Dressage training with Jenny Eriksson: when nothing goes quite to plan

There seems to be some kind of taboo surrounding writing blog posts about your failures or training sessions that did not go as well as you hoped, but I am more than willing to highlight how in reality it really doesn't always go as planned. I have no problem with showing people that with horses you can't be perfect, there will always be days when you go five steps back!

Last Friday I had my first ever training session with Jenny Eriksson (who just happened to have competed at the  Olympics...) and Vallu had the time of his life pretending to be the most wild creature in the world. He resembled more of a fire breathing dragon 🔥🐲 waiting to explode at any second rather than a 14 (nearly 15!!) year old advanced dressage horse. So it was a great way to introduce ourselves to the new trainer, NOT.

Although we managed to have a semi-normal warm up, for some reason he decided that Jenny standing in the corner of the arena was terrifying and meant that he needed to explode every time that we had to ride past her. We had all the moves: take off, bronco and then take off, leap in air, drop shoulder and take off as well as my personal favourite - threaten to rear but then just leap forwards... (and yes his teeth, saddle and back are all fine and no he's not in any pain!) There was one time when he did three ginormous leaps/broncs and I thought I was going to fall off, so to have everyone tell me that I sat well you know it was a close one! 😈
We did not look like this...
Jenny was very patient with us though, which I'm super grateful for. Instead of telling me to kick on, Jenny just said to keep riding him through everything and to try not to stop him when he tries to take off just to slow him back down and carry on with whatever exercise/movement we were trying to do! The whole training session ended up being a session on trying out many different tactics to see what Vallu would respond to and what would make him relax and chill even just a little bit. In the end the only thing that worked was to carry on riding until he got tired, after which he gave up being a dizz.

Whilst waiting for Vallu to chill out again, we did lots of different exercise that were all very easy exercises, but kept his brain busy. My favourite one was: in trot, start at A and at two random points down the long side ride two 12m circles where you focus on having straightness on the long side and flexibility and thoroughness on the circles. Once you reach the end of the long side, at C go down the centre line and leg yield to either E or B depending on whether you want to change reins or not (and this you can alternate as much as you want, the exercise flows no matter what you do). So simple, yet so effective in improving the rhythm, way of going and straightness very quickly.
Nor did we look like this...
Although Vallu was wired to the moon, once he kept busy then he started to slightly settle down (read this as I didn't have to fear him spooking constantly) and then his ride ability improved so much and I actually had a few absolutely wonderful moments. The best was when doing 20m canter circles, then turning to do a 8m volte at different points of the big circle. The quality of the canter coming out of the voltes was just 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻 I think even if you were to do 10m circles instead of 8m voltes, this exercise would really help every horses' canter! I adapted this slightly during my Monday ride (during which I'm pleased to report that Vallu was 100% calm and happy, thank god!) where we did a figure of 8 with canter-walk-walk transitions to change the rein and then at the half way point of each 20m we did a 10m circle. Honestly I think this is god send to the hot horses who need something that's simple but has lots going on to keep them occupied. By including simple changes, Vallu also had to accept my leg which also improved the ride ability!

I think Jenny is coming back mid January, so I have while to train these things and hope (pray!) that Vallu will be a lot more ridable next time!

Anyone have any tips for what to do with your crazy hot horse?

1 comment:

  1. Oh man that's so frustrating about Vallu's spookiness but it sounds like you made the best of it. And I suppose it's always good to have a trainer on hand when the horse isn't at his best to help brainstorm ideas for good exercises to fix it!