Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trialling the RP Tribute Saddle #2

Finally a successful ride this morning! - albeit only three miles, and only down my lane - so mostly smooth dirt road trotting, nothing technical or twisty. But at least I felt like things were coming together for the first time.

Before we even started, I moved the stirrups to their forward-most position in the hope that this would tip me back off my feet and stop my body flailing around. The stirrup leather mount sits on a bar with four grooves in it for four possible placement options, and you can move the mount forwards/backwards about 3-4". Yesterday the stirrups were on the second slot, while today they were on slot #1:

I also used a breast collar this time around, to keep the saddle in position and stop the backwards slide that was going on yesterday.

Both of these modifications were a great success - the saddle stayed put (and therefore slightly higher at the front, resting on his withers) and Lucy started to look again a little like someone could ride (although I still don't have any stopping muscles at my disposal, so most downward transitions involve me toppling forwards like a marionette with cut strings).

When I first got on, I still felt a little bit of sideways-to-the-left slippage but then realised that's the side I mounted from (duh), so when it came to tightening my girth, I did it on the right and only felt the off-balance thing slightly once later in the ride.

(Note to self - get a longer girth - trying to reach down to tighten the girth on this horse is an exercise in gymnastics and there's something about the saddle/pad set up which means I can't get it tight enough from the ground before I get on).

I also discovered a nice fat bruise on my left calf muscle from the stirrup leather from yesterday. I can move the stirrup leather in such a way that it doesn't press on my leg, but it keeps wriggling back into the pokey-position at every available opportunity.  I should try running the leathers under the flap to see what that does.

(My fenders came home from AZ yesterday [thanks Ash], so I could ride in those - although not until a saddle is mine, since I'm frightened to mark the saddle).

Here's the lovely Fergus at the end of our three miles with the saddle still where it's supposed to be. He worked hard for me this morning, since I was asking for a lot more engagement than usual (OK, so I was asking for engagement, something that rarely happens. Mea culpa. At least we're both suffering when I ask him, since I don't have the muscles either).

Now that I've settled down and stopped flailing a bit (and because I'm a mean dog-owner and didn't take the cavorting mob with me as distraction, much to their disgust), I was able to properly concentrate on what's going on with me, the horse, and the saddle.

My current concerns are:
  • Why did the saddle need to slide back so badly yesterday?

    I'm assuming it's because his back is so flat, there's nothing stopping it sliding backwards. But if that's the case, why haven't we had this problem in the past with the Sensation saddle the few times we rode without a breast collar?

    Is it from Fergus' big shoulder movement pushing backwards on the front of long panels? And if so, do the panels need to be shimmed differently, so his shoulder can move back without pushing on them quite so much?
  • I'm still worried about the amount of pressure on his "ex-rubbed" area closest to his spine. In my mind's eye, I imagine that muscle popping out and being pressured as we ride along, since I know it hides when he's just standing around.

    While riding at a walk, I tried pushing my fingers under the top edge of the panel to see how tight it felt (which of course doesn't work, because to do this you have to lean forwards slightly, which immediately creates more pressure). But it does feel tight under there and I wonder if I need to shim a pad to lift the saddle pressure somewhat away from that top edge closest to the gullet (with what, exactly, I have no idea, since I don't have shims for that shape/area). But in doing so, that would put more pressure on the area of his back that has no muscle, so that isn't ideal either? This is probably a question for Lisa at the fine-tuning stage.
  • More entertaining was jamming my fingers between the treed-part of the saddle and the panel. There's a lot of flex going on between the two! ...To the point where I had to be careful not to get my fingers pinched.

    So if I can't have a treeless saddle, having flexy panels is the next best thing. Or possibly a better thing? Fergus' back is certainly taking advantage of the flex.

Lastly, here's a shot from behind for comparison purposes in a few months when, hopefully, we'll have worked towards regrowing him a back end:

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