Ok. I have been putting off writing a post for a while, as things haven't really been easy. It must seem like all I ever write about are problems, but that's sort of how it feels at the moment.
The saddle has been...ok. I don't think it's perfect - she has moments where she feels great, and moments where she feels like she is really uncomfortable with it on. Her feet are also ok. Not great yet, but improving - these things take time. And lots of it.
The day before I went up to see my family for Christmas, I rode Echo in the school - we had been doing quite a bit of riding and hacking - mostly in walk, but she had been really good. I rode her in the school on this day and she was great. I was just about to get off, when she shied really violently. I don't know what spooked her, but it got some of the other horses in the fields around too. I let her listen and look for a moment, but it was nothing, so I rode her in a circle, taking her past that place again. She shied even more violently that time and went totally rigid underneath me.
Since I was about to finish anyway and there was a really novice rider in the school, I thought it best to get off. She is normally fine to lead after spooking, so I went to lead her across the school to the gate and she reared, and started bouncing off all four feet at once. Echo has NEVER reared - ever. I stood her still, spoke to her, tried to calm her down, then went to walk off again - and she did it again, then cantered sideways all the way to the gate. I was quite scared to be honest - that was not my horse at all. I got her out of the gate, thinking that she would calm down then, but she did it again, this time rearing at me with her front feet. I had to let go of her, as I only had her reins to hang on to and her feet were coming too close to my face. But then I envisioned her causing havoc on the yard so I launched in and grabbed her reins. A guy at the yard who had just been long-reining his horse ran over and took hold of her, and put a lunge line on her.
She calmed down pretty quickly, but I had been really scared - this really isn't like her at all. I know she's had lots of time off, but the whole time she was out of work when I was living with my parents, I trusted her completely - thought I knew every reaction she has in her - I've had her since she was a yearling for goodness' sake!
The worst thing was that I then had to leave her for over a week and couldn't sort out whatever was wrong.
When I got back, I lunged her a couple of times - the first time she went crazy - probably to be expected, although she's never really been crazy on the lunge before. The second time she was great - really calm - and then the third time she was totally wild and I had to stop, for fear that she would hurt herself.
Despite the fact that her saddle has only just been fitted for her, someone at the yard was a different person out to get their horse a saddle. Although not a saddler, this woman is a BHSI and apparently (according to lots of people, including my farrier) is amazing at fitting saddles. I just asked if she would take a look at Echo's and she immediately said 'well, that doesn't fit at all.' She explained that Echo has quite a shaped back and modern dressage saddles all have flat panels - it will be putting pressure on her lumbar region (where she gets sore) and digging into her shoulders. It does make sense. But I could have cried.
So...she is looking out for a saddle that she thinks will fit her better. In the meantime - I didn't know what to do. I started off not riding, then got a Bowen specialist out to treat Echo's back. This is someone that a good friend of mine has been badgering me to try for a while, and it does seem like it's done something. She was really tight through her lumbar region, but when the Bowen specialist, Teresa, had a look at the saddle - guess what! She didn't think my saddle is that bad a fit.
I decided that if she thinks it's ok, I would start riding her again gently in the saddle that I have and see what happens. If the BHSI finds me a different one, I will happily try it.
After the Bowen therapy, I was advised to only ride her in straight lines for a few days, so no school work. Great - particularly when I have a horse that I have suddenly become rather a lot more nervous of and which hasn't been ridden since before Christmas. But, I didn't want to waste my money by doing the wrong thing, so I dutifully hacked out, on what was possibly the most stressful hack I've ever been on. We saw everything that we could possibly not want to see: a huge field of pigs, all standing right by the track, who decided - all 60 of them - to bolt away from us as we rode past; a giant turf lorry hurtling towards us on the track; a truck pulling a bouncing flat-bed trailer appearing beside us out of nowhere.
Echo was very good, in fairness to her. She was scared of the pigs, but that's understandable. It just wasn't very calm. I then went out with someone else two days later and it was just as eventful; I had to get off her at one point to get her past a huge tap by a reservoir that was hissing madly and spurting out water - she probably would have been ok, but she wanted to give it a wide berth by going onto a turf field - and the farmers charge you by the hoof print for that!
I rode in the school on Sunday, in what can only be described as a gale, and then hacked out today. It was much calmer out - except that Echo felt like a coiled spring and spent the first 20 minutes pretty much passaging along - feeling like she was totally solid through her back and neck and not listening to me at all. She calmed downeventually and we did do some trotting today, so that was really good.
It WAS a really positive ride today, but I am just finding this all so stressful at the moment. I feel like I don't know my horse at the moment and it's making me nervous. I've never been nervous on Echo - not even when I backed her. She's just really unpredictable at the moment and it's really, really upsetting me.
Perhaps it's the saddle. If she is still uncomfortable, that does seem to have a huge impact on her temperament. I know she's had loads of time off and it will take time, but I don't feel like I'm making things any better at the moment and I don't really know what to do.
She's having another Bowen session hopefully at the weekend, which will be interesting, as if she's tight again then I will know that something is wrong - she'll have been ridden about five times since the last treatment by then, so if the tightness has come back then I'm guessing there must be a reason for it.
In the meantime, any words of advice or encouragement would be gratefully received - 'cos I don't really know what the hell I'm doing right now.