Sunday, August 25, 2013

Saddle review - Freeform western saddle

I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Freeform western saddle that was coming on trial. I've had a Freeform Classic in the past and loved it for the trails, but when it came to arena work, it just didn't feel right - I couldn't get my legs in the right place and the saddle moved too much. I was hoping this saddle would be different.

The first day I got it and rode in it, I didn't like it. Same complaint as last time - I felt just *too* bouncy and all over the place. Mac was nice and forward, but I just couldn't find the right spot.

The next day I went on a trail ride in it and liked it much better. We walked, trotted, and cantered on the trails, went up and down hills, and had a normal trail ride. I got a good sweat pattern with a dry line down the spine and thought there may be hope. Here's how we look in the saddle.

Then I tried it in the arena one more day but again couldn't get with it. I just don't find it works well with dressage-type flatwork. As Mac's ribcage moves, the saddle goes to one side or the other with it (which in theory sounds like a good thing, but it makes me feel like I'm wobbling all over the place). If Mac decided to spook or buck, I'm not sure what would happen. That plus it made my knees hurt because of the fenders being stiff, and my hips hurt as well.

So I'm sending it back. Sigh.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Yesterday's lesson

I had a lesson with a new trainer yesterday. The lesson was more along following the things I've learned by taking this different path with Mac, so most of it was ground work. Lisa, the new trainer, came to my place to work with us and asked me about challenges with Mac. The two things that I need to learn how to help him with are his braciness (is that even a word?) and his reactivity. Sure enough, she saw his reactivity when she had me do an exercise with him and I shook the flag and he, well, reacted boldly. She saw and understood that he has a strong instinct to flee and so she had us do a few different exercises to work on that; at one point she took him and showed me a new exercise that I'll try on my own.

She had an interesting explanation for a couple different horse personality types. A fearful horse, she explained, will spend a lot of time in fear mode, then move into defiance mode, but won't spend a lot of time there. A bold horse will spend a little time in fear mode, and more time in defiance mode before deciding to be with you. In the case of a horse being in fear mode, we should keep calm and have an energy that doesn't escalate the situation. There may be times when the horse is in defiance mode that we have to be a bit louder to be clear with what we're asking. In either case, she said we should have black and white boundaries of what we want, no grey areas that might confuse the horse.

She has a bosal that she brings with her and we tried to put it on Mac, but his nose is so big that it didn't fit. Hers is a 9" and he clearly needs a bigger one. I'm going to a Bryan Neubert clinic at the end of the month and I'm hoping he'll be able to help me find a size/style that fits Mac.

At the end, for the last 20-30 minutes, I got on. She had me do some bending exercises which are exercises that I've done in the past, but she suggested a different way to do them that did work better, both for my position, and for taking the brace out of Mac and producing a softer result.

It is so interesting to be taking this path. Surely I could get on and WTC and "just ride," but I find the work I'm doing to be very interesting in "getting to" Mac, in changing his responses from hard to soft, in creating a partnership, in getting to what makes him tick and how we can best work together.

I've got a new saddle on trial - a western-style Freeform treeless saddle. It just came in the mail yesterday (but too late for my lesson) - can't wait to try it today!