Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ride #7: Quite Good Fun

Today was back to basics day. No pads, no shim, just me and the saddle. I do think I am on the verge of visiting the chiropractor. I've been working harder at the gym to get my lower back strengthened up, and trim down a bit, and by the end of the week it seemed like my feet were getting further away, and gravity was getting stronger. I woke up this morning stiff as a board with a persistent ache in my left hip socket.
And I'm not the only member of this team feeling less than spry. The Grey Horse has been moving a bit short in front, particularly in the left front. I was hoping it was just general foot soreness from the dry weather, or maybe a stone bruise. I've been packing his hooves with Magic Cushion, and it's helping, but hasn't done away with the problem entirely. It's mostly noticeable longeing to the left on a hard surface, but if you let him warm up slowly it doesn't bother him much. I wouldn't doubt he pulled something in his shoulder. If you could see him play cowboys and indians (he's always the Lone Ranger) you would wonder how he has a leg left to stand on. So anyway, we've been taking it slow this week.
Determined to have a good ride, I took some Aleeve, and spent 10 minutes stretching and by the time I left the house I felt almost normal.
Now I know I will be battling the uphill battle with no cantle lift. Just out of curiosity, I pulled up the measurements of Grey that I did for a conformation study for Cornell University a couple of years ago. His withers measure a full 1.75 inches higher than his hips. This is pretty common for Saddlebreds. Our other two horses are 1.5 and 1.75 higher. So we'll work that out later. Today's goal was to sit straight.

This is me straddling my side saddle. I even chose a striped shirt to help with the visual.

I've swung my leg over, and not bad, but not perfect. I think this can be attributed to my horse not being square. His hips aren't level here either.

After walking to the end of the arena, I am more straight.

And after a bit of trotting, I have settled in a pretty good position.

And look what we have here... a HAPPY horse.
I think this expression is pretty telling. Last time he was very worried and hesitant. Today he seemed quite satisfied with the arrangement.

We even achieved what I would call a medium trot, instead of a halting jog while he worried about which side I was going to fall off on.

And a short video...

Please keep in mind this is only my 7th ride. I know there was quite the debate going on on face book about right toe up vs. right toe down position. I believe the concensus was "toe neutral". We all know the toe down position give a much cleaner line under an apron. My natural chair seat lends itself to the "toe up" position. If I try for too long to keep my foot neutral, my calf cramps. I imagine strength and practice will alleviate this.

I am also fighting with my left leg. I raised my stirrup one notch last week. I am still not confident enough in my balance to relax my left leg but I'm working on it. It feels worse than it looks in this clip, although you can see me fiddle with my stirrup once.

So there you have it. I was quite pelased with my ride and really had fun because I didn't feel like I was fighting the saddle. Of course I felt a little unfamiliar, but I no longer get butterflies in my stomach before I swing my leg over. I was worried the photos would tell a different tale, but they seem to portray what I was feeling. This really is quite good fun!


  1. Visit that chiropractor !

    I came off a barn roof when I was seventeen; fell twenty odd feet and landed flat on my back on concrete. Because I was young and really, really dumb, I never bothered going to the doctor until a couple of years later. Turns out this was a pretty big mistake on my part. When I fell, I fractured a bunch of stuff that healed up wrong mostly because nobody ever looked at it; suffice it to say I've had problems with my back and left hip ever since. Knowing this, it probably won't surprise you to learn that my chiropractor and masseuse are on my Christmas card list ! ;)

  2. You both look much happier & relaxed in those photos :)

    I've been following the toe up/down debate too. I find neutral/slightly down is where mine hangs and that seems more comfortable. I wonder if it is also influenced by your saddle (and how it makes you sit) & own body structure?

  3. I think you look very good... the shirt was a great idea! The third and especially fourth picture look really balanced (I'm not a sidesaddler, but you certainly look well centered to me!).

    The picture you used for your header is so nice, and the 3/4 shot of happy Grey and happy Brita: Priceless. Well, not literally, I'm sure there has been considerable outlay of fundage involved...

    I hope Grey' hoovies are feeling strong again soon. Magic Cushion's the bomb, isn't it?

  4. The toe up/down debate was really over where your foot is when jumping, NOT when flatting. For flatting, you ALWAYS want to be toe down or down/neutral. When you lift your toe, you are loosening your grip on the saddle.

    From the video, it actually looks more like the saddle does not fit you properly -- the leaping head appears to be set too low for your leg shape, and you are struggling to feel comfortable with it. That, combined with having your right toe up, is pushing you out of the "sweet spot" of the saddle, and making it very difficult for you. When the saddle fits you and the horse properly, it is like an "Ahhhhh" moment, and you do not have to struggle at all to stay with the horse.

  5. I'll have to try moving the leaping head. Right now I have it in the further back adjustment. I did that to try to encourage myself to lengthen my leg. You can see when I fiddle with my stirrup how my leg comes up, I lose my "purchase", I bounce like a ball and my horse worries.

    I'm saving my pennies to get a second saddle to try. This ride, without pads, was immensly better. Still looking forward to the "Ahhhhh" moment. I know it's out there!

    Thanks for stopping by Devon. Maybe some day I'll get to your place to try a few saddles.