Monday, November 4, 2013

Red Teaches Me That Less is More, and I Laugh

It was a good day - three nice rides.  My session with Red was particularly interesting.  After grooming - he was the muddiest of my three and it took a long time to get him cleaned up - we tried out my Kieffer dressage saddle.  Although it was flocked to fit him about a year and a half ago, I haven't been riding him in it but have been using my About the Horse Western trail saddle, which also fit him back then.  I thought the Kieffer was tight through the shoulders, even when correctly placed on his back.  It did interfere less with his shoulders than the About the Horse saddle, though, so we gave it a try out.  His walk was freer in the Kieffer, but as soon as we tried trot, it was immediately clear the saddle was a no go - he was reluctant to move forward at the trot and the saddle was rocking a bit since it was probably placed a bit too far back in order to get some shoulder clearance.  Red said no way.

I took him back into the barn aisle and took the saddle off, and we went back in the ring and had a really fine bareback ride.  His transitions were excellent, and his forward was lovely - with no dressage whip - he seemed to be enjoying himself.  It looks like we'll be riding bareback until we figure out a saddle solution.  I think with all the work we've been doing, his back and particularly his shoulders have changed shape due to muscle development.  So the saddles that used to fit no longer do. But bareback in the winter is lots of fun, and Red's perfectly shaped for it.

We then worked on our canter - or rather, I worked on my canter with Red's assistance - he said that his canter was just fine, thank you very much.  I haven't ridden much at the canter bareback since I was a kid and have been really looking forward to doing it again.  We had a number of ugly transitions into canter to start with - generally just my urging him on in trot until he fell into canter - or non-transitions involving fast trot.  I know he can do a nice trot/canter transition and also very nice walk/canter transitions, and was perplexed about what I was doing wrong.

Red gave me a hint: "less is more . . ."

The minute I stopped riding like a yahoo, pushing and leaning and urging, and simply thought the new rhythm and exhaled - bingo! - perfect walk/canter transitions on both leads.  We did a series of canter departures on both leads only using a thought and a breath, and they couldn't have been more perfect.  I was laughing in delight, and I think Red was smiling too. His canter is a blast to ride bareback. Red says I'm a slow learner (Dawn says she could have told him that), but I get there eventually . . .


  1. Saddle fitting can be such a pain. Riding Red bareback sounds like a blast. Glad you both had such a nice time.

  2. Sounds like fun - I like the "less is more" concept and try and work on that when I'm riding too. Good for you for working on your bareback riding. I'm terrible at riding bareback. My coach has me working without stirrups at the jog/trot and I'll be trying to canter w/out stirrups next year, I'm sure. Slow going on my part, but worth it in the end!

  3. Beautiful. I am smiling really big right now just thinking about your ride.

  4. At this point, Red is going to have to apply for his instructor's license.

    Frustrating about the saddles. But if you can have fun bareback, then all is well. *S*

  5. We've been through a lot of saddle issues this year, too -- Panama changed shape when he lost weight early in the spring, and now is back to where he was (so his saddle fits him again without the shimming pad -- yay!), and Rondo has lost some weight from a switch to grass hay (from mix) and more exercise. I'm glad he's in better shape (though he still needs more muscle on his top line) but man saddle fitting is a pain!

    And, Laura, it took me forever to canter bareback, but from experience I can tell you it's not as tough as you might think. Try it with a nice microsuede bareback pad -- it'll help keep you from sliding around, and it's FAR easier than no-stirrup work in the saddle!

  6. Also, just as a side note, I've found with Panama that the transition to canter is much easier bareback than in a saddle. I tend to wrap my legs around him a bit at the canter, so I just do that he knows I want the canter. Other than that, I really don't change my position much, and so the transition just flows!


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