It's been a busy month!

This is so our colour ♥︎
This is probably one of the longest breaks that I've had from blogging, and purely from simply having had so much to do. I'm moving houses, working and riding and on those rare days off the last thing I want to do is to stay inside and sit by the computer. It has been so nice to have a break, and now I'm ready to get back into it! 

So what's been happening since I've last blogged? I've managed to bag a job, working with some lovely people and horses. The amount of time that I'm spending outside is just what I wanted for this summer. Hellooooo good tan ;)  

Lots of love for this view
 Vallu has been having a bit of an easier time. We had a few bad rides where we didn't really 'gel' together properly, so I decided that having more fun light rides was the right thing to do to get us back on track. Hence why there hasn't been a lot to blog about, all that we've been doing is hacking out (on our own woop woop) doing pole work and a bit of jumping and some light stretchy work to keep him supple. Next month is a busy month with several training sessions, but I am also going home twice. I didn't know it was possible for me to be more busy now that I'm done with university for the summer! :D 

Not a bad work place ;)


Summer holidays

This is what I have been looking forward to for the last few months! Not having to rush around, getting go for long hacks and staying at the yard until 8pm ♥︎

So relaxed that ponies are happy to sleep

I've also managed to be brave enough to do our first hack out on our own ♥︎♥︎♥︎


Learning from others: Brooksby Dressage with Jennie Loriston-Clarke

I had the great opportunity to go to see Brooksby Dressage have a lesson with the fantastic Jennie Loriston - Clarke this week at Ingestre Stables. Not only was the setting stunning, the quality of the lesson was amazing too. For those of you who don't know, JLC is one of Britain's leading riders and trainers and has represented Great Britain in four Olympic games. She has also done in point to pointing and horse trials, has qualified for Burghley and is a FEI International Dressage Judge and FEI International 3 – Day Event judge.

One of the most main things that I learnt from this lesson was the importance of transitions (no big surprise there for me, I've heard it thousands of times but this time I think it stuck to me) and there was LOADS of emphasis on how much the upper body and knees play a big part in these transitions. For example, when asking from canter to trot you should try to hold your body weight back so that you wouldn't have to use your reins to get the horse to slow down, and by only using your seat/weight you should have a transition that has no resistance (pulling on the reins can lead to some form of resistance.) It was beautiful to see how effectively this worked and how much of a difference there was from such a simple thing. JLC also pointed out that 'holding your knees' alongside using your body weight helps to get the horse to slow down to trot. Of course you will have to use your reins sometimes especially when the horse is not listening to you, but this should be thought of as "resistance in your reins" and not pulling your reins, because this helps you to use smaller aids and makes the horse more sensitive to you. 
Please excuse the jump saddle, Fons has grown so much that his current dressage saddle doesn't fit him properly
My favourite exercise from this lesson was definitely the shoulder in along the centre line. This clearly shows which side they are weaker on, and is also a test to see how good the rider is riding straight centre lines. I think once you have this exercise sorted, you can never ride a bad centre line :D It's gone straight into my little book of great exercises for horses!

Both for Lili and I there were lots of lightbulb moments. It's interesting how even though you may have heard the same thing many times over many years, it takes a certain person to say it a certain way to make you really pick it up and make note of it. For me, there were several little gems that JLC said, such as that you need to be quick to soften and reward - the two should be connected. It sends a very positive message to your horse, and like she said "a happy horse is the most important thing." 

For those of you with spooky horses (myself included obviously) JLC mentioned several times that although you need to be quick to reward, you need to be equally quick to chastise. And by chastising, she meant make the horse go forwards. Always always a forwards reaction - never correct them backwards, ride it forwards. So when they spook, REACT, make them go forwards and then remember to release the hand. All of this she classed as riding positively. For me it's more like being bloody brave all the time, but I guess this is the next thing I've got to tackle, when Vallu spooks make it go forwards and stop trying to control it backwards. Might go against every single self-preservation instinct that I have, but worth it.

Stunning pony
Another helpful hint was that when the horse drops behind you or gets bored of what you are doing, give him something to think about rather than going large to open the stride. Clever horses need to be worked mentally too, so introducing new ideas to keep them interested and occupied. Fons, like Vallu is too clever for his own good, and needs something to switch his brain on all the time (and give them less time to concentrate on spooking). I've now changed our warm up style in its entirety to see if this tactic helps and for the last two rides there has been a difference. Instead of just bumbling along the outside track, both of us have to start thinking immediately. Constant changes of direction and different shapes (circles and squares) of varying sizes with a ton of transitions thrown in for good measure. I don't know how I've forgotten this tactic, as it was one of first things my brother told me to me to remember when riding Vallu when mum first bought him!

Just goes to prove that you don't need to have a lesson yourself to learn a lot, simply by being fortune enough to be at the lesson I feel like I've learnt so much again. 


Dressage lesson with Brooksby Dressage: Unflappably effective!!!

Although we didn't have the lesson that we planned, I did end up being incredibly proud of myself by the end of the lesson. Vallu decided to show Lili all of his moves - side ways jumping, mini rears, head shaking and everything in between! And because none of these freaked me out, I managed to force (not in a horrible way obviously) Vallu to sort himself out; I just sat there and asked for him to go forwards, be off my leg and in both reins. It was a real lightbulb lesson for me.

Even though we were in the outdoor arena that normally blows his brains, warming up was great. It was all about keeping his brain busy and keeping him busy - do ten meter circles, tear drop loops, changes of direction, serpentine, transitions. Throw everything and anything at him whilst keeping him happy. The aim is to engage his brain and body whilst keeping him calm and happy at the same time, and I think it worked really well.

The main exercise of the lesson was starting work towards the canter half pass zig zag. Eventually I really really want to get to doing the proper GP line, but I know that is a long long way away. But it's an exciting thing to even think about it... I just had to do a few fine tweaks on just the basic half pass from corner to centre line half pass - my right wrist is not allowed to be tense as it blocks the shoulder and doesn't let him move side ways enough, I have to differentiate between the straightness and the actual half pass better, and to plan further in advance to leave enough time to do flying change at the end.

We moved to doing a few steps half pass, straighten, flying change, half pass in the other direction, and repeat. I was shocked at how I really need to up my game now that we can do good half pass and good flying changes. I think for a while I've been too focused on improving those separately that when I was asked to ride them together and in quick succession I just could not react quickly enough. This is definitely on my homework to-do list.

After a good long walk break, I then managed to really make Vallu mad by probably for the time truly riding every step and making him work hard, using both reins and legs effectively. Cue a mahoooosive temper tantrum, and as Lili said "he got his knickers so tightly twisted." I really don't think he was in any pain whatsoever, I genuinely believe he was shocked that I was riding propely, not backing off and asking him to work through it by himself.  We were going to do shoulder in, ten meter circle, and repeat but never got to it the end as we had to try to get Vallu to simply trot around so that 1. there was no exploding and trying to bugger off with me 2. he was actually trotting through his back 3. he was breathing ;) I can safely say that it took us a good thirty minutes to get him to chill. It also gave me the chance to try a new tactic for his spooking that JLC had told Lili to do only hours before. Always asking for a forwards reaction, even when spooking. Less hand, and leg on. Petrifying but really good.

I'm very proud of myself. No matter what Vallu tried to throw at me I either just sat there quietly waiting for him to get over himself, or then told him to get over it. Have Lili to thank for this, never before would I have coped so well with this. Bring on the next lesson, exciting times!
Super school master :)

Happy 13th birthday Vallu

 "Some horses will test you, some will teach you and some will bring out the best in you" 



I'm so so so excited to post about this. I am SO unbelievably proud of this horse!

Apart from one hairy moment after the first jump, Vallu behaved really well. And it was lovely to see him enjoying himself. At some point in the summer I might end up attempting this myself with him, if K is willing to ride and teach him a bit more first.

If you want to see some short clips of him jumping go check out my Instagram, I've posted a few videos of him.