Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In the Arena # 100 - The devil is in the details...

We had a decent ride yesterday. On the buckle warm-up, picked up and maintained decent contact. Lots of changes of direction and lots of transitions. But - what the heck happened to forward??? Val did not want to trot. We did trot work, but he was very reluctant. Spent most of the ride getting a timely response to my aid. Now that the hay strike is behind us, why not set my sights on another stress inducing dilemma...

Over the past few months we've been moving in a really good direction with some very effective rides - motivated, forward, even on the bit. However, there are also rides spent slogging around, feeling like Val would rather do anything than work. More of the former than the latter, but still...

Something isn't right. Pain, smart / bored horse avoiding work, inconsistent + timid rider or uncomfortable tack... I'm attempting to address / eliminate these variables in a systematic way.

Val gets monthly adequan shots for a hip injury sustained before I brought him home. The issues don't seem to correlate with the timing of his injections. I have ridden him after a dose of bute recently as well. He indulged in multiple flying changes and pogo sticky airs above the ground just yesterday. Pretty sure he's sound.

(Edited to add - Val moves very freely when we ride bareback + better steering. Haven't trotted without a saddle recently - will compare his enthusiasm next ride.)

We've incorporated ground poles, cones, games and all the ingenuity I can muster to keep our rides interesting. I've learned to let things go, to reward the smallest try, and to know when to stop - on a high note - backing up to something simpler that we do well, if necessary. Sadly my beach riding partner hasn't been available in ages. I don't feel confident enough to take Val to the beach or out on the trails alone, so off property trail riding isn't an option now.

I have reinstated my yoga practice. I've summoned patience I didn't know I had. I focus on soft following hands. I've gone out of my comfort zone asking Val to move out when he resists. (the benevolent dictator) Often, once I get firm, he's with me for the rest of the ride, (we just had to get over a speed bump), which seems like he may be testing me. I don't want to deaden him to my aids. I also don't want to miss something he's trying to communicate. My lack of experience makes me question myself. I can only hope this will improve over time.

And that leaves tack. Specifically saddle fit. I know I've had trouble with balance and staying even - I suspect Val may be having issues with his shoulders. This week, on a whim, I looked looked up my saddle, (Beval Natura), on I couldn't find it. Then I googled it. Couldn't find it anywhere. No review, not for sale, nothing. So I went to the manufacturers site. They have discontinued production. My saddle is for sale new, for less than half of what I paid for it new, two years ago. I called the manufacturer to ask what happened. They didn't give me a straight answer. Can't say much anything good about their customer service...



I've contacted a saddle fitter. I've emailed him pictures and info - we'll see what he thinks. In the meantime - my research has led me to a really good used option - a older County- in just the right size for both of us, and affordable... (theoretically.) It's the saddle I wanted on my original saddle search. Older but worth it. I used to ride in one at my trainers. The horses loved it - it fit all the horses at her barn - and my position felt effortless when I rode in it. Not because of big knee rolls or extra leather to hold you in either...

So maybe the possibly worthless faulty saddle has done me a favor, by leading me to the saddle of my dreams. We shall see. I've got a good feeling about it. :)


  1. You ride bareback sometimes, right? How does he feel then?

    I know if he's chronically sore because of some saddle problem you can't detect, he might not be "fixed" from one bareback ride, but it sounds like it's the last variable you haven't considered.

  2. Funder -
    Thanks for the reminder. I forgot to mention that he moves much more freely bareback, although I haven't done a ton of bareback trotting recently.

  3. Just wanted to comment that the County looks very different from your current saddle. It's got a VERY curved tree, where yours appears much straighter. Have you ever had the country on Val?

    Just something to consider. If he's fairly straight across the back, the curved tree won't sit right and vice versa. And if he is curvy well...the beval is probably the issue : P

  4. I have a County for Keil Bay and he loves it, as do I. But I would get someone to look at any saddle you are seriously considering esp. if you're spending a decent amount of money on it.

    There is another saddle fitter I know in S. Pines - I'm not sure if she travels that far but she has a diagnostic pad that can pretty much nail any pressure point issues. If you ever want to haul here and have her come over we could make that work. :)

    Re: Adequan - have you ever considered changing the injection from monthly to every 4-7 days for the seven vials 2-3 times per year? That's actually the recommended way of giving it and I found with both Keil Bay and Salina that it was more effective given that way than monthly.

    It sounds like you are hot on the trail of figuring things out.

  5. Sand-
    I'm not sure what part the photography may be playing with the saddle images. I do know that the County has a wooden tree (flexible), and the Beval does not. I have not ridden him in a County, but do have the option to try and return this one if I get it. He is curvier rather than straight.

  6. You've got a good plan in place, I think. Whenever I start having issues with "forward" and my own position, I call the saddler right away. He always manages to put it right for me!

    Over time and training, horses' backs change shape which in turn effects the way the saddle fits. Plus, the flocking in the saddle itself gets compressed and changes the saddle's shape. I try to get my saddle checked once a year to make sure it's still fitting properly.

    Another thing to maybe try: Last year (I think it was last year) when I had my saddle checked it was a little too wide and coming down on my horse's withers, but Spider was also in a transitroy place in his training. The saddler didn't want to take the saddle in any further until we knew how Spider's muscles were going to develop, so he recommended placing a folded up no-bow pad under the pommel as a shim. It worked like a charm and, once Spider filled out, I took it out and the saddle fit again! Just a thought...

  7. billie-

    Sent you an email regarding the County...

    As far as the adequan dosing goes - I'm following Val's prescribing vet's dosing instructions. They started him on the 4-7 day loading dose, and then recommended the monthly maintenance. I'll get in touch and ask them about that. Thanks :)

  8. The saddle-fitting seems like a great place to start. Knowing that your saddle isn't bothering your horse's back is invaluable.

    I know Val does not fit the usual case for a horse with ulcers since he's out, has plenty of hay, isn't showing/traveling lots, etc. But you might try giving him some aloe juice all the same - it's cheap it really seems to help if they DO have something going on.

    One last suggestion - can you tack him and then longe him, working on super-forward on the longe line (or in the round pen)? If he's in that frame of mind without you in the saddle, it may "translate" with you in the saddle.

    I sure hope you and Val get to the bottom of this soon! It's so frustrating...

  9. My trainer recently became a County rep, but even before then I LOVED their saddles. They are really good about fitting both the rider and the horse, especially in problem cases. From someone who hates riding in a dressage saddle, I rode a 3 year old TB a few weeks ago in a County dressage and was IN LOVE.

  10. I hope all is well and it is just a matter of saddle. You are so lucky to be able to ride on the beach! i would give anything lol but unfortunatly the closest beach to me would be about 12 hours away.

  11. Seems you've got lots of good suggestions to look into. Hope you find what is bothering Val and remedy the situation. I have a hunch it's the saddle but you never know. Good luck with everything.

  12. I spent lots of time researching saddles over the years and finally found the solution at Schleese Saddles 4 Life. The site has 9 short videos on saddle fitting points. I bought a second hand from them after a fitting. I especially like the wide gulllet, adjustable tree, and cut back tree to allow for free shoulder movement. The saddle can change with your horse as weight is lost or muscles change. I spent a comfortable 6 hours in the saddle and my horse loves it. Worth every penny. I guess you can keep buying and trying, but I wanted the solution and the Schleese was it.

  13. In my experience, saddle fit (for both of you) has a huge influence on how well my horse goes and how effectively I ride. Having the right saddle is worth a ton. Definitely have a saddle fitter look at it. ...that's my two cents.

  14. I just wrote about an old saddle that was giving me unsettling memories. I have to be honest. When I saw the photo of the County on the fence I sort of gasped. I do not like the curve or the way the front is falling down and forward. I know that is because it is on the fence, but my old yucky saddle did the same thing and had a banana shape (and was expensive and beautiful). I know that County is a very well-reviewed brand, but not all models are created equal.

    Annette gave some good advice!

  15. Sounds like you and Val are moving along.(:
    I hope yo can get that saddle. I liked Erin's County too. I think it fit Howard better then my Karl Niedersuss Symphony. But what ever you do, do not get a Bates or a Kincade. Lol.
    Hope I can see you guys soon. And also Wendy at Horse Spa said to email her about keeping Val at her place for the weekend. I think her address is on the website (

  16. Good luck with your saddle perfection process. I don't know much about it, but I do think all the variables are complicated. Sounds like you are taking your time and thinking it all through.

    Just a small thought here about energy. So many bloggers comment about good "up" days and sluggish "slow" days. I can't help but wonder if this isn't normal and nothing is wrong at all. I am not always up on my runs. In fact I have days that I want to quit even 2 miles away from home - it just is like my body is tired. The next day I feel like I am 20 years old and could run forever. I think it is good to remember that they can have sporadic days just like us.

  17. Today I came to your blog and saw your header picture in which the sun is out and you are wearing a t-shirt and I am wistful for warm weather! To heck with all the frigid temps and snow around this place! Boy do I admire how systematic and thorough you are. I hope you get that cool saddle. I am not an english rider myself, but I always appreciate a good looking saddle. Sharp! It looks comfy even to me. I hope it happens!

  18. C, I think many vets prescribe it this way - our old vet did. Our new vet suggested we try the protocol I described above, as that is what Luitpold actually recommends. It makes sense if you think about how the Adequan actually works, and esp. in Salina, who was the one who needed it most, that protocol was more effective.

    Human grade, tx dosed to weight oral glucosamine and chondroitin did just as well, however.

    Right now I have them both on Mov-Ease, and Salina is on extra ginseng and Keil Bay is on jiaogulan. I am loving what I see in their movement on these supplements. Keil Bay is doing incredible work under saddle and looks absolutely fabulous in the field.

  19. I have a feeling that when you get the saddle situation resolved, Val will feel better. And maybe you should check into saddle pads too - I got a really great orthopedic pad for Silk a number of years ago and it was really a visible relief when we started using it. It was expensive, but well worth it. Good luck with the County!


I love, love, love my readers, and knowing that you've stopped by - it really makes my day.

However, to avoid the new illegible blogger word verification, I've added comment moderation. Lesser of two evils.

Please don't let this stop you - keep those comments coming!! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...