Thursday, December 2, 2010
I Think She Likes It!
I love it.
I do believe Cricket liked it.
I decided Cricket would be my guinea pig for testing the fit of the saddle. My sweet tolerant Bleu would probably be okay with anything, regardless of how it made her feel. Cricket, on the other hand, believes her opinion is law and has no problem letting me know when any little thing is amiss.
We started with a little ground play. Some stick to me - one foot at a time and then some "snappy come with me." Then on the 45' line we played with long-distance Touch-It and then some circles - one foot at at time and then some transitions trying to elicit a willing canter. Not too bad, not too good but I'll take it. Did a little extreme Friendly Game by running up to her and flopping against her. She was a little concerned at first but when the lunacy was coupled with some belly scratches, she decided the craziness was perfectly acceptable.
Then cam the big moment. Saddling her with the new saddle. She was a little grumpy, pinning her hears and turning her head. I just gave her cookies and she quickly decided it wasn't that big of a deal. I have her pad shimmed with the basic "wide shoulder, downhill" shim pattern. Figured that was as good a place to start as any.
Once I got the saddle on and relatively secure, I checked the front of the saddle. Holy Shoulder Clearance, Batman! I could fit my whole hand comfortable back to the stirrup bar area. There was certainly enough space to invite her up into the saddle.
I moved her around a little and got things snugged up. No resistance with mounting. Another good sign. We walked for a bit but my stirrups were really too long to do anything so I jumped down to shorten them. Took her back to the mounting block; again, no resistance to mounting.
We walked and trotted around the arena. She was stretching and pushing her back into the saddle. She was forward and open in the trot. She sort of offered the canter but I think I wasn't really ready. My stirrups were still a hole or two too long and I didn't have my helmet on. And there was just too much mental pressure for me. All that translated into tension between Cricket and me and she was a bit snarky about even offering the canter. No worries, there will be more rides.
She was very responsive to my leg and seat. We played with turns, curves, circles, sideways, transitions, back-up, etc. Everything felt great.
One thing I know - it takes more than the positive feedback from one ride to really evaluate a saddle. A poor fitting saddle creates pressure points that may not be affected by a new saddle. The first rides feel great because the already sore spots are getting relief and any new sore spots have not had time to develop.
Another thing I know - anything, and I mean anything, that remotely inhibits Cricket's movement causes her to bow up, buck, swish her tail, pin her ears, turn to bite, etc. It's instant feedback on whether something feels good. She has never once protested her ReactorPanel and we've been riding in that saddle for 2-3 years.
I'm pretty confident this is going to work for Cricket. I'm pretty confident it's going to work for me.
Oh, I tried to get pictures but the lighting was terrible (for photos, anyway). I'll take some better pictures and some video this weekend. I may even ride Cricket in both saddles and see if I feel/see a difference in her attitude, movement, etc.