July 7, 2014 Leave a comment
Apologies for the hiatus here on the blog. It’s finally summer, and I have been spending maximum time outside, basking in the sun. That awful winter still isn’t behind me, and I’ve been grateful for every nice day we’ve had, and have been trying to take advantage of all of them.
Anyway, Derby and I have some news for you, and I won’t kid you, I’m feeling a bit sheepish. We have a new saddle, and it’s an Isabell. A Bates this time, versus a Wintec. But nonetheless, an Isabell. For those that have lost count, this is Isabell #5.
- First Wintec Isabell, bought new. Sold shortly after purchasing, as I thought it didn’t fit Jag. (Kissing spines were the real problem.)
- Second Wintec Isabell, bought used. Kind of ratty.
- Third Wintec Isabell, bought used, was in pretty good shape. Sold ratty Isabell to another gal in my barn. Sold third Isabell when I bought the Albion.
- Fourth Wintec Isabell, kind of ratty, bought for a song. Still have it, but one of the screws is stripped and the gullet head is starting to crack, so I’m not actively switching the gullets out in this one It’s got an MW gullet in now and I ride Tucker in it.
- Fifth Isabell is the new Bates. And my Lord, it is heavenly. The seat has some memory foam padding, and the panels are super soft and comfy for the horse, especially as it has the Riser System that enables me to tweak the fit. Derby and I are both loving it. But more on that later.
The Passier I was trying didn’t work, and as I experimented with gullets and shims, it became clear that Derby really wanted a narrow saddle. If you’re looking for some savage amusement, try finding a narrow dressage saddle. No, custom doesn’t count. And that would be how I ended up with Isabell #5.
It is difficult to overstate how much things have improved now that I’m not fighting the tack. Derby is willing to move forward more freely. I’m more balanced so I can be effective. We’re doing better work, and it’s showing in his top line, especially in his neck. He has a new line of muscle along the top side of his neck, and I’m doing a better job of keeping him round, so that big bulgy muscle on the underside – the one he uses to brace against me – is getting considerably less work. We’re headed in the right direction, without question.
On the downside, it’s really interesting the impact that the last few months of battling with my tack has had on my riding – it’s been deleterious to the point I was so out of whack that I was having trouble trotting on the rail. Yes. You know, the same basic skill up-downers struggle with initially. I was so crooked and imbalanced that in an effort to stay under me, Derby would drift out from the wall. We simply could not travel straight! I had managed to become even more crooked and one-sided. Going to the right, things were okay. To the left, they fell entirely apart. Now, this isn’t a new problem, by any short stretch of the imagination. But months of being out of whack in the tack have amplified the problem. And fixing it has offered me more savage amusement.
At least I’m not alone. Christy has spent the last few weeks putting us back together, prescribing two-point and a variety of other exercises to help me regain balance and feel. She reconnected my non-functioning left leg with the rest of my body, and reminded me (again) to get off my inside rein and instead soften it, followed immediately with some encouragement from the aforementioned inside leg. Like magic, Derby started to fill up the outside rein.
Christy also noted that Derby’s responsiveness and suppleness both need work – while I was struggling so, I was hardly riding him out into contact or asking for correct bend. In fact, for a while he felt like a green horse, motorcycling around corners and bulging instead of yielding into contact. So in addition to me, we’ve been working on him simultaneously. We’ve made rapid progress, aided significantly when Christy managed to get my inside leg working again.
We also made a breakthrough on a big problem in my position this weekend. You can see it in the video and all the pictures in this post – I’m curling my lower leg back, which takes it completely out of the game in terms of effective aids, and it’s also very unsteady (I am not intentionally kicking him with every stride.) We finally figured out what I was doing wrong when Christy was able to get me to unhook my hip flexors, and use them for lateral aids rather than riding with them “always on.” I told her it felt like she had unhooked a cable in my legs that was the source of the tension (and curling) and in a way, she had. So the last few days I’ve been working on maintaining this new position – it still feels very foreign – but it’s definitely solving the problem. I’m eager for my lesson tonight, and I’m hoping to show a video with a much-improved leg in the near future!