December 1st is the beginning of the new show year. So it seems only fitting that after a ridiculously busy holiday week last week, that saw me unable to get out to ride at all due to a combination of work, weather, and turkey, I was finally able to get back out to the barn and try out the dressage saddle that had been sitting on one of my dining room chairs for a week. (Don’t worry, Thanksgiving was not at my house.)
The new (to me) saddle was a great source of anticipation. On one level, I was hopeful that it would magically transform me into Charlotte Dujardin, and Cally into Valegro. On another, I was worried we would both hate it, and I’d have to figure out how to sell it, and what else might work for us. So it was with great eagerness that I retrieved my (slightly filthy) steed from the field, where she saw me, and took off galloping and bucking down the field on the lovely, 70 degree afternoon. She enjoyed her holiday, I guess.
Once we were back to the barn, I brushed her off, and plopped the saddle on her naked back. It looked…perfect! So rocking, plenty of wither and spine clearance, and it actually looked to sit well behind her massive shoulder. Ok, worth giving it a ride! I tacked up and also made use of our new (to us, via fellow boarder) Letitia fleece girth. Cally seemed to approve of all this.
(The edge of the Thinline is making a weird shadowed dropoff that I promise is not really there back by the cantle.)
We headed into the empty ring to give it a test run. It was hot for this time of year, and as you can see from the photo, Cally still has half her hair. So I didn’t want to do a ton, like trying to run through a whole dressage test. I hoped on and didn’t even have to do much work to find my balance, though I could feel that the way it balanced me, and that the knee block is placed, it wants me to be riding with a longer leg, like I probably should properly be anyway. But I started out with the stirrups straight off my other saddle, and wow, did Cally seem happy.
Well, I mean, we started off with out usual “I really want to be a saddlebred with my head waaaaay up here, and look out the windows, and not bend or do any lateral work.” I might have fallen off in shock if that conversation didn’t happen. But it was much shorter than usual, and once we’d gotten a bit of nice walk, we went straight into really nice, swingy forward trot. She was so willing to use her back in this saddle, I was surprised. It created a lot more trot than I was used to, but it felt easy for me to ride, and I really felt able to keep my hips swinging the way Carol was always telling me to do. I asked for a couple diagonals of lengthening, and it felt almost effortless.
Then it was time for the real test, the canter. That has historically pushed all of the padding out from under the bottom of the saddle flaps from her massive shoulder, and left me struggling against 20 years of hunter riding to Sit The Damn Canter. So I asked for a canter, and got a quiet transition to a relaxed, forward canter without a whole lot of attempted rushing or giraffe-yness. Some of that may be attributable to the warm weather, but not the fact that it was easy, nay effortless to SIT. My shoulders still wanted to creep forward, but I was sitting, without having to think “plant your ass in that saddle like its glued there” while forgetting about other important things, like steering.
We took a bit of a break after that, and I dropped my stirrups a whole hole. My leg then felt like it was where it wanted, and the saddle wanted it, to be. Of course, this meant a bit of readjustment of my whole posture, which left me a little fumbly. And Cally thought that since we’d stopped, she was done. So the work was perhaps a smidge less agreeable. But once again, the canter was just as effortless. (I should say that she has a nice canter, it’s just huge and can be a bit too “enthusiastic” and we just struggle with finding the right balance.) She got lots of pats, and we braved the deer hunters who are out in force to walk down the driveway to cool out, since I figured no one’s going to be shooting at the 50 yard space between two of our pastures.
When I got home, and the mail eventually arrived along with several boxes of holiday gifts and a small mountain of catalogs, and my new USEF and USHJA membership cards. We’re officially ready to show for 2015! The first outing is going to be this coming weekend at Bascule, trying out the new Training dressage tests. I’m really looking forward to it now! And I’ve got some tentative show plans in the works, as dates go up for 2015; I’m looking at doing a lot more rated shows, and have filled out the paperwork for the PHR, and am pondering sending it in. Mostly because I like shiny year-end ribbons, but also because it’s a good way to get recognition out there for Thoroughbreds competing, since it’s about recognizing the breeding of the horse.