|Arya in the latest setup. The pommel bag is flipped up over the saddle so I could show the saddle maker how it sits, well off her shoulder.|
And we really were. We walked VERY slowly for the first bit. My hips didn't LOVE the saddle still, but were much more comfortable than before. Just small twinges rather than outright pain.
Then when we started trotting, I remember how much I love this saddle for trotting. So nice! But Arya didn't want to keep up with Flash, despite my encouragement, and we ended up with quite a gap between us. I also kept feeling like she wan't quite right. Her head wasn't nodding, really, but she felt like she wasn't taking full steps, and her body was kind of swerving wonkily even though her feet didn't seem to be. I asked Shar to watch us at the trot, both with me posting and with me sitting the trot so I wasn't affecting her gait that way. Shar didn't THINK she saw anything wrong, but she clearly seemed ouchy on the gravel. So we took it easy, trotting fairly slowly when it wasn't TOO rocky, walking when it was, both on the roadway and when we got to the singletrack. We walked down the shoulder of a paved road, then got to another dirt road. For some of it, there was space on the shoulder to ride on, though it was sometimes canted so much I didn't feel comfortable trotting her on it. But where it was level enough, we trotted, and she MOVED OUT.
Of course, she's always much more motivated when on the way home, and she knew we were headed that direction, but the softer footing also made her more comfortable, I could tell. But most of all, it seems this saddle DOES feel better for her--it felt like she was reaching farther with her shoulder than she'd been able to in the Western saddle. More time will tell, especially if she gets comfortable in her shiny new shoes. :-)
Meanwhile, we were assessing Flash. He's got new wedges for his shoes (horsie high heels), and only one ride prior to this, in which he did have one recurrence of the issue he has the wedges for (a wonky shoulder movement every so often). It didn't happen at all this ride, though, luckily, so maybe those wedges are working and his muscle is rebuilding.
Shar and I will ride again, along with a couple other folks, on Thursday, then we're hoping to ride 18 miles on Sunday. It's an out-and-back ride, though, so if either of us needs to turn around, we'll both turn around. But hopefully both horses and both humans are up for going the distance. It'll be my longest ride to date.
On the confidence front, there were a couple of things to report:
Fairly early in the ride, on the singletrack where Arya had a pretty big spook on my last solo ride on her, we were trotting along at a pretty good clip when we got to that spot, but I went ahead and kept trotting rather than slow her down in anticipation of that spot. It turns out the plastic bag was gone, so she didn't even bat an eye, but I was mentally a bit proud of myself for not pre-freaking out. :-)
On one of the home stretches, when we were going at a pretty good trot, Arya did a tiny little crow hop then broke into the canter. I think she was pissed that I was kind of holding her back. I didn't even get that panicky feeling in my gut. I stuck the hop (such as it was), sat the canter, and slowed her down without panicking, though I was concerned that we were right next to a T-post fence and I REALLY didn't want to end up anywhere near it if I came off! Shar said she was proud of me for not freaking out, and I was pretty proud of myself too, I can admit that. :-)
Lastly, when we were nearly home, Arya's pasture buddy and BFF (if not all-out girlfriend) had been missing her, and bellowed loudly when we got nearby. Usually Arya just ignores her, but today she was glad to be home, too, and was pretty focused on her buddy. I saw that she was veering off the road and into a ditch that's a few inches deep, but a decent drop-off from the road. If I hadn't noticed that, and was spacing out or looking in another direction, I probably would have freaked out. But I saw that she was about to trip her way into it, so when she did, I just laughed at her. We've come a long way since the first few rides post-bucking incident(s)...
Hope it continues in a positive direction. I can't say I NEVER freak out, but even the spook on a strange-to-me equine (the mule I rode Monday) didn't have me as freaked out as I would have been a few months ago. I mean, I knew it wasn't a GOOD thing, but first I focused on sitting the gait, then worried about my shoe being further into the stirrup than was a good thing (tennies in a non-caged stirrup), and it wasn't until he put his head down like he was going to buck that I really got that tummy-clenching feeling of panic.
Anyway, so it was a good ride, and there are hopefully many more to come. When we got back, I tried a breastcollar on her (with Shar's help for how to adjust it). She may not NEED it, but it probably can't hurt before doing the hilly ride we've got planned this weekend, and I figure I should ride her in it first (Thursday's ride), so needed to get that figured out and adjusted. If nothing else, it gives the pommel pack another anchor point so it doesn't flop around as much.
After all that, Arya finally got to do her favorite thing, which I'd been preventing her from all along (I'm so mean!)--EAT! I was grazing her on the little circle of grass in front of Shar's house, and she said" have her eat down the rocky area where we can't mow," so I pointed her there, and she was happy to oblige. Ignore the fact she looks guilty in this photo. She was just glaring at me taking her photo--she was MORE than happy to help with her assigned chore. :-)
After I put Arya away, I finished putting away her tack, and then headed to the house to chat with Shar a bit. From afar, I saw this strange sight:
|Three semi-feral kitties, hanging out in the middle of the horse pasture. Weirdos.|
It was weird to see a beautiful, soft, fluffy, prissy-looking, long-haired cat tromping through horse poo, but there she was:
|Crissy, of the litter of cats named after the Threes Company characters|
Too funny. :-)
So tonight, shoes. Thursday, easy ride. Then Sunday, big long ride with lots of elevation change. Life is good!