Today is the first time I've ridden Saga in five days. He got two days of groundwork, then a day of saddle fitting, then two days off due to company in town for my graduation (Ph.D., thank you very much. You may now call me Dr. Jen... once or twice.) So today I got on him and showed off a bit for my parents and my adopted "horse parents," who I acquired when I was about 13 because my real parents know nothing about horses, and I needed some parents who not only knew about horses (my adopted horse-mom teaches lessons), but also had a few they were willing to let me ride.
So the plan was to ride, and that should have been no big thing, even with the inch of rain we got last night, since our barn has a covered arena. What I didn't realize was that the rain came at a 90 degree angle and flooded half of the arena. So I got to ride in a teeny area that was perhaps 12-15 meters wide and about 40 meters long. Yikes! We did WTC both directions (only a bit of canter, just to show off), and got some pointers.
First of all, I need to warm Saga up riding uphill. What this means is ask him to go forward and up, and THEN ask him to come down to me (as opposed to asking him to go long and low, which he'd prefer to do). This is completely different from how I'm used to riding Cash, who is built a touch uphill and never had a day in his life on his forehand. We also really focused on getting my reins shorter and my elbows out in front of me where I could relax them more, and it was amazing how much better he went when I did that. We also lengthened my stirrup one hole and worked on getting my knee back and down (I draw my knee up, which I've known for years) and keeping my inside leg forward where it should be instead of 4 inches back, which is where I keep trying to use it. Saga is also frequently not straight nose-to-tail (his shoulder falls to the inside while he's counterflexed) so we worked a lot on that. We tried some walk-trot-walk transitions which went poorly, mostly because he wasn't going forward enough due to the smallness of the space we had to work in. The homework is to get him very forward and big and uphill, keep him straight, and work on walk-halt transitions, being sure to start with the body. And keep my leg under me. And my elbows in front of me. As if I can remember all that!
Also, I was riding in my husband's dressage saddle (mine needs a billet repaired) with a borrowed ThinLine pad. My adopted horse-mom spent some time looking at both the dressage and my AP saddle, and came to the conclusion that Saga is a very hard-to-fit horse. He has extremely high withers and has a big "dent" right behind his shoulder and under his withers. He also has no muscle on either side of his spine, which may mean that the gullet, while quite wide, could be putting pressure on his spine. Because his withers are narrow but he widens out quickly, I will need a saddle with a wide gullet that is flocked heavily around the withers to keep the saddle from sliding downward and forward, and taking me with it. Come to think of it, I do feel like I'm having a hard time staying off the front of the saddle.
The dressage saddle fits "OK," and with the ThinLine pad, seemed to work pretty well. Certainly his back was drier and cooler than any other ride we've had. My beloved Wintec 2000 AP, however, is a joke. It doesn't look like it's going to work for him no matter what gullet I've got in it. The current recommendation is to go look for a used Schleese jumping saddle, then get it reflocked and adjusted to fit him. Schleese comes to Austin in late June, so I called and left a message to try to schedule a saddle fitting with them. Hopefully that will work out and I can get a used eventing saddle from them. I may also try to contact another saddle fitter in the area who does Borne' saddles, which are also custom-made. We'll see. For now, it's the Wintec Isabel with the ThinLine pad. And lots of uphill walk work to get that back in shape!