October 1, 2010

when the saddle fits

I have replaced my horse with a shiny new one. don't worry: it's the same mare. I can't get over what's happening, though. it was a very light summer for riding, for a lot of reasons, and I'm only now getting back to it in earnest. it was hard to return to it, mostly because I feared that she'd have turned a little feral and we'd have a few awful rodeo days. nobody likes getting thrown from their horse. so it's been kind of an emotional battle to get back to the barn and ride. when I finally did, on saturday, I truly expected to have a huge battle: to have a spooky, attitude-y horse who didn't want to listen to me or go in a straight line or speed up/slow down on command. I showed up early to turn her loose in the arena, so she could burn off some steam, and she ran laps for ten minutes straight. I thought, well, here we go.

but then! I have decided officially to stop using my saddle, because it has not fit her for a long time, and therefore doesn't fit me either -- it's too narrow for her, particularly in the shoulder, and so it slants backwards slightly, putting me in the wrong position. I decided it would not do us any more good to hold onto it, even if I can't afford a new saddle, so I'm selling it and borrowing one of the lesson saddles until I can get another one. the saddle I'm currently using is a battered old low-end saddle, too big for me but PERFECT for cookie. perfect. it makes me wonder how I ever thought my saddle fit her. so that's what we rode in on saturday. it has a very narrow twist (the "twist" refers to the surface area of what the rider sits on) and the seat is as hard as a rock, so it's very much like riding a 2 x 4. no joke. my tailbone was sore for days afterwards.

but that mare. loves. it. instead of being thrown, I was given one of the best rides in our two-year history together. I am humbled. that horse deserves so much more gratitude than I give her. she's clearly dealt for two years with a saddle that doesn't fit, and therefore doesn't let her move freely and might even hurt. and aside from some light head-tossing and the occasional inability to travel in a straight line, she's given me no indication that she's suffering. the longer we work together, the more I realize what a wonderfully forgiving, willing animal she is. she just wants to please. I need to remember it more.

I would have considered saturday a one-off if we hadn't had exactly the same experience wednesday night. (including the sore tailbone). "who is this horse?" I asked my instructor. she couldn't get over it either. that mare, who sometimes careens around the arena with her head at giraffe height, instead held the perfect head position through the whole afternoon, never throwing it up once. she did everything I asked without complaint. all this time, the answer was so simple. none of us gave her enough credit. it's a great relief, but it also makes me want to cry. the things she has done for me.

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