Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lateral Workin' & Saddle Possibilities

Our lovely snow is now unrideable due to the melting-then-freezing phenomenon. It's hard enough for me to walk on without making a dent in it, and it's full of holes from where I rode before. Fine for Sofie to traverse on her own, but not with the weight of a rider, and especially not for cantering/hand galloping, which I just know she'd try to do. So even though the weather has been nice enough to go outside, we've been stuck in the indoor. As I've mentioned before, Sofie is a trail horse. She likes to GO somewhere, not go around in circles looking at the same boring walls. So it's a challenge to get her interested in arean work. There's also less to distract her in an indoor, so she concentrates more on her little muscular aches/pains/twinges/whatever. So we generally have a little more resistance to work through.

Yesterday when I went out to catch her, she started to walk toward me, but she made the mistake of walking behind Piper, aka Diabolical Mare (my new name for her). Diabolical Mare likes to kick. A. Lot. She doesn't just kick randomly, she is an opportunist. She waits for my horse to walk behind her, or hide behind her (like she does when she doesn't want to be caught), then she lifts a back leg and kicks with precision, sometimes several times in a row. Diabolical Mare especially likes kick at Sofie when Sofie is hiding behind her on the ice (where the water trough overflows). Then she watches Sofie run (on the ice) with an evil gleam in her diabolical eye.

So Sofie starts walking up to me, and Diabolical Mare lifts her back leg waaaaaaay up and coils it, ready to strike. Sofie turns around and goes back to standing by the fence. Diabolical Mare then streeeeeetches her leg out, like "I only wanted to stretch my leg"...sure, Diabolical Mare. So I go to catch Sofie, who looks at me like it was all my fault that Diabolical Mare kicked at her. Sure, Sofie. I have trained Diabolical Mare not to mess with Sofie once I have caught her, however. The last time she started trotting up to Sofie, like "I will GET you", I just said "PIPER" and she stopped in her tracks and looked at me with her big, dumb eyes, like "I wasn't doing anything." Sure.

Sofie was stiff in her hind end from the cold (she swished her tail when she had to turn around her me to close the arena door) and while she enjoyed being groomed (she's shedding ALREADY, we must've gotten a pound of hair off her) she got a really nasty look on her face when I brought out her saddle pad and then the saddle. I wouldn't have ridden her, but one of my friends had come to ride with me, so I didn't want to cancel on her when my horse wasn't lame or anything like that. My mom longed her for maybe ten minutes at a walk and a little jog trot, and she did a lot of stretching, and appeared in a better mood, so I figured I could at least ride at a walk and help her stretch.

From her initial attitude when I brought the saddle out, I expected her to be resistant under saddle, but I actually had a really good ride. It undoubtedly helped that she had the distraction of the other horse in the ring (we don't get to ride with other people too often, since most of the boarders hardly ever ride, and those that do typically take lessons or ride in the evening). I've been working on sitting straighter, and I was actually able to push her over to the wall with my left leg (that was previously useless and floating somewhere slightly above my stirrup tread) instead of pulling her over with my outside rein. She's still a little counterbent sometimes, but using inside-leg-to-outside rein seems to work better than turning in a circle to get back to the wall (because then she thinks I want her coming off the wall and circling, and she can do that all day long!). She was actually leg-yielding slightly, which is great. For some reason I find it really hard to get a leg yield if I TRY, but if I just do inside-leg-to-outside rein, it happens. Obviously I must be trying too hard, or something.

I've also been working on doing walk-trot transitions to make things a little more interesting for her, and it seems to help. It also means we stay in trot for less long stretches of time and have fewer "grrrrrr" moments from her. Our trot work, while not perfect, was successful, with no tail swishing, balking, head twisting or glaring and only a little bit of tension at times. I've been experimenting with letting the reins slide through my hands at the trot to encourage her to stretch down, and she's experimenting with doing so. She's pretty unsure of herself, but she is starting to stretch. She'll bring her head up again, then put it down, then bring it up and so on, like she does on the longe. I need to work a little on my steering (especially to the left...boy does she like to fall in!) but I think she'll get it eventually.

We've been doing better with our backing up lately. For a while she was really good at backing up (when she first learned how) but then she got really heavy and bracy and took little mincing steps backward. I realized it was hard for her under the weight of a rider, so I started accepting the little baby steps and just trying for softness, and she's doing better. I've actually gotten some stronger steps backward, more than three steps in a row, and she hasn't been locking her poll and jaw. I know the backing up is really good for her, I think it just was a little bit of an effort for her and I was expecting too much, which made her resistant.

We're slowly learning our basic lateral work. The ride before last, she was "getting" turn on the haunches more than turn on the forehand, so I worked on TOH and got her to take a couple very slow, deliberate steps of TOH while stationary. It's hard for her to learn that she can step sideways while standing, because she's so sensitive to the leg and so eager to go forward. So normally I have her do more of a "traveling TOF or TOH".

Yesterday I was going to work on TOH again, but she was showing an affinity for TOF and not getting TOH, so we worked on TOF instead and we got a couple nice quarter turns. It was more of a "traveling TOF" and it was a bit more like a reining move than a dressage movement as it was a bit quick, not so deliberate and slow, but it was still a good response, and something to occupy her mind. She was really trying hard to understand, and when I let her stop at the end of the ride and let the reins go she practically put her nose in the dirt, like "Whoa, that was a lot of thinking!" I was really proud of her for listening and trying so hard to understand. What a good beastie.

Also, I came to the conclusion that I need a different saddle. The Wintec works well enough, and I love riding in it, but it does not fit her as well as it should. The panels are too angled for her nice, wide, flat back, and it may not be quite wide enough, either. I'm looking into a couple synthetic, changeable-gullet saddles, because I like the light weight, the adjustability, the affordibility, the comfort, the grippiness and I LOVE that you can neglect tack cleaning GUILT FREE! So here are my top two choices (at this point...I have to consult with a saddle fitter and possibly do a wither tracing):

Thorowgood Broadback Dressage

This one is obviously more of a dressage saddle, and it sounds well designed and very adjustable. My only concern is that it looks awfully nice and shiny (aka slippery) and that the stirrup bar may be set back a little, which might make my leg go TOO far back, since I have good alignment in my current saddle which does not support good alignment.

Wintec Wide All Purpose

This is a little more "hunt-seat-ish" than my current saddle, but it doesn't look too bad. I've never had a problem riding in my all-purpose saddle, but I had a terrible time in my dressage saddle, so I'm not overly partial to the idea of needing a dressage saddle to do dressage. Also well designed and adjustable, and it has gusseted panels (which my Wintec NEEDS, if it had those it would be perfect) and three additional wide gullet plates. I can also get it on sale.

Photo credit goes to the Trumbull Mountain Tack Shop ( from which I will most likely be buying my saddle, since they have an excellent trial policy and offer lots of fitting advice.

1 comment:

  1. With the leaning on the left side, Indigo does/did that. I found lifting my right rein strait up will make her stop leaning.
    Secondly I have had a few throwgood griffin saddles and I hated them. They rolled on any horse I put them on and yes as you guessed the stirrup bars are far back making you want to tip forward. I found this was with every thorowgood saddle. I also found the adjustability wasn't the same compared to wintec.
    Now I have had a couple wintec saddles and have that one there you posted and it's a good saddle.
    My favorite is the collegiate convertible dressage. It was byfar the most comfortable dressage saddle I have sat in other than a 4500$ saddle that I couldn't dream of owning. It fit my broad backed horses quite well. Unfortunately it is leather.