The riding pictures are coming tonight when I get home from work. Took them yesterday, although it was the coldest day we've had yet.
I did open the spinal channel a bit - all the way down the panels. It seemed to work fine, I may adjust it more just to see what works best. Where I'm getting alittle lost is this Ghost pad that comes with it. A huge extra "pad" made of the same thing the panels are, but I feel like sometimes it hinders my ability to tell is the panels are fitting his back correctly. Should I try to fit it first with a regular pad and not the extra? (help - Josepha! )
I'd ride with a saddle cloth for just a few minutes to get the feel, dismount, pull the saddle and clothe and examine the horse's back for hot spots, turned back hair, and look at the overall compression pattern. I'd say 10 minutes of brisk riding would be sufficient.
Then try out the Ghost pad. And do the same thing. Note any extreme variation in the horse's coat, heat, etc.
Does that pad have a lifted portion down the center to keep it up off the spine?
I also made sure the girth was relative in position to the seat of the saddle rather than D's ribcage anatomy. Growing up in hunters I was very much taught to have the girth come very far forward, that habit never went away.
Even when I taught hunt seat, coached eventing, I had trouble with the concept, nevertheless, foolishly surrendering to tradition, I taught a forward placement.
Today I think it's a rare horse that would not rub the top of his shoulders on the point of the panels, and likely many of mine did way back.
The theory was that the forehand would take the weight of rider on landing, and be able to lift the weight more efficiently on take off before the obstacle.
If I think of it relative to the human body that makes little sense. I'd no more put the weight far forward now than I'd weight over the croup for jumping. There is an ideal place for each horse, and attention to the back, and evaluation of the movement of the horse, not dictating by some model is more important to proper location.
Come to think of it it's in the tradition of AND (yes, it's been an institution long enough now to have traditions) to look to the horse for the answer and believe what you see, feel, hear, smell, and even taste, and what the horse tells you in his presentation.
In response to the saddle being too far forward..
(this is just my reasoning, not a proclamation of right or wrong) I had read that treeless could sit further forward because the shoulder blades of a horse were no longer an issue? That with flexible soft panels of treeless saddles the should is allowed to glide underneath the panels? That is just what I read. D's shoulders and withers seemed to push the panels back instead.
The horse, the school master, speaks very directly, doesn't he?
I had not read ahead before I commented above. While what you remember reading may seem logical, especially to those from the background you and I are from, huntseat, coming at the horse with a treeless requires a fresh view of things.
I fight old patterns imposing themselves on my current assessments though it can cause me occasional dissonance - the flip side being I get to eventually accept the new view while working so hard to examine it.
I've switched many riders from riding bitted to bitless and the biggest barrier to them learning is allowing the new strange feeling to be sought, rather than trying to make bitless use similar to their old bitted use patterns of behavior. Same, I would think, with saddles ... from treed to treeless.
I no longer place even treed saddles as I used to. Both English and western are invited to move as far back as the horse's back asks me for, though my hand pressing on the pommel and shaking the saddle gently back and forth accross the horse's back.
Part of my other desire to be forward (yes besides that stupid pesky "habit" I developed over the years
) was that when I ride bareback I ride very close to the base of his withers - the strongest part. So I don't load the weaker parts of his (not well muscled) back. If I sit further back I feel guilty...almost 2x as heavy on his back when he moves.
So part of my original obsession about getting the saddle forward was to ensure I was not sitting so far back that it was more uncomfortable for him.
Hmmm....something to ponder. Where on the horse's back does he most comfortably carry a human? Is it closer to the withers?
I've argued with others on this point, mostly silently in my mind so with myself actually, and finally came to this conclusion (which I'm open to change should new information appear): both ends of the horse have, and have to have, shock absorbing ability.
I believe the system in the rear, the hindquarters, can be developed to handle a great deal of weight, but essentially it is a looser system, more flex, range of motion of the parts, by far than the forehand configuration.
But ... the forehand, even with it's wonderful suspension system has a limit in the safe distance ligaments can stretch before straining. Given the great relative size of the suspensory apparatus it can carry considerable weight, but it would tire more easily an be more vulnerable for one limiting characteristic: it has no bony sockets. The shoulders are NOT connected to the spine but instead provide ligiment suspension of the spine like a cradle.
This somewhat long winded dissertation of mine, for which I apologize, is to make clear the point that there is a weight supporting balance point between front and rear, longitudinally, for each horse. It changes with conditioning of the horse, their own weight distribution, which changes with gain or loss of weight, and the rider's own weight distribution.
Sally Swift's, and others', insistence that the rider line up vertically from heel, to hip, to shoulder, to ear of the rider takes this very issue into consideration. The less your body is spread out over the horse's weight bearing area, the more easily he can carry you. Seems counter intuitive though, doesn't it?
The difficulty with conceptualizing it is that we are often taught it in a static model, when the fact is it's the dynamics of movement that count most. Vertical alignment means less forward and backward movement underway.
The point of balance then is where the horse tells us it is. If we have found it he will tire less soon, move more freely, execute maneuvers more elegantly and athletically.
I spent many months with one student trying to correct a long held habit of poor posture (seat, in the jargon) with the poor horse mumbling along, sometimes out of balance so badly he would burst out with rushes, now and then balk, just all around hell.
One day she was able to sustain the proper seat, good vertical alignment for a longer distance than before, at the trot, sitting, and I knew what I was seeing because of the way the horse began to move, so I commanded, in my riding school master voice, "Trot OUT."
The horse immediately began, for the first time under the rider, an extended trot with great hind action, beautiful long reaching strides so elegant powerful and smooth that it would have passed muster in the dressage field. She did not have to post. It was like riding a sled down a mountain.
As he came into the corner I knew the test was about to come because this is where she had lost it in the past everytime, so that the horse would rush out of the corner (it's painful to trot on a curve if the rider is off balance themselves, and unbalancing the horse).
This time she maintained, and the horse came out to the long side of the school with the same beautiful extension, and even increased his stride and thrust. It was enough to bring tears to one's eyes to see the joy of the horse in being released and relishing his own athleticism.
The rider has improved steadily to this day.
Jumps? I have not tested her with jumping as yet, and she wants to, but I will not have her place the saddle forward. I know where the balance point is for this horse and rider.
And the answer for you in the treeless, regarding placement, can come to you more quickly if you use two point to test. The stirrup to girth placement ratio is the key. If you cannot easily maintain two point it is wrong. When you can the saddle is in the correct position. Wish I could be there and watch.
But again this is a learning process. I guess more will be able to be discussed once I post the other pictures.
This was my 3rd ride in the saddle and so far my observations are:
His walk is as swingy and forward as ever, just as much as bareback.
He's currently stretching down about 30-40% more at the trot than in the treed saddle.
He can easily and immediately move out in a gait if he wants to.
He actually stood still (only once
) yesterday when I mounted. He never does that.
And you obviously get the message.
Riding in it really is like riding bareback with two panels under you and stirrups, which feels funny and good at the same time.
It strips all your security.
lol I can see why some people don't like riding in it.
There's no more panel fuss - your knees bend softly and your leg hangs against the horses side any way you like. Lots of potential for communication.
Because there is NO pommel it helps me keep my pelvis aligned upwards rather than tilted forwards. I don't have a brace or anything to rest it against.
My hips are also set wider like bareback - which I knew about this saddle. BUT it gives me the opportunity to contract my glutes more and bring my bum under me. It also makes it ALOT harder to close the hip angle and grip in the fetal position.
I got off of him and noticed a sharp pain in my rear
those muscles were going "OMG! we're awake now!"
Change can be literally painful.
Too much pain though is a message to slow down, possibly reexamine.
Are you clenching too tight?
You ARE apparently having a really good time, and I think, if I read you correctly Diego is having a blast.
Oh dear! I just stopped long enough to see if others had replied. I found Josepha's post. We are SO in agreement, with the added valuable working advice she expands on.
The advice to go to a slower gait or stop if he hollows his back? Priceless. Vital, in fact. Wish I'd thought of it.
This is, as Josepha points out, a wonderful opportunity for us to all to follow the fitting, use, and learning to use a Ghost. Pictures are going to be a valuable addition and tool for understanding what is happening.
Best, Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake