On Wednesday Little Love had an appointment with a saddle fitter. This is a lady who has studied saddle fitting in Great Britain and had came highly recommended by several people. I had talked about this appointment with Little Love for days, to make sure she understood what was going on. Saddles have not been her favorite thing in the past, and can you blame her? I'm not sure she has ever had a saddle that even remotely fit her.
As expected, the lady was amazed by the size of Little Love's withers. She has big withers and when the woman pointed out the difference in height between her withers and her back (by holding a stick at the level of her withers but parallel with her back), even I was shocked. The difference is four to five inches. I had been afraid the lady would say that the only way to find a saddle that fit Little Love was to custom order one that cost more than an arm and a leg, but I had nothing to worry about. Apparently they don't even make saddles with such high "panels"in the back. So, the only option, no matter what saddle we have, is to use special pads underneath.
The lady had a few used saddles with her and we tried them all. The first one she tried on Little Love's back, looked good, even to my fairly untrained eye. It was a English jumping saddle, NOT my first choice. Then we tried some dressage saddles and a few other all purpose saddles. We even tried a western saddle. But none of them fit like the first one. I had never seen a saddle on Little Love that actually allowed her withers to have space. With a special pad (that you can fill with little panels), it looked and felt even better.
Little Love did so well through this entire process. The lady was very understanding and talked to Lilo the entire time, assuring her that she wouldn't ride her, even thought she was trying on all these saddles. In general, the energy around this woman was very peaceful and balanced, which helped Little Love immensely. It is amazing how different she can be around people just based on their energy and intention. The other day another woman stopped by to show me the used saddle she had for sale and the second she approached Little Love, she tried to bite the woman. She never let this lady close. There was something about her that rubbed Little Love the wrong way. Perhaps it was merely the fact that the lady desperately wanted to touch Little Love; she was completely in awe of her size.
Despite my dislike towards riding in a jumping saddle, I took the saddle for a try out period (the price was also a little more than I had planned for). It was the only saddle that really fit Little Love and that's the most important thing. I can adjust - or so I keep telling myself :-) Since we only have the saddle for a few days to try, I tacked up Lilo immediately and went for a walk. It was absolutely weird to climb on her back and ride her. I haven't ridden her since we were in Switzerland and even then I didn't ride her very much. I felt really out of place and Little Love seemed a bit nervous, too. She did, however, leave the yard without stopping. It wasn't until the mailboxes that she decided this was a bad idea. I climbed off and we continued on foot, both of us. When we arrived at the bigger road, I asked Little Love if I could get on again. She was alright with it, so I got back on. We did a bit of trot and even a bit of canter and then I got off to walk back home. Little Love seemed alright, but somehow our connection was not the greatest. I was really worried I was making a mistake about the riding, what if Little Love didn't want it?
I didn't make it to the barn yesterday, but Melissa went instead, so Little Love got to think about this riding business a bit before I showed up today. She was really muddy, which meant I had to scrub her clean to put the saddle on. This, in Little Love's opinion, was highly irritating. Not the best start for our ride. When I put the saddle on, however, she stood completely relaxed as if she didn't care. This is really out of character for her, so I took it as a good sign.
We walked for the first half kilometer, then I got on. I rode her at the walk, working on my own position and bear down to see if I could get her to respond. Low and behold, her back came up under my bottom, but since she has next to no muscle, she couldn't hold it for long. I kept working one that and got the back a few more times. Then we did a bit of trot on a slight incline and Lilo stretched down with long rein, lifting her back up. When she wanted to walk I let her and got off to walk by her side. I must have been sitting on her perhaps 15 minutes, but it was enough for the day. In any case, I don't think I ever want to sit on her much longer than that, at least not without some breaks in between.
I had a really good feeling the entire time, like Little Love was alright with the riding. The fact that she so willingly brought her back up tells me that at least the saddle doesn't seem to bother her. But does the riding in general bother her? She is a very opinionated horse and I would hope for her to tell me if she didn't want me to ride. I worry about this constantly, but I have to trust that she will communicate with me about this the same way she communicates about everything else. In the winter riding will perhaps become important, depending on the amount of snow. I know Little Love enjoys our time together on our walks and today I felt she even enjoyed it while riding. I'll be going back over the weekend to test the saddle some more. At the moment I'm leaning towards buying it even though I'm still a bit torn about the whole riding business. I figure I can always sell it, right?