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Patty Halbeck and Aslan
I've fallen in love with a saddle!!!!
I am trying hard to remain calm and objective, but it is a wonderful thing to be able to ride and feel free and balanced with your horse.
Aslan, my short-backed, wide-backed Arabian and I had several requirements we were aiming for when I started my saddle trial with ReactorPanel:
- Shorter saddle for his short
Through a process of trial and error, alleviating physical limitations and problem solving, I am happy to say RP met our criteria. Aslan and I are now the happy owners of an RP VSD Summit.
If you want my 'user with a mission' view of an RP trial, read on. I've constructed our story from emails I sent Carmi (President of RP) and my Yahoo! Chat Group. You'll either know what I'm talking about or want to know before you try one yourself. This month and next, you can read what worked and what needed working on to bring me to the decision to buy an RP.
The RP isn't just any saddle that you slap on and go, but then again, the first line sums it up. I didn't know riding could feel this wonderful and I already thought riding was pretty awesome.
Here's how it started:
Arrive ... In Pieces.
Carmi (President of RP),
The two saddles arrived today! I spent the afternoon reading the manual and putting the saddles together in my living room so I wouldn't be totally lost out in the pasture tomorrow. It wasn't as complicated as I thought it might be. We'll see how hard it is to do the fitting - that might be a different story.
In the Field
The first ride was positive and he had a lot of good signs (ears forward, etc.) The second ride was a disaster and he tried to buck the saddle off without me in it (thank goodness I knew when to get off!) He was really in pain and I've never seen the ears pinned like that and all the muscles in his face were tight.
We had a rough start because Aslan was in dire need of a chiro adjustment and I didn't know it. Turns out he had a misaligned hip. After the chiropractic adjustment, things went more smoothly.
The next time I tried the saddle I got outstanding results. My friend Wendy (a horse trainer) was with me and it was great to have her feedback.
To start, saddling was fine (no more resistance now that the chiropractor has been here).
I LOVE the way the saddle feels to me. I've never been so balanced, and while sitting the trot, I don't bounce at all. We also cantered a little and even that felt smooth and balanced. I was perfectly in sync with him and didn't have to "work" to stay in the right position. It was wonderful. Really wonderful!
I felt under the panels while he was moving and it feels great!-kind of like wearing a good fitting shoe. Even Wendy was amazed at how freely he was moving out and how well I moved with him.
I'm trying real hard to remain cautiously optimistic, but the truth is that right now I'm thrilled. And pretty surprised at how good it can feel when you are riding in a saddle that helps with balance.
Wendy also rode Aslan for a few minutes and was shocked at how differently he moved. He cantered with her and there was no resistance at all. In fact, he didn't want to stop, but kept going which is not normal. She also noticed that he responded more easily to the cues than he does in the treeless. She's really interested in the saddle, too.
All in all, I'm feeling amazed and thrilled and trying not to be ecstatic.
I will dream about riding my lovely and perfect horse in a lovely and wonderful saddle tonight!
Why I love
A balanced position: The saddle puts me (or allows me to get into) a balanced position and the result is an incredible sensation for me. I feel so free and able to follow my horse's motions. My legs are underneath me so that I'm not sitting back in a rocking chair position. When I sit the trot, there is no bounce whatsoever. The canter is also great. While I don't feel his back in the same way I did in a treeless, I have to do almost nothing to cue him. We can turn, stop, etc. with just phase one cues (eyes) most of the time. I rarely use the reins and seldom the legs. Wendy found the same thing to be true.
Converting from treeless to a tree: I love having my legs drape down around his sides rather than having my hips jammed out across a horizontal platform [when in the treeless] otherwise known as my horse's broad back! There were times when my hips would almost go out of joint with the treeless.
It is taking a little adjustment to get used to the flaps under my legs, but I've removed some of the knee and calf blocks for a while and that seems to help. They are completely removable and adjustable.
Panels and Shoulder Movement: The saddle panels sit over the horse's shoulder and his body can move freely underneath. You can place your hand under the panels while riding and actually feel the freedom there. The shortened tree points in front are behind the shoulder. It looks like the saddle is too far forward because of those panels, but it's not the case. Wendy felt that he was moving much more freely and he gave her the sweetest canter ever. Usually he resists the canter and tries to stop, but this time he was willing to keep going and didn't screech to a halt when she asked for a stop. (Actually volunteered to keep going!) He is taking time to get used to the new sensations (just like I am) but his responses have been very positive to this point.
NO Pressure on the Spine: When I take the saddle off, there is a wonderful area on the spine where all the fur is completely normal and dry. No contact at all with a saddle or a pad! The saddle pad is in two pieces and attaches to the panels so there is literally nothing on the spine area. Thatís really cool to me.
Fitting: The fitting of the saddle to the horse is not that difficult, but does require some time and reading at the beginning. That was a little hard because I really wanted to just get on and try the saddle out right away! Now that we've done it, there's not much to it.
Panels: The panels also mold to the horse's back and so after a few rides things feel even more comfortable. Once you have things fitted, there's no need to do anything unless your horse gains/looses weight or changes shape drastically. The Velcro is incredibly strong and after riding in the saddle, it does require some effort to undo it. (Not something you would want to mess with on a regular basis, but you do have the ability to adjust the fit if it becomes necessary.)
I'm trying the VSD Summit and I like it very much. I don't feel jammed in between a pommel and cantle, but there is enough depth to the seat to feel secure. We are going out in the pasture today (if things go as planned) so I'll let you know what it is all like on a trail.
Girthing: I also really like the girth and billet system. There are four billets to choose from and they help you to get the girth in the right place. It has some kind of elastic in the center that creates a small amount of give and is broad through the center. It's made of really soft leather and it seems to work beautifully. The side-to-side stability seems good, but I haven't tried mounting from the ground since they recommend not to do that in the first weeks while the saddle is molding to the horse's back shape.
In general, I'm thrilled over how it fits my horse, allows him to move freely, and especially how it feels to ride in it. I didn't know riding could feel this wonderful and I already thought riding was pretty awesome!
I would be ecstatic if this saddle was the answer to our problems and I could be done with the saddle search thing and get on with riding and enjoying my horse.
Yesterday we finally did our first serious trail ride of about 1.25 hours. I'm starting to feel comfortable in the saddle and the sensations are becoming familiar. Aslan is showing less signs of being girthy when we saddle up - that's really nice. No more bucking and very little head shaking - just at the start when moving under the saddle without a rider.
When I started this trial, as you know, I had several requirements I was aiming for. Most have been met.
There are only two things now that keep me from committing to the saddle today. Both are probably not the saddle problem, but my skill problems.
If you can help with the stirrups and rumpled hair, email or call.
Also, I know my time is running out-I'm a little worried because there are two days this weekend that will be raining. I'm going to put in as much riding time as we can today and tomorrow.
Talk to you soon,
DIARY OF A SADDLE TRIAL – Part II
Well, it's actually happened! I have a saddle that fits my horse!
The RP has dealt with all of our saddle fitting issues - for the record, these were the issues:
Added benefits I've discovered so far:
During the trial process, I struggled with ruffled hair on Aslan's left side. I ended up doing a "phone" fitting with the RP people. I called them from the round pen and they walked me through the adjustments. I got to ask my questions while making the adjustments and it was just like having an RP fitter help me in person. Several issues and misunderstandings were quickly cleared up. And guess what ... no more ruffled hair.
All it took was moving one disc and using a different combination of billets.
In the process, I pulled out my old saddle. It was a revelation. I found my position has totally changed. My struggles with balance and posture are gone in the RP.
I found my old saddle actually worked against my balanced position while the RP helps put me in the right place. That was a neat discovery. We went right back to the RP with lots of smiles.
I'm sold on this saddle. View the VSD Summit.