Tag: Riding

Canter departs

Thirteen years ago, my horse somersaulted and landed on me when we were cantering during a riding lesson. I don’t remember what happened exactly. We were cantering down the long side at the end of the lesson and she felt magnificent: strong impulsion, light in my hands, and then something. The world spun and I slammed into the dirt face down between her legs. She kicked once with her back legs and hit my helmet on the temple. She looked around at me like “What are you doing there?” My right leg was underneath her body below the girth and still in the stirrup on the other side.

Isis’ canter had huge impulsion: every push-off with her back legs in a canter stride felt like someone shoving me. My core muscles would burn after riding that stride one time around the ring. It wasn’t a rocking chair, more like a rocket chair. All of her gaits were like that: splendid to look at but challenging to sit.

Except when she started tripping. She would fall to her knees sometimes, or other times it was like she couldn’t recover her movement and her legs wouldn’t cooperate. We would be trotting, and I’d feel her back leg give out like she had missed a step or her foot had landed in a hole. Dip, step, and keep moving.

After that accident, every ride on Isis was slightly terrifying. The once-desired feeling of cantering now posed a block, like a shut door locked by a traumatic event. She would trip multiple times during a ride. Isis shifted her weight when I mounted, planting her feet to stabilize herself. We walked, her gait felt steady, until it wasn’t. The ground suddenly got closer as she fell to her knees then pulled herself back up and started walking again. Even footfalls most of the way around the ring, except in the back corner where one step on her back left missed a beat. My hips dipped to the right with her misstep and recovery. We resumed walking. Every ride had episodes like this. 

My friends told me I shouldn’t ride her.  What if that horse has a metabolic disorder and has to be ridden or exercised in order to keep her medical issues under control? My hands shook after every ride. I was anxious before I would get on and anxious afterwards.

Isis died in 2011 but this part of our riding still lingers with me. I still tighten my core and my legs far more than I should. My hands still get sweaty when I think about cantering. 

There is no physical reason for me to be nervous about cantering Kasane. Kasane does not trip. She’s steady in her gaits and strong in her movement. No neurological issues. She’s light and willing to try things (and avoid doing what I ask, but that’s a training issue we’re working on). 

I ask her to canter and I lean forward like I’m off to the races. I should be sitting back and visualizing lifting into the canter with the lightest of aids. When I do that, Kasane does a canter depart and canters with a silky smooth stride. She’s wonderful and relaxed and reaching — when I am relaxed. 

Except most of the time I’m not. My legs are tight, my butt is tense, and she can feel all of that through the saddle. Her gait gets tighter and more like a pogo-stick with bounce instead of reach. 

And when I do relax, her gait is so easy to sit. It is a joy and a wonder to have the opportunity to even work on her canter after a year of not knowing if we would be able to continue riding after rehab last year. 

We’ve made huge progress, the Bay Wonder Mare Jr and I. We’re a team. She’s schooling First Level at home with shoulder-in, leg yields, and haunches in (still working on this). She is doing trot extensions with impulsion that make me laugh with delight. 

One last canter depart to fully let Isis and the anxiety of “what-ifs” go so my girl and I can enjoy her rocking-horse (and not rocket-horse) gait. 

Pain in the butt after riding

After riding yesterday, my tailbone has been very sore. Sitting hurts. Riding is out of the question. This is unacceptable. I am so tired of not being able to ride consistently. I’m going to see my regular doctor and hopefully get a referral to an orthopedic specialist.

This sucks. I’m tired of riding and then having a pain in the butt, feeling well enough to ride, and then riding… and having a pain in the butt again.

I’m off of riding until this is resolved. No more relapses.

Dealing with resistance when riding

It is easy to feel frustrated because I don’t know what to do when Kasane says “no I don’t want to do this.” I know how I used to ride: I’d insist that she do something. With Isis, if I insisted and she wasn’t clear on what I was asking (or more likely I wasn’t sure of how to ask her to do what I wanted), it would end up escalating. Where escalating means that I might kick her and really push her. And then I would be mortified and frustrated because it didn’t feel right but I didn’t know what else to do.

Saturday I talked to Jennifer (dressage instructor) about what I can do to work through times when Kasane resists what I’m asking. It was enlightening because on Saturday Kasane started pulling the same thing she had been doing earlier in our ride on Friday. She didn’t want to keep an even tempo, she was evading contact, rolling from a trot into a canter, etc. She’s a great mare but she can be a handful.) Again, I wasn’t sure exactly how to deal with it.

Jennifer luckily had a little bit of time to be able to watch me ride and give me some pointers. She noted that Kasane’s speeding up and slowing down was indeed an avoidance. She wanted to do what she wanted to do and how dare I ask her. In fact, letting her stretch long and low on Friday night was letting her do what she wanted to do. Not necessarily a bad thing, but she needed to also understand that yes, it’s okay if I insist on something. It’s really a lot easier to do what I ask instead of doing yet more work.

This was what I learned that surprised me. Half-halts have a lot more uses than how I used them. I’ve usually used them for downward speed transitions, like from a trot to a walk for example. My old cue was to squeeze the reins slightly. Not hard, but enough to momentarily increase contact and then return to regular contact. Jennifer taught me a more subtle cue: squeeze with your upper thighs like you are giving them a hug. Gradually, Kasane understood what the cue means and now we can do that instead of pulling on her mouth.

The half-halt can be a way of saying “are you with me?” and checking in when riding. She had me use the half halts in the places where Kasane was speeding up or drifting off the line we were riding. Sure enough, lots and lots of little half-halts. The half-halts did not nag her, instead we suddenly communicated a lot better because we were both paying more attention. The surprising thing was that Jennifer said she might do hundreds of half-halts in a ride.

Kasane being ridden in the ring
Kasane being ridden in the ring

Then came the moment when Kasane became resistent (head up, shaking head, etc.) and did not want to work in a circle at the Scary End of the ring. She was being silly but I didn’t know what to do. Luckily Jennifer hadn’t left yet and saw me having trouble. She came back into the ring and reminded me of some cues I already knew. If Kasane wants to look to the outside, I needed to set my inside arm against my side with steady contact. The outside had opens and provides support. Inside leg pushes her towards the outside while the outside leg provides support. (I hope that makes sense.) It worked. I was asking her to work harder every time she tried to look to the outside instead of being focused with me.

This kind of riding is really like dancing. There are so many things to remember and do. Jennifer pointed out I knew the cue to use to help ride through the problem but I don’t always remember when to apply it.

In some cases, this feels like such a break through because with Jennifer’s help I could ride through what Kasane was doing and not feel frustrated. Instead there was a calm “yes, this is what we will do, and you can do it!” kind of feeling. And boy, doing half-halts while doing a posting trot is a real work out.

Adventures when riding with contact

I usually ride English so I’m riding in a loose ring snaffle bit. Kasane has a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra 4 3/4″ snaffle with small losenge like piece in the middle of the snaffle. Rajiyyah’s bit is a similar design, except it has a copper mouth piece. When I ride Kasane, we usually ride with light contact so there is a direct line from my arm to her mouth. The connection is made by the give and take we have when we ride — she moves, my arm moves, etc. Kasane has learned that it’s okay to have contact and she accepts it. So when I pick up the reins with her, she gives (usually) to a very light touch.

Rajiyyah is a completely different critter. When you pick up contact with the reins, she gets defensive. Her neck tenses and her gait feels short-strided and hard. It’s like riding something that feels scattered, as if her feet are any where but underneath her. (It didn’t help that the Evil Monster was over in the scary corner of the ring on Sunday. It took a lot to rider her in circles at the far end of the ring. She didn’t calm down back there, but she did at least do what I asked when she tried to look out and I asked her to bring her attention back to me.)

When I ride Rajiyyah on a very loose rein, she relaxes and is a completely different horse. If I pick up contact, she stiffens and the pounding, short-strided gaits emerge. We’re doing therapy with her to help her have fun under saddle. She has the potential to be a very cool little mare. Every now and then I see hints of it. We’re taking this one step at a time.

I’m a good rider but I’ve only ridden horses who were not finished. No learning opportunity to regularly ride a horse with more knowledge than me because I’ve trained every horse I’ve had. When my knowledge ran out, I didn’t know what else to do. If I didn’t have other people to talk to and learn from (and often learn with), I’m not sure where I’d be in my riding. When I was in Tennessee, I didn’t have many people to ride with or to talk to about riding. If I didn’t have Jennifer (dressage instructor), Chris (barn owner, natural horsemanship person) and Jon (hunt seat instructor, barn owner), I don’t know what I would do. I’d be at my wits end with both of my girls because I’m at the edges of my knowledge on what the next step needs to be to help them.

Trail ride report

On Sunday morning, Tara invited me to come with her on a trail ride around the farm. The trail ride was fun and enlightening. Kasane was pulled out of the stall, saddled, and away we went (instead of working her in the ring first). Tara rode Rooster (Friesian/Paint cross), Carmen lead Geronimo (standardbred/QH cross), and I was on Kasane. We headed out down the road and past the pastures, and then along the woods past the pond. Eventually we end up in a loop around a subdivision that is full of mini farms.

She was so excited to be going out. She kept trotting and catching up to Rooster and the sticking her nose on his butt. (They are stall buddies / boyfriend-girlfriend / neighbors.) She loves him when she’s in heat and likes him otherwise.

Interesting features encountered include people fishing (with plastic buckets! oh no! and chairs and baggies and plastic buckets!), lots of dogs, Rottweiler, gate, pond, and bridge crossing. Rooster, who has been out and seen a lot of stuff, was backing up and not wanting to lead past the buckets. So my brave baby said “I can do this.” She walked up to everything looked at, and walked by. The people were great, too. They stopped and talked to us and didn’t cast their fishing poles (phew).

Going by the gate is a bit harder. There is enough space at the end of the gate and tree to squeeze through. If you are 6 feet and your horse is 17 HH then fitting by isn’t a problem. I hit my knee squarely on the fence post, so Kasane and I always have to navigate through the woods to get past the fence. She’s been getting better about that. She doesn’t worry so much that the other horses will leave her.

There is a small bridge on the trail that we have to cross. I’ve lead Kasane across it, but haven’t asked her to ride across it before. The bridge isn’t very wide or long, maybe 8 feet at most. It’s made of wood and someone had the bright idea to cover it with gravel. When you walk across it, you can feel it bounce under your feet. We always go one at a time. Rooster went first and Kasane was very close behind him. She crossed beautifully, no hesitation, but it felt like her feet with all scattered — like a foal on ice. She was perfect though. No complaints from me.

Just up from the bridge, Tara asked if I’d like to trot. Sure! We hadn’t trotted on a trail with another horse so away we went up the little hill on the nice wide trail. The entire time Kasane had her nose hovering over Rooster’s tail like she was going to bite it. Her ears were not back. It was like one of those “I’m gonna get ya” moments. She
was such a goof. So strange to ride her like that. She was really moving out to keep up with Rooster, meanwhile her head is cocked sideways and she’s trying to chew on his tail and not responding much when i asked her to back off. But she wasn’t scare of anything. Which was awesome. She is very very brave.

She lead the trail on part of the way back. You should have seen her moving out and walking with such huge strides. She out paced Rooster easily. I was so tickled with her. The dogs that came along side us in the subdivision didn’t bother her. Even the three little yappy dogs didn’t bother her. What got her was when the attack miniature horse
charged up along the fence and stopped next to her and snorted. She shied at that a little. We all started laughing.

Rooster lead the way when we got back to the pond and headed back home. We got up past the buckets (they were all good about them now and not worried) and turned out of the woods into the fields. That’s when the big Rottweiler, Max, charged up from behind and started barking. Tara stopped Rooster and turned side ways to face Max. Kasane skidded and then we did the same. She wasn’t worried. She looked at Max, and, like Rooster, started eating. I was so proud of her! Isis would have charged off and gone bonkers. Dogs made her exceedingly nervous.

That was our trail ride. I didn’t have a chance to take pictures. My cell phone is awkward to handle when riding. I wear gloves and have to take them off to use the cell phone to take a picture.

Saddles and shoes

Since Kasane has been undersaddle, we’ve gradually discovered and corrected several problems. We did a saddle fitting and discovered that my Courbette Magic dressage saddle didn’t fit her at all. Got a new saddle which made a huge difference.

Over this past winter, I’ve noticed Kasane moving oddly on her back legs. For example, her stride when trotting looked uneven like the paces were not the same between one side and the other. Sometimes it looked like she favored one back leg (i.e., her stride was shorter with her back left verses her back right), and another time she appeared to favor the other leg. Never consistent. When she seemed to be off like that, we would work a little to see if she exercise helped her work out of it (nope). She would have a few days off just in case she had pulled something being stupid out in the fields. We would then resume work and see how she was.

My dressage instructor, Jennifer, asked if Kasane might be a little tender footed on her front feet. Jennifer had noticed during lessons that Kasane didn’t seem to push off as much on her hind legs as much. This made me start thinking about how she moves and when she moves best. Over the next few weeks, I made mental notes of her movement when the ring was soft after a rain or when the footing was harder. We have a nice riding ring: the footing is good, but it can get a little hard even though it is dragged regularly. There are some small stones, but nothing major. Nothing I would have considered.

So we did an experiment. Instead of trying to have the vet out and do a lameness exam ($$$), I decided to try front shoes ($) on her sparkly toes. What a difference!

This first video is of Kasane being ridden in her old saddle, the Courbette Magic dressage saddle. This saddle fit Isis beautifully, but was too long for Kasane. That’s why the saddle looks like it’s too far forward on her. She never tracked straight when being ridden in the Magic saddle. She would two track — and no wonder with pressure over her kidneys and pressure on her shoulder blades. My brave little girl never complained. I felt so bad when we found out how much the saddle didn’t fit her.

This second video shows Kasane being ridden in the Prestige Monoflap dressage saddle. She uses her shoulders a lot more than in the first video. See how she reaches more with her front legs? She is more animated and her stride is longer. This new saddle is amazing. I love it and she moves like a complete different horse in it. This video has my dressage instructor riding in it.

And finally, a video from this past week showing Kasane being ridden in the Prestige dressage saddle with her new front shoes on. The biggest change is how much she reaches up underneath herself with her back legs. If you watch her walk, you’ll notice that her back feet land in front of the hoofprints from her front feet. (This is very good.) She is now pushing off more with her hind legs. Her back sways more, she reachers more with all of her feet (instead of just her shoulders — which was the big change with the new saddle). With her shoes on, she is using herself more, which means she can be more athletic — and I can ask more of her doing our rides. It’s like suddenly having running shoes instead of trying to run in high heels.

Overall, pretty awesome. Now I just have to correct my own riding issues with keeping my balance and not dropping my shoulder (which causes her to drop her inside shoulder).

The quality of autumn sunlight

The quality of the light is different as summer fades into fall. The humidity haze burns away and is replaced by a golden glow at dusk.

I couldn’t wait to get out to the barn on Tuesday. It was perfect riding weather. I would only have enough time to do a little with Kasane besides treating the scratches (rain-rot like scabs) on her legs. Not enough time to ride, but enough time to have some fun. We walked around the perimeter of the farm with one of my friends who was working with her four year old gelding. He was perfectly behaved. Kasane was up and snorting when her pasture mates trotted by. She ignored where I was. We walked, whoa-ed, turned around, repeated. Brought her back to focus on me. And we continued. When we got back to the barn, she walked all over me when I asked her to whoa.

Underneath all of it, I was frustrated. I felt like my relationship with her wasn’t as strong, wasn’t as focused as it has been in the past. I was frustrated at feeling like she wasn’t paying attention and that she was being stupid and doing things she knew better than to do. When she stepped into my space and ignored my usual queue to move away from me (raising my hand next to her neck), I tapped her neck with the back of my hand. No effect. So I had to use some force with my hand and she moved over but still didn’t pay attention to me. She was more interested in the horses in the other pasture. I had an impulse to really get after her, and didn’t.

I stopped myself and asked what am I doing that is causing this? Was it that my focus wasn’t with her? Why was I feeling frustrated with her and why did it seem like she’d rather not be there with me? (Later on, I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to be there with me.)

We went into the round pen and worked on getting her to focus on me. I focused myself, tried to let go of the frustration, and focus on her. To be there with her instead of scattered some place else. After a few minutes, she did, and we followed each other around the round pen. Relationship repaired for the evening, but not back to where we should be. That will take more work. More back to basics and giving her fun things to do instead of boring stuff. (That’s a topic for another post.)

I cleaned her legs off and treated the scratches with ointment. We walked back out to the field and I stayed with her while she started to graze. A few times she walked away from me and my heart sank. (Yes, I know, applying human emotions onto a situation that didn’t warrant it since other horses higher in the herd order came over to see if the human had treats.)

Kasane used to canter up to me when I came out to the field. She used to yell for me. She doesn’t now. She doesn’t greet me at the gate. Some times she lifts her head when I walk out to the pasture to get her. She at least doesn’t walk away. Still. It speaks to me of things to work on so she is interested in what we are doing. It’s work, but good work, to be aware of and to correct.

I stood out with her until the sun set and I was the only one left at the barn. The light was so different than it had been even a few weeks ago. I kept thinking about how Kasane was with me now and how we had been together. Mulled it over, tried to figure out what had changed.

I walked back to the barn. The barn aisle was dark except for the light from the tack room. The air smelt of dust, apples, and leather plus a chill crispness. Sitting in the tack room chair, I realized the last time I had felt that chill in the air while taking off my paddock boots was almost a year prior on a night I said goodbye to Isis. I had sat in that exact chair, changing my shoes when her body was pulled by the tractor from the paddock to the front of the barn.

Some times the quality of the light triggers memories that aren’t about the time of day or the mare standing next to me. It’s the memory of the thousand-pound hole in my life left by Isis who died last year on October 11.

I am trying to remember the good times. Trying to remember how she was back to herself for her last week. Most of the time I’m okay. I get through work, but being out at the barn with Kasane is different. She senses that difference. She isn’t with me when we’re walking because I’m not really there either. Part of my mind is grieving still.

The sadness is buried underneath the joy of riding, the delight in my favorite time of year to ride… but then I walk outside and see the clear light at sunset. Light best appreciated from the back of a horse. It was the quality of the light reflecting off of a copper bay coat. The yell every time I walked into the barn and Isis poked her head out.isis_window.jpg

And I have to let her go again by letting the grief go. I have been in tears writing this. I know what I have to do to let go of the grief. It’s not something I have wanted to face again. It’s like knowing you have a pain that touches so many areas and you can only ignore it for so long. It bubbles to the surface and interfere so I can’t run. I have to work through it. And let her truly go so the grief is transformed to happy smile remembering her antics and the joy she brought to my life.

Isis out on the trail. Best view in the world.
Isis out on the trail. Best view in the world.

And the clear light this fall can shine on her memory… and on the darker brilliant bay coat of Kasane.

Kasane being ridden in the ring
Kasane being ridden in the ring

Intrepid jumpers

Last week at the barn, we had a special jumping session to introduce the horses to some of the crazy things you might come across with jumps. Sylvana and Tara came up with some crazy, amazing jump “enhancements.” Okay, most of the time you probably won’t be asked to jump stuff animals or comforters. We had our three six year olds: Kasane, Sylvana’s Renegade, and Tara’s Rooster. Kasane was the smallest of the group, at only 15.1 HH, but she was so brave.

The first session was all in-hand. Kasane willingly approached every jump and carefully checking it out. She then walked over it. I was so proud of her.

Week 2.5 of riding bareback

I never expected to be having great schooling rides bareback. We’re walking and trotting bareback and I’m not losing my seat any more. The differences in how Kasane responds to my aids are subtle but amazing.

For a while, we had trouble free lunging. She’d race from one corner to the next and not pay attention to me. We’ve had several weeks of primarily lunge line work using larger spaces. We’re still working on rehabilitation from the stifle injury, so we aren’t doing any small, tight circles. I walk in large circles with her when we lunge, so it’s more like a huge oval than a circle.

Monday she was better free lunging: instead of galloping around me, she (mostly) paid attention. She kept ignoring me when I’d ask her to walk on. Instead, she would stop and eat grass and be like “Oh you want me to do something?” She’d wait until I was next to her and then mosey a few steps and keep eating. I had to get after her. I don’t normally do that, and I always feel bad when I do, but better to have one sharp reminder and then be gentle again instead of nagging at her. She at least didn’t stop in the corners and then gallop to the next corner and stop and then gallop to the next corner. We only lunged for a little while, long enough to refresh her memory on what it meant and then reaffirm that she would free lunge well.

And then we rode. Bareback again, since I’m currently saddle-less. Kasane and I are getting used to being bareback now. I feel like my seat is back: that I’m secure on her and can (mostly) handle things. I would probably be okay even if she did a 180. The coolest thing? We’re getting to where Isis and I were when we rode: where I can think something and she does it. I thought “Let’s trot a figure 8, nice and gentle trot, nice wide circles for the figure…” She did it, too. We trotted the circle and did transitions to a walk and whoa (mostly) without touching the reins. All of the turns were just by gently turning my hips and thinking where I wanted to go. So awesome to feel that connection and be able to ride like that.

When we rode with the saddle, she would drop her back and ride with her nose out. At first we thought it was just because she was a youngster and I hadn’t asked her to come down onto the bit much. I think she was poking her little nose out because the saddle hurt her. (I am glad that I’m a good rider. It would have been so much more uncomfortable for her.) And now, she comes down onto the bit so much easier when I ask. She’s so light for queues. Just delightful. When I gave her a longer rein, she stretched her head down and really started using her back and legs. She was so relaxed.

Awesome ride. We’re really getting there. Having to ride bareback for a few weeks has been a real boon.

Riding in the Prestige Venus K

Today was the second day of the test ride in the Prestige Venus K monoflap. Yesterday when I rode, it was in the small square ring behind the barn. That ring is on a slight incline and not quite large enough to have a straight line for any distance. Kasane did very well in the small ring yesterday, but I didn’t have a chance to ride in the larger ring because of a lesson going on.

This afternoon was a good opportunity to try riding in the saddle in the larger ring. I lunged Kasane on the line and then put the saddle on her. Chris fro the barn kept me company and watched Kasane while I road. This was the interesting part: I hadn’t had someone watch me ride Kasane to report how she moved in the Venus K saddle versus my Courbette Magic dressage.

Since I first started riding Kasane, she took a while to start to track properly (for her front feet and back feet to track the same hoof prints). I had thought it was because she was adjusting to having a rider, etc. I never thought it might be the saddle fit. Chris said that from the time I asked Kasane to walk on after I got on her, she tracked straight. That’s a HUGE difference. Kasane was also more forward at the trot. She felt freer with her movement.

Chris corrected my position a few times, which was very helpful. She pointed out that I was holding my hands at an angle instead of thumbs up. (I was taught to hold my hands at the same angle as the horse’s withers.) Once I corrected where my hand position, Kasane responded better to the reins. At one point, Chris had me stop and drop my stirrups. She checked the position of where the saddle puts my legs and where my legs fall naturally (great match). We decided that my regular stirrup leathers were set too short, but we weren’t able to fix them at the time.

Towards the end, I asked Kasane to trot again. This time I sat and rode like I was riding Isis (sitting back, riding by visualizing lifting up the front end and freeing her shoulders). We trotted around the end of the ring and then turned to trot across the middle and changed direction. When I did that, I heard Chris say, “Oh my.” 🙂 Chris said that was the first time she had ever seen Kasane trot with suspension (in other words, Kasane had lift and hang time in her trot.).

BIG improvements. Chris, who has watched me ride Kasane since the first ride, said it was the best she had ever seen Kasane — and it was the best she had ever seen me ride.

Wow. Huge endorsement for this saddle.

Comparison of saddle length

For comparison purposes, here is a picture of Kasane in the Courbette Magic Dressage. I took these pictures to show off the new saddle pad, but they turn out to be pretty good at showing the saddle fit. See how long the saddle panels are? You can tell by where the saddle comes over her back — it comes over her lumbar. When you look at the front of the saddle, see how the middle of the seat doesn’t look balanced? It looks tilted a little forward? That’s another problem. (These pictures were taken after riding.) The saddle would shift forward a little. I always felt tilted forward on her, but I thought it was just because she was in a growth spurt and had been butt-high for a while.

For comparison, here is the Courbette Magic on Isis. I purchased this saddle for her, and it fit her very well. Notice where the saddle length ends and how the center of the seat is balanced.
DSCN0864.JPG

Here is the Prestige Venus K monoflap on Kasane. See how much shorter the panels are? The seat ends before her rib cage, so I’m not riding on her lumbar. The seat is also balanced and not tipping forward.

Saddle fitting pictures

Here are pictures of the saddle fitting. After the saddle fitter took Kasane’s measurements, we went through most of the saddles in the shop to find one that fit me and had short enough panels for her. Most of the used and new saddles I sat in didn’t fit my seat bones.

The Prestige Venus K monoflap fit my seat and was so very comfortable. (It is the pretty saddle with the fancy stitching on the flap and the large knee blocks.) Generally I don’t like large knee or thigh blocks because they usually get in the way. The Bates Innova dressage saddle has such large thigh blocks that riding in it makes me feel like I wouldn’t be able to get out of the saddle in an emergency. You are locked into place. The Venus doesn’t feel that way. The tree width (gullet size is 32 cm) and panel length were good for Kasane.

The Prestige Gallileo fit my seat okay, but I didn’t like the thigh blocks on it. They hit my leg in the wrong position. The blocks didn’t pinch, but they felt like my leg would go numb after a while. The saddler said that he could change the thigh blocks so they velcroed in place and could be changed. I have no doubt that the saddle fitter could make those changes — he’s a master saddler. I just hate to spend that kind of money on a saddle without it fitting me perfectly. The saddle flaps are fitted over the thigh blocks. I don’t know how the saddle would look if those blocks were modified and the panels were still molded to the old shape. In addition to changing the thigh blocks, the gullet would have to be exchanged for a smaller size and the panels would have to be reflocked to match Kasane’s back. (Reflocking is included in the cost of the saddle.) The saddler preferred how the Gallileo fit because the panels were shorter than the Venus.

Bareback

No saddle that fits properly so we’re going to ride bareback. This should be fun since Kasane isn’t crazy about having dangly legs on her side without the saddle. A good learning opportunity.

My legs are going to be in great shape.

Dressage saddle fitting for Kasane

Day started early. I was at up at 7:45, tried to go back to sleep, dozed until 8:15. At the barn to meet the farrier by 9:30. Groomed Kasane and Prize and then had their feet trimmed. The farrier said that both of them had great feet, so that is always good news. No thrush (foot disease), no strange cracks, no blemishes. Just good strong feet.

We had a full house today with two students at the barn for lessons at the same time I was ready to work Kasane. I free lunged Kasane in the small ring behind the barn. Initially she was very good but then got a wild hair and took off at a canter, bucked my way a few times, stopped in the corners, took off when I approached, and then bucked some more… She was obviously feeling good. When she does things like that, I will work with her to try and get her to cooperate. Some times she calms down, other times she gets too excited. Today was one of those days, so I put her on the lunge line and we went did walk, trot, canter on the line. She was very good (except for one little bit when she pulled on the lunge line). I took the line off and asked her to go around again, and she did. No more stopping in the corners. Poor little girl was breathing pretty hard by the time we had finished lunging.

I put the dressage saddle on then and we just walked around the small ring. We trotted a few times around but mostly focused on walking and bending. After a little while, I went into the big ring with one of the other students and rode around at a walk and a little bit at a trot. Kasane seemed reluctant to back when asked — not like her. Normally when you ask her to back up, she slides back evenly. This time she was braced / tight in her movement. I asked her to pivot on her forehand, which she did, and then we stopped (ending on a good note). I rode for about 30 minutes, the longest ride we’ve had since she’s been healing.

At that point it was time to load up and go to the saddle fitting appointment at tack shop. The barn owner and I took Kasane and Missy for a fitting. They behaved very well — surprising, considering there were cows in the field near the ring where I turned Kasane out. She had never seen cows before up close. She looked at them, snorted. And went back to grazing. Definitely not phased. Maybe I have a future cow horse. Who knows?

Kasane had never had the dressage saddle fitted to her. I had thought the Courbette Magic dressage saddle fit Kasane well, but the saddle fitter, Dennis, discovered otherwise. He did tracings of her withers, measurements, etc. When he placed my saddle on Kasane, he noted that it wasn’t balanced very well for her. It tipped back. The billets where the girth attach are too far back and therefore don’t let the saddle sit properly when the girth is attached. This can cause the saddle to move and shift.

Sure enough, when Dennis felt around Kasane’s back, her right scapula was sore and her back on the right side and left side where the end of the saddle sits were also sore. She flinched away from his finger pressure. Poor girl.

This was all a huge surprise. I really thought my saddle had fit her pretty well. Normally, saddles can be customized to fit a horse by reflocking the wool underneath a saddle in the panels — if the saddle is flocked with wool. My Courbette dressage saddle has foam so nothing can be done. The billets could be readjusted but it would be very expensive. the saddle would still have to be padded to fill in areas with shims in a saddle pad. These aren’t good options for the long term comfort of her back. The panel length under the saddle is too long (20 inches). Kasane is short backed and should have a saddle that is 18-19 inches in panel length that are not gusseted.

Basically right now I don’t have a saddle that fits her. My all purpose saddle has the same tree as the dressage saddle. However, it’s flocked with wool, so something can be done with the tree. (The billets are different in the saddle so that should help.) I left my all purpose with Dennis. He’s going to call me with an estimate for reflocking the saddle (which involves removing all of the padding on the saddle panels, refilling them to customize them to Kasane’s back shape).

We tried some of the saddles in the shop on Kasane, used and new. The two saddles that fit my but and had short enough panels were the Prestige Venus K Monoflap (drool) and Prestige Gallileo. I sat in a lot of saddles and the only ones that fit my seat were the two Prestige. I definitely preferred the monoflap.

Saddles are very expensive. A “cheap” dressage saddle is $1,000. When you buy a saddle for a horse and have it custom fit to the horse, then you are making an investment in the both the soundness of your horse and in the saddle itself. A well made saddle lasts decades with proper care. My Zaldi all purpose is over 20 years old, and barely looks used. My Ashely and Clarke saddle that Mom has was given to me when I was 13 and still looks great. I take good care of my saddles and tack.

With saddles, in general, you get what you pay for. Besides the cost of the horse, the saddle is the next biggest cost. I’ve been very lucky with the saddles I found for Isis. Right now, I have to go to the various tack shops and sit in all fo the saddles. Find the models that fit me and will fit Kasane. Then I start looking for used saddles that are more reasonably priced.

Gym and not riding

A “perk” of the apartment complex where I live. Half of the machines look um… well used, so I won’t touch them, but the elliptical machine and the treadmills are fine. Yesterday, I started an actual workout program and went to the gym by myself for the First Time Ever. It might not sound like much, but considering I’ve only been to a gym to work out twice before (and then with a friend), this was a big step.

I rode a lot (for me) this year: two to four times per week, some times more, up to six hours of riding (when daylight and weather allowed) for the week. I’ve been in pretty good shape, so now I don’t want to lose it over winter. Because Kasane has a stifle/soft tissue injury currently, she’s off for a month (and potentially longer) until she heals. I’m not going to be riding for a while so I don’t want to lose the muscle tone I’ve built.

A friend of mine at work has agreed to be a gym buddy with me and use the gym at work. If I can keep using the elliptical and treadmill at home, then I should be good. We’ll see how my knee and ankle deal with it…

What do you do to stick with a workout program?