Saturday, October 19, 2013

We Did It!

Today was a milestone...I finally worked up the nerve to ride BMR aside.  I'm still pretty nervous about getting on him at all and still haven't worked up the nerve to ride him outside the paddock, but today I decided it was now or never and I'm glad I did.

Mind, I had some concerns since hunting season has just begun and given BMR's reaction to the noise, he's never been around gun fire before.  There was a hunter just out of sight, about 200 yards from the barn and with every shot BMR's eyes got bigger and bigger.  But he is at heart a lazy soul and after a bit any sort of reaction just wasn't worth the calories used.

I grabbed my old "M'Owen" to use, partially because it is so light and partially since it's an old friend that I really feel secure in.  After all, I've known this sidesaddle longer than I've been with my husband and together we've jumped hundreds of fences, ridden dressage tests, and headed down parade routes all over the country.  Proper fit is, as always, the biggest obstacle in riding aside, and this saddle will need some flocking to truly fit correctly, but the pressing issue was locating an appropriate girth which was small enough.  I ended up selecting the smallest humane girth I could unearth in the tack room and adding the only separate balance girth I own. (Those of you who read my blog know I'm a fan of the short balance girth.)   I'm also a fan of rule breaking in general, especially in rigid in disciplines such as dressage and sidesaddle, so frequently I'll follow my own counsel on what works.  I prefer a humane girth to the standard three fold for multiple reasons; once I found a three fold with humane ends...oh, why did I not purchase it?!  So, I'll use a humane girth even on a sport horse, but if I were going to be riding where I might be seen I would pick a nicer looking girth with keepers.  In this case, I ended up with both girths pulled up as high as possible, and yes, I am lunging BMR in a chambon.  I know this is anathema to dressage purists, but I find it works well for saddle seat horses being transitioned to sport disciplines, plus I just don't see evil in using it versus standard side reins.

The very picture of energy
Since our accident I always lunge BMR prior to mounting up, and boy am I glad I did since this is what happened:

Well, I'd planned on bending that leaping head anyway...
BMR really has some focus problems, and I thought that living outside would accustom him to uneven footing but this has not been the case.  While cantering on the line he was paying more attention to the other horses than his own feet, which slipped out from under him and heaved him down on to his left side, right down onto the pommels...down on to where my legs would have been!  I'm so relieved at not being pinned under BMR for a second time in one year, tho' I must concede that the ground was softer so I might have escaped  with only a few bruises.  But anyway, he lay there on his side for a few seconds, looking entirely unconcerned and actually nibbling at a few shoots of grass before climbing back to his feet.  When it was clear that he hadn't injured himself I gave the old M'Owen a closer look to find lots of new scratches and bent leaping head, which oddly enough fit better than it did before!

I suppose a sensible person would have thought, "This saddle has just suffered an impact and maybe it's not safe to ride in...", but a sensible person I am not so I mounted up anyway.  I must take a moment to convey just how terrified I was; I never know how he is going to respond and I can't count on him being sensible.  Even Owen has a sense of self preservation that I can rely on.  Plus, I really wasn't sure how stable the saddle was going to be.  As it turned out, it was a bit on the wobbly side, a combination of requiring flocking and girths being too long, but with careful weight placement (sit up on that right hip!) I was able to keep the saddle centered and riding well.  When I swung my right leg over I was sooooo very careful not to startle him, and very tentatively nudged him forward.  After a few steps it was clear he could have cared less what kind of saddle I was in and I started grinning like a Cheshire cat! (Like a possum in sh*t, my father would say in one of his more redneck moments).  I hacked him quietly on both reins, and even worked up the nerve to trot a bit, tho' I did keep myself well forward over my right knee since I'm still concerned that his back needs strengthening.  After seeing him fall at the canter a few minutes before I didn't have the nerve to try it myself, but he let me use my bat in place of a leg and bent well in both directions, and after a few minutes I decided to declare victory and put him up, carefully palpating his back for any soreness (there wasn't any.).

I do hope we are witnessing the genesis of a wonderful sidesaddle mount!