To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Every which way but loose

What a roller-coaster week this has been – and we're not even to Hump Day!

As I wrote in my last post, Lance and I partnered up twice on Sunday. On Monday, Brian wanted to ride Ollie again, so we saddled up our horses and went to the arena. After walking Lance around on the buckle, I gathered up the reins and asked him to walk with more energy. Suddenly, he tripped – with both back feet. It felt like his hindquarters dropped halfway to the ground; very alarming, and something that hasn't happened before. I had let him go back to walking on the buckle when he tripped again, the same dramatic, hindquarter- and heart-dropping way. I decided to try trotting, in case that was easier for him; he stumbled hard with a front foot. At that point I got off, afraid that he might go down and hurt one or both of us, full of questions, and nearly sick with worry. What is wrong with my horse? How can I find out?

Later on Monday I learned that the saddle fitter I was going to meet with along with instructor Suzan this Thursday charges $145 for the privilege of letting us try her various demo saddles; Suzan’s fee would be on top of that. Given that I can’t even afford to buy a saddle until at least one of two that don’t fit sells, I had to back out. I thought about keeping the appointment with just Suzan, but given Lance's fumblefootedness that day, I wasn't sure there was much we could safely do.

Today Brian wanted to ride again (three days in a row!). I decided to use the Wintec – I had used Sylvia's Schleese Sunday and Monday – and see how Lance handled himself. During our short ride in all three gaits, there was one slight stumble, so quick that I wasn't even sure which foot caught. My mind whirled. I thought back to Russell and his saddle-fitting issues. When I bought the Black Country saddle for him, we tried two different sizes, a 17.5" and an 18". Suzan thought the 18" fit me better, but Russell made it quite clear that the slightly longer saddle made him uncomfortable. Sylvia's saddle is a long 18"; the Wintec is much shorter.

However, I did get some great news today. I got confirmation of an appointment next Monday with Dr. Tina Steward, one of the few equine chiropractors my husband trusts. She is a dressage rider/trainer who is also a veterinarian, so I am cautiously optimistic that she can offer Lance some relief to his obvious discomfort.

But WAIT; there's MORE! I ordered a Wintec Dressage Pro from on trial last Wednesday in hopes that it would arrive in time for my planned meet-up with Suzan. The saddle consultant at HorseLoverz is very knowledgeable and extremely helpful – and the saddle arrived today. Tonight Rick helped me measure Lance with the included gauge, swap out the medium gullet in the saddle for the extra-wide, and then watched me ride. The difference in Lance's movement was instant, and obvious. Rick commented immediately, "He's freer in his shoulder." I noticed how much more forward he was, and a huge improvement in his trot.

I'm not sure this saddle is the one for me; it feels like straddling a 55-gallon drum. But I am over the moon that we seem to have gotten to the root of Lance's problems. The chiro appointment stands; who knows where Lance may have tweaked himself from trying to cope with the pain of pinched shoulders. Tomorrow I will call Jerri at HorseLoverz to discuss other models that might be options . . . and I might even venture a peek at the Oregon Dressage Society Omnibus!


Theresa said...

Well, so nice for some good news after the bad. In my limited experience with equine massage it is much more common to have a saddle pinch than be too wide. I was surprised that my horses went into a wide to Xtra wide tree on our saddles. Tina Stewart is legendary. She adjust Dandy many years ago after a spill he took in the paddock where we use to board.

Briana said...

Whew, glad Lance is feeling better! Bad trips are scary!

Karen Burch said...

Careful with the Wintec CAIR system. It uses hard edged pieces of plastic as flocking and my horse hated it the third or fourth time I tried to ride in it. I too, had experienced the freeing up of the shoulders and his willingness to move laterally, but the edges of the plastic flocking were too painful for him to sustain. Just as an FYI.

Michelle said...

Theresa, nice to hear a positive report on Tina. I met her years ago when she was showing Clone; she showed a friend and me some stretches we could use for our horses.

Thanks, Briana; I know you have experience with them, too!

Thank-you for sharing your experience, Karen; I will certainly be watching for ANY problems. From a purely analytical point of view, air makes more sense than flocking, which can settle unevenly, adapting to a horse's asymmetries making it more difficult to GET symmetrical, and subject to regular reflocking by a human who is also inherently asymmetrical.

Karen Burch said...

Yes, you would think that would be the case, but in doing a bunch of research and in inspecting the panels of the saddle, I decided that what was happening for us was the edges of the plastic were digging into Ashke's back. Flocking, although it might settle unevenly, does not have straight, hard edges. There was a lot of reviews on the interwebs where people were complaining of the same issue, so I know it's not just my horse being a Princess.

Good luck with it and I hope it works to solve your issues.