I have two saddles that I use on Dressy sort of alternately. Neither fits her perfectly. But we sort of skate along doing almost okay by changing them back and forth.
The first is the Barefoot London. It’s a treeless dressage saddle. It fits her very well, and she seems comfortable in it. But, after about 25 to 30 miles, she gets welts under the stirrup hangers (the rings that the stirrup leathers are attached to under the seat). Even the welts don’t seem sensitive when you put pressure on them, but she did end up with some white hairs for a while after the last time. I’ve tried a whole bunch of engineering tricks to overcome it… heavy leather plates under the rings, double layers of closed cell foam in the therapeutic pad, etc. And it only delayed the appearance of the welts. So it’s obviously not going to work for her in the long-term.
The second is my Australian saddle. It was custom fitted for King, so it’s really not the right shape for her. She’s actually fairly similar to King in how she fits a saddle (amazingly, as they really are very different types), since her withers are the same size, and they are approximately the same width across the shoulder. Dressy has a longer and narrower back though (and is 2 inches smaller in the girth LOL!). The Australian saddle is a pretty good fit in front, but is rubbing the hair off her loin area. It moves around at the back more than it should. When I use the Grandeur pad from the treeless under the Australian saddle, it’s actually pretty good. But I am unconvinced that she could go longer distances.
I have an old english saddle, called an “Olympia Competitive”, made in Walsall, England, that fits her beautifully. However, it’s in really rough shape. I think it must be 40 years old anyway. The stitching is rotten, and the leather is shredding. I don’t think it will last much longer if I put it into regular use.
So I’m researching saddles. And I’m soliciting suggestions. Does anyone have suggestions for a saddle that has good security (she umm… has an amazing “prop and wheel” when she spooks… who knew Standardbreds were that agile?), plenty of shoulder freedom for her big movement, lots of wither clearance (moderately high withers) but still a medium/wide tree, and would not cost the Earth?
I rode Ares yesterday. He is the Standardbred gelding that I have here who is looking for a new career. He’s a very sweet little horse. I think he’s around 14.3hh, so not very big. I had to find a 22 inch dressage girth for him. And both King’s and Dressy’s bridles are way too big for him, so we had to borrow Twister’s. But he moves like a big horse. Big fluid trot, and quite a nice canter on the lunge line. He’s very well behaved, but I think he’s going to be the sort of horse who likes to move out and cover ground. So maybe more of an intermediate horse than one for beginners.
Last fall I did quite a bit of work teaching him to lunge, and just getting him comfortable with the tack. He’s a worrier, but he tries his little heart out. And pretty nearly melts when you tell him he’s a good boy.
I got on and off him a few times in the stall, just to get him used to it. But then got so busy riding King and Dressy that I didn’t get around to doing anything else through the winter. Yesterday I decided that it was time to get back to it.
So I tacked him up and mounted him in the stall. Rode him around it a couple of times and then got back off to take him outside to the round pen. Jen held him while I got on, and then led him around the round pen a couple of times to let him get used to the feel of it. Then turned us loose. He was very good about it all. All we did was walk, since the ground was frozen with a scattering of tiny ice patches (nothing big enough to slip on, but not good footing). He had the usual sort of wobbly reaction to his first time carrying a rider. But he was very responsive and willing to try to do what I asked.
Jen took a bit of video with my camera. Isn’t he a little cutie pie? I think maybe Brooke will try to do one or two short mileage/set speed rides with him this year if we can’t find him a suitable home before then. She’s been taking him for little walks in hand around the back of the farm just to introduce him to the idea of trails. I think Brooke has a bit of a crush on Ares actually 🙂
I didn’t ride him today, but I did laugh when I greeted him in passing this afternoon. His eyes lit right up and he hustled right over to see if I wanted to talk to him. I think he was looking forward to getting some more attention.
I guess I’ll have to be grateful for the three days of good footing we’ve had. I rode Dressy Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Which ended up being around 15 miles. Although she hasn’t likely gained any fitness over this winter, I don’t think she’s lost much either. And it should be pretty easy to get her legged up in March/April once the footing stabilizes.
Yesterday, the temperature shot way up. So it was a lovely ride. But the snow all melted throughout the afternoon and overnight. Today, we are back to mud and ice. And again, the footing is either boggy, or slick. I think it’s supposed to freeze tonight. With any luck at all, more ice will be gone by then, and most of the water will have soaked in enough that we don’t get more sheets of ice everywhere. Though even then, the footing is likely to be rough and unsafe in places.
Environment Canada is predicting that the rest of the winter will be unseasonably warm. Mind you… Environment Canada WAS predicting an unusually cold and snowy winter back in November. And look what we’ve actually had. So I’m not going to put away my parka quite yet.
We did have quite a howling wind the other night. With a very minor amount of snow. That night I put the horses in stalls, and let Diego and Zamaluck into the run in at the end of the barn, since I was a bit concerned about the portable shelter in such a high wind. But I don’t think that shelter even shifted, despite the buffeting winds. I have to say that I’m really very impressed with how the shelter is holding up. So far, it hasn’t suffered any damage. No tears, no sags. It looks exactly like the day we put it up. Here is a photo I took of it today…
This winter we’ve been using small-mesh nets for hay. It’s very exposed up here on top of the moraine. There is little to no tree cover, and hay put on the ground outside tends to just blow away. And the hay nets slow down the horses so they don’t gobble it all down as soon as you give it to them… and then stare pathetically at you like starved abuse cases (that would be King and Twister for the most part… fat little Arab munchkins) for the rest of the day. It seems to work reasonably well. There is certainly less waste. Though I must say that they’ve become very efficient at extracting the hay, so I’m not sure that it’s slowing them down all that much. I have two different types. The one below is just two hockey nets from Canadian Tire that I laced together. So far, this one has lasted a few months and is working well.