Fit to be tried
May 16, 2014 Leave a comment
It’s been a long and frustrating month. After a few nice rides, Derby told me something was bugging his back, and I felt like I was fighting my saddle. so I switched from my Albion K2 to a fairly new Wintec 500, taking advantage of the riser system to make the saddle better fit Derby’s withers (and fairly meager top line.)
We had some okay rides but nothing great. For the most part, the last few weeks have, at the least, been exhausting and, at worst, have been just monstrously frustrating, marked by a resistant horse that just. won’t. move. forward.
Christy wondered if the saddle wasn’t impinging upon Derby’s shoulder, and indeed, it was. When he was tacked up, I checked, and she was right – reaching down between his shoulder and the saddle, I could feel the shoulder blade hitting the panel. We talked it over, and decided that the hollows on either side of Derby’s typical TB withers were the culprit.
The next night, I mustered my entire inventory of saddles (4) (Jesus), pads (2 sheepskin half pads, a Mattes correction pad, a Fleeceworks Perfect balance pad) and shims (two ThinLIne pads that have been cut to fit the Mattes pad, multiple different Fleeceworks options, felt Mattes imports, and for good measure, a yoga mat and box cutter, just in case,) and headed to the barn.
I widened the Wintec gullet, and added shims. Nope. Derby was still resistant, bracing and twisting his neck, and saying ‘Owwww.’ I tried the Albion with something that didn’t work, can’t remember at this point which pad it was. Plopped the Wintec on top of my Pro Choice Air Ride western pad, with the built up wither relief pads. Thank God that didn’t prove to be the miracle, because I won’t kid you, it looked pretty stupid.
Finally I pulled the Albion back out – after all, this is the saddle that was (once) fitted to Derby. It does have more flocking in the panels that fill the hollows next to the wither. I plopped it on Derby, with just a saddle pad, no half pad or anything else. Admittedly skeptical, I got on anyway. Things were better. When I asked him to go forward, he actually complied, rather than swishing his tail and pinning his ears.
I rode for maybe 10 minutes, and Christy agreed that we were heading in the right direction. But after being on and off Derby for better than an hour and a half, I took mercy on my patient horse and called it quits.
The next evening, I saddled up using the Albion with my Fleeceworks Perfect Balance pad, using just the front shims. We had the best ride we’ve had in a while. Derby felt more supple and flexible than he has in a while, and I was able to get him forward without begging. We even did a bit of canter work and the transitions were prompt and smooth.
So this is all great and certainly encouraging, but a new problem has cropped up, and it’s all mine. I’ve been struggling with (among other things) flexibility in my ankles. Getting my heels down has been a challenge – I’ve been unable to drop them below stirrup level. I raised the issue with my Pilates coach, and have been doing extra curricular work, using a standing desk for work and standing on an array of items, such as Foot Wakers and a balance cushion, working on stretching my heels down and improving flexibility in my ankles. I’m making progress – I an now actually drop my heel below my stirrup, enabling me to use my leg more correctly. But I’m still not solid in my base of support – this is a work in progress. However, if I have the saddle sting started, and can now concentrate a bit more on me, hopefully I’ll be able to build my stability in the saddle, and refinement of my aids.