And so after all my introspection over the past weekend, I ended up having a lesson that was amazing. It just all kind of hit me over the last week how quickly time passes and I think I was a bit emotional about it. In the last week, I have added a tendon support supplement along with a joint supplement, and I had her fitted by a saddle fitter (sold both of my old saddles) and bought a new (to me) saddle.
So yeah…about that saddle. I finally invested in a really nice saddle. I had Jewel seen by Fran Smith, a master saddler. She measured Jewel and looked at her build and recommended a couple of saddle brands, one of which was Black Country. I have some familiarity with this brand because some of the horses I rode back in college had Black Country saddles. I knew pretty much what I needed to find (thanks to Fran) and decided it was worth the investment. Lucky for me, I quickly found a Black Country Vinici. It is amazing. It does need a little flock tweaking by the saddler, but it generally fits Jewel very nicely. And it not only fits me, but is super comfortable! Win-Win!
A quick check of Jewel’s back today showed that she is not sore where the new saddle sits, but she does have soreness along the line of that right diagonal pair. The right side of the wither and the left side of the croup both showed tenderness when pressure applied. The left did not. I do plan to have her chiropracted when the vet is out next. Along with the fetlock injury mentioned previously, last fall, she cut the LH heel bulb. That diagonal pair just can’t get a break! Until a couple weeks ago, she had been wearing an egg bar shoe on the LH for stability. She’s back in a traditionally keg shoe now and so that bulb could be tender because its being allowed to flex again. That being said, she looked great on the lunge. Neither Amanda nor I could see any lameness or off steps.
Amanda was very impressed with the saddle and the freedom of the shoulder that it allowed Jewel to have. We’re really working on straightness and self carriage. Today’s focus was “western pleasure.” I know that sounds odd, but a true western pleasure horse (not a peanut pusher, but more of a top reining horse) is in self carriage without a lot of contact on the reins. They are soft to the bit, round, yielding their jaw, listening to the seat, etc. In short, they are like a dressage horse should be when its truly carrying itself. And most of all, they are responsive to the seat. And so our lesson today was about being in self carriage, staying in self carriage and being FORWARD in self carriage.
We did LOTS of cantering. In fact, my homework is to not worry about the trot right now, but rather to do at least a week of just walk and canter work. And so for the canter work, Jewel had to be long in frame and soft in the jaw throughout the canter — transitions up to, within the gait and down from the canter. No head up either. Amanda wanted to see Jewel’s head down and stretching downward while lifting the shoulders and back. Oh yeah…and all of this on a long rein. It requires a lot less hand and a lot more leg than you might think. Once we were soft, we used the expanse of the outdoor arena to really be forward, all the while being soft, round and in true self carriage stretching over the topline. It was pretty cool.
The best part was that despite having a really nice working gallop, there was not hotness created. Jewel was relaxed throughout it. And when we were done, I hopped off and she stood quietly next to us while we chatted. It was great. The real test will come tomorrow when I get to see how Jewel feels.
On a side note, I will also say that the difference in our rides with this new saddle are amazing. It turns out that Jewel wasn’t really being a pill or even “mare-ish” before. She was just uncomfortable. As someone who has foot problems and wears orthotic shoes, I can completely understand this concept — yet its taken me 12 years to really listen to my horse. Shame on me. Hopefully between the saddle and the supplements, I can keep her comfortable and working happily.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced with your horse? Have you used a professional saddle fitter? Have you had your horse chiropracted? What is your favorite joint supplement? Leave a comment below and let me know. 🙂