Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Birth of a Saddle

So where did we leave off? Oh right, I was having my first ride in my new saddle.

I warmed up in some serpentines, feeling secure and confident. The stirrups just needed dropped one hole, so after that minor adjustment we were on a roll to warming up. Then Heather and Missy came down to meet us in the outdoor arena, so we got mildly distracted in conversation and watching Missy learn how to tie with patience.

Little four year old Missy is learning how to tie and stand quietly.
Back to our serpentines, I had to spend a little while getting Milo on the right rein - even with putting my shoulder back slightly, he would accept the contact but when asked to arc on the corner, he would try and swing his butt in and his shoulder out, drifting all crookedly. But after a few repetitions, he finally was arcing correctly with my hip rotation.

Into the trot we went and repeated the same exercise, which he picked right up. We moved into some nose in and hip out to strengthen his hocks. There were a few times where he felt like he had "a flat tire" again, but then there were also more times where he felt like he was laterally moving nicely. There were a few moments where I wished I had that Motivator stick with me, but I'm leery on spending $30 on one. I have my Clinton Anderson training stick, but naturally when I tried to find it I cannot. I usually keep it behind my tack trunk but it wasn't there. So I'm a little more than peeved about that being as that itself was a $30 stick. I'm hoping someone just used it and left it in the arena, I will need to check the indoor arena.

We worked on our figure eights, with the hip out nose in exercise, as well as some of the usual ones - arcing, change direction and change outside rein. I brought him around the top of the figure eight and asked for a leg yield which Milo did well. I repeated Sarah's suggestion of a few steps yield, straight, a few steps yield, straight, and Milo was doing well. So I upped it to the half pass with the same repetition pattern. Milo was half passing really well, this alternating exercise really works for him.

Being a good boy, I asked for the lope, which he lifted right up and straight into it. After a few circles he was trying to gain in speed and drop his back. This is a nasty habit of his that I think drives from previous fear of lifting into the saddle. We start out with a few nice circles, and as I ask for more lift and drive he starts to evade the spur and take it for speed, speeding up and dropping his back. I try and slow down my breathing and seat to encourage him to slow down, spur for lift, and touch on the reins as needed. It usually works on about the fifth try, which gets me kind of tense and frustrated because he isnt slowing down or lifting, and he gets agitated because he wants to go faster off the spur. But eventually he slowed down and lifted, loping nice circles and straight of ways.

When he was feeling balanced and engaged, I asked for some half passes at the canter. Milo beautifully gave a few steps so back to straight we went and repeated. I was very proud of him as last time I asked for canter half passes he would tense up and once even kicked out in frustration. I know its hard for him, but I was really happy to see that he understood what I was asking and trying even though it is new and difficult.

I put him into a counter canter, developing him for the lead change. We counter cantered around and around, and he started to try and break and change leads. I thought he was ready for the change as he was practically begging to swap leads, so I changed my hips and cued, and I got nothing. So back onto the counter canter we went and I realized I didnt have the shoulder control I should or elevation from it. So on the counter canter, I counter bended him and finally got some shoulder lift. When he was working really hard and really wanting to change, I changed my hips and cued and we got the lead change. It didnt feel really beautiful, but I was happy with it, bringing him to a stop after a few strides on the new lead. I let him walk out for a minute, thinking about the change. I dont think I had prepared him enough for it, because the change didnt feel like it came from the rear. Thinking back to it now, I think I should have solidified our matching hips when on the figure eights more then I did, relying more on my leg for him to arc or hip out.

But I loped him the other direction now, to prepare for the lead change the other way. Basically the same thing happened where he didnt change the first time, but changed the second time but felt a lot better of a change this try. Not only is changing from left to right easier for him because its changing onto the stronger hock, but I think I need to make sure that he really is set up and prepared correctly before attempting the change. Be it that we dont change that day, but I want him to really understand the cue to change. Granted, he did change the second time each try, but I felt that it was a little more luck then really solidifying the cue.

So I walked him out a bit and worked on some of the hock strengthening exercises Sarah gave us to better our spins. Again, I really needed that Motivator stick, as he kept wanting to lock his front end and cease forward motion - critical in spins.

Funny, throughout my ride in the saddle I only lost my stirrup once, where normally in my lessons I loose them at least twice. I also found that I have an easier time of putting my leg back at say C, whereas in lessons I always seem to get my leg stuck or caught on the rear cinch. Does my body really know that this saddle was meant for me? Or am I just getting more used to riding in a saddle again?

Heather wanted to get on to ride Milo and test out the saddle too, so she did. Milo, as always when someone new is on, tried testing her and at first didnt want to move. He thought he was done for the day too so was initially a little frustrated. But Heather is a competent rider and got him moving out. When I caught a glimpse (I was on Missy riding her) he seemed a little noodley in the neck so I reminded Heather that he rides off of the outside rein. She did pretty well on him considering he is always difficult for other people, and said she liked the saddle.

Heather on Milo
Aww, Milo wants to be done now. 
The danged mosquitoes are out already, and were bombarding poor Missy! Milo had tons on him but he didn't seem to be bothered much by them as Missy was. Heather got all her itchies..

Job well done, Saddle. 
All tucked in for the night. Thats right, the pink bareback pad got demoted from my saddle rack. It now resides in the tack box. Don't feel to bad for it though, I will probably still use it for lunch hour rides, where I dont have much time to tack up.  Still have to maintain my bareback seat!


in2paints said...

Sounds like you had a good ride on Milo! Does he feel any different in this saddle compared to the other saddles you've been riding in for your lessons? They're also this same brand, right?

I love the pictures! Especially the one where Milo is looking at Missy... too funny!

paint_horse_milo said...

in2paints - I dont think he feels any different, but this is the same bar saddle Ive used in lessons, only the reiner version not a trail one.

smazourek said...

What a pretty saddle! I'm a sucker for basket weave so I really like the tooling on it.

What kind of bit is that? I've never seen anything like it before.

paint_horse_milo said...

smazourek - Ive done a few posts on the Turbo Lifter Bit here:
and here:

hope this helps!

Story said...

What do you think of the smooth seat vs suede? It sure looks like a nice saddle. I'm having serious saddle envy.