It seems to have been our year for buying saddles. Although Brian has been largely happy with the bear trap, it seems lately to be causing some problems for Bear. Being that Bear is now 16 1/2 years old and we want to keep him healthy and fit as long as possible, we decided to look into upgrading Brian’s ride sooner rather than later. Luckily we’ve learned so much about saddles in the last year, he had a pretty good idea what to get.
Naturally as there are no tack shops in the entire region, we had to find something online. Eventually we settled on a used McCall wade style saddle.
When you have something like a new saddle, it’s hard not to ride even when conditions are not optimal. There was a pretty frigid wind from the north, and temps were in the teens. I pulled out my wool long underwear and piled on four layers up top.
The horses were stiff coming out of the pasture. Steen and Bear were the only two herd members using the wind block when we arrived, but nevertheless they were slow picking their way back to the barn. We got them groomed and tacked. I watched Brian mount and took some photos. Steen was in one of his goofy moods.
When I climbed on he was again feeling just a tad restless, but was pretty quick to focus and start paying attention. We worked through all the basics. My big focus of the day was getting a bit of collection for a few steps at the walk and the trot, and also varying the speed of those two gaits without breaking into a different one. Steen is definitely more tuned into my seat these days, and it’s more and more automatic for me to use it before my hands.
We went from there into the loping exercise, and though I made a point to pause between each lap this time, Steen once again got fairly riled. So I think we’re going to take a break from that one and go back to some less demanding forms of working on the lope. I returned to quieter work, and he was more than willing to calm down.
While I was working on slowing him down at the walk and seeing how slow I could make his footfalls without actually making him stop, I had an epiphany. This is possibly one of those things loads of people who ride horses have known all along and I alone have somehow missed, but basically I realized that a horse’s back shifts when they walk, meaning one side of his back is just a little further forward than the other when the front leg on that side is extended. As a result, if I’m really following with my body, my hips should be moving not only forward and back, but slightly swivel with each stride as well in response to which leg is reaching.
As soon as this thought went through my brain, I had a mini revolution with understanding where Steen’s feet are. If my hips are rotating just a tad with his every step, then by default I always know which of his front feet is forward in exactly the same way you know which of your own feet is forward when you’re walking. At the clinic Buck said, “When you’re riding well, the horse’s legs are your legs.” Now I know what he meant.
Of course, doing this at a slow walk in an indoor arena is one thing. Trying to hold on to that level of attunement through all gaits and environment will likely take years to master, but at least I’ve got a start.
Meanwhile, Brian had a very good ride on Bear. Bear started out very stiff in the haunches from the cold, but he warmed up quickly and Brian proceeded to have a higher quality ride on Bear than he’s had in a while. So we are hopeful the saddle will be a keeper.
Ride Time: 0:40
Horseback hours YTD: 99:30