Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Dressage Experiment

I usually ride in a western saddle, however years ago I bought a dressage starter set. I took a class in horse management from the local community college, and the teacher was a dressage instructor. She lived just a couple of minutes away from me, so I had hoped to take lessons from her. However, right after our horse management class ended she moved away. The dressage saddle ended up sitting on a rack collecting dust.

Today I decided to get it out and try it on Lostine. She's usually very grumpy when I tighten -- or even touch -- the cinch on a western saddle, but the cinch that came with this dressage saddle was elastic. Lostine didn't seem the least bit bothered when I fiddled around with it. The cinch they sent with the set was too short, so I bought a cinch strap extender. I really only need it when I first put the saddle on the horse and it bloats its belly. Once we get the air out during longeing, the strap extension really isn't that necessary.

When I longed Lostine, the red saddle pad kept slipping back behind the saddle, even though it was connected to the cinch straps. I kept pulling it forward until I discovered a black strap on each side of the pad. I figured that strap had to attach to something, so I strung the stirrup straps through them. That did the trick, and the saddle pad stopped slipping. For those dressage riders out there, please tell me if this is how you are supposed to attach those straps.

Upon seeing the saddle on Lostine's back, it became obvious to me that it was too small for my current booty. I still wanted to try it out. Though the saddle has been collecting dust, I still took it out from time to time to clean and polish it. Riding was a slippery slope. I could not get a grip on the saddle and realized I'd be safer riding bareback than riding on this tiny, well waxed dressage saddle. I kept Lostine down to a walk while I collected myself and tried to figure out the best way to keep my balance. When I gripped with my thighs and knees, the buckles on the stirrup straps dug into the insides of my thighs. I realized afterwards that I could pull the buckles up underneath that flap. Doh!

I only rode for a few minutes. Lostine really wanted to GO GO GO, and I was holding her back. Then my neighbors came out and decided that was a good time to start picking up garbage along my fence line right where I was riding. They were picking up large pieces of metal that made noise and looked scary to a horse. Lostine spooked to the side and I almost bit the dust. I halted her and dismounted, which was a bit of a joke. The saddle shifts a lot easier than a heavy western saddle, so it started sliding down her side even though I was leaning across her back while removing my left foot from the stirrup. All in all, Lostine was a good sport.

In other news, yet another fire has broken out to pollute the sky ever further. This one is in Hope Valley, just 12 miles from my home. Hope Valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I am very annoyed that it is being destroyed by fire. The last news report said that 100 acres have burned and the well-known Sorenson's Resort, along with many homes, have been evacuated.


ranchette said...

a little cross training sounds like a fun idea! Glad Lostine was up for the switch.

On the strap to keep the pad in place, you can run the billets (where the cinch is buckled on each side) through the black strap. This will hold the pad in place.

For English stirrups, there is actually a breakaway feature that allows the leathers to pull out off the saddle if you get hung up and fall off your horse. (unlikely, but a good feature!). I think having the strap as in the pictures would disable that safety ability.

Let me know if that makes sense. I can take a picture of how mine is set up.

Callie said...

Wow! Good for you trying something new. I'm afraid, I'd have to stick to my trusty western set up! I don't think I stay on something like that!

OnTheBit said...

You know attaching it to the stirrup isn't a terrible guess. Ranchette's right, we normal attach it to the billets so it doesn't slip. Now the fact that the saddle slipped makes me very worried. That can actually really hurt the back muscles and so with everything you have had going on this year I don't think you need to add a sore backed horse to the list! I know that your instructor wanted to see you in the dressage saddle but since it doesn't fit you, or Lostine I think you can get away with riding without it. And I am also not sure that is really even a dressage saddle. It looks like a black all purpose saddle. You see how your flaps on the front of the saddle have a round shape to them? Normal dressage saddles have very little arch to them because you want your thigh to be more straight down. With that saddle you would have to bend you leg more then with a normal dressage saddle. I hope you have a good lesson tomorrow!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

ranchette & onthebit - Thanks for that information. I'll play about with it and see if I can make it work. The billets are already through one set of straps, and on first glance it looks like those other straps won't reach, but I'll give it a try and let you know.

I call it my cardboard saddle, because the flaps are actually made out of cardboard! The saddle is a total piece of &*^%. Don't worry, onthebit, I've already made the decision not to have a lesson in that saddle. I might give it away at a garage sale, and tell the taker to be very careful. We had to cancel this week's riding lesson, because the other student moved her lesson to Tuesday, which is the one day of the week when I'm not in the area. Oh well.

Callie - I'm afraid of this saddle in particular. However, if I had a really nice, properly constructed, properly fitted dressage, all purpose, close contact, endurance, or English saddle, I'm sure I'd adapt. The stirrups feel sturdier than what I have on my western saddle. The dressage/all purpose stirrups are metal with a rubber grip pad. The western stirrups are all leather and I tend to lose them often.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

ranchette & onthebit - I was able to get those high straps one the billets. I hadn't paid attention to the fact that they are accessible all the way up to the top of the saddle underneath the flap. Thanks.

simplyeuphoric said...

hi, i just joined blogger, and searched google for people on blogger that like horses and you popped up. I'm a hunter/jumper. :)

I love how you called the english girth a cinch, :).

any ways, I hope you stop by my blog too.

Twinville said...

Interesting saddle, NM. I've never even sat in a dressage saddle, so I'm not much help. But I've been told by many that learning to ride English in a dressage saddle is a really good idea for beginners, especially because of the focus it puts on your seat and maintaining balance, and your contact with the horse.

Maybe you can borrow one for your lessons with Lostine, if yours is too small?

So, were you not even consulted with when the lesson day was changed? What if you have to change a lesson date? Would his other student be forced to change or lose a lesson, too?
Weird and annoying. :P

Oh no! Not more fires. Your area is just not getting a break is it?
Have you gotten any rain this year?
We keep getting rain just about every day, and it's been a pretty cold summer, too, by New Mexico standards.

I hope these fires burn out quickly and noone else loses home or life. :(

ranchette said...

It is kind of counter intuitive isn't it. Glad you got it worked out. Happy Riding. :)

jme said...

good for you trying something new! sorry your ride was less than ideal; my neighbors always decide it's important to clear brush along the fencline next to my arena just when i'm getting on a spooky one :-\

ps-if you're still interested in trying dressage, the wintec saddles are pretty nice and relatively inexpensive, esp. if you buy one used - plus you can adjust the width to fit your horse....

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I've been having fits trying to get this set of comments to cooperate. First I wrote responses to everyone, but publishing crashed and I lost everything I wrote. Then each time I tried to read the comments, the page returned a blank screen. I'll try one more time, but first I'm going to keep a copy before pushing the Publish button.

simplyeuphoric - Welcome! I did not know that a cinch is called a girth with an English saddle. I do have a tendency to use wrong terminology. I'm supposed to say "lope" when referring to western pleasure, but I keep saying "canter".

twinville - My instructor's ability to come to my home is completely dependent upon his other student's schedule. If she were not paying him to drive the hour to her place, he wouldn't come to mine. Her schedule comes first because she shows... and she's a millionaire. I actually boarded Bombay at her place years ago when he was first being trained. It is an awesome facility that required a key code at the gate to get in. We have had a minimal amount of rain this year. The planes got that fire under control fairly fast.

jme - Thanks for the recommendation.

Glamour Girl said...

I rode dressage for years and it bored me to death. I loved jumping and finally rode western. Trails mostly once I quit showing and had a horse for fun. Dressage was so intense that I couldnt' seem to just "enjoy" myself. It was like I was missing out on the whole reason to be there. But I agree with you! Western is fun! Dressage is like being in school, Western is like summer vacation!

Jenn said...

It doesn't look like the saddle fits Lostine very well at all. See how the front (pommel) sits a bit high? That usually means the gullet (middle part that "straddles" the withers) is too narrow and can pinch her withers painfully. You can use a simple method to tell if an English/Dressage saddle fits properly (not too high in front or in back) by placing a ball in the seat and seeing where it balances. It should balance near the "twist" which is the narrowest part of the seat. I'll bet the ball would balance towards the back part of the saddle.

It's funny how people get used to what style they are riding. I feel most comfortable in an English saddle. When I ride in a Western saddle I feel trapped like I can't get out and get out of the way quickly if necessary and that feeling makes me very tense and uncomfortable. I will admit though, a good western saddle beats my English and dressage saddles any day of the week on an all-day trail ride!

Amy Brand said...

When you put her saddle on, take the front of the pad & pull it up into the gullet. This will take pressure off of their withers! And you were close on the straps....they typically go on the first billet. You can also buy a thin black pad to go under them...a non-slick pad.

Make sure the saddle fits her properly. You should be able to get three fingers in the pommel fairly easily.

You should be able to fit a whole hand between your butt & the cantle. If you can't...then it is too small for you. I am 5'8" & I ride in an 18" seat.

Thanks for the link!