In between the rains!  Last Wednesday I couldn’t get my lesson because it was raining.  I was disappointed of course, but since we really need the rain it was so nice to get 1.3”, it sort of made up for not riding.  A week ago we were over 10” short for the year so any and all rain is welcome even if it does interfere with my riding.

I got my lesson on Mick on Friday.  Debbie brought Mick to the wash stall and showed me how to take off his turn-out blanket since I have never had to deal with one my whole life.  I was afraid that if I tried to take it off myself that I would forget to undo something, but now I know I have to undo 6 buckles or snaps, starting at the back and working toward the front. Mick was moving VERY stiffly, so I quickly did the Clouded Leopard Ttouches on his neck, shoulders, and back.  I then did some of the Abalone Ttouches on his girth area on both sides.  On the neck, shoulder and girth area I have been starting on the bottom and ending at the top, for his back I start at the withers and work my way back over his croup.  This time I remembered to keep my other hand on him, something I will have to practice since my balance is so bad and if I have both hands on the horse I cannot use a cane to prop myself up.  Mick then got to enjoy his grooming (oh his neck was itchy!) and we started saddling him. 

Mick did not threaten to bite at all as we did his girth up in the wash stall.  This is a first!!!!!  He has either threatened to nip or has nipped every single time he has been girthed up since he came to Debbie’s stable (and we do girth up slowly.)  Of course when Debbie tightened his girth at the ring he started his little threats again, I guess I should plan on doing more Abalone Ttouches in front and behind his girth before we tighten it up in the ring.  When we started off Mick started swinging his back immediately, nice, loose, and relaxed and I did not have to ride him very long before he felt ready to trot.  I am so impressed with how much reward I am getting for doing so little work with the Ttouches, especially since I am not doing them perfectly!

Most of my ride I was struggling with my Wintec 250 GP saddle.  The last time I had used it I had put rear shims in my Corrector pad, felt super secure in the saddle, but ended up with my lower back hurting.  Since I hate having my lower back hurting I took the rear shims out of the Corrector hoping I would be able to deal with the imperfections.  Well I did not deal with the imperfections very well.  When I had the rear shims in my seat, thigh, knees and upper calf fit in the rider’s groove of the saddle and I felt SECURE.  Without the rear shims my legs could not find the groove at all and I was sort of sliding around in the saddle.  I tried shortening my stirrups but I felt like I would be launched over Mick’s shoulder when we broke into the trot, then I lengthened my leathers back to the original holes and just tried to stay somewhat balanced in the saddle.  Since my legs were not in the rider’s groove but further back, the outside edges of the tree and panels were pressing into the middle of my thighs greatly reducing my security since I lost the frictional grip of my upper thighs, knees and upper calves.  VERY IRRITATING!  In spite of my insecurity and sliding (boy that Wintec synthetic can be slippery) I managed to ride Mick decently and when I corrected my lower legs (they started  drifting back ) Debbie was pleased with my ride.  When I got home I immediately put the rear shims back into the Corrector.  Debbie is just going to have to help me learn how not to irritate my lower back when I ride in this saddle!

Today I had another ride on Bobby.  When we got to Shannon’s she had Bobby all groomed and ready to tack up so I hurriedly did the Clouded Leopard Ttouches on his neck and shoulder.  Next time I think I should add Ttouches to his back and croup, it will be interesting to see if it makes any difference.  Bobby, as always, was reasonably cooperative the first 10 minutes of the ride and after that his cooperative attitude quickly disappeared and the old evasions reappeared.  I must report progress though, even when Bobby was at his worst this ride I never got into a prolonged discussion and Bobby did not grind on his bit.  Today I got several strides going straight ahead at least 5 or 6 times (instead of just once or twice), though of course I had to use my lower thighs and upper calf some to KEEP him straight.  Every time we got to a turn I practiced using my head right, looking at the end point of the first quarter of the circle, then to the endpoint of the second quarter, then back to straightness.  The ring was soggy (we had gotten almost an additional half inch of rain since Wednesday), we went “squish, squish, squish”, and we did not do any trotting.  Happily Bobby even kept straight some on loose reins!  The last part of our ride Bobby became even more uncooperative, constantly wanting to dive in toward Shannon, so I worked on keeping an even contact on the bit and using my head correctly on the turns.  While Bobby was being less than cheerful about everything I was still able to get him out of his pretzel shape and take several steps straight until the next turn going around the ring, repeating my aids for straightness after every turn.  When it got toward the end of our ride Bobby decided it was already time to quit and showed his displeasure when I would not let him go to Shannon by trying to constantly keep his head looking toward Shannon as we went around the ring.  Finally after he gave me three more or less straight strides I stopped him and gave him a little lecture about how I had been planning on stopping for the day but since he did not behave we had to go around the ring all over again.  I centered myself in the saddle, made sure that my lower leg was in the right place and my heels were down, took even contact on the reins, and we proceeded on our final trip around the ring.  I had to use a good bit of seat, thigh, and lower leg to keep him going straight past Shannon  but at least Bobby kept his head pointing straight ahead.  Good boy!  I told him to go to Shannon and got off, my ride was over!

Back when I started riding seriously the cheapest somewhat decent saddles were the Borelli saddles from Argentina.  The leather was not as good as the leather of the European saddles but the balance was not too bad.  They were not perfect, the pommel arches often tended to spread and they were pretty much considered disposable saddles, very popular with riding stables, to be used hard until they just generally fell apart after a decade or two of hard use.  My very first saddle was an old Borelli Old English Hunt saddle (the one without knee rolls and with the deepest part of the seat much more toward the cantle) and I swear, even with the saddle not being the proper shape to ride Forward Seat in, I had a lot fewer difficulties keeping my position than I do in the Wintec Gps that are supposed to be set up correctly for the Forward Seat Position for Slow Equitation.  When I went to horse school it was a Forward Seat establishment, but even so one of the horses I rode preferred the same brand and type of saddle (Borelli Old English hunt) and I was expected to be able to ride with a good Forward Seat in it.  It took a little more effort but it was relatively easy to do (including jumping.)  So why am I having all these problems with GP saddles that are supposed to be perfect for the FS slow equitation seat?  Maybe back then they just knew how to make good saddles (even the cheap ones).  I keep on hearing horse people telling me to keep my old leather saddles because “they just don’t make them like that any more.”  What the heck happened?  I thought we were supposed to progress, not slip back into a nightmare of poor fit and balance.  When my old leather saddles do not fit me just right it is a minor problem and it does not take me much additional energy to ride in a proper position as their “rider’s groove” is more roomy.  Now it seems that to get the identical degree of fit for both horse and rider I would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for a custom leather saddle to get one that fits as well as those old Borelli saddles that, in the middle 1960s, cost less than $100.00 with cheap stirrup leathers, nickel stirrups, girth (and sometimes a cheap bridle and bit) thrown in.  It is sad but true, we are being ROYALLY ripped off in the modern saddle department!

May all your saddles fit perfectly.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Happy New Year!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran   


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