I got to the barn about 7 to meet Nicole. She was already there working on grooming the shed monster. She said Cali was still a bit sensitive on her back, although not as bad as Wednesday, and she was going to hold off one more day before trying her new saddle.
It is a Adam Ellis dressage saddle and will end up being a swap for her Prestige (at least she hopes so). It is a very pretty saddle and looks pretty similar to the one she used to have. Nicole said she had ridden Cali almost an hour and a half the night before, trying out the new saddles. She tried three. Hated the Emporio. Went back and forth between the Keith Bryan and the Adam Ellis. She and Bev finally decided the Ellis was a better saddle, because the Bryan kept pitching her forward.
I got to ride my new saddle for the first time. It was easy to put on Ashke and position correctly. The billets and dressage girth are new to me, but are very easy to tighten slowly. Ashke is much more willing to stand and let me tighten the girth than he was in the Aussie saddle. Before, he would back away, sometimes all the way across the arena, or move forward in a circle around me, trying to avoid the girth. Looking back, it is very easy to see all of the things he was doing to try and tell me he hated the saddle. Last night when I swung down out of the saddle, after riding for 30 minutes, the saddle didn't even move. That is a first.
We started by walking around the arena several times. Nicole, who was working Cali from the ground, reminded me that we were both going to have to get used to the new saddle. I worked on keeping my legs in the correct position with my heel down (this is something I was very good at when I was young, but have lost the feeling for that riding position.) Nicole tried to coach me through a two-point stance, but I don't have the core strength to maintain the position for very long. It does help with figuring out where my leg should go, however. Posting still remains a mystery.
We did a bit of trot, but then moved to the canter. Ashke and I need to canter more to the right just to help build his balance and muscle set. He picked up the correct lead, but felt very stiff and uncentered at the beginning. I was able to relax and ride the canter to the left, stopping him with a released breath and stilling my seat. To the right, however, it was more work for both of us. We probably spent fifteen minutes or so, working at the canter and he was done at the end of that. We haven't done more than four or five circuits of the arena at a canter since we started riding and last night we had to have tripled that amount.
Figuring out the post may be problematic for me. It is lifting from my knees and thrusting my pelvis up and forward (think sex motion) while still controlling the horse. It makes my lower back really pinch when I try. I am already having issues with pain in that area (damn ruptured disc at the L5) and trying to post aggravates it. I am still going to try, it will just have to be spaced out over a longer period of time. Hopefully, I can get to the point where Ashke doesn't think I'm a fruit loop.
After cantering to the point where Ashke was warm and a little wet, I went back to the trot. It was a struggle. I think Ashke was tired and just not as willing. I hadn't really thought about how much work I had asked him to do up to that point. So we walked it out and called it a day. Honestly, I think if we had been on the trail, he would have still been interested in working, but I think he is ready to be out of the arena. It's been three weeks since we rode out.
When I pulled the saddle off I had Nicole come check out the pressure pattern and check him for sensitivity. The pattern looked great, even on both sides and front to back. Nicole checked his back and there was zero sensitivity. Tomorrow we are going to try it out on the trail.
I know there are hooks for the breastcollar, but I don't think I'm going to use them. They are brown for one, and everything else is pitch black (in fact Nicole is already talking about me finding a black bridle to match my saddle - which is very black). But more important than how it looks is the fact that I'm not sure I will need it. The saddle didn't move or shift at all during our ride. If it can handle hills the same way, I won't need a collar or crupper. I would rather not use it if I don't need it, since extraneous equipment just adds weight. I'm very pleased with the saddle fit and would recommend to everyone to use a saddle fitter and pay the extra money to get a quality saddle, if you can afford to.