I Compared My Most Secure Full Seat Riding Pants
In last weeks blog I told all of you about my experiment in using both my Corrector saddle pad and my Kerrits IceFil tights, and how my Pegasus Butterfly jumping saddle stopped shifting so much to the side. On Sunday morning it was a bit cool and a wind was blowing, so I decided to wear my FITS Performax full seat deer skin breeches instead, while still using the Corrector saddle pad on top of my Corrector II BOT/ThinLine pad with one bridging shim as I did on the previous week.
This was a mistake.
I just could not keep the saddle centered. This was worse after any turn, gradual or in place. Shannon tightened the mohair string girth twice, but the saddle still migrated over to the left and I often had to recenter the saddle under me. I lost most of my recently acquired feeling of security in the saddle, and Cider, though polite, told me that she did not appreciate having to go through all this again. I got off the saddle and decided to never wear my FITS breeches again, in fact I decided to never wear any knit riding pants without the Kerrits Stick silicon/rubber full seat, though I will be looking for used pairs of silicon full seats from other companies so I can compare them with the Kerrits silicon full seat system.
So for my lesson on Wednesday on Bingo, I just used the Contender II pad with two bridging shims under the saddle, and I wore my Kerrits IceFil tights. Most of my riding problems disappeared again. The saddle remained centered much better (I had to shift it maybe 3/8” once before Debbie tightened the girth), I was no longer sliding on the saddle, and Debbie only had to tighten the girth once. I did lots of gradual turns, and several turns on the forehand and turns on the hindquarters, and the most the saddle shifted after Debbie tightened the girth was 1/8” to the left, easily corrected by putting a little more weight into my right stirrup.
Debbie's usual litany of corrections of my position (head, shoulders, back, hands, lower legs) delivered several times each lesson, went down to a few mentions of my right lower leg drifting back, one mention of my left hand being too high, and once she told me to get my heels down. I felt secure in the saddle again, and I was moving WITH Bingo instead of sliding around in the saddle.
When I say sliding around in the saddle I am not talking about sliding around for inches, I am talking about sliding maybe 1/8” to 1/4” to one side or the other. Since I have MS, with lousy balance and a very poor proprioceptive sense, I cannot make the unconscious adjustments to my seat to recenter myself that riders with normal central nervous systems do as a matter of course. Since the Pegasus Butterfly saddle tree's front section has two hinges, the top one vertical and the lower one horizontal, the front of the saddle moves out to allow comfortable shoulder movement for the horse. I think that when this happens it moves my seat just a little bit to the opposite side. Since one side of the horse is usually stronger that the other side, I end up with my seat being moved to the left side a little bit each stride. Then I have more weight in my left stirrup, which moves the saddle to the left. If I had a sense of balance this would not be too much of a problem for me, but with my MS I just cannot tell when my seat is being moved to the side in reaction to the horse's movement, until it is obvious to anyone on the ground. I had the same problem when I rode in my EZ-Fit treeless saddle, so my jumping saddles with normal pommels and trees had been hiding my atrocious balance from me and my riding teachers (but not from the horses!) In defense of my riding teacher, she was always getting after me about my side to side balance, but it was more subtle with the jumping saddles with normal trees and I never got out of balance as badly as I have in the Pegasus Butterfly saddle or the treeless saddle.
ALL the horses I've ridden have simply been saints. NONE of them have taken advantage of my lack of balance, even when the saddle migrated off to the side. Each ride, every horse I've ridden has had the chance to dump me easily, and yet none of them ever did anything to get me off their backs. Yes, their movements reflected my lack of balance, but none of them decided that I was better off of their backs. This includes Tercel, Debbie's super sensitive and perpetually irritated Arab gelding. They have all just adjusted to how I ride, imperfections and all, and I have not had any “unplanned dismounts” since I started riding again.
The silicon/rubber Kerrits Stick full seat prevents my seat bones from being moved to the side when the horse moves. Thus my seat does not drift to the side, when the next leg moves I can re-center my seat easily, and I am more stable in the saddle. I have also been getting more tired when I ride, and for the first few rides in my new tights I noticed some new muscle soreness in my butt and on the front/outside of my thighs. Could it be, with my greatly increased frictional grip, that my body is making those minute muscle movements that move my seat back to center? This was NOT happening when I was sliding around in the saddle! Apparently my body required effective frictional grip before these muscles would do their work. Now they are starting to work, and though I am getting tired, in many ways I feel like I am forty years younger when, as a beginner, I securely rode and jumped my first horse long before I was a good rider.
I think that the modern super-slippery knit breeches are responsible for the worsening of riding we have all seen the last forty years. Athletic people, with good balance and excellent reflexes, can easily overcome the disadvantages of the more slippery riding pants, but all of us normal people do not ride as well as natural born riders. People, forty years ago elementary level riders could, with reasonable safety, ride and control horses with loose nose bands, contact of ounces rather than pounds, in saddles that did not fit perfectly riding over all sorts of terrain. Now we see riders afraid to go out of the rings, TIGHT crank or flash nose bands, special expensive bits, with huge knee and thigh blocks on the saddle, calf-covered saddle leather for more grip, in saddles that perfectly fit the horses, and the riders still IRRITATE their horses with every step. Maybe, just maybe, the causative difference is not in the capability of the riders, but with the almost total lack of frictional grip.
Before I bought the Kerrits IceFil tights I had tried: self-patched stretch denim breeches, various stretch breeches with Clarino knee patches or EcoSuede knee patches, the FITS segmented deerskin full seat breeches, the FITS Techtread summer weight full seat breeches, and when I rode in all of them I did not have enough frictional grip to keep my seat centered in the saddle while the horse was moving. If you are despairing of your riding I recommend that you get some type of silicon breech or tight just to see if your riding improves. Hey, it might mean that you don't HAVE TO replace your saddle as often when it no longer perfectly fits your horse. I think that horses might prefer riders who stay stable in saddles that do not fit perfectly over riders who slip all over the saddles that almost fit perfectly. Of course the ideal is a stable rider in a perfectly fitting saddle, but we all know that life is rarely ideal all of the time.
Have a great ride!