|My new saddle... in need of matching stirrups though...|
this happened to come from my dressage saddle.
But, as it worked out my trainer happened to have a saddle for me to try and just happened to be showing at Silver Sands this morning (about 30 minutes from my new barn). The trainer comes all the way from Lees Burg almost 90 minutes away so its not exactly an easy feet between our crazy schedules to make lessons happen so when she called and said she'd be this way I was actually a little upset I thought I'd miss her by going on the trail ride. When my friend canceled our plans it ended up working out perfectly for her to stop by on her way home from the show.
I wasn't exactly holding out hope that this saddle would work given that I'd tried a similar saddle 2 weeks ago (a version of an older Stubben) that clearly did not fit the minute you sat it on his back with out even having to seriously look at it. BUT... drum roll...... this one actually fit him really, really well! And, the better news is that it fit us both appropriately! So I am now the proud owner to be of a Stubben Siegfried all purpose saddle originally made in Switzerland and sold for over $2400 brand new. I'm getting it for about a fifth of that price and my trainer is amazing because she's buying it and allowing me to use it until I can actually afford to buy it off her which is going to entail me selling my 2 saddles both of which don't fit Rio, but are good saddles. When its all said and done I should actually make money if I get my asking price for the two I'm selling and Rio finally gets to ride in a saddle that doesn't make his back sore.
It was amazing to actually feel him loosen his back muscles and swing underneath me. He's a good mover and always has been for a foundation bred Appaloosa, but now I have a better understanding of why he took so long to truly warm up under saddle and go at his best. He may not have been noticably sore to the touch with the dressage saddle, but I would ride 30 minutes of walk trot just to get him moving freely because the saddle was sitting down on his spine. And, when I rode in any other saddle it was always obvious that it made him very sore the next day.
Part of the reason I started looking at new saddles was also, so that I could do some more jumping. If you've ever jumped in a dressage saddle you know its not the easiest thing to do. My trainer is bringing out jump standards since I don't have any at my current barn and I'll be set to "jump" (no pun intended) back into regular training now that I have a saddle that allows proper form over fences.
For the sake of trying a jump with the new saddle before making a decision we hopped over some drainage pipe covering that was out in the pasture.... more like a small novice cross country jump then a show jump fence. It was about 2'6 solid and fairly wide. Let me put this into perspective for you. Rio used to stop at a small 6 inch cross rail throwing on the breaks and looking back at me like I was crazy when we first attempted jumping years ago. Since working with our current trainer his willingness to approach a jump has improved hugely. He's been taking small cross rails that were a foot or less and more recently I started taking him over verticals slowly raising them to see what I could convince him to do. He'd been over logs on the trail, but nothing more then 6-12 inches wide and barely off the ground. Until today the most he'd done was a 2'3 vertical which is super skinny, not really all that big or imposing looking fence, but enough of a jump that the horse has to do more then just step over it.
I thought for sure the more solid object would send us straight back to square one, but not only did he take it easily he cleared it more then once and from a trot on a short approach with a rider, who' lets face it, may not be green in her over all riding skills, but is when it comes to jumping and seeing distance. I was absolutely over the moon with his work today.
As for me, I felt a little awkward and out of sorts in the saddle at first and I was unsure, but the more I rode the more comfortable I became with the saddle. I'm used to having more of a knee block for support, but that's only because I was riding with a shorter jump length stirrup in my dressage saddle so my knee would hit the more prominent knee roll and I would use that as a crutch to support my seat, but in reality I was never riding in correct position no matter what I did short of dropping my stirrups which created other issues for me so I was never really free to move with the horse or use my body effectively when riding.
The trainer's assessment was that Rio did indeed move much more freely under this saddle and that she'd never seen my position better then it was after riding in this saddle for just 30 minutes. I made the decision to go ahead and get the saddle knowing that I would have to work to build up my muscles and muscle memory to a point where I am truly riding correctly, and that while it was a very different feel this saddle would help me accomplish that. It helped the decision making process that my trainer was so supportive of the choice and so knowledgable being a former international level evener and Grand Prix jumper with years of experience behind her. I am beyond blessed to have found her. Especially given that there is no way I could have purchased a second saddle with out first selling my other saddles. She so willingly stepped in to help out and is just an amazing fiend and teacher.
I was also happy to see that she was happy with Rio's weight gain! I see him all the time so sometimes I think its wishful thinking that he's gained, but she took one look at him after not seeing him for 3 weeks and said "no, he looks a hundred times better". I hopped on him bareback while we were waiting for my trainer and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually very comfortable. His top line has filled out quite a bit and it wasn't like riding on... I can't even come up with a good description, but if you've ridden bareback on a skinny horse you now its not comfortable....
I'm getting to know the owner and other boarders and really like the new barn, and most importantly Rio is happy and healthy.
Over all, despite missing out on the trail ride, it was just a really good day!