Something very cool happened. After my New Years post about having more fun and focusing on enjoying the journey, I have found myself doing just that! Often times, when I’m driving home from the barn at night, I think about what happened during the day that I could blog about. And of course, usually by the time I get home all I end up doing is making dinner, taking a shower, doing some reading, and going to bed. But just thinking about what I’d blog about has made me more conscious of the small victories everyday. I think about each ride and something that went well, a small step forward, or something new that we tried that was fun. By thinking what I would write about (if I did write), my thinking has changed!
So, the recent victories…
Austin is staying really well connected in the trot now, I have precision steering, and can bend/change the bend with ease. He really feels like a dressage horse at the trot, and it’s taking minimal effort to ride that now! His canter transitions are much better, and I’m getting better balance and connection at the canter, but it’s still work to hold it together for any length of time. His body is noticeably changing though, and he’s obviously gaining fitness as well as significant muscle, so I’m pretty sure the canter will fall into place really soon. He is doing pretty good with leg yields and shoulder-in at the trot, and at the walk I have started to introduce haunches-in and half pass. He seems to find the lateral work really easy. He is also doing a really good turn on the haunches, which he seems to really like (dunno why, maybe he has some reining blood or something? lol). He is still a little easier with left bend than right bend pretty much across the board, but that is getting better too.
Liam has been super energetic with the cold weather, so instead of fighting him to slow down I’ve doing a lot of canter work, which he enjoys. He’s starting to get a canter half pass, although he still finds it challenging to stay collected and prefers to do everything with his shoulders. I’m sure it’s partly conformational, but I’ve been really paying attention to how his saddle is fitting lately, and I’ve been experimenting with different pads, and I’ve seen some improvement. So it’s hard to tell if he’s just having better days and then tired days as he’s working new muscles, but I think saddle fit is playing a role. He’s not as narrow as he once was! I would still like to see a better topline on him though, he doesn’t look muscled right to me, even though he’s getting the work done. Maybe it’s partly age (he’s 17 now), but I’m going to really try to put better muscle over his back and then watch how the saddle is fitting as he changes. His trot work lately has been great, and I’m starting to get a more adjustable trot stride (something that’s always been hard for him), and really nice lateral work.
Remy was getting better and better, then all of the sudden we hit a bit of a wall. I don’t know what happened, it might be that the cold weather came, but suddenly he just felt tense/tight and didn’t want to stay in front of my leg. I took a little break from the dressage for a week or so, and something interesting happened. First, I played with him loose in the arena (which he loves, I think whoever started him must have done a bunch of round pen work, he is so obedient even without a lunge line), and he was having a good time running around so I set up a little jump for him.
To say he’s a natural is an understatement. I got inspired and put my jump saddle on him, and was shocked to discover that I felt very secure and balanced, and that he felt light, forward, relaxed, and responsive. And, miracle of miracles, I could sit the trot. The jump saddle was easier to ride in than my dressage saddle! Talk about unexpected! My jump saddle is a medium tree and with my thick Fleeceworks pad with memory foam inserts, the saddle is still only an “ok” looking fit on him, but it doesn’t sit on his withers or spine so I figured a little ride would be ok (and he always tells me if he doesn’t like something!). I was shocked that we both felt so good that day, so of course, I did some thinking.
Between the great ride on Remy, and the lacking topline development on Liam, I started putting things together. I pulled out my Wintec gullet kit, and starting setting them on the horses. In the cross ties, Liam and Remy both easily fit in the narrow, which was the one the saddle fitter recommended as well. But then, when Liam was in his stall with his head down eating hay, his back looked different, so I tried gullets on him in that position as well. The narrow was WAY too narrow, the medium narrow still noticably dug into his muscles at the points, and the medium was a better, although slightly roomy, fit. It was a HUGE difference from when he was standing with his head up and back muscles not engaged. On Remy, with his head down and wither muscles popping out, the medium narrow is a snug fit, but doesn’t poke the way it does on Liam, but the narrow was a definite no-go. So, I pulled out Austin’s Isabel, with the medium gullet plate installed and set it on Liam and Remy. On Liam, it just barely cleared his withers with his head up, but looked better with his head down. On Remy it didn’t clear the withers, even without my weight in the saddle. Hmmmmm. I thought about that great ride I had in my jump saddle, and added my Fleeceworks + memory foam pad under the Isabell, which lifted the saddle enough to allow plenty of wither clearance on both horses. And then I proceeded to have AWESOME rides on both of them!
So my fingers are crossed that it wasn’t a fluke, but now the single digit temps have hit (thus I’m home blogging instead of at the barn riding…) so it will be a few days before I get to try again and see if maybe I’m really onto something there.