I have had quite the adventure. On Monday, I went to Down Under Saddlery, where I got my saddle, and took the saddle back for them to check to make sure the fit is good. I had a wither tracing from Sunday and I took that with me. A wither tracing is made with a metal hanger, which is unwrapped and straightened out. Then you mold it over the horse's withers. Once the metal hanger is fitted fairly snug over the withers, you lift it off and trace it onto a piece of paper. We did this the first time when we first saw Ashke, but I wanted to make sure the saddle fit, now that he has put on weight.
It did. So, any issues are not a result of poorly fitted tack. I spent about an hour talking to one of the employee's about how it should fit, where I should place it, some of the things I thought I had issues with that are really my not knowing about Australian saddles. Come to find out, I was doing everything right, I just didn't know it. I did upgrade the cinch to a polyurethane one, which is much thicker, but won't slide sideways and let the saddle turn. It's a bitch to cinch up, however. Especially when Ponyboy blows out his stomach. I also purchased a running martigale add on for my breast plate. Its pretty nifty. I buckle it to the center ring and it works perfectly. Not too long or too short. And it matches and it only cost me $4. Whoo-hoo! My final last purchase was a cell phone bag you can attach to the saddle. Nifty, huh. Got that too! Except that then I realized that if I get thrown and Ashke takes off the last thing I want is my cell phone attached to the saddle. I am wearing it at my waist.
So, Sunday, I went riding with Chris. It was not too warm. Chris rode her Fjord horse (think pony-sized in height, draft horse sized in width, dun with a white and black mane and tail). We rode about a mile, I guess, and really enjoyed it. A lot. Going to try to go again on Thursday.
Monday, after the saddle fitting, I rode with Susan. We rode about two miles. Ashke was pretty tired by the end of that ride. That was due, in part, with the fact that he was under saddle for about four hours. We were going to meet at noon, which got pushed to one. I got out there about 11:15 to give myself time to warm up before noon. Ashke worked the round pen for a short amount of time, then the big arena. I walked him down the road a bit and back again, waiting for one o'closk to roll around. It was just about two when we left. Ashke did great but he was pretty tired on our way home.
Today, I had no one to ride with, so I rode out by myself. Ashke did wonderful! He listened and trusted me. We walked past a bobcat with a front scoop, an active set of sprinklers, crossed a couple of roads, rode over a flowing creek and did just about four miles. I was so comfortable riding that I was able to take some pictures along the way.
A picture of the route I rode
Coming up on the most challenging obstacle of the day: pitch black road.
I'm pretty sure Ashke thought it was water. Took a really good long sniff before he would step on it.
Ashke did pretty good going up this hill. We went up at a trot and he figured out how to keep his hindquarters under him. I leaned forward and helped him keep his balance.
He seemed to be alright with it.
Do you see the double white fences going up the hill? That was where we were for the previous two photos. This was on our way home.
Headed home and still happy.
We only had one misstep, when we were moving from the shoulder to the pavement and there was a slight lip. I had my phone in one hand and the reins in the other and still managed to help him save his footing. There was one other incident when we were almost home. A motorcycle went past us and Ashke flipped his head and jigged a bit. I was surprised, because there was no attitude at all, all day. I think its because Steve and his kids would chase the horses around the field with their ATV's. Something to note: Ashke doesn't like them.
Drying off in the sun after being rinsed at the wash station.
Ashke walks right into the washing station, without any hesitation. Today he gave a big sigh when the water hit his neck.
You can see from the above photo that the saddle is distributing the weight evenly across his back.
Today I rode relaxed and easy. There were a couple of times that I tensed up. but I was aware of it and made myself relax. I rode with long stirrups and a fairly loose rein. We mostly walked, with a bit of a trot on several occassions. We will work up to the trot as his stamina grows and as we become more familiar with the terrain. It has been a very good three days.