Thursday, 7 February 2013

The saddling breakthrough

So, this may well end up reading like an ad for WOW saddles, but after today I thought it would be nice to show the changes in Assegai over the past three years. The WOW dressage saddle I bought two years ago has contributed in no small part to these changes and are worth revisiting.

When I got Assegai, he looked like this, a green broken 3 year old:
As you can see, he's low on muscle and has obvious deep wither pockets and no topline. He became increasingly aggressive over the first twelve months, a combination of pain caused by an ill-fitting saddle, chronic pain from injuries in the paddock before I got him and a sensitive soul. At least, that's my reading of the situation.

Age, work and a fair layer of fat have made him look like this:

The WOW saddle, and a beautifully fitting Pessoa jump saddle (couldn't afford two WOW saddles!) have made a huge difference to Assegai's topline, contentedness and in some way to his development and training. From the first fitting, Assegai started lifting more through his back, going forward more willingly, just trying more.

It has been frustrating - Assegai has got to be the touchiest horse going - but today was breakthrough day. As Assegai has changed shape, grown bigger and stronger, he's needed re-fit after re-fit, as I posted about earlier. Today, Julia brought her A game. :)

Two things have made a massive difference. The first was a slight change in panels. The old panels had a gap at the top, the part that forms the channel of the saddle. And this is supposed to allow more room for the musculature to move under the saddle. But for Assegai this appears to have been uncomfortable, as the Julia fitted panels that formed a snugger fit in his wither pockets. Because the pommel articulates the panels should fit quite closely.

The second change is the purchase of one of the H-girths from the WOW range. I think this has been the greatest change to date. The girth is made of two narrow padded leather straps connect on the sternum by a connector strap. The idea, from memory, is that the girth sits either side of the pectoral muscle, preventing pinching and discomforat and allowing the horse to use those muscles.

As soon as we started walking, Assegai wanted to stretch out and down, but not drop his back like usual....he went forward into trot without raising his head, happily blowing and staying on the bit. It felt amazing. He even pulled a pretty hot medium trot out of the bag!

So, I actually feel a bit excited. I've got an Official dressage comp coming up in a few weeks so I'm really interested to see what he can do. Gotta say, the WOW is probably the best investment I've made in my riding. Starting to save up for one for Rose. :)

Happy riding!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Hurray - exams are finished!

I've been a bit quiet on all fronts over the last couple of weeks due to a) exam prep and b) tidying up our damn house so we can put it on the market. While it's been really exciting to think we're going to move to our very own farm, there's been a bit of a dampener in the realisation that we have to sell this one!! And my other half is not known for his thrifty living ways - he's a hoarder, though nowhere near as bad as those freaks on TV!

So, lucky Assegai has been having a little holiday. And Rose has been helping! But this morning was our first ride and it was a doozy. Both of them were a bit on the fresh side, frankly. I've been feeding Assegai marshmallow root to see if that helps with his permanent case of the grumps. Marshmallow root, slippery elm and aloe vera gel are all supposed to be good for ulcers and there is some evidence Assegai may suffer from them, like 80% of performance horses.

It should take a couple of weeks for any change to be seen, but there is the odd positive sign at this stage. He's a lot less lethargic (though that could just be the break) but maybe not less grumpy yet. :) I had a good lesson with Ben Netterfield the other day (did I blog about that already?). In between all the gossiping and chatting about our favourite cross country riders to watch (the general consensus was Stuart Tinney - an 'operator', as Ben called him) we managed to get some really lovely canter work out of Assegai. I still have to work on my bloody hands - now they're dropping too low after me working so hard to keep them down!

I've just entered Berrima, Intro, and am all excited. We're booked in at a lovely B&B for the Sat night so it should be pretty great. I've also just popped an entry into a local dressage comp and now have to get Assegai's dressage card re-issued as one of the tests is official. Add it to the list!

Maybe I'll see you out there - happy riding!