Five years ago!

So apparently I can't stay away for too long... ;) Having blogged for three years (!! Can't believe I missed my blognniversary this year) it's not possible to ignore my little blog! Having moped and wallowed in self pity, anger, guilt and bitterness for the week, I feel like I've finally started to accept that for the next three months there will be no riding and that it is definitely not the end of the world for Vallu and I. Once I have all the images of the scans and x-rays I'll post about it and our plans for his rehab :) 

So onto more cheerful things, look what popped up on my Facebook reminders today! ♥︎ This is during our first winter back in Finland and one of our closest friends popped over, and she ended up having to go for a very snowy hack. Can't say that I've missed the -30c and three feet of snow that much, but I'm sure I will get re-acquitanted with it next winter.

My baby B <3


On a break

This is a heart breaking and very sad post to write, but this blog will be going on a 3 month hiatus whilst Vallu is off work. With the two weeks box rest the scans were much clearer yesterday and we were able to see much better what is wrong. The vet said that he has suspensory desmitis and we are looking at a minimum of three months rest, before a possible re-habilition plan. The majority of forelimb injuries respond well to a three-month period of box rest and a controlled walking exercise. 

I'm utterly devastated and heart broken, this is not how I expected 2016 to start. Thank you for all the thoughts and well wishes in the previous post, they were much appreciated. Vallu is in no pain, he is sound when he moves but his leg needs the rest in order to heal. This will be the longest twelve weeks of my life.


Dressage lesson with Charlie Hutton Dressage: Be more precise

(This post is super duper late, but with essay deadlines, then Christmas and New Years and then masters' applications it has fallen to the bottom of the to do list! Sorry!)
I was so excited to be able to have the opportunity to train with Charlie from  Charlie & Abi Hutton Dressage since Lili had organised a clinic at our yard. These clinics are now happening every month, and having watched some of the lessons the month before I was really looking forward to my lesson in December, and it did not disappoint! 

Vallu was in a great mood, and he warmed up beautifully. We had no spooking, he was forward going, soft etc. Everything that you would want when having a first lesson with someone new! There was obviously some chat with Charlie about Vallu's age/temperament/history which I really appreciated, because there's nothing worse than a new trainer trying to start teaching you with no knowledge about you or your horse. No great surprise here, but Charlie was very quick to pick up on all of mine and Vallu's quirks and faults, as well as our strengths and abilities. One of the problems of only having ridden one horse for a very long time is that you both get used to each other, and as a rider you become slightly complacent about pushing both yourself and the horse further onwards. I've been riding Vallu for so long now that I easily 'give up' when I get a 'good' feeling and I don't bother asking for something again to try to get a 'great' feeling! (This is eerily similar to what Lili said to me in one of my first lessons with her!)
Because of this, and each of us knowing each other so well Charlie pointed out that Vallu knows all the tricks and that I know how to ride the tricks well (woop!) so what we should now be focussing on is the quality of all the movements. Everything you do can be improved, e.g. the trot can be more bouncy, the hind legs can track more underneath, the neck can be a bit softer, your hands can be quieter, your aids and reflexes quicker... You get my point! What I really loved about the lesson was the attention paid to detail - it really made my inner perfectionist happy! Charlie wanted me to ride a trot shoulder in down the long side. Simple enough, I thought. Off I went and I got about three strides down before Charlie told me to go back to walk, explain why I rode and how I rode before he gave me three or four changes to improve it. Before the corner, check that the trot is of a good enough quality and that Vallu is properly working through his back. In the corner, set up flexion to the inside and prepare the horse for the shoulder in and once you reach the long side look where you are going and try to be as quiet as possible with all your aids. Such small things to work on that improved the work massively! 

Another case where Charlie was able to highlight how I needed to pay more attention to detail was in the canter half passes. Vallu and I were quite happy to plod along and do an alright-ish half pass, whereas because it such an easy movement for us that would be guaranteed to score us good points in a test, I should ride it as best as I can and the quality of the half pass should be great. To improve the quality of the half pass, Charlie made me ride the half pass from the centre line, and not a full diagonal so that I would be limited in the amount of steps we had therefore more focused on better quality half pass steps instead of making it in half pass across the diagonal! Charlie also made me play around with changing every few steps between shoulder in on the diagonal, going straight and then doing half pass. It's all about making Vallu more flexible and softer and more reactive and all about me riding to improve the quality, not just riding the movement for the sake of it!
If anyone ever has the chance to train with CH I would highly recommend it!


Trust your gut

There are moments in life when you must just simply trust your gut instincts and go with them. Since the start of December I've had a bit of a niggling feeling that Vallu wasn't feeling a 100% right. There has been intermittent slight swelling on his right front, which with two days of light work/rest and icing boots would always go away. He hasn't been lame, there hasn't been any proper heat in the leg and I even had a vet (not my normal vet) look at him when it was up, who said that unless he becomes lame or worse there is nothing I could really do. Whilst I was home over Christmas Vallu was looked after so well by my friends, but having had two weeks away from him when I got back I really thought I could feel something was wrong with him. On the third day of light riding I decided to call the vet.
Hand walking and grazing for the next two weeks
Of course having given him nearly five days off, the leg was looking totally normal and he was sound as a pound. My vet made us walk and trot up, we did several flexion tests on the leg, there was no pain reaction, and even when lunging for ten minutes Vallu still was totally sound. The vet was perplexed, but she was willing to go along with me and decided that she probably wouldn't be allowed to leave the yard without first having scanned Vallu's leg! It took forever to find anything that would explain the slight random swelling, but eventually she found a small amount of fluid in the medial branch of his suspensory ligament. From the scans you can see that the ligament is only slightly enlarged and there is a tiny disruption of its fibre pattern, so it was very subtle. (Thank god for no massive hole or tear in his suspensory, I think I may have gone crazy if that was the case!)

So now we have two weeks of box rest where Vallu is allowed to only be hand walked two or three times a day for ten-fifteen minutes each time until the leg is re-scanned to see if any changes have occurred. The vet was cautiously optimistic, because of the lack of lameness and how difficult it was to find the source. With rest and bute we are hoping that the last remaining fluid will disappear so that we could see clearly what has happened to the leg, or in the best case scenario there will be nothing there in two weeks and then we can get back into light work!
Proof of my overly noise sensitive nervy horse happy and relaxed whilst being clipped
So not the best start to 2016, but further proof that you know your horse best and if your gut is telling you that something is not right with your horse, you should have it checked out!

Any healing vibes for Vallu would be greatly appreciated ;)


Review of Patricia Pitt’s "The Crystal System: Dressage, clear and transparent... Like Crystal"

Patricia Pitt is the amazing blogger known as The Dressage Tipster who from her blogging, her riding life experiences and learning journey has created the book The Crystal System. Thanks to Haynet and the wonderful Dressage Tipster I was given the opportunity to read the book over Christmas.

The Crystal System is a self-help system for riders, which aims to clear up some of the mysteries that often surround the ability to ride skilfully, with feel and with subtlety - but self-help is not to be taken negatively, for as Patricia points out in the book self help “is to use one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others." I’m sure many of us have felt the need to be always helped out by trainers who are more knowledgable that us, but this book encourages you to train yourself in order to improve. The aim of the book is to give every rider the confidence to select the best of your riding experiences (whether that be a training session with a world class trainer or a certain riding session by yourself in the arena) and to use these in order to further develop your own understanding of how to train your horse and yourself too. 

Through questioning, exploring and having to explain why you do what you do to yourself, the Crystal System helps you to develop and create your very own system of training as your learning grows and as you gain more experience, which is why I would recommend this book to every rider, from both total novice with their first horse to an semi-pro who needs that little bit of extra clarity in their own training. The book also highlights the importance of goal setting and positivity to help yourself to get you and your horse wherever you want to be. There were so many ‘aha!’ moments for me personally, where this book helped me to really asses how I influence the horses that I ride and how I can improve in order to improve the horse too - “it’s all about you helping your horse to be the best he can be!”
The most thought provoking chapter was the ‘beauty in your body’ one. This chapter was wonderful for me personally. It is bursting with good ideas and tips, and it really made me feel positive even though I was being very critical all of my faults. It made me evaluate myself, but in a fundamentally very positive way that made me very excited to get on Vallu and ride in order to further evaluate my way of riding and try to improve. Throughout the book there are “Crystal’s Tips” which I found really useful. Sometimes they include exercises that I found myself doing the next time that I was riding and they proved to be incredibly useful.  For example, from the ‘suppling your horse chapter’ you get a load of exercises such as the shoulder fore, shoulder in, travers, quarter turns, figure of eight, and tear drops all explained, which made me want to go ride all of them immediately! Also there are really good checklists at the end of the chapters for summary, to further clarify any thoughts or confusions you may have had when reading the chapter. 

Most importantly, as Patricia points out: “Keep things simple. Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” Reading this book made me feel so much more focused, and just gave a burst of positivity into my riding. If anyone is looking for a helpful book, full of really good advice that will make you think but also improve your riding, I wouldn’t hesitate even for a second to recommend this one! In fact, my copy of the book has gone to the yard to be shown to friends because of the chapters and exercises that I think would really help them too.

Remember to celebrate your success!
You can buy the book from The Dressage Tipster's website CLICK HERE 


New bling!

Nothing better than receiving a new bling browband for Christmas! Thank you so much my loveliest trainer Lili for this, it is just what I wanted, and I think it suits Vallu really well. It's from a company called Pearly Ponies if anyone else is looking for a new browband!  

Excuse the muddy head but this shows the browband better (pearl, blue, clear)