Sunday, March 30, 2014

Karen/Cartman vs. Mother Nature

You can guess who won that fight! 

It has been completely crap weather here all week.  Thursday afternoon I knew I had to get a ride in so we hauled over to the arena.  It wasn't actively raining when we arrived so I was able to get him tacked up next to the trailer.  Again we went with no breastcollar and I have to admit I like the convenience of not having to use it!

I decided to give the saddle a try without the front thigh blocks, they are completely removable yet are very secure when in place.  The saddle definitely felt less wide.  My leg position still felt very secure and I think I would probably go this route full time.

I did notice that I was feeling that pommel rise a little more during our warm up walk session.  I'm not sure if this was due to the removal of the thigh block putting my pelvis in a slightly different position, or if it was just the result of being a little sore.

I'd seen the chiropractor on Wed. and she was not too happy with me. Apparently my back ( which has been getting progressively easier and easier to adjust and keep "in place" had taken a bit of a backslide.  It was pretty sore actually once she started to palapate it.  Hmmm.  I confessed to trying a new saddle and that it had felt a little wide to me. 

I let that adjustment settle for a day and then we tried our Thur ride.  I am definitely not used to that "open hip" angle thing but I'm still not totally convinced it isn't just a matter of needing to stretch more. 

Anyway, the ride was a bit of a bust.  We did about an hour but it was an irritating one, as there was a small boy riding a 4-wheeler ALL around the arena for about half of it.  Now the ATV is no problem for me or Cartman, he is very broke to stuff like that. 

Unfortunately, I think this was a case of sticking the kid on the thing and telling him just to drive it around the farm so Mom could park her butt in the barn and yack with friends.  He was winding the hell out of this low geared farm 4-wheeler and didn't really know how to drive it.  Sigh.  It was all I could do not to scream at him to shift the damn thing:)  Just kidding- child lovers!

After that finally ended Miss Kinda Rude Thing came into the arena and proceeded to turn on and then go back and crank up the radio to some local modern "country" music.  Gag.  I love a huge variety of music, from opera, to county, to Muse, to Rage Against the Machine.  So I'm not some uppity music snob.  But, I pretty much hate the country that they play on the radio here in this area.  It isn't really "country" to me and its not really Pop either. 

Really, I think I was just tired, sore and a little cranky. 

Today I was determined to give it another go.  The weather is typical NW Wa spring.  Torrential rain, then sun, then mist, then rain, then a little sun- usually just as the sun sets.

I brought Cartman up first thing this morning to dry off his feet and let him eat some of the weed-free Timothy I bought to use on our rides where that is required.  Finally about 11:30 am the sun was shining and we headed over to the jogging path.

I decided to go without the thigh blocks again and see how secure the saddle felt out on the trail. 

Immediately upon getting on I notice it felt really comfortable.  I really do like the seat on this saddle, the padding is just about perfect and the texture (I believe it might be calfskin?) gives the perfect level of grippiness.  The suede seat of my Crates saddle is a little too grippy and if you are riding in jeans they actually stick to it so much that the motion of the horse tends to result in the rider moving a little inside of the jeans! Ouch.

Another thing I like, I can feel my seat bones sinking into the saddle a bit.  I'm not sure if that makes sense but its a certain feeling, kinda hard to explain.  In my Specialized the seat is really quite hard.  I've had no issues with it but have heard others complain that the seats are too hard.  Interestingly I notice that in the RP I get no "bounce back" from the saddle.  If Cartman goes from canter to trot sometimes he gives a few strides that are quite animated.  If I'm not prepared or paying attention, or are getting tired I sometimes get a stride of slightly out of balance, and I can feel a bounce.  I feel more connected in the RP.

I knew we were on borrowed time with the rain and all so we did a quick walking warm up, I did some of the stretches that Celena shared with me- and they are getting easier!  I also worked quite a bit on getting C. to move laterally.  He is starting to get more solid in the difference between move sideways while trotting down the trail and move your back end over and give me a little shoulder-in going down the trail.

We trotted about3/4 of a mile then I decided to kick it up a notch and get some good loping.  I really need to read Dennis Summers 4th Gear Book again.  I know not to add both speed and distance at the same time and decided that today we'd only do about 3 miles (didn't want to get too far from the trailer in case the weather changed rapidly) so we'd go faster than we usually do.

Sure enough, I started to see dark clouds gathering as we reached our turn around point.  I let Cartman roll and he loped and loped back down the trail.  I have been using the natural bend in the trail to work on one lead and then switching to the other as the trail turns.  He's getting so much better at picking up the lead I ask for every time.  Love this horse!!!

We were to the top of the sand area and the trailer was in sight when it started to sprinkle.  Uh oh.  I let the big guy go and we galloped the 1/2mile to the trailer.  I jumped off, Cartman was puffing a little, I quickly unlocked the tack room and got the saddle back into it's box. Just in the nick of time. 

Cartman now needed to cool down so we started walking back down the trail in the rain.  It started coming down harder so I grabbed a cooler and tossed it on him.  About that time it just started dumping rain on us.  I was soaked, before I realized that my hood was down it was full of water.  Ick.

We managed to walk out aways and Cartman grabbed a few bites of grass then we headed for the trailer and it was blowing and raining sideways.  He practically jumped into the trailer and we were off for the house.

Yikes, I sure hope it is better tomorrow, I'm going to try for another longer ride if at all possible:)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Test Ride in the RP VSD Summit

Yesterday the RP saddle fitter came to fit the test saddle on Cartman.  I was too busy watching her and listening to instructions that I didn't take single picture (sorry). 

It was an interesting process.  She began by setting the saddle directly on Cartman's back without the panels on it.  At this point it was evident that the tree shape is really good on him. Yeah!  I really wish I'd gotten a photo of that so I could show you a comparison of how the shape on him compares to how the shape of my Specialized fits him.  Maybe after I'm more comfortable with the panel placement I'll pull them off and do a side by side of just the trees.

Next she explained how the saddle would need to have some rock to it sitting like this.  The discs attach at the front and back of the panels and without some room at front and back you could get bridging and the panels would not be able to do their job and have some flexibility.

Cartman's left side did not have a lot of room at the back of the tree but his left side had significantly more.  This makes sense with the fact that his left side has become more developed than his right has.  My saddle was slipping to the right and that was what was causing me to feel like my left stirrup was suddenly shorter.

She set up the panels with one slightly thicker disc on the right hind and three thinner discs on the other points.  We went into the arena and walked Cartman away to see if the saddle would shift right.  It did move over to the right further than to the left but stayed pretty close to centered.

I got on and took him for a little spin. 

The Summit comes with a couple of removable blocks that go under the front of the flap.  I wasn't too sure about the blocks but she suggested I give them a try.   Wow, I was really surprised at how wide the saddle felt.  But not in a bad way-  just unfamiliar.   I felt completely secure in the seat! 

I had been a little concerned about going to an English style saddle but it was actually really nice. 

We did a little walk- trot- lope and then she had me jump off and she evaluated how the panels were fitting.  I noticed he was moving fine but a little stiff going to the left and not wanting to give me much bend in that direction.

Its kind of counter- intuitive but the panels were actually a little too tight fitting.  The top of the panel was basically pushed up too close to the saddle as there wasn't quite enough room.  So, this means we needed to try it with the thicker discs!

After the discs were changed out and the front two were moved a little back and up on one side, and back on the other side we gave it another go.

I totally did not expect to notice a difference but there was one.  It was almost immediate that he started swinging freer in the shoulder and stepping through in the back.  I could not believe it.  Was I just feeling this because I wanted to???  I don't think so, because it took me by complete surprise. 

Then he started stretching down.  It was like he was exploring how the saddle felt!  He really is an honest horse.  It makes me feel bad that I didn't pick up on the saddle fit issue sooner.  Hind sight and all.

All in all we spent almost three hours in this fitting process and I felt pretty confident at the end of that time that I'd be able to give the saddle a good test in the next two weeks.  I am definitely glad that I went with having a fitter out and not trying to do it myself, even though I've read good reviews about the phone fittings.

Today I waited until it looked like there was no chance of rain and we headed out to ride the saddle outside.

I realized that there was no way to attach a breast collar to the girth so we'd have to go without one.

It still felt really wide when I got on but I think its something I may be able to get used to.  The true test is whether I can ride it at the walk without getting that awful shoulder burn.  Not to get too personal but if a saddle doesn't fit me right and comes up to much in front I will "curl" my pelvis away and it will result in my shoulders burning really bad. 

We walked about a half mile and then picked up the trot.  I really like the security that this saddle gives my leg.  The design actually creates a channel for your leg- you can see that between the brown panels on the flaps.  Before I knew it we had made it 2.5 miles at the trot and canter. 

It had only been about 1/2 hour so I figured we better head up into the sand and get some up and down hills in- and some more walking.  We climbed up with no problems, he stuck that long neck out and climbed right up, even in the sand.  Then we spent about 15 minutes walking the sand trails and went up and down several dunes.  Going down hill was like floating. 

I dropped my stirrups quite a bit during this part of our ride and noticed that without stirrups I was becoming a little "aware" of the front of the saddle.  Now for comparison let me explain, when I get on the reining saddle that has a lot of rise in front I can't get out of sight of the trailer without being miserable at the walk.  This was nothing like that.  On a scale of 1 to 10 for comfort of the shoulders blades at the walk the reining saddle gets a 1.5 (I mean I can't give it a 0- I'm sure there is something more uncomfortable out there!)

The Summit gets an 8.5 so far, for shoulder comfort.  Otherwise I'd give it a 9-9.5 for over all comfort for me.  I like it.  It doesn't hurt that its a really pretty saddle, and is also really well made.

When I got back we'd done about 7.5 miles and spent an hour and a half.  I kicked the stirrups free and leapt off, hoping not to torque the saddle so that I could get a good idea of how straight it stayed during the ride. 

The dang saddle didn't look like it had moved!  No breastcollar and it did not slip back at all. Wow.  Well, I guess that IS how saddles are SUPPOSED to fit.... eeek, more feeling bad....

Then I pulled it off and saw this sweat pattern:

I am beyond thrilled with how it fits him!  Now if I can just determine if it is going to work for me for really long rides.  Unfortunately the weather doesn't look like its going to cooperate for me to do much real trail riding in the next week.  There is no way I'm taking this saddle out if it looks like rain! 

I love how balanced I feel in the saddle so I'll just have to keep riding it and see. 

All around the RP gets a big thumbs up!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

RP Arrives

Cartman got his shoes on one week ago today!  Yeah!!!

He got a raging case of scratches too.  Boo hiss!!!

We've been jogging and loping the 5 mile path every few days though and he feels great.

I've been coming home with a kinked back and rubbed knees from trying to post his rather boisterous trot in the Western Saddle.  I'm pretty sure that I could not complete an LD in it.  It is really comfortable at the sitting trot and the canter though and it certainly gives you a "secure" feeling.

I've been using anti-bacterial/anti-fungal shampoo on his pasterns almost every day and he has been spending quite a bit of time in the barn.  He's not real thrilled with that, but it's really hard to keep a horses feet dry in this climate!  During the day he goes out with a Desitin/Neosporin mixture rubbed into the scabs.

None of the other five horses got scratches so I've theorized that those last few rides pre-shoeing that we did in the sand caused some irritation, and since I was a bad horse owner and did not wash and dry his pasterns off it allowed the Scratches to take hold.  Sigh. 

Today when I got home from work this little beauty was waiting for me.

Saturday is our fitting appointment. Then I get to test this saddle for two weeks!  It's really nicely made;  I just hope it is comfortable too.  I have no idea how I'm going to tie all my "stuff" to something like this!