Relationship focus makes for a smoother ride

One of the hardest things for me to do when troubleshooting software is to change only one thing at a time — especially if each change requires a reboot as well as a recompile. I always want to change two or three things and then see if it’s still broken. But sometimes that just introduces more problems. Changing one variable at a time might seem like it takes forever, and yet it is often the fastest way to get everything working smoothly again.

Horses are like computers. They never do what you want, but they always do what you tell them or what you program them to do. ~ Pat Parelli

On Saturday, we had Saddles That Fit come out and do a saddle fitting analysis and testing for us. Susan and David are independent saddle fit specialists who arrive with a trailer full of dozens of saddles and accessories and a wealth of information and experience in solving saddle-related problems for their clients.

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Rocky and I were evaluated for conformation, fitness, lifestyle, and horsenality, and we narrowed the saddle choices down to about 10 to try on just standing still. From there, we took the four best fits into the arena and had him move around online first, and then with me in the saddle. On the two that made the cut, we had Scott ride as well. Both of us spent quite a while walking and trotting, backing and halting, performing hindquarter yields and tight turns, feeling for pinch points and excessive motion and tightness and all the other fit issues that make horses miserable and their riders frustrated.

In both of the top two saddles, Rocky licked and chewed all the way around the arena, relaxed his neck and head, and lifted willingly into the trot. Susan, who is a certified Centered Riding instructor, helped me get my body into the best position, and I kept my focus on “what does Rocky need right now for connection.” We had about six people watching, all of whom have seen me ride, and all of whom were able to comment on the improvements they saw in both of us.

In each case, we tried to change only one variable: the saddle. Not adding a back cinch for the first time in years, not asking for a lope or jumping or any other thing that would be different from our normal practice. We used the same (fantastic) wool pad for all of the saddles and adjusted the shims as needed.

The result was an overwhelming feeling of comfort and rightness in the TW Ranch Versatility saddle from Specialized Saddles.

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The round skirt model gave Rocky plenty of clearance for his lower back and pelvis. Naturally I forgot all about the existence of cameras, and the only picture I have is a still from a cell phone video of Erin cantering Rocky at the end of the 4 hours. Even so, you can see how the saddle looks perfectly fitted.

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Today when I went out to ride, I borrowed Erin’s Rebecca Treeless Saddle as the best option, and I sat in it the way I sat in the TW Ranch Versatility. My legs were more under me than I’ve been riding, even more so than my recent adjustment, and I felt poised for just about anything in a way I have not felt in … maybe ever? I was able to relax my calves and engage my core and managed not only to post the trot twice around the arena without faltering, but to do so while steering. And that was just one of our many walk-trot transitions.

We practiced carrot stick riding at the walk on a follow-the-rail pattern and through figure 8s, and I worked on lifting and lightness and breathing. Our gate opening was one of the best yet for our cool down walk around the ranch. I sang as we ambled along, and we ended with carrot stretches (with real carrots!) and a soothing tepid rinse at the wash station.

Today might have been the best ride I’ve ever had with Rocky. It figures that the camera crew had the day off so I have no proof, but that’s okay. I know, and more importantly, Rocky knows.

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Categories: Freestyle, Rockstar | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Relationship focus makes for a smoother ride

  1. Tessa Ramsay

    I love Susan and David! I didn’t trust them at first, but sure enough, my Duett Largo (a dressage saddle) with a cutback is performing incredibly well on the steep hills we ride in Henry Cowell Park. Just wait, it gets better – Milo sometimes rounds so much under me that I have very little sitting room. Plus, the saddle has made me a better rider.
    ;) – Tessa

  2. Tessa, that’s so great to hear that you’re riding out in parks and that Milo is rounding and feeling comfortable! Hooray for you both!

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