Signs of Progress

This has been an amazing week for my riding.  I finally managed to stabilize my new saddle so it stays centered on the horses’ backs, and I stopped slipping and sliding around in my saddle.  The horses were happier, Debbie, my riding teacher was amazed, and if I were not exhausted I would feel like I was in my twenties again.

Two lessons ago, Debbie was please with a lot of my riding and Bingo’s responses, but she was NOT pleased that I could not keep myself or the saddle centered on Bingo’s back.  When I got home, I lay down and thought about the problem.  While adding “bridging” shims stopped the rear of my Pegasus Butterfly saddle from sliding off to the side, they did not stop the saddle from moving to the side up front.  I thought of trying my beloved 40-year-old Crosby Wide Front, but I would loose the increased freedom in the horses’ shoulders that I get using the Pegasus Butterfly saddle.  Then it occurred to me that I should try using my Corrector pad without shims on top of the Contender II saddle pad, just to see if anything would improve.

So on Friday I used both pads on Mia, the Contender II pad with two ThinLine shims on each side, with the Corrector pad on top.  Coincidentally Friday was also the first day that it was warm enough to ride in my new Kerrits Icefil tights with their new silicon/rubber anti-slip technology, so I was trying out two new things that day.  When I bought the tights I specified that I wanted the COOLEST riding pants around, and these are the ones the tack storeowner brought out.

When I got on Mia, I could feel with my seat that one of bridging shims would have to go, I felt perched on her back.  Otherwise my saddle stayed in place, moving at the most may ¼” to either side when I did a turn in place or a sharp turn around a jump, a vast improvement over earlier rides!  Then I noticed that I was not sliding around in the saddle at all.  When I got up into two-point, my legs were not sliding on the saddle in response to the horse’s motion.  I felt as secure in the saddle as I had 45 years ago when I was still riding in my cavalry twill breeches.  Man, what a ride!  Both the saddle and I were stable on Mia’s back and she did not seem to resent the superfluous bridging shim in her pad.

So when I rode Cider on Sunday I took out the second bridging shim out of Cider’s Contender II pad and I put the Corrector on top of that.  When I sat down in the saddle it felt fine, no perching and Cider seemed happy.  The saddle remained stable until, after a turn on the forehand, I went into a trot.  The saddle slipped to the left, so I asked Shannon to tighten the girth a hole.  Once that was done I had no more problems with the saddle going to one side, just little shifts easily corrected by equalizing the weight in each of my feet.  The Corrector made a big difference, in both the stability of the saddle, and in the freedom with which Cider moved her shoulders, reminding me somewhat of riding bareback.  Of course, it also helped that I was no longer slipping over the saddle with my thighs or seat.

Then this Wednesday I had another lesson on Bingo.  Debbie was quite pleased that my saddle did not shift from side to side (as was Bingo,) but she was simply amazed at how much my position improved.  My lower legs were staying in place, I was no longer lurching during the walk-trot transition, and my back was much improved.  I told her about my new tights and she got right on the phone to the tack store to leave a message that she would be in to buy a pair that day.  It turns out that once my body stopped sliding around the saddle I actually have a very good position at the walk and trot instead of just an adequate position.  Bingo responded favorably to both the more stable saddle and his more stable rider.  One time, as I was steering him around with my legs, Debbie said that he was doing a leg yield, properly, crossing one hind leg in front of the other hind leg.  I have been working on the turn on the forehand to develop this crossing of the hind legs, but this is the first time Bingo ever voluntarily did a leg yield in response to my aids while we meandered around the jumps, all the other times he just turned.  

It is SO GOOD to feel secure in the saddle again.  These Kerrits Icefil tights are simply amazing, I am not sliding around in the saddle, but at the same time I am not “stuck” in the saddle.  True, I do not know how these tights will perform when it gets up into the 90s F, but right now they are truly wonderful.  I felt like I was twenty again, moving with the horse instead of sliding around on the horse.  For the first time since I’ve worn the modern knit fabric breeches (35+ years), I feel like I am one with the horse.

Of course, my Millbrook stirrup leathers and my grain leather half-chaps are also helping a great deal with the stability of my lower leg, but they did not help me with sliding around in the saddle.  My FITS deerskin full seat breeches helped me with sliding around in the saddle, but even they did not work as well as my new tights.  Right now I am trying to figure out how I can use these tights during the winter when the wind can get bitterly cold, as I do not want to go back to my other riding breeches!

As for the Corrector, not only did it stabilize the saddle from side to side, the horses all were moving more freely.  The Pegasus Butterfly saddle freed up the horses’ shoulders a good bit, adding the Corrector freed up the horses’ shoulder movement even more.  All the horses settled down and moved as if I was not using a saddle.  I think that the Corrector is one of the best things I ever bought for the horses, it makes all saddles more comfortable for them and the horses respond with much, much better movement.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran 

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