On Saturday, I tried the Wintec 500 dressage saddle S from the barn has. It was not a good fit. When it was positioned to fit in the withers it jutted up in the back and the channel was just as narrow. The fit got worse when I tightened the cinch. I took it off and figured I was SOL, planning on spending the next five weeks spending all of our time lunging in side reins and maybe riding bareback a little. I had talked to J about taking the Wintec back and getting a bareback pad.
On an suggestion from Cassandra, I tried Westley's Isabell dressage saddle by Wintec. It fit very well and has a strap that can be tightened in the girth that fits the back of the saddle to the shape of the horse. The Isabell can be flocked to fit the horse's back and has a gullet changing system that's pretty simple to use. With the one I tried today, it took just a couple of minutes to tighten the saddle to fit Ashke's back.
I tried Ashke in the arena and he moved very freely. He was much softer in my hands and didn't struggle to collect. We did lateral movements and he stepped with ease in both directions. Our brief canter was very good. The first time both N and Cassandra said I looked tense. I told Cassandra it was because she was watching me. The second time, I could feel myself struggling to breathe and so started to sing, "La, la, la " to the tune in my head no one else can hear. That canter was very good. Mostly, I rode around in the saddle trying to get used to the position the dressage saddle puts me in and evaluating the effect on my back. All of my trot work was done while posting today. Something I haven't been able to do. I think the dressage saddle kind of encourages the rider to post. I'm hoping it's easier to sit the trot in the Alta Escuela. It is good for me to do the extra work, though.
It's funny, ever since I did some research on lower back pain, ruptured discs, and the risk of surgery or paralysis and discovered the fear I have been running from for the past eight years is not a valid fear. The pain in my lower back, which is caused by weak, unused or overused muscles, has been less severe. I have been bracing against the pain and to protect that part of me and my back is incredibly stiff. I have put a lot of energy into moving differently, in stretches and in relaxing those muscles. It has definitely helped for me to not be so scared of moving and testing the limits of my back.
I will be sore tomorrow. Good thing I have Rocky Mountain Rider's Rescue Rub to help. I got my order today. This stuff is golden for muscle pain. I highly recommend it.
After riding, N and I went to Dover. We took back the Wintec AP saddle and gullet part to exchange for the Isabell. I was not expecting the price tag, but the Isabell is easy to sell and retains it's value, so it wasn't a bad investment. The people at Dover were wonderful and didn't even ask any questions. It is a saddle I could show in if I ever get to that point, or a saddle I can sell when the Alta gets here if I so desire. At least for the next five weeks I will be able to ride and the saddle with force me and my muscles to step up and get stronger. My only question is: how did I come to own three saddles? I also got a bottle of Vetrolin White n Brite shampoos (convinced the one I had was almost empty, a couple of lik-its and a bottle of Meg-Tec for his mane and tail. J is demanding that we allow his mane to grow back out again. The Meg-Tec should help.
I've decided that the battle with my weight is over. If I can ride and learn and progress and Ashke can do that with me without injuring himself, then my weight does not matter. I'm tired of worrying about it. I make decent choices about food. I exercise more now than two years ago. I am active and filled with energy. I'm no longer chained by my fear and anguish about my back. I am going to continue to work on learning to post and to ride for longer periods of time. Our average rides are now an hour and a half to two hours. I'm going to continue to progress at the canter. And I might, might, do a schooling show before the end of the year (one where what I wear won't end up costing me a paycheck.) To that end I threw away the scale.