Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Saddle

I've ridden a few times in the saddle now and I am pretty happy with it. I had a very experienced lady watch me ride in it yesterday and she didn't think it moved at all on her back. My friends videoed me in it today (I'll put that on here tomorrow) and I took several photos from different angles. I would welcome any suggestions/thoughts on the fit of it, although I appreciate that you can't tell that much from still photos.

Before riding, the saddle sat like this:

After riding, the saddle sat like this:

This is me having just got on:

This is after riding her for 20 minutes...

What I have realised from these photos and what is likely to be glaringly obvious to you all, is HOW WONKY I AM!!!!!!!!! I am so far over to the right - I can't believe it! In these photos I was convinced I was sitting straight. The result of this is a decision - Wiola I need you!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Got one!!

Exciting stuff: the saddler came out much sooner than expected, last night in fact, and brought with him a whole array of beautiful dressage saddles for me to try. He first had a look at my wintec, and couldn’t really see why it was slipping, but accepted that something obviously happens when I ride in it. He said that once a customer has lost faith in a saddle, it’s usually best to just ‘bite the bullet’ and get a different one. I am really starting to agree with this idea now.

He must have tried about 10 saddles on her, ranging from medium width to wide, but in the end, only one fitted perfectly – a Black Country dressage saddle in medium/wide. It is so beautiful! We took her up to the school in it, so I could try it out for a bit. Several things were against us: I had clipped her on Sunday and lo and behold, it turned FREEZING cold yesterday, so she was a little bit fresh; it was dark and last time I rode in the school with the lights on I had to work very hard to convince her that there were in fact no monsters lurking in the trees. Also, there was a little pressure to get on with it, rather than take quite as long as I usually do on a free rein, as I didn’t want to bore the poor man! Oh – and of course there was the fact that she was wearing a leather dressage saddle for the first time in her life, with no numnah and it must have felt very weird!

She was very good, given the circumstances. She was a little tense and unsure of the feel of the saddle, but she felt nice and free through the shoulders and moved nicely in it. It felt incredible – it felt like I’d come home, as I originally trained only in dressage saddles. We walked, trotted and cantered on both reins, with only a little bit of spooking and a bit of bucking when I first asked for a canter on the right rein. When I came to a halt, the saddle settled in a central position (unlike the wintec last time I rode in it) but he said that because of the poor light, he couldn’t see whether it was moving at all as I was riding. Obviously, this is very important, but the floodlights in the school are not very powerful.

What he has decided to do is leave the saddle with me for the rest of the week so that I can ride in it a few times and see how she goes. This is really helpful – I don’t think you can tell from one session. He also said that I should ride in the daylight at the weekend with some ‘knowledgeable’ people with me, so that they can see if it moves at all.

I don’t know much about buying saddles, but this seems like a really good service: I’ve not paid him anything yet and he’s said that I can make him an offer for it at the end of the week, or I can give it back if I don’t like it. I am really trying not to get too excited, as if it isn’t perfect, I’m not going to spend a fortune on it, but I can’t wait to ride her again tomorrow! Fingers crossed! I’ll take some photos at the weekend and see what you think!

Saturday, 23 January 2010


So the saddle saga continues...
I have not been happy with my saddle for a while now. We had problems months ago, so my saddler came out and changed the gullet from a wide fit to a medium, so as to make it sit higher in front and then not move around behind. This worked for about a month, but she suddenly became very sore and would not go forward - this is not like Echo at all, so I rang the saddler and he suggested changing the gullet back to a wide and using a thicker numnah for a while - just to see what happened. This felt better, but I wasn;t happy about how much it moved at the back.

I rode Echo yesterday and she was great and moved beautifully; however, when I got off, I noticed that the saddle was sitting quite a long way to the right. When I tacked her up today, I made sure that it was totally central. However, she felt very uncomfortable when on the left rein. She wouldn't leg-yield to the right (with left bend) and nearly reared when I asked her to shoulder-in left. I rode back to the yard and asked one of the ladies there to have a look from behind (she's a very knowledgable dressagey-type - very useful to have around!) and she said it was sitting so far to the right that the left panel was nearly on her spine. No wonder she didn't like me asking for left bend or sitting heavier on my left seat-bone!

The lady then asked whether I would like to try her dressage saddle on her - just to see whether it is Echo's back that makes the saddle sit badly, or whether it is my saddle. The answer: it's my saddle. The moment we placed the dressage saddle on her back, it slipped beautifully into place and looked as if it had been made to measure. I groaned inwardly, realising this was going to get expensive... I had a sit in the saddle and it stayed central; I rode some circles in it...and it stayed bang in the centre. Damn it - why do horses have to be so expensive?!

I rang my saddler there and then and explained the situation. He's away this weekend but is going to give me a ring on Monday to arrange an appointment next week. He said he'll bring a range of second hand leather GP and dressage saddles for me to try. The one that I put on her today is a KN - I thought I'd do some research online about them - and found their retail price is £1500!! I did, however, find a rather nice one on ebay for £400 though... I will wait to see what the saddler comes with.

What I now can't decide is whether to get a dressage saddle or a GP. I think, if I'm spending a lot of money (and £500 is a lot of money to me!) then I would like to go with the dressage. I have always thought that one day I would buy her a lovely leather dressage saddle; I just hadn't planned on it right now! However, I would still like to jump every now and then. It's a tricky one. I did wonder whether the saddler might be able to make my Wintec fit enough for me to jump in it occasionally...but then I don't want to ride her in a saddle that doesn't fit. We'll have to see what happens.

In the meantime, lovely, lovely lady at the yard has said that I can borrow her super duper saddle whenever she isn't using it. Such a kind person. The only request was that I use my own numnah, as Echo is moulting long white hairs right now! Talking of which, I'm going to clip her again tomorrow. Bring on the work!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

What have Echo and I been doing? Nothing.

And this is why:

It seems to be slowly melting, so as soon as the school can be ridden in, I will be back to normal...hopefully!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year!

A new year brings lots of new plans. I promise I will let you know what they are soon, but I don't want to jinx anything so am holding my tongue for now! In the mean time - I thought you might like to know about our progress at the new yard - or really lack of it, due to irritating white stuff that we in England are not very used to dealing with.

The end of term was really busy, so not much time for riding. I put the wider gullet into my saddle and Echo has seemed much happier with that, so I'll ride in it like that for a while and see how we get on. We broke up for the Christmas holidays and it snowed that night. Now, I'm not talking about the little sprinkle that we often get that settles for a few minutes...this was bucket loads of the stuff - I got snowed in!! Couldn't get the car out for days; so much for my plan to do loads of riding - I couldn't even get to the yard! When I did manage to get there, the school was out of use due to the snow and the horses were all hobbling round on stilts as it was balling into ice in their feet.

My boyfriend and I went on a mammoth road trip over Christmas, seeing all the families and doing the Christmas thing, which was really lovely, but meant that that was another week off riding. I got back on Tuesday and was desperate to ride - so after a day's lunging (always a good idea - increased food means increased bucking!) I rode her a couple of times this week. However...on new year's eve it decided to snow again - nowhere near as much as last time, but enough to freeze everything and make the school unrideable again. I had a hack planned for this morning - the first one since we arrived at the new yard - and I was a little concerned. I didn't get to ride yesterday so she was nice and fresh, then I couldn't go and take the edge off in the school first; I couldn't even get on her in the yard as it was so icy - we had to go and get on out on the sand track.

I went out with a lady who owns a creollo pony that she rides western style and a girl who was walking her dressage horse out in hand as he is super clumsy apparently and would fall over in the snow and ice. We went out of the gate and I got on - you go straight out onto a farm track that runs parallel to the yard and parallel to an enormous turf field - big wide spaces that must shell shock the horses. Echo was blowing and snorting as I got on, and proceeded to passage down the track - I had trouble doing my girth up, but after about 5 minutes she really settled - we tucked in behind the dressage horse's bum and Echo must have thought he was rather lovely, as she was on best behaviour after that. She must have been in a bit of shock as she didn't even look at some enormous farm machinery - huge rolls of irrigation pipes that would normally have hidden horse-eating monsters. She may also have been concentrating on the footing as it was quite slippery in places.

It was a really beautiful sunny morning, and with the fields covered in snow too it was beautiful. I was very proud of her as she didn't put a foot wrong. More of that to come - hopefully. The dressage horse is a good match for her in terms of pace in the walk and is very very calm - I think we're going to have fun hacking with them. It was nice to be out with the creollo pony too - he's very sure-footed as he came over from South America and used to be a trail horse.

Things are all going well at the new yard - Echo is very happy there, and is now out with my friends' horse that we moved here with. They aren't too fussed about each other, but it's nice that they have each other for company if they want it. There is also a lovely big chestnut horse in the field next door, which Echo was very taken with; indeed, she came into season within a few days of being there and was flirting outrageously - as you can see in the photo below. The only downside to the yard (and it isn't really a downside...) is that as she's being fed so much more and more regularly, her feet have grown at double rate! She was shod about 4 and a half weeks ago and her feet look long and need trimming. She normally gets done every 6 weeks, and even then barely needs anything to be taken off! I hope it slows down a little, as she'll cost me a fortune!

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks. I still have a post about my lesson with Andrew Day to come and some photos and a video of that.
All ready to go:

In her brand new pyjamas:

Daily adventures while training my young horse.