Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leading from the wrong side

First things first:

  1. Saga DOES eat carrots. My friend who rode him on Saturday while I was out of town discovered this. I swear, he tried to tell me they were posionous!!!
  2. Saga does not lead well from the wrong side. But then, pretty much everything was on the wrong side tonight. More about that later.
  3. Saga is NOT 17 hh. I sticked him tonight, he came in at 16.2 1/2 in front, and 16.2 1/2 and a hair behind. I'll have my measurements independently confirmed by a third party, but Saga's not quite the monster I made him out to be. :)
Now, to fill in the gaps since my last post about Saga.

Last Wednesday, my husband rode Saga while I rode Reddums. It was the first time I'd ridden him since I got Saga, and riding him was like riding a schoolmaster! Light, bendy, moves off the leg... how cool is that! And yet I can remember when he fell in so badly to the left that he could do 8 meter canter circles (or rather, 8 meter canter circles were ALL he could do). Since I managed to fix that, I guess there's hope for Saga too. :) Although, I must say, Red has a little stub of a neck compared to Saga... I mean, I've known that all along, but it's really obvious when you move from one horse to another!

My husband's ride was pretty miserable. He's very stiff in his hip and just could not find his balance, and the saddle only compounded the problem. I'm lighter and I ride further back, so I'd been managing to keep off the front of the saddle despite its tendency to shift down in front (due to that dent behind his shoulder and the fact that the saddle doesn't quite fit). My husband had no such luck. Saga kept running in the trot, then slowing down, and just kept getting worse and worse. He also started hopping into the trot instead of doing a smooth transition like we had been working on. This is important, it gets worse later.

Saga didn't get ridden again until Saturday, when a good friend of mine rode him while I was out of town for the weekend. Her saddle didn't fit him well either but she used her Thinline pad with him, and worked a lot on big swingy walk. She's also the one who discovered that he DOES like carrots (the liar) - apparently when faced with no treats or eating carrots, he opted for the carrots. In talking to her later, she mentioned the hopping into the trot issue, which she didn't remember from when she rode him once before. I told her that yeah, that was new as of Wednesday.

Last night (Monday) I rode again and we had a nice warm up, big WTC both directions. He was also moving off my right leg much better, and we had some good shoulder fore at the walk both directions. We also did a little leg-yield both ways, and actually got lateral movement both directions. YEAH! However, the trot was pretty miserable. The "hoppy" transitions from walk to trot were still there, and he was setting his jaw again. However, at the very end, we had some very nice sitting trot serpentines with plenty of bend, moving away from the leg, and forward and round... you know, everything a trot SHOULD be.

Which brings us to tonight. Ye gods I need a saddle that fits. Or someone with magic trainer dust, whatever. Saga's back is sore, just behind the withers on either side of his spine. I thought about just longeing, but I'm going to be horseless for 10 days when I'm on vacation, so I caved and rode him. We did a nice walk warmup outside the arena, focusing on forward and swinging. As soon as we got in the outdoor arena, he sucked back, but I moved him on. The trot transition for the warmup was hoppy again, but I was focused on forward IN the gaits, not between, so I let it slide. He felt pretty good in the trot, we had some good moments, and because I knew his back was sore, I opted not to canter him in the warmup.

When I put him together at the walk after giving him a good break, he sucked back even more. I definitely think it's his back. We worked a bit on laterals and had some nice shoulder fore moments, but I didn't push it much. There's one corner in the arena where, tracking left, he counter-bends MAJORLY and falls in. The more I tried to fix it, the worse he got. Sort of reminds me of the icky ride I had when my childhood instructor was in town, he just constantly fell left in every corner. Yuck. We went back and did that corner at the walk, and he set his jaw left and was icky. We finally got through it at the walk, then went to the trot. That's pretty much when it fell apart. He was so counterflexed and sucked back that he started CANTERING on the right lead. WTF, I went with it, changed directions, and cantered on. At least it was a balanced, uphill canter, even if it wasn't what I wanted. Well, that was the wrong decision apparently, because after I came down to a trot, he would not trot. His back end was trotting but his front end was up in the air still cantering (I know this is possible because he did it on our third ride in front of our retired dressage instructor, who found it most amusing). We ended up walking because no amount of half-halts on my part would produce anything other than this hideous "gait".

So, then I asked for a trot. And I got this Medusa gait. And again. And again, and again. I made sure he was round and forward in the walk. I tried throwing the reins away. Nothing helped, all I got was this trot/canter disaster. I was frustrated, so I decided that if we were going to get a canter, then I would ask for the canter. But then I couldn't get the left lead, even though we were going left. I got the right lead, three times in a row. I tried flexing in, and counter-flexing. FINALLY we got the right lead canter. It was fairly reasonable but not as nice as the left lead. But by then I was sick of the fight, so I asked for a canter-walk transition and got it, and I quit on that. We walked out in the grassy outdoor area and called it a night.

I got frustrated, which I shouldn't have, and I stopped thinking about my riding. I probably should have taken a walk break and tried again. But it was getting dark, I needed to get home, and I felt pressed for time. I was also out of ideas. I remember years ago when Cash would hop from a trot to a canter, and I was supposed to just "ride the trot" no matter what he did, and eventually he would go back to trot (usually it only took a few steps). I tried that while we had the Medusa gait but to no avail. And besides, why are we getting this all of the sudden? The hopping started last Wednesday with Sean's ride. I am absolutely, positively convinced that the root of this whole thing is a sore back caused by poor saddle fit. Gah.

So, now I need to figure out what to do. At this point I am seriously thinking about giving him the 10 days off while I'm on vacation. I'm also seriously thinking about calling the saddle fitter about the County Eventer, buy the damn thing, have her fit it while I'm gone, then buy a pair of full-seat velcro breeches (these Kerrits look good) so I can actually stay in the saddle (after riding in synthetic saddles for so many years, I felt like I was going to slide right out of that leather County). I should probably get a 17.5 inch instead of a 17, but hey, it's what's available and I know it fits him. Besides, in 6 months I may need something completely different, and I'm not in a position to shell out big bucks for a custom saddle right now. And try as I might, I can't find a 17.5 inch Medium Wide County Stabilizer, for love nor money.

I hope y'all who are reading this had better rides than I did. Bah humbug.

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