10 Questions for October

Copied from the wonderful Viva Carlos

What do you consider “jumping high” for yourself? Anything over 60 cm if I have to jump! For anyone who does jumping on a regular basis then I consider anything over 1m to be high and really quite impressive.

What are your short term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? My current short term goals are to have both my boys in full work. That's it. I'm nearly there with Vallu and Basse has just started doing trot work so within a few months if everything goes as it should then both boys will be back to full fitness.

Long term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? I definitely would love to compete at the higher levels and at do a PSG at least once in my life!
Bigbro winning the GP Freestyle at the Helsinki International Horse Show 2016
How many barns have you been at in your riding career? 5 in UK before we moved back to Finland, then our current yard that is our home and then the 2 yard that Vallu stayed at whilst we were in the UK for my university degree. I have also been at my brother's yard in Germany.

How many different trainers have you been with in your riding career? I've had so many trainers that I don't even know what number to guess? I had several different trainers and went to many different clinics with my pony, I don't even remember how many trainers have helped me with Basse over the last decade - jesus I feel old! With Vallu I've had three really good trainers (Ville Vaurio, Andrew Fletcher and Lili Brooksby Dalby) who have trained me and Ville for the longest time.

Ever worked at a barn? What did you do? For the first half of my gap year I worked at my brother's yard in Germany,where I was a groom so this included helping with the tacking up, grooming, clipping, lunging etc of the horses that we were stabled with him. I also went to the vet checks and to competitions and got horses ready for prospective buyers.

Scariest thing that has happened at your barn? I've been incredibly fortunate to have never had anything incredibly scary happen at the barn. The worst was when Basse managed to tear his nostril open and there was a lot of blood, and then when a couple of days later when he managed to tear the stitches open again and there was even more blood!
Have you ever given a lesson? What level was the rider? I've given 'green' beginner lessons to people as well as helping out my friends when they've been riding. I've also assisted more experienced riders by just reminding them of the basic stuff either at home or at competitions.

What is your opinion on the accuracy of critiquing riders online? I prefer minding my own business. Unless someone is training and competing at a higher level than me, I don't want or need anyone else's critique. I also prefer praising others' for their achievements instead of trying to bring them down with criticism about their riding skills.

What is the ideal height of a horse for you? I like anything above 160cm, but I think the best ones are about 168-170cm. Vallu who we think is about 178-180cm is definitely of the upper limit for me. No bigger than that thank you!


Helsinki International Horse Show

Helsinki International Horse Show is the one show in Finland that I want to go to whenever possible. Having missed it for the last three years whilst being away in the UK, I was super excited to finally have the chance to go once again to the biggest competition in Finland! It was made even more special by the fact that my big brother had decided to travel from Germany to compete in the Grand Prix class so obviously the entire family went to cheer him on :)
We were lucky enough to have the ring side table seats which are the best that there are as you are literally sitting behind the judges so you are really close to the riders. This made the show jumping classes and Grand Prix class even more interesting to watch simply because you were so close to the action. After having dinner and going round the Horse Expo area (so many shops!!) the GP class started at 9pm. Roble (Ravallo – Donnerschwee) and Henri managed to win the class being the only ones to break the 70% barrier with 70.460% and being nearly 4% ahead of the second placed rider. 
Henri on Roble in GP class 2016, kuva SRL Hanna Heinonen
SRL Hanna Heinonen
We are all obviously really thrilled that it went so well for him! There's nothing quite as special as seeing your big brother ride so brilliantly and then to top it off by winning the entire class ♥︎ I was so happy to see how pleased Henri was with the horse, Roble is such a great horse and I can't wait to see what they achieve together next year when Roble starts to properly relax in the tests and show just how good of a horse he is. I really believe that on a good day this pair can get 75% no problem! On Saturday we get to see them do the Grand Prix Freestyle, which should be really good.


Dressage training with Ville Vaurio: Soft and through the back

Don't you just love it when your training session goes really well and is much a massive improvement to your last one? Although to be fair it couldn't have gone much worse than my last session with Ville a week after I'd fallen off when I was just totally useless and quite scared!

Although we only did one main exercise, I had so many brilliant light bulb moments and we worked on lots of different things to improve how Vallu goes. It's so nice to be working with a trainer who has helped me over the last 4 years with Vallu on a semi regular basis and who has also ridden and trained Vallu. Because of this, Ville knows exactly what will work on Vallu and how to explain things so that I understand them :)
The only reason why I would ride so late is when we have training the next day!
So the main exercise was just a big 20 meter circle (possibly 25m because the arena is wider than normal) where you go from a medium/extended canter to a collected or pirouette canter depending on what level you and your horse are working at. Vallu and I had to do medium to pirouette canter in order to get Vallu soft in neck and through his back and pushing with his hind legs. As Vallu is a little lazy and likes to stay in his comfort zone and to not give a 100% this was a fantastic exercise. The first few times when we did the transition from medium to collected pirouette style canter, Vallu would either drop to walk or totally stop! A few times of "kick, pat and collect again" then Vallu realised that he should carry on working until he was told :D Ville also said to not be afraid of half halting when collecting in case Vallu drops to trot or walk, if he does that then you know that he's behind your leg and being lazy and to just try again. So don't be afraid of making mistakes!

Another really important point that I hadn't even really properly thought about was that it's not about the speed of the canter e.g. "I think I'm going fast enough " but about the length of the stride and the feeling of the horse being in front of you. Now that I've understood what the proper medium canter feels like, it's now going to be much easier to know what to ride for and to know when the canter is good enough. Not only did I feel a what a good lengthened canter felt like, but also what it should feel like when he's soft in the neck and through his back. Instead of a slightly choppy and upwards bouncy canter, it was a lot more forwards and a lot more comfortable to sit to. So that's what we are going to be working towards over the winter - getting the canter and eventually the trot a lot softer and more forwards going :)


Good news

On Monday we had the vet out to check on Basse's leg to see if the ligament had healed at all since her last visit at the end of July? We'd already discussed that if the ligament still looked like it did in July then we would have to seriously consider pts for Basse as the winter's in Finland are just too tough for the horses' legs. Keeping in mind that this was the same vet who in July told us that she wouldn't even try to give the horse more time off because he'd already been off work for so long, you can image how surprised I was when this time she went "wow, it's healed really well!" 
Apparently in the scans you can see clearly that the ligament has healed and there is no distinct tear to be seen! Obviously we still have a long way to go towards having Basse back in full work and we'll see if the leg can cope with work, but the fact that it looks so good in the scans means that we get to move onto the part of the rehabbing process! He's lost all his muscles and is generally very stiff (8 months off work will do that to you...) so not only do we need to build up the strength in the ligament by slowly increasing his workload, we also need to build up all of his muscles! I'm going to do the same routine as I did with Vallu this summer slowly increasing the amount of trot and canter by 5 minutes per week as it worked really well with him. So this week we're doing 5 minutes of trot - which has absolutely exhausted him, poor boy! Next week I'm planning on 10 minutes of trot, then the following week 15 minutes. With Vallu I we introduced canter work at this point, but because Basse's canter has always been his weakest pace I think we'll do trot work up to 30 minutes (so in 6 weeks) before I even try to canter him. Basse is also going  to have the physio come treat him every 2 or 3 weeks to try and sort out his neck/shoulders/back/quarters (e.g. all of him!) He really feels like he needs an intense few months of helping his muscles feel better.

But at last, some good news for Basse! The last few weeks leading up to the vet visit have been absolute torture for me as I've been fearing the worst whilst praying and hoping for the best. I was so relieved when she said that the ligament looks good I cried with happiness! I now have both my boys back in work ♥︎
My favourite #fatunicorn


Arena hire success!

Wearing our HV Polo RAF blue set from Fur Feather Meds
Last Sunday we hired the indoor at a local yard (15 minute drive with the trailer) to get the boys out once again. It's really good for all of us (me, mum and the boys) to get out on a semi regular basis to ensure that loading, travelling and working at a different place isn't stressful and that it can be fun! So on a horribly windy and grey Sunday afternoon Rama and Vallu loaded we trundled off to the local yard. I was expecting the worst as the trailer park is right next to the road and it's a really open place so you really feel the wind! But to my absolute amazement, Vallu had suddenly turned into an old pro who just stood there whilst I took off his travel bandages and put on his saddle and my boots, whilst dad was helping mum tack up since Rama decided that standing still for even a second was nigh on impossible!
And as you can see in the backgrounds of the photos, the whole arena was filled with jumps which made riding a bit more difficult than anticipated because Vallu decided that every single jump was out to eat him alive and Rama tried to aim for every jump because he thought he was there for jump training! But once both boys relaxed a little bit, I actually had a great training session.

After doing a good long walk warm up, I did a lot of forwards, long and low canter all around the jumps just trying to go him to relax and to focus less on the jumps and more on me. We did have a couple of moments where I was glad I a double bridle on! But apart from that it didn't take too long for Vallu to settle, which was really nice :) Thanks to the jump course I ended up doing the weirdest diagonals with single flying changes followed by doing four and three tempis down the long side of the arena and I managed to actually count and not mess them up.
I also tried doing a trot-piaffe-trot transitions (or something like that!!) after reading online about how that is a great exercise for strengthening the horse's hind legs and creating better push from behind for the trot. Although the first few attempts were either Vallu piaffing until he stopped because he wouldn't let me ride him back into trot or then he quite literally just halted from trot when I was asking for piaffe... And then his legs were all over the place so we probably looked like Bambi on ice, but once we both kinda figured out what to do I think there were a few successful attempts! Not bad for blind leading the blind ♥︎


HV Polo matchy set from Fur Feather Meds

How gorgeous is this?! I'm so lucky to have been sent this HV Polo saddle pad and bandages set from Lili at Fur Feather Meds to show you guys how nice the new autumn/winter collection from HV Polo is!

First up, the HV Polo Flinn saddle pad - quite possibly the prettiest pad that I have! Most of you know how much of a love/hate relationship I have had with HV Polo over the years... I love their designs but sometimes their  'full size' saddle pads have been made for cobs. This Flinn style pad is at last a really nice size and doesn't look ridiculously small on a ginormous horse like Vallu. I also really like the thickness of the pad (it's more like Eskadron cotton thickness) and it does not move at all! Like at all! My Eskadron duras do not stay in place most of the time and whilst my Eskadron big squares are better they still sometimes move... But this has not budged out of place a single time that I have ridden in it!! #success


Fur Feather Meds Fashion Show for EMW

What a weekend! The show managed to raise an incredible £4253 (still rising!) for the wonderful charity Equine Market Watch (EMW). It was an amazing evening and seeing Elaine burst into tears from happiness at the end of the night when the total was revealed made the lack of sleep and stress totally worth it!

First Lili did a demo on the fantastic Paddy who loved being in front of a crowd of nearly 100 people! He was such a good boy (Vallu probably wouldn't have even gone in the indoor...)
And then after the food and drinks we have the actual fashion show event to give people a chance to see the new Eskadron, HV Polo, Euro-star and Equestrian Stockholm winter collections in the flesh (they are all bloody gorgeous) Here are some photos of some of the sets that were shown:
Eskadron Platinum Coral on Zu
Lili and ze German Trainer (Jacob) 
HV Polo RAF blue set on Zu
Euro-star grey set on Zu 
Eskadron Platinum in Havana on Zu
Euro-star Emerald on Fons with Lara
Eskadron Platinum Grey set on Polly with Steph 
Our cat walk path! How cool was this!
It was such a great trip back to my "second home" and even more lovely to see old friends once again! Although I am still feeling the max six hours of sleep for the last week and then 20 hour days that I did over the weekend,  I'm so utterly pleased that it all went so well and that so much money was raised for such a wonderful charity, hopefully it will allow them a bit of breathing space over the winter months.