This week the saddler came to fit my saddles to Phoenix. I knew she was wider than Otis … but I didn’t expect her to be that much wider!
Otis had the wide gullet bar in both his saddles, and Phoenix needs the extra extra wide bar! Which unfortunately the saddler didn’t have, because he so rarely needs it. Anyway, he adjusted my dressage saddle as best he could so that it wouldn’t ride forwards up her neck and then watched me ride in it. It’s not perfect, but at least I can start riding and change the gullet bar when it arrives. And of course, Phoenix will change shape as she gets fitter and muscles up so will need her saddle checking in a couple of months time anyway.
She was very good considering it has been four months since she’d been sat on. Her back was up initially when I got on, but after being led around for a minute she relaxed.
With the saddler I only did a few minutes, but today I got to have a proper play.
Phoenix is very sensitive to the leg, although we need to develop her reaction to the leg so that I can ask her to bend around the inside leg instead of sidestepping. When I was cooling her down at the end she was starting to bend around my inside leg so I’m sure that will come quickly, especially as I will be doing slow and steady while the saddle isn’t a perfect fit and while I improve my fitness. The trot feels active but not as bouncy as Otis’s – which is a relief while I rediscover my stomach muscles! Her transitions are fairly balanced, and she responds well to the seat. I just need to make sure the downward transitions aren’t too sudden.
I felt she had a good natural rhythm, occasionally faltering but that’s not surprising considering that she’s learning to balance my weight as well as hers. In terms of suppleness we need to work on getting her to bend through her rib cage, but that will come as she better understands my leg aids. She was more wiggly than I expected, swinging her hindquarters to the right. As she gets more supple and balanced on turns she’ll be less wiggly, which is quite normal for green horses.
Phoenix feels uphill to ride, and she felt more consistent to the contact then I was expecting. She puts herself onto the bit but can go behind the vertical so I expected her to be lighter and slightly behind the bridle, particularly as she’s not had any pressure on her mouth for months.
From our short ride yesterday I’ve devised a plan for Phoenix’s ridden work. I want to aim to ride her three times a week and lunge her once, but it’s open to change, depending on the weather and babysitters. We’ll stick to walk and trot initially, with canter work on the lunge, and focus on transitions with general school movements and encouraging her to work in a long and low frame, and encouraging her nose to stay on or in front of the vertical. As her balance through the transitions and in her frame improves so will the quality of her walk and trot. Of course, this work can be done on hacks too. We have a large field to ride round, which will provide variation to the arena as well.
Today I spent twenty minutes in the school on walk circles and serpentines getting Phoenix to bend and she was starting to bend well. Then we did some transitions into trot with lots of circles and changes of rein. I felt Phoenix was in a slightly longer frame and taking her neck out a bit more. Then to finish we did some halt transitions, more suppling work in walk and then had a try of walking on a long rein. She stretched down before going behind the bridle and causing the reins to go loose, and her walk slowed down as she drifted into the middle of the school. This is quite normal for green horses, because they’ve lost the guidance and security of the rein contact, but we’ll keep working on it until she’s confident in stretching and walking purposefully.
I’ll keep you updated! But it’s very exciting to have a project to work on again, especially one who’s so keen to learn!