After weeks of snow, sleet, ice, and rain Sunday dawned gorgeous with a high of 60F, blue skies and warm sunshine. I had picked up the new saddle Saturday morning and there was no way I wasn’t going to take it for a spin.
H’Appy was unusually calm walking in from the pasture and getting groomed. I tried to time the ride to happen right before his typical mid morning nap and I thought maybe the early morning warmth had taken the edge off of him. Yeah – I was very wrong.
The saddle fit just like the consignment one and he once again stood perfectly still with nary an evil eye or gnashing of teeth as I did up the anatomic, memory foam line girth. After struggling with the stiff, new billets for a while, I had him tacked up and ready to go get his work on.
He was gain calm as I walked him to the arena, but that cool exterior dissolved as I fumbled with the half broken arena gate. He squealed. He tried to pull away and run back to the Dynamic Duo. He was in general a Big Orange PITA. I made the smart decision to throw him on the lunge line first, you know to avoid death and all that, and he was visibly vibrating as I hooked the lunge to his bit and twisted the reins through the throat latch.
The moment I stepped away he exploded. He took off at an amazing gallop, digging into the soft arena footing more and more as he tried to pick up as much speed as he possibly could. His tail was flagged higher than I’ve ever seen even my Gemmie do in all her Arabian glory. He was bucking. But you know what? He stayed out on a perfect lunging circle, kept his inside bend never once put any pressure on the line, and kept an ear on me. So while yes, he wasn’t really actually behaving very well, he was being as polite as possible about his out burst.
Eventually he settled, and I began asking for transition w/t/c and when he was finally not finding every excuse possible to go cantering off, I switched directions and we began again although much more sedately. We were just about done on the lunge line, when he decided dragging his nose in the dirt was a good idea. He nearly kicked himself in the chin several times and then eventually managed to snag his reins and break the throat latch which, while annoying, is better than breaking himself or the reins sine I could still ride.
At that point I brought him in and walked over to the mounting block where he proceeded to stand perfectly still while I checked his girth, tightened it a hole, and mounted. In fact, he remained perfectly still until I asked him to walk on. Bonus points for him being a good boy.
From there I knew he really didn’t need much of a warm up. I mean, technically he probably could have used a cool down he was breathing so hard already, but I wanted to test out his attitude under saddle at the walk before moving on. I asked him to walk on, making sure I concentrated on my position and keeping his body between my aides. I let out several deep, slow breaths to try to erase any tension and got working on a large, full arena figure 8. He was listening pretty good, but I could tell he was feeling pretty ADD and needed things changed up frequently, so I began working on square turns as I made a serpentine down the arena trying to fit in as many turns and straight lines as possible.
Big Man did pretty good. He had a very strong pull towards the gate where Gem and Pete had wandered over and were standing judging us with heads hung over the gate, but I gave him extra praise for keeping his crap together and not throwing a tantrum when we turned away from them.
He was relaxed enough and doing his best to listen. I love watching his ear swivel back to check in with me. When we went to trot, it fell apart a little but honestly he kept it together way better than I anticipated he would. He offered to canter and it took longer than I would have liked to convinced him that I did in fact mean to trot, but he didn’t pull any bucks, head shaking or curling behind the bit maneuvers so I considered it a win. On my part, I really made sure that I sat tall, slowed my posting and relaxed my arms. I have the bad habit of asking for the trot and then shutting it down with my arms being too tense and I didn’t want to continue to make that mistake.
Once he gave me an actual trot circle without breaking to canter or halting, I gave him a walk break wherein I praised the crap out of him before picking it back up the other direction. He wasn’t too thrilled with going back to work but eventually he got the memo that trotting was the easiest answer and we called it a day after nearly an hour of saddle time. He was really tired that night for dinner, barely keeping his eyes open to eat and even chose to forgo his typical 5 minute post meal wood chewing.
For being the first actual ride in 40 days (last ride that wasn’t a saddle fitting session was 11/6/18), he behaved better than I had hoped and while it wasn’t a super fun ride, I felt like we actually accomplished a few things: staying straight, focusing on me even with your BFF at the gate, trotting really does mean trot and not canter or tranter.
I’ll write about the saddle in a future post after I’ve had a few rides in it so I can give it a proper review, but for now I’ll just say that it fits us both really well, is super comfy and that Luxe leather upgrade was worth every penny.