Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the Arena # 110 - Afternoon Delight...

The weekend's weather was more traditional for this time of year. Very windy, very rainy and cold. I had to put off messing with the new saddle until today. I had to be patient. (wahhhhhh)

After grooming, I tacked Val up with a flat pad, and my *extra special* shim arrangement. That would be folded up towel squares. I played with placement, but especially with the girth. The rear billet is a sliding / swing billet. When I tighten the girth, there is more play in the front billet if I adjust them both to the same hole. I'm assuming that the rear billet tightness would be more critical to get right. Tightening the front billet another notch pulls the pommel down. Not good. Val has a big heart girth so his shape is probably playing into it as well. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. :)

With the saddle level and secure, I hopped on for a quick ride. It was so nice. Turns weren't even an issue, Val reached into the bridle immediately and was halting off of a whisper from my seat. We're both comfortable finally. Val is much more responsive and willing now. My position feels natural and easy to keep correct - on my triangle in the deepest part of the saddle with a happy hip angle.

Until riding in this saddle, I didn't even realize how much we had been struggling. Val was very uncomfortable from the points poking into his shoulders when we turned and when I posted. I had trouble relaxing down into my seat and letting my leg hang. I guess I got used to it. Don't think Val did though. Bless his heart.

My saddle fitter pad arrives tomorrow. After today, I'm confident that some slight shimming will do the trick.

All through this process, deep down, I knew something had to be wrong. My limited experience (plus some erroneous feedback) led me to believe that rider error was the main problem. The occasional decent rides I had, where I apparently had found a way to contort myself just right + Val's good nature, confused the issue even more. 

I've learned a lot in the past few months. About saddle fit for horse and rider, saddle brands and saddle shopping. And most importantly, about trusting your gut.

I'm lickin' and I'm likin' ...

... now where's my COOKIE!!!


  1. Glad to hear you're loving your new saddle!

    And, following up from the last comment, Yes! I do see more muscling in Val's neck! He is just beginning to develop that nice topline muscle that we look for in dressage training. It begins at the withers, then slowly expands up as the horse completes his training. I see that muscle starting in Val, and I know you're on the right track!

  2. It looks good to me - hope your saddle fitter AND Val agree!

  3. Aside from the great ride, Val's comfort, and a pretty new saddle, the most exciting thing is that you have learned to trust your own gut about things.

    I know when I came back to riding after many years away I felt compelled to dote on the information that was given to me by "experts" and "professionals" - some was sound, and at least as much was simply their own opinion which maybe worked for some horses and some riders but was certainly not the gospel they made it out to be.

    I have to remind myself that riding and dressage are not rocket science. And when we ride, we have a warm, breathing, sentient partner who can and will give us constant feedback on what we're doing and whether it is working or not.

    Add in our own bodies and we have lots to guide us.

    You've figured out so much for yourself and for Val - I hope you celebrate how huge a leap forward that is!!

  4. Shannon-

    Thanks for noticing.

    That comment means a lot, coming from you. :)

  5. juliette-

    No saddle fitter, but a saddle fitter pad - which costs about the same as a human saddle fitter come to think of it...

    I'm about six hours away from the nearest decent saddle fitter. It is totally amazing that I got the natural balance dentist to come out here. I begged, borrowed and stole to line up enough customers to make it worth her while. :)

  6. billie-

    Thanks for the encouragement! I went out on a limb, but it looks like it paid off. :)

  7. I am so glad that you and Val are happy with your new saddle. Onward and forward!

  8. Great work! I am curious about the saddle fitter pad. What's that?

    I think that saddles are one situation where you are absolutely allowed to blame the equipment. An ill-fitting saddle can make good riding nearly impossible and, of course, affect your horse in lots of unpleasant ways. Val is a gentleman and I am sure that he is ever so grateful that you went with you gut!

  9. Yay! Happy days/happy rides to you and Val.

  10. Val looks very happy and you sound happy. That pretty much says it all. Good rides to you and your boy in the future. The saddle looks good.

  11. Val-

    The saddle fitter pad will feature in an up-coming post. :)

  12. Honestly, I think Val would look good in anything. ;-) I love your towel shim idea. Gem's current summer saddle blanket doesn't have padding to stop the gullet of the saddle from pressing a little against his high withers. I have been unsuccessful in finding a summer weight blanket that would have sufficient padding without being heavy/hot. I think your towel shimmy will solve the problem!! Thanks!

  13. Val look super adorable of clue as I'm still fumbling around with ours as well. We seem to both have the stoic boys that wont really tell us "this saddle sucks" so its up to us to dissect. Yea, Fun. ;)

  14. I second Billie's comments. You did just what you needed to do to make Val comfortable. When I got an expensive Supracor pad for Silk, lots of people thought I was crazy to spend the money, but it was so worth it. Val looks very pleased and relaxed. Congratulations and enjoy the comfy rides!

  15. LOVE your high-tech shim. Any new updates?

  16. Aww he's so cute! I'm so happy you found the right saddle. It can be a really difficult journey. Now go have fun with Val!!!


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