Monday, January 16, 2012

Rebel and going treeless

My trainer is allowing me to come out on Sundays for extra ride time. It benefits us both as I get to come out and ride an extra day a week for no more that the gas it takes to get me there, and she gets one of her horses that isn't getting ridden, exercised and back in shape. This week was my trial week to come test out the project horse and see if we could get along as she has been unable to have success with any other students riding him (more on that later). So after meeting with the chub monkey named Rebel, (he hasn't missed a meal, ever from the look of his belly) I saddled up and headed to the ring to start with lunging. I was able to get him warmed up and get an idea of how he moved. I could tell that when he was correct he would be really nice, when he fell out frame he was....well.....a mess. Not deterred (it helps that he is not only a Quarter Horse, but a dapple grey, which I have a particular fondness for) I got ready to ride Rebel for the first time and experience a treeless saddle for the first time.

After mounting, it took a minute for us to get a feel for one another, but immediately I could tell he was very different from the mare I have been riding. She is stiff, but straight; Rebel is softer and wiggly. I found out this has been the problem for all other riders. He slides around underneath you and if he gets away with a step or two he'll spin and take you either to the corner or the center. Apparently the other students don't feel when he is getting ready to pull this naughty trick and can't close the doors quick enough. I have a good feel of horses from training and riding so long and can feel him immediately as he starts to bend before he slides and am able to keep him straight. He also has a big trot that newer riders find unsettling, and I loved. While he is certainly not an easy ride, and always keeps me on my toes, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed working with him and really look forward to our next work out. His only truly "naughty" behavior is sometimes he will buck going into the canter or buck in the canter if your seat is not correct. While he didn't buck in the canter he did do it once going into the canter on his harder side. A lot of it just has to do with him being out of shape and as his condition improves and he gets more work, this should disappear pretty naturally. He is tons of fun and soooo handsome! I can say I feel like over a short period of time I have made huge improvements. My hands are so much better, my seat and shoulders are getting better (I have a bad habit of slouchy shoulders and tilting my head, even in western), and I have finally stopped worrying about jamming my heal down and allowing it to relax and my weight center on the ball of my foot, which relaxes my whole leg, especially my lower calf allowing me to use it more effectively. Did I mention my trainer rocks!

As for the treeless saddle, I have had many people tell me you either love them or hate them. I actually found that I am more middle of the road. For this horses back and shoulders he really benefits from the treeless saddle which if it makes the horse happy and comfortable I am all for it. Riding in it was actually pretty ok. You get a real close contact feel which is nice and I really liked, but for a beginner I could see it being very intimidating as there isn't a ton between you and the horse, not a lot of cushion and you need to really be able to hold your own seat well as it does not put you into a position or hold you there. I had a bit of trouble opening my right hip at first, but eventually got it situated. This is definitely a saddle that if the horse benefited from it I would have to say I would have no trouble or complaints riding in it, however it would not be my first choice in picking one out if my horse did not need one. When I asked my trainer what she thought of riding in one I think she hit the nail on the head when she simply said "it's not bad, but nothing to write home about".

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