Some Added Security in the Saddle

This week I tried something new.

Several weeks ago, on the COTH Forum, when I asked about hip protection, another rider recommended a new product, rubbery pads that self-stick onto the saddle.

Ever since I started riding again I have had problems with slipping around the saddle. First, with regular knit riding breeches, and I coped with it though I did not feel very secure. Then I got a pair of technical fabric summer tights and those things were SUPER slippery, and my position was destroyed as my seat and legs went in different directions. Finally I discovered the silicon full seat breeches and I regained some security in the saddle though even the silicon full seat breeches did not feel as secure as my memories of riding in the old-fashioned plain cavalry twill cotton breeches.

These pads are called “RiderGrip”, and you can see them at www.ridergrip.com. I saved up my money and ordered the basic set of three (seat and both saddle flaps) and an extra set of two flap grips in case I needed more coverage. All the RiderGrips I bought are round, around 1/4” thick, and have glue on them so they can be stuck on the saddle. The surface has a subtle cross-hatch pattern on the rubbery material for additional grip. I can remove them if I want to, slowly and with great caution.

When I showed them to Debbie she said that 1) she did NOT want me to put them on the seat, and 2) she did not want me to wear my silicon full seat breeches because she wanted my seat to be able to move in the saddle. So last Sunday I finally got together with Shannon and we were able to put two of them on the saddle flaps, one on each side. For my first ride I wore a pair of old, slippery breeches with Clarino knee patches which never seemed to give me much grip at all.

At first I could FEEL the extra ½” width between my legs but that feeling soon went away as I adjusted to them. I had to get off the saddle after we determined where they should go so Shannon could put them on under the stirrup leathers and press down on them so they would bond to the saddle while I rode Cider, the widest horse I ride now. They go under the inside of my knee joint and their diameter is 8 1/2”, giving extra grip to my lower thigh, the inside of my knee-joint, and the top of my lower leg. The added “stick” is not blatant, I was able to change the position of my legs easily when I wanted to and what I felt was that my legs were not slipping all over the saddle. Now it was just above freezing when we put them on my saddle so I have no idea how they feel when it is hot out.

I did feel more secure in the saddle. Even though I did not have full seat breeches on my seat did not slip around in the saddle.

This is a good time for me to get something like this. In my search for security in the saddle I had been gripping with my upper calf muscle, which helped some. But then I started riding Coach, the OTTB, and I quickly found out that Coach considers gripping with the upper calf an aid to GO FASTER! So I have been altering my grip in the saddle from active gripping with my upper calf to frictional grip with my lower thigh, inside of my knee, and the very top of my lower leg. I have to be really careful with my lower leg when I do this so I do not end up pivoting on my knees. In an emergency I can increase the grip of my knees somewhat which works best when I keep my knees down as far as they will go on the saddle flaps.

After walking around for around 20 minutes I asked Shannon if I could trot Cider some. She determined that there was one area of the ring that was not too sloppy so I got to trot Cider for several strides. Before the RiderGrips I always felt like my legs were lined with something as slippery as ice and I spent the whole trot shifting around in the saddle. This time, with the RiderGrips, I felt a lot more secure and my legs stayed in place, as long as I paid attention to the proper position of my lower leg. Hurrah! The next day I noticed some “new” sore muscles in my legs up to my butt. I guess my legs were secure enough so I could stop just concentrating on keeping my balance and actually start using my lower thighs, inner knees, and upper lower legs effectively in the saddle.

When I got to Debbie's stable for my lesson they were working on a judge's stand for their second ring for their next horse show. This entailed using a lot of power tools sporadically, power saws, nail guns, and chain saws, all which made a lot of noise while one of the stable hands was stuffing cedar branches under the jumps in the ring I was riding in. I had been planning on trotting, but after riding several minutes Cinnabar just did not calm down very much, he was good but I could feel his confusion and extra watchfulness as they worked on building the new judge's stand. I just concentrated on establishing contact (with our new single-jointed titanium coated egg-butt snaffle) and extending his walk some, along with the usual large curves around the fences, the turns in place, and backing up.

The first time I halted Cinnabar heading toward the gate he refused to stop until he touched the gate. I got him turned away and several times during the lesson I schooled him on listening to my hand aids while we approached the gate. The first and second times, after he ignored my light, alternating hand aids, I had to finally “set” my hand and close my fingers tight before he would halt. Of course he opened his mouth (I do not tie my horse's mouth shut) before he finally consented to stop. The first time he got to the gate, the second time he stopped around 6 feet away from the gate. After walking around a little bit more we tried again a few more times and he gradually improved, requiring less hand to get to a full halt and stopping further from the gate. Finally he stopped while headed toward the gate when I alternated my little fingers lightly. I went back to Debbie and I got off to reward him.

Next lesson, if it is more peaceful, I want to trot Cinnabar. With my greater security in the saddle I will be able to influence him more with my aids. Then I will have to work on proper contact, beginning to work at the three speeds of the trot, and curving around the jumps while trotting including changes of direction.

One reason I am anxious to be more secure in the saddle is that I want to start training Cinnabar (and possibly Coach) in the double bridle. It should be a lot easier for me with the RiderGrips as I will not have to concentrate every minute on keeping my seat in its proper position while I manipulate the reins.

I have been keeping contact by keeping my fingers loose and supple in a pretty successful attempt to protect his mouth from my unsteady seat. With my seat more secure I can concentrate on establishing, and rewarding, Cinnabar for true contact, where he voluntarily reaches out for contact and keeps contact while we move as I use my hands and fingers normally.

I did notice after my rides that the edges of the RiderGrips tend to curl up some from the saddle flap. I have been pressing them back down firmly daily. I am sure that the temperature changes from my warm house out to the bitter cold has something to do with the edges of the grips curling up. Hopefully this will improve some when it gets hotter outside.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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