It’s amazing how used one gets to a certain saddle. Cassie and I have been out for two rides with the new saddle. For the first ride I was a bit nervous when I got on. I have only ever ridden Cassie in the treeless saddle and I wasn’t sure what she was going to make of it. I myself was very used to the treeless saddle and I haven’t really ridden in a conventional saddle for a long time.
Before the first ride, I followed my usual routine. I led Cassie and Minnie into the yard and opened the stable doors for them to get in. I groomed Cassie and cleaned out her feet, then went into the tack room to get bridle and saddle. I always put the saddle on first. I introduced Cassie to her new tack, first showing her the new pads and letting her sniff them before I put them on her back. Then I showed her the new saddle and let her take her time investigating it. When she lost interest in it I put it on her back. I took longer than usual, because I had to adjust the girth, but Cassie didn’t seem to mind. Then I put the bridle on and we were ready to go.
I led her out the stable and walked her around the yard for a while, so Cassie could get used to the feel of the new saddle. I adjusted the girth and got on. Cassie immediately walked off and I let her, asking her to walk in a circle around the yard, so we could both get used to the feel. It was strange. It is a nice saddle to sit on, but I felt further away from her back and higher up than I’m used to. With the treeless saddle, I feel I’m closer to her and because there is no twist, Cassie feels wider than in the new saddle. We walked around the yard for a bit, and then we left, riding towards the gate and that’s where we had our first problem. Minnie was in her stable whinnying loudly and Cassie tried to turn around to get back to the yard. Then the horses in the field beside us heard Minnie, and they started whinnying too, adding to the confusion. It was not easy to walk Cassie out the gate. She kept trying to whip around or scrambling backwards and it took all my skill and patience to encourage her to walk out. Eventually, she did and we proceeded to have one of the most difficult rides we’ve had.
The wind was up and Cassie spooked at everything. We met three tractors with cutting equipment on the road. They were all in a hurry and kept going even though there was very little room for them to pass us. We came around a bend, and a herd of cattle came running down the hill towards us. Cassie didn’t like this at all and it took quite a while to settle her again. Halfway through our ride, we met a friend who was hacking out with her young daughter on their two ponies. We rode up together for a while. Cassie was more settled by then and happy to take the lead. Until we came to a junction where we had to go right to go home and the friend went left. Cassie threw a major fit and ended up threatening to rear, at which point I got off. The moment I got off and led her, she relaxed and calmly walked home beside me. I was exhausted.
The following day, we went out again. This time I was relaxed and Cassie walked out the gate without a problem. It was hot, so we took it easy, Cassie was relaxed and I could concentrate more on the feel of the saddle.
So, what do I think? The saddle is an excellent fit on Cassie, and it’s a nice saddle to sit on, but I miss the close contact of the treeless saddle and I found that I have to concentrate on following her movement. It is much easier to mount, which is a definite plus. I was using conventional stirrup leathers instead of dressage leathers, and I could feel the buckles under my thigh and I didn’t like that, so I will have to change that. On our first ride with the new saddle, Cassie was very much aware of my nerves and I’m sure the fact that she couldn’t feel me as well as she was used to affected her too. We will both have to get used to it.