Saddle Trial 1 – Duett Bravo

For me, one of the most important aspects of shopping for any high-priced horse stuff  is customer service. With a restrictive budget for saddle shopping, I know that I can’t go out and buy a $6K saddle. However, when I am spending what is, to me, a lot of money, it is so important that I feel like I am treated fairly, if not well.

In that category, Duett saddle gets a 10/10. Sheri is responsive and accommodating. The whole team works to provide you with the best option possible, and they are still positive and responsive. Even if you choose not to buy, but more on that in a minute. 

The saddle arrived in a timely fashion and in great condition (new but has been used for other demo rides)


The Leather wasn’t buttery calfskin (which of course I wasn’t expecting) but it reminded me a lot of the leather from my old Crosby, made by Miller. The kind of leather that breaks in beautifully and will last you a while. 

The fit on May was even good, even if the saddle sat up above her a bit more than I am used to. Either way, the panels sat flush from front to back. 

 

However, the pommel of the saddle sat a bit low. Hmmm… ok. Well I have often hated saddles for making me feel blocked in front because May had such big shoulders and hoop trees tend to be flat in front unless you get the pommel artificially built up. Not a big deal to me. 

So I put a pad under it, put stirrups on (under the top flap and wrapped to prevent wear) and I swung up. At the walk? No problems. I had heard some people complain about the width of the twists of these saddles, but I often ride May bareback, and it doesn’t get much wider than that. 

We walked for a while then trotted… and I felt like I was going to fall over her shoulder. I played around with the stirrups and couldn’t get a great feel. I really really wanted it to work, but I felt my back and core working overtime to try and keep my shoulders, hips, ankles in line. 


I then tried pulling the stirrups. Maybe the whole saddle is just tipped forward. First of all, my horse is a saint because new saddles and no stirrups and my least sticky breeches meant there was LOTS of slipping and sliding going on. However, I no longer felt out of balance. Hmmmmm 


I had some pictures taken from the side with stirrups and without. And the issue turns out the stirrup bar was just in the wrong place for me. Damn -.-

Ultimate decision – nice saddle especially for the price range if it works for you and your horse. Sheri and the team are wonderful, so I would recommend at least trying them if you have a wide horse and are in the market. In the future, I may try one of their Dressage saddles. 

We did get to take one jump in May! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ as for next steps, the Bravo is heading back to its home. I spoke to a Black Country rep who has something that will probabky work… but it’s out on trial this week. 

In the meantime, I might take something out of the box on trial… like a wide French saddle, since everyone keeps telling me she just has big shoulders and isn’t as wide down her back as I think. 

05.11.17 – Dressage Lesson: Sideways is the New Straight

During my first dressage lesson with my new trainer (NT), she was entirely focused on creating a steadier contact in the bridle. We worked on making the aids super clear and getting the back end properly engaged. That lesson was about 6 months ago. I am happy to report that May has become much steadier and more reliable in the contact.

As a result, it is time to move onto new things! More specifically, NT wanted us to work on gaining mobility through May’s body. In her words, “It’s a lot of horse, and you need to be able to move it with not a lot of work.” Fair enough.

The first exercise was to pick up a trot and trot down the rail in a straight line. However, I would want her head facing towards the wall and her hindquarters off the wall at about a 40 degree angle, like the below. (May is the yellow line)

Dressage Exercixe 1

It seems simple enough. The issue? As soon as I put my leg on, May threw her whole body weight into my leg. Making us look more like this:

Dressage Fail

My reaction? I immediately start messing with my hands, get tense in my seat, and take my leg off. This is also known as doing everything wrong at once, and as a result, causing additional problems like our inability to even travel in the proper direction… along the wall. This is where my trainer gets tough. To paraphrase her instructions, “if she resists your leg, you need to keep your leg, and possibly even get tougher WITH. YOUR. LEG. until she yields. Then release the pressure. DO. NOT. release that pressure until she gives and don’t block the rest of her body with her hands and seat.”

Well Yes. Ok. Let’s do that. Except at the walk. We started at the walk to give us enough time to get the desired response as well as to help give me the opportunity to property time the aids so they would be clearest to May. (I was trying to signal the outside hing leg to step over as it came off the ground.) After having a discussion with May about how she needs to yield to my leg. No it doesn’t mean throw your body into my leg. No its doesn’t mean faster. No it doesn’t mean backwards. She finally stepped over with her hind leg away from my leg.

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Shenanigans from another time πŸ™‚

May got big pats and all pressure released. Then, we tried again at the trot. She had a much more appropriate reaction to my leg, and we were able to tale a few steps along the wall at an angle, straighten out, then move back to the angle again without any fuss. We tried it the other direction and has similarly good results. Smart Mare!

Once finishing the exercise, I noticed an immediate, positive shift in May’s response to my leg. Instead of nagging with my inside leg to get some resemblance of bend, I was able to just close my leg and she moved around it. Brilliant!

The next exercise took things a bit further… and into the canter. Canter leg yields have been notoriously hard for May and I. I find she just runs through my hand and half halts instead of actually moving over. This drill required us to start against the rail and leg yield off the rail to the center of the arena. NT asked me to keep her in a slight counter bend and allow her to lead with the shoulder. It looked like this:

Canter Leg Yield

Our first attempt was off of the left lead and was abysmal. May threw her head up, ran through my hand, and on the half halt, broke into the trot. UGLY. My trainer asked me to try again, but this time to really open the left (inside)Β rein to help her understand where her shoulder should go. It couldn’t be that simple right? It couldn’t be that my countless failures at leg yield at the canter could be solved by opening my rein.

It was… it was that simple though. We came around the corner, got straight, got the slight counter bend, and leg yielded over. We then came across and did it again. No issues. Well then, okay.

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We then switched to the right, which is May’s more difficult direction. so difficult in fact, that we didn’t even get a proper canter transition. NT wasn’t going to allow us to get away with that, so we came back onto a 20 meter circle and did a few more T/C transitions until they were clean and reliable. Then we tried the leg yielding. May leg yielded… she also threw her head around in the air as much as possible in protest. NT just had me keep my hands quiet and to continue to ask her to move over. Right now, we were just focusing on getting the correct response to my leg.

All in all, it was a great lesson that left both May and I tired and sweating. It also gave us a lot to work towards. Unfortunately, she came out a bit footsore in the left front on Sunday, so we ended up doing hill work on some softer footing than our current arena. (Due to copious amounts of heavy rain early in the month, our outdoor is quite hard now that it has dried out). However, the fields are quite nice right now, and in her hoof boots, May was comfortable.

Saddle Search Update:

The saddle fitter came back and recommended a Black Country, since I told her in no uncertain terms that $5K was out of my budget. She told me specifically that I need to make sure any saddle I try has upswept panels in order for an 18″ to fit on May’s back. This is actually a great article (for arabians but on the issues I am having).

I have a used Black Country I may be interested in, but I am taking a Duett Bravo jumping saddle on trial to check it out. Thus far, the team at Duett has been helpful and responsive, so here is hoping it works out!

Saddle Woes…

After I got May, I knew I would have to find something that would be able to be fitted to May. I couldn’t afford a new, custom saddle (and still can’t), but I could afford something that might be close and have it adjusted to fit. 

I got an Albion with a hoop tree at a good price. I got recommendations for a saddle fitter from a number of sources and paid a good deal of money to get the Albion adjusted and reflocked. I even got a recommendation for a Dressage saddle. 

After I got the Albion back… I wasn’t thrilled. A good amount of time passed and I was finally able to have a saddle fitter out in KY. 

What did I learn? The Albion was adjusted much too narrow, and I can’t readjust it at this point. The seat is also too long, which is impossible to change. New saddle fitter recommended I go with the brand she apparently reps – Patrick Saddlery… at about $5K for a jump saddle m…

So does anyone have any recommendations for a jump saddle that would fit a short backed wide horse? 

Happy Two Years!

Two years ago, I loaded my previous horse onto a trailer with my trainer, drove out to PA, rode a very green corgi horse, and brought her home. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Together, we introduced each other to eventing, moved to KY, and have continued to take life as it comes.

Happy Two Years, May! Thanks for being my short, yellow unicorn.

A Rolex Hangover

This year I finally had the opportunity to dip my toe into the ocean that is the Rolex 3 day event at the Kentucky Horse Park and attend the XC day. Originally, we didn’t buy tickets because I was somehow under the impression that it was the same weekend as the tasting for my wedding. Thanks to an ad in COTH. I realized the day after the early-bird special pricing that it was, in fact, the weekend after. HOORAY! We bought tickets that night as both an early and a late birthday present for me!

I AM SO GLAD WE DID!

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There is a huge difference between watching Rolex on TV and being there in person. Having a horse gallop past you at full speed towards a jump that you can’t even see over is awe-inspiring and thrilling. Even the fiance had to admit it was a pretty cool sport to spectate at.

There was A LOT of walking involved. Between wanting to check out all the things for sale, getting food, and wanting to see as many of the jumps as possible, we walked a lot. The first thing we did because we got there so early was check out the shops set up. I visited a friend of mine I haven’t seen in YEARS at the Bit of Britain tent, which I think is part of the magic of Rolex. It’s like a pilgrimage for eventers. I ended up getting an ariat sun shirt, an ariat long sleeved quarter zip, an US Eventing polo, and a Rolex 3 Day baseball cap.

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However, there were a lot of things that made me go all grabby hands:

  • Dublin Pinnacle boots in black – I have seen pictures of these boots everywhere. I briefly considered getting them, but the pictures made them look clunky and the price point made me question how well they were made. Seeing them in person changed that. They were absolutely lovely. The laces up the side give them a close fitting feel that again, I really just wasn’t expecting. Definitely adding these to the list!
  • Saddles – I wish I could put one brand in here that I was like YES THAT ONE, but I can’t. I have seen a lot of French saddles, and I have owned both a Voltaire and a Devoucoux. As a result, I also know that they would never fit a horse built like May. I currently ride in an Albion, which is… ok. It puts me in a bit of a chair seat and the leather is a bit slicker than I would like, but the big blocks give it a secure feel. It mostly fits May, and it was in my budget after I bought her. All good things. However, the fit to her could be better and the fit to me could be MUCH better. I was really drawn to three saddle brands for the trees they offer that could solve my problems: Black Country, County, and Bliss of London. Trying to make an appointment with a local saddle fitter to discuss the Albion and possible other alternatives before calling out a brand-specific rep. Anyone have experiences with these brands?
  • Horses – seriously, how can you not watch riders gallop over massive fences with huge smiles on their faces without wanted a chance to ride on of these awesome athletes? Then I realize that I am not the kind of athlete the riders are, and I am quite satisfied with Miss May.

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We didn’t bring chairs because I didn’t want to haul them around all day. So at around 11:30AM, we got lunch and headed into the stadium to sit down and watch on the big screen. About 10 minutes later, the skies opened up, but because of where we were sitting, we stayed nice and dry.

After lunch, we headed down to the head of the lake. We got a decent spot to watch, and we got to check seeing a person fall off in the water off our list. We stayed just past 1PM to see Kim Severson, Clark Montgomery, and (of course) Michael Jung ride through the head of the lake. Both Kim and Clark looked so solid through the water, and we were crushed to hear the difficulties they had later on course. Thanks to USEF offering free video clips over the rest of the weekend – I got to see the rest of their rides. It really is an education to see these people ride.

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After Michael Jung, we packed up and headed home. Overall, we spent about 5 hours at the horse park and my head was absolutely spinning. The next day I wasn’t able to watch the show jumping, but I was repeatedly updating the live scores on my phone. (and providing the poor fiance with constant updated and facts and figures) Overall, Michael Jung proved that a good mare is worth her weight in gold.

I was also heartened to see the 18yo Mr. Medicott winning the US title and that almost all of the horses in the top 5 were in their teens (Rocana is 12). I guess I shouldn’t be questioning if I should let my 12(ish) year old horse stay at the lower levels. A sound horse is a sound horse, and the longer I am around horses, the more I learn that young does not equal sound and old does not equal lame.

Speaking of May – I rode her this weekend, and she is just barely foot sore. The more time she spent in the forgiving arena footing, the more comfortable she felt. Still taking it easy, but it was nice to be able to put a somewhat normal flat ride on her!