Thursday, July 28, 2011

Temper or Pain?

Sometimes we have to keep learning the same lesson over and over. Two horses in the past month have knocked me on the head and said listen up. No, make that three.

The first was Gambler, the mustang. He had reached a plateau in his training. No matter what tactics were used, under saddle he bolted, bucked and was unpredictable. I gave up any idea of ever being able to ride him, and Trent cut his work back to two times a week- sorta we're gonna ride you but we aren't expecting change. I began long lining him and he made rapid progress, was calm, receptive and seemed to enjoy the attention. Then on one of my twice a week visits to the barn I went into the stall to give him a little attention, and looked at his back. Maybe the light was different. Maybe he had lost a few more pounds. Whatever, his roach back dropping into deep shoulder pockets jumped out at me. I wondered how any saddle could fit such a conformation.  Maybe no saddle would. I went home and ordered an expensive bridge pad, and the next time I came out I asked if Trent had one. Sure enough, Scott came up with one. I got Trent to check out the saddle they were using and how it would work with the pad. Some experimentation later and Gambler declared his approval. The next ride there was no bucking and bolting. It may not all be over, but now we're listening. So we tried the pad on another horse that had been grumpy lately. Again a change in attitude.

Then there is Remi, the Appaloosa mare I'm working. I'd already changed saddles with her because of her broad round back, but she was still a little tight and sometimes took a long warmup. I used that saddle at Trent's and it didn't get back to my barn, so I dug out an ancient  saddle we bought for a walking couch of a horse. Remi declared her preference for this immediately. Either it really fits her better, or she knows that its old super flat close contact design is bruising for the rider and it's payback time. Actually I didn't notice the stirrup bars digging into my leg on her, so maybe we'll both be happy!

Saddle fit is not a new thing for me. I've had my english saddles reflocked to fit specific horses, checked every students tack, helped clients find new saddles when problems were found. The  lesson here is ALWAYS look for physical problems with a horse that behaves normally on the ground and with its herd mates. The problem may be with the rider or with the training techniques, but start with tack that fits and is comfortable for the horse!


  1. This is what I am trying to figure out with my pony. He is quite grumpy under saddle and I am not sure if it is his personality or if it is from ill fitting tack. I sent back tracings to a well-known saddle fitter and she measured him as a medium-wide, so I sold my old saddle to purchase a new one because it didn't fit him, nor me. I have found a nice used Stubben Edelweiss C.S., Jr. that seems to work well for both of us (my pony is 12.3H and I am 4'11). Since we have been trying this new saddle out, he is much more willing to go forward. before, he moved as if he was blocked in front. We still have issues to work out, but there is certainly improvement. I also changed his bit from an eggbutt snaffle to a loose ring french link. He seems to like that change as well. We're still working on fixing things, and I am looking forward to having a happy pony one day. We are signed up to ride in your Western Dressage Clinic on Sept. 23 - looking forward to it!!

  2. Actually, we are signed up to ride in Peggy Riley's Western Dressage clinic in Sept. I apologize, I thought this was her blog. :)

    I am glad I found your blog though and I look forward to more posts!

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