Saturday, April 17, 2010

Of Barrel Saddles and Warm-Up Pens

Earlier in February I borrowed my friend's barrel saddle to try on Mercy. Mine, a Big Horn brand barrel saddle, does not fit Mercy at all! It's too narrow and rides right on her shoulders... not good. Plus, quite honestly, it doesn't fit me either. I bought the 15" while in 4H; I just needed something to get going in. But really I need a 14 or 14.5" to stay in the saddle better. The saddle I borrowed is a Rico brand and it was supposedly a full QH bar. I compared the two, measurement wise, and they were the same... hummm. Well, I finally got it on and slapped on the breast collar. This is what it looked like:

The saddle pad is a full sized saddle pad, so it looks huge. I see a saddle that still isn't quite perfect. It isn't resting on her shoulders as severely as my Big Horn, but it still pops up in the back. I should try it again without the breast collar some time, maybe that would make a difference. I think I might have to just take her into the local saddle place if I choose to pursue this further. But first I have to sell my saddle. Boo.

Fast forward a month and we found ourselves at Donida Farm to practice or warm-up etiquette. There was a schooling show taking place this day so it was a perfect chance to figure out why we were having issues in the warm-up arena and how to fix them.

We got there around 9 or 10 in the morning and there was almost no one there! Maybe ten participants, if that! This was nice because then I have more room to work Mercy, but we came here to work on high pressure situations. OK...

As soon as I got Mercy saddled and into the arena she immediately tried taking off into a lope. Umm... no, that's not acceptable. I took hold and worked her into tight circles at the trot until she cooled down. It took quite a while, but she finally let up, for a while.

I finally got her to collect a little bit and asked her for the lope going to the left. Her circles got continually larger and larger. And when we got to one side of the arena she would shoulder out and ram toward the fence. I was finally able to realize that she needed more direction BEFORE the issue showed itself. So a couple of strides before that one sticky spot I made a point to direct her into the circle and voila! She didn't shoulder out! And she smoothed out:

She wasn't collected, but I wasn't worried about that because she wasn't fighting me, kicking out at other horses riding by, or trying to run off.
Better yet, when I asked her to reverse and some back to a jog, this was the result:

Dang she looks good when she gets it together! After a few laps jogging out I stopped her for a break (for me, lol!). I really haven't had good ground to practice spins in for a while so I took the opportunity to while I was there. It didn't go too well...

She was super touchy and she let me know it with her awful facial expressions. But as soon as I just let her rest again she was fine. I think she just wasn't ready to get back to work again:

After the good long break, I asked Mercy to lope again to the left. She took off at more of a gallop. I truly think she is race bred; this pic proves it to me:

She eventually found the nice controlled lope and we moved off to the other end of the arena to lope the other direction. The right lead is her worst. She is so incredibly unbalanced and feels the need to rush through every corner. Fortunately it didn't take too long for her to find a groove.

It still wasn't as nice as the left lead, but we found some balance and even though we were moving a lot faster than I would have preferred, I found a good place to stop her and call it good for the day. She ultimately did exactly what our goal for the day was: to enter the warm-up pen and behave around other riders! After walking a few laps around the super large arena to cool off, we headed home.

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