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Category: Training Guide and Information

  1. A saddle fit with an interesting, if disturbing outcome...

    Posted on

    A saddle fit check that was money VERY well spent....

    As rocky has now been in work a couple of months, I thought it was time to get his current saddle checked for its fit, not that I felt anything was wrong, simply to check that rocky was comfortable in it.

    Martin Andrews was my chosen saddler, he is a qualified saddle fitter and  a member of the Master Saddlers Association, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience with him.

    Martin arrived and after an initial briefing of Rocky and what he is up to etc it was time to saddle up. His current saddle is a super, if old, working hunter, ideal for the straighter shoulders, and has been doing a great job – or so I thought.

    I knew this saddle was never going to be his forever saddle, it was bought especially for the initial stages of training, until he has developed sufficiently to buy him a dressage saddle.

    What I wasn’t expecting was for Martin to begin walking to his van with my saddle and suddenly turn around to say ..... THE TREE IS BROKEN!!!

    Well, the term shell shocked was perhaps how to describe how I felt, ashamed, sad, cruel, all these feelings shot through me at an alarming rate and I stood there looking at Martin, the saddle and Rocky absolutely speechless.

    On purchasing the saddle I had done the usual checks, stirrup bars ok, girth straps fine, even the “pull the pommel to cantle to check for a broken tree” check!!! All of which passed with flying colours.

    Now whilst in my care, the saddle has never been dropped, handled badly, has been left with rocky to play with (as youngsters do!) or anything that would cause a broken tree, or even a scratch come to that. I am very careful with my tack!

    So to hear those words “the tree is broken” was not only a surprise but questionable too.

    I couldn’t apologise enough to both Martin and Rocky, but Martin pointed out, I needn’t feel guilty as I didn’t know and only he after unstitching the panels could be 100% sure, as the tree from cantle to pommel was fine, it was just a minute movement between the points of the saddle that raised suspicion.. I should only feel guilty if I knew it was broken and kept using it! Fair point, but oh boy it didn’t make me feel much better.

    On examining the saddle, it was the pommel part of the tree, the metal plate, had sheared in half, not an easy task, and definitely nothing I had done, that part made me feel better!

    I had luckily another saddle there to try, purely coincidental but very pleased I had it! This one is another 2nd hand one, but has been checked over and over and then over again!! It does fit him too, luckily, so we are not left without a saddle to use.

    We spent over an hour and a half ensuring the “new” saddle was the perfect one for him, riding him in the school, making odd adjustments, then riding him again, and so on. 

    Rocky hasn’t done much recently, purely due to my time constraints, but was as usual unfazed by all the mounting up, dismounting, try this, try that etc... and behaved impeccably.

    Baring in mind what pressure that old saddle must have been putting on him, it is a testament to Rocky and his attitude that at no point has he said NO or been awkward to ride, but it does explain a few of his tight spots.

    He has an appointment with Lucy Morgans on Tuesday  for an equinology session to ensure his body is absolutely fine before embarking on more ridden work, until then he shall be a man of leisure!

    I cannot emphasise enough the need to get your saddle checked, by a qualified and recommended one at that. Also the fact that your saddler should see you ride in the saddle, the un-ridden horse can have a saddle fitted which is fine in halt, but then when the back engages, can alter the fit if that saddle dramatically.

    I now need to go put some money on the lottery to buy a new, if still 2nd hand, saddle for this special boy. Wish me luck!!

    Here are two pictures of the broken tree:

     Broken tree

    Broken tree 1


  2. Hacking and Training....

    Posted on

    Hacking, a fantastic way to build on your training, as Rocky proves....

    Yesterday I had the first chance to ride Rocky since his hack on Saturday, a few days off and he was really looking for something to do, he is so not good at doing nothing!

    So, tack on, and off to the school. I mounted up and away we went but the school is so wet that I had to rethink my plan!

    As I have a separate section in my field, we went in there to school instead. We never work in “his” field as that is Rocky’s area to be himself. This is not too bad an idea really, gets us away from the edge of the school, makes ME focus on being accurate, there is no fence for Rocky to “lean on” and therefore has to listen and focus on me and my aids.

    As this is the first time I have ridden Rocky in the field (we have lunged, long reigned etc), it was a great opportunity to check his reactions to my aids as there are no markers etc, so he can’t anticipate doing “X” at “X” and “Y” at “Y”, if you get my drift.

     As we have done over a week hacking, but always working properly, this has encouraged Rocky to be more forward and in front of my leg, really pushing - NOT LEANING, into his bridle, opening up his topline and lengthening his frame. All this hacking has paid dividends. The field work proved this as I was able to ride him straight and keep his transitions active and balanced, changing the rein easily and maintaining a super rhythm and tempo.

    His walk is currently work in progress as he was tending to shorten his steps, but the hacking has again improved this no end, meaning I was actually able to ride from a Medium Walk to “free walk on a long rein” and back to medium.

    Finally a true test, I put together a short dressage test, yes even with no markers! Imagined an arena with tufts of grass for markers! So working on an easy test, Prelim 4 to be exact, I rode through it, not expecting much, but yet again, Rocky didn’t fail to amaze me, he did every movement on cue and tried his socks off. What an absolute gem of a boy.

    Clearly there is still work to do, nothing as yet is perfect, but then he is still only 3 and has a long time ahead of him.

    It is clear that the hacking has been extremely beneficial for Rocky, not just for his mental state, but his physical one too. Although this would be a different story if I allowed him to amble around on a long unconnected rein, hollow and using the wrong muscles, as Rocky would become confused as to what was expected of him and training could become an issue, a position I do not want to be in, especially as his future is as a competition horse. This does not mean however that hacking is not enjoyable, he is ridden just the same as in the school, frequent stretches, transitions etc, and he gets the chance to see different things while performing these, all building up to a solid foundation where we can school and train in any environment and still get great results all of which are required when he begins his competition career.

    So to sum up Hacking, I would say Rocky and I are definitely Happy Hackers!

    Rocky HackingRocky Hacking 1