this is good for you. I already got lots of compliments for it today,  and people were surprised at the price considering how nice it looks!

The shirt is lovely as well... Really soft, comfortable and well fitting. The detailing on it is great, and I adore the lime green and white contrasting to the cobalt blue. But if you are between sizes e.g between M and L, then go for L. I don't think it is of the same quality as the more expensive brands (Eskadron, HV Polo, Le Miuex etc) but I am pleasantly surprised at just how bloomin' nice it is. And the same goes for the shirt. For that price range, I will be buying a pair of breeches and a jacket from FFM of this brand later on. For anyone who wants a bit of brightness in their riding gear, then I can't recommend this enough. 
All of the SS15 can be ordered through FFM, so get in touch with Lili - either through their Facebook page or their website
Vallu approves :)


Fail photos

"Everything will be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, then it is not the end"
If anyone has any misconceptions that we are 100% perfect all of the time, I just wanted to show you some not-so-great photos from Friday's lesson... These were all the result of the bird scarer gunshot thing going off randomly throughout the lesson - fun times!
Trying to slow down a horse galloping off
And when it doesn't stop or slow down, just laugh
Dressage Today had a fantastic article was again that is full of good little tips for test riding. With the possibility of competing this summer becoming more and more likely, I definitely need to work on riding more accurately in order to get better points.

Walk pirouettes is something that we struggle with unless I focus properly and ride it well: 
It is much easier to turn around a shorter, higher stride than a huge, long one.
 If the pirouette is done between letters across the arena (e.g., between M and H), make them close to the rail, which will help set the horse up.

Canter pirouettes are easy for Vallu, but difficult for me to make sure that he doesn't get stuck: 
The most important part is to show the ability to shorten the canter stride and put more weight on the hind legs. 
More strides indicate the rider is having trouble with the turning aids. Fewer indicate the horse's lack of strength to stay in the movement and show the rider's lack of control. 
In a half pirouette, the number of strides is three to four.

Half pass is again very easy for us, but because it is so easy it makes me either rush because I think I know what I'm doing, or then ride it half heartedly without proper preparation: 
Any half pass that comes from centerline must show straightness first. That would be shoulder-fore. Remember the haunches come onto centerline last, so if you go sideways as soon as the front legs hit the centerline, the haunches will lead. This shows a lack of engagement, and the score will generally remain around a 6. 
In the half pass, we see a lot of sloppy endings. Horses lose bend and fall to the rail. Get to the rail with the bend, and then change position into the new direction.
Counter canter has as much bend as a 20-meter circle, and riders tend to over-bend the neck in the direction of the lead, which puts the horse on the outside shoulder, unbalancing him.

Flying changes are not too difficult, but I must not over collect the canter as this makes the changes small and tight:
These are ridden a bit more forward than the normal collected canter. 
If you have a change after a half pass, be sure to finish the half pass exercise in time to ride the canter forward and show a nice expressive change. 
If the change is on the long side, think of making it as the horse's nose touches the letter. 
If you wait until the horse is on a curved line (the corner), you increase the difficulty and likely decrease the balance and the score.
In tempi changes on the diagonal, it is best to center the middle change at X.

Transitions on a diagonal line: 
If you have an extended or medium canter with a flying change at the end, collect on the second quarterline and ride forward. The front leg of the change should be the first stride to touch the track. If you change in the corner, you will not be balanced or straight and will lose points.

Remember that accuracy is always secondary to good basics! You are there to demonstrate your training, the judge does not appreciate seeing huge corrections made by riders.
A little bit of practise needed ;) 


New Le Mieux set

Stone grey pad and dark grey bandages
Dark grey binding and 

Thank you to my parents for this lovely gift, you are the bestest ever! This weekend I received the Le Mieux Vogue Glint dressage saddle pad and grey bandages. I've been really slow to join in the love for Le Mieux, but am now totally converted. On their website, this is the product description: "Luxurious brushed cotton finish complimented with a border of braided rope and diamante crystal. Underside of super soft flannel lining and large quilted squares give an even more sumptuous feel."

It looks white in the sun...
Clever straps that attach to the D-rings instead of having to be tucked underneath the flap
Grey bandages to match the binding

The whole set ♥︎

What do you guys think?


Dressage lesson with Brooksby Dressage: Up and forwards

 Had another fantastic lesson again. Sorry if this makes no sense whatsoever my brain is frazzled from the lesson :P We carried on from last time (which you can read about HERE) and first worked on the basics. After the last lesson I've really been working on his trot, making sure he is active and always going forwards and never behind my leg - and Lili immediately said that it looked so much better. Amazing what a difference only 2 weeks of work can have, and how something can be improved so much. But because his trot was so good (7 to 7.5 if was doing a test) his canter doesn't seem that good anymore... So since we've improved the trot we now need to improve the canter too. 

My new laptop background ♥︎
 To improve the canter, Lili made me canter on the 3/4 line and made me do a proper working canter... Scary! Especially when the bird scarer keeps going off with a loud bang randomly in the field just behind the outdoor. In the left canter, he needs to be fully in front of my leg or otherwise he'll start doing flying changes as a way of avoiding having to work properly and correctly. He also sets his neck to the left, so that when I try to straighten his neck and if he is behind my leg then he'll do a flying change. Yet not that surprisingly when he is going forwards, I can straighten his neck no problem :P  When this was good, then medium canter on the long side. This needs working on from my part. It's psychologically very difficult for me to ask for Vallu to go forwards when there is a lot going on around us and Vallu is feeling tense. But I'll get there. The more and more that I have to cope with tense situations and it turns out that everything is okay, the better I will get at coping. Just have to keep on pushing and going forwards.

Turn head = turns shoulders = horse turns too
Lili then decided to shock me by asking me to ride a set of movements from PSG... At H, ride the diagonal towards X, but before X ride a half pirouette, then back to H in counter canter until a flying change at C, and repeat. And to my greatest surprise, we could do it! But only when I rode properly :P Don't try to micromanage everything, tell him what you want him to do and then make him do it even if there is a lot going on around us. It's simple really ;)

The trot work was good, and like I said earlier it has improved massively from two weeks ago. He's now much more flexible and softer in the neck, and has a lot more candence. The only weakness now is Vallu trying to fall out of his right shoulder when on the left rein (so his outside shoulder) It's better than last time, but I still really need to focus on it continuously. Again, serpentines are good to help me control it, but also shoulder in on the left rein to allow me to gain more control over his shoulders. 

Oh just look at that face :)

We had a bit of a talk about competing over the summer, which is very exciting. We both agreed that the first 5 (at least, if not more) times will be awful and rusty and that we're not going to expect much, but after that we can start aiming for higher levels and scores. Vallu really is such a good boy, it would be a shame not to even try to get him out and about.


Learning from a jumping lesson?

Not a lot of space...
Who says dressage riders can't learn anything from show jumping? From a jumping/event lesson I got reminded that:
1. A horse needs to be straight to get the best paces out from it - straightness does improve the technique and quality of the canter
2. Riding a square instead of a circle is some times useful - you really have to get the hind legs underneath the horse in the corners and it is a lot easier to get the horse straighter on a square rather than on a circle
3. Making sure the canter is properly active is incredibly important and helps you to improve the quality of the canter 
4. Controlling the outside shoulder is vital - it makes your diagonals/lines a hundred percent more accurate and straighter
P.S Can you tell the lesson was all about straightness? ;) 

You'll never catch me doing this in a million years...

Little one ♥︎