I've been watching Harley's muscle development with great interest. His shoulders have grown considerably, and his withers are starting to plump out. His butt,, ahh.. Never thought a pony tush would turn me on so much.. *cough* Okay. sorry. Rated G, folks, Rated G.. :)
Anyways, watching Harley's shoulders and withers, I had a hunch. Previously, his dressage saddle slid right forward over his shoulders, and would rest on his shoulder blades. End result? Forget about bending, forget about collection. And forward? Yeah, screw you MommaLady, I ain't goin' forward either. Probably the only time I felt like Harley was cussing at me was in that saddle. Seeing his newfound growth and development, I was curious.
Tacked him up in all the dressage saddle glory, mattes half pad included, and headed to the arena. I didn't expect much. Set the goals low - Longe only in the saddle, no neck stretcher or side reins. See how he goes. If all is well there, mount, and ride the walk, watching for the slightest bend, or the most stiff resistance. Don't ask for much, and if he's stiff/nonbending and crabby, dismount, lose the saddle, and ride bareback. Little expectations.
I am delighted to report, we're back to saddle fit again. While not perfect, and a reflocking will certainly perk both of our spirits a lot, the saddle no longer slides over his withers. His girth still needs a bit of effort, however, and I will be biting the bullet very soon and purchasing a different style girth. The bigger deal here, is the saddle stays put. Harley longed out nicely, and when finished, I found another hole on the girth to be tightened. Saddle still wasn't over his shoulders.
I mounted, and sent him off at the walk. He near immediately stretched down, looking for the bit. Really?! I asked for collection, shortening my reins with all kinds of mental hesitation I was asking for too much too soon. He immediately came into my hands, as I felt his back lift up into my seat. woo hoo
Our ride went through all three gaits with a LOT of hesitation in my mind. I kept waiting on the stiffness, the lack of turn/bend, and the general crabbyness. Harley insisted on riding forward, and gave all three gaits with very little trouble.
My mind raced the rest of the morning, and throughout the day. I could barely concentrate on the things I needed to focus on through church. My horse fits back into the dressage saddle. My body drifted right to the correct position. My stirrups weren't jumping off my feet anymore, and my core position was greatly improved. Not once did I have to "adjust my upper legs" to get the saddle out of the way of my leg muscles. My horse was light, responsive, and seemingly ready for anything I'd ask of him. He didn't need the same amount of leg pressure to move out, but instead, I could ask with my upper calves, and he'd spring up into action.
What can I plan now? I had put the entire show season "on hold" pending saddle fitting. Our opportunities are endless again. I can go back to our original plans, and get on a work schedule that suits both of us. Harley can have a job, I can have goals, and we can both find success in the little things again. There are ribbons to be earned, test sheets to read again ....
I immediately contacted Jennifer, and we started talking shows again. We cleared an entire weekend in October, and I eagerly explained to my church responsibilities that there are great things happening in the saddle and in the show arena. We've got plans, we've discussed them, we've begun making arrangements. Harley has no idea what's in store, and I'm so excited I can barely keep the smile to myself.