Summer weather has definitely arrived here, hot, muggy, and lots of afternoon thunderstorms. NC has been in drought most of the past decade, but this year the rain seems to be determined to make up for the whole drought, we are 6 inches over “normal” instead of 6” below normal. Everything goes “squish” now.
This time of year my seat riding usually disintegrates rapidly and the horses I ride get irritated at me for my unsteadiness, often telling me that I better switch to bitless riding until the weather gets cooler. Not this year. Just last week I decided to change the Arabs from the Mullen mouth snaffle to the JP Dr. Bristol snaffle since I was getting “messages” from the horses that they were getting tired of the Mullen mouth since it is hard for me to give truly delicate hand aids without the joints in the mouthpiece of the bit. Even super sensitive Mia is happier with the JP Dr. Bristol, and her reactions to my hand aids have become prompter and much more cheerful. This is the first summer that the horses have told me to go to a slightly stronger bit, a bit that is more irritating to them when my seat is unsteady, usually they tell me to get that dang bit out of their mouth until I can ride better.
I would never have known that just changing my riding pants and saddle soap would bring me so many dividends. But I listen carefully to the horses I ride and all three of them are telling me that my riding has improved GREATLY. I have stopped shifting around in the seat of the saddle, I can get my seat forward in the saddle and keep it there, and my legs are much more stable, all during the time of year when they usually get worse, not better. Debbie, my riding teacher, is also impressed with my improvements! She spends a lot more time now telling me what I am doing right instead of the usual litany of what I am doing wrong. This summer my riding is improving instead of getting worse.
Mick is especially happy that I can get my seat more forward in the saddle and keep it there. He has much more impulse, he confidently reaches out with his head to the bit and comes back with just little finger twitches. I showed Debbie the difference between me sitting forward in the saddle and me sitting back in my usual place, with me forward all systems are go, when I sit back Mick is going “I don’t think so” when I ask for impulse. I still have to use my legs but I don’t have to use them as much or as strong to keep him going.
I still get really tired riding in the warmer weather, but this year I am getting really tired from doing around three times the posting trot and three times the amount of two-point I usually do when it is cooler.
My jumping saddle is also shifting less under me. I use a Corrector pad, which has a felt cover, and it is just underneath the panels of the saddle. The under-flaps of the saddle do not have anything between them and the horse. The old-fashioned saddle soap seems to be giving this area of the saddle just enough grip so that it is moving WITH the horse instead of being moved around by the horses’ movements, greatly increasing my security.
The saddle soap and my FITS leather paneled breeches are helping me greatly with riding Cider in my EZ-Fit treeless saddle too. Again my legs stay in the proper place, and I do not get unsteady when she springs into the trot. When Cider insists that she won’t go straight unless I am absolutely straight in the saddle, I can get myself in the proper alignment and stay there while she moves. Changing to the treeless saddle really helped Cider, and now that I added the old-fashioned saddle soap and non-slippery breeches I am starting to find out exactly how good Cider can be. She is actually starting to act like carrying me for half an hour is a pleasant activity instead of an endless irritation. Before she did not get after me much if my seat was somewhat awry because she was putting up with my disabilities with good grace, now she demands perfection because she thinks I am capable of it. There IS a difference between a horse that just puts up with imperfections of its rider because it thinks that the imperfections are incurable, and a horse that is actively teaching its rider to ride properly because the horse has hope that their rider will improve with proper instruction (from the horse!)
And how can I tell Cider is happier? Shannon’s ring is not perfectly flat, and there is a distinct uphill and downhill to it. Normally, when I trotted Cider sped up going downhill, boring into the bit, and I had to use pounds (instead of grams) of pressure on the bit to get her to slow down. Now she slows down going downhill voluntarily, responds instantly to little twitches of my fingers, and I have to urge with my legs to keep her speed constant. This has only happened since I changed to the old-fashioned saddle soap, using the saddle soap on the saddle and on the leather panels of my riding breeches. Yes, Cider likes and appreciates my treeless saddle, but she appreciates my newly stable seat just as much if not more.
So if you are using “modern” saddle soaps like glycerin soap and the proprietary brands that use modern chemicals, and you are riding in stretch breeches made of modern fabrics (even stretch denim counts as a modern fabric), it may not be your fault that your horse won’t keep contact or move correctly. Your seat may be much, much better than you think it is. Get some old-fashioned saddle soap, get some non-stretch old fashioned breeches or synthetic full seat breeches that use leather for the patches (NOT synthetic suede), and then see how your horse responds to your riding. If my contact can improve during the hot weather I bet that your contact will improve too. In fact I suspect that your contact will improve enough so you will be able to take that awful flash strap off your bridle, loosen your noseband, lighten your contact by pounds, and have a happier and more responsive horse who will actually be willing to dance under you in response to your invisible aids.
Have a great ride!