an experiment

As most regular readers have probably noticed, it’s been a little content-lite around here of late…and very horsey-content-lite. There’s actually a reason (aside from my laziness and lack of motivation) for that.

I was dealing with a frustrating and somewhat disheartening issue with Mimi. Even since last year, I’d started having some intermittent problems with her tripping on the hind end, specifically when we were working in the sand arena. I did some basic evaluations of how she moved in-hand (sound), gave her a good trim, booted her all around…and it would still happen, every time I would ride in the arena, we’d hit a deeper patch of sand, and she would stumble or catch her hind end.

It got really, really frustrating, to the point where I basically didn’t ride her for the better part of the summer/early fall. The fatalistic part of me thought, “Well, that’s it…years of use has finally caught up to us, she’s gone permanently crunchy, and one of these days, she’s going to fall down on me.” It was upsetting to me because I didn’t know why (and don’t have the $$$ to throw at a lot of vet diagnostics); it was upsetting to her because she’s a careful, sensible horse with smart footwork — I could see it visibly upsetting her every time she would trip, and she would try so hard not to.

So I gave her some time off from riding. I still went to the barn, still spent time with her, still trimmed her. She was obviously feeling good, watching her run out to the pasture (moving sound!).

About six weeks ago, I needed pony time. Don’t even remember the specifics now, just that I needed to be on my pony’s back. I had gone down to the barn not intending to ride, but something compelled me to hop up on her, bareback, using the only gear I currently had down at the barn, which was her dinky little sidepull.

She was perfect.

She gave me a smooth walk, and her trot was more than eager. My bareback seat is less-than-impressive (especially on what is essentially a 55-gallon drum), so I really don’t do anything other than a slow trot pace, but she wanted to do more.


A week later, I repeated the experiment, this time slightly better equipped with bareback pad and actual headstall-with-brakes. Again, excellent, and even offering to canter. (Umm, no. Canter + bareback = Ash hits the dirt.)

The only thing that was different was a lack of saddle.

A part of my brain had toyed with the idea that maybe my saddle was too narrow (again!) for her. Part of me argued that we did all of our 50s in that saddle without any soreness…but she’s a lot softer and out of shape now. I also didn’t want to look too seriously at this possibility because it would mean needing a new saddle, which isn’t in the current budget. (So, a permanently retired pasture puff was somehow the better option here? Don’t ask me how my brain works sometimes…)

A couple of whiney texts later (that would be me whining), Lucy offered up her spare-spare treeless saddle — a Barefoot Cheyenne model — for me to test out my theory. I got the saddle last week, and after doing a make-over to one of my Skito pads to bolster it up to treeless saddle requirements, I headed out to the barn yesterday to test it out.

all decked out…maybe now we’ll have somewhere to go?

She loved it. We got a good 45 minutes of arena work in — walk/trot/canter/circles — and she was an angel. I’ve had a lot of resistance from her of late with wanting to rush the gate/acting arena sour…and that wasn’t the case this time.

She also offered up the most lovely, rolling, collected-on-her-own canter I have felt from her in for a couple of years now. And that was entirely spontaneous on her part. She was also giving me her big trot — the kind that makes 16hh horses canter to keep up. Awww, pony legs. :)))
The biggest thing was to have all of this happen in the arena. It’s not secret between her and I that we both prefer the trail, and begrudgingly do arena stuff when it’s the best we’ve got. Arena work also is my way of getting honest feedback from her. She’s got an outstanding work ethic (I can only hope any subsequent horses are half as good), especially on trail, and will work through most discomfort if it means getting down the trail. In the arena, her feedback is more honest (a bit ‘Princess and the Pea’-esque, to be honest), so to have her that forward and cheerful about arena stuff was exceptionally good.
Now we just need to get back out on trail. (And if she’s this forward and cheerful, I may bring along that running martingale and remind her that the overabundance of enthusiasm isn’t necessary.)
fuzzy face!!!
she is
SO fluffy this winter…all of them are. which
probably means it’s gonna be cold. brrrr.

11 thoughts on “an experiment

  1. Hurrah!! So very excited for you and so happy to read all of this. I found the same thing re: gaits and moving out when I rode Q bareback and then moved her to treeless. Rolling, effortless gaits that were a dream to ride. <3 I wish you and Mimi many more wonderful miles!

  2. I'd tried treeless on her before (last summer) and not noticed a huge difference, but maybe her treed saddle fit her better at that time? I need to do some minor work on it for me — the Barefoot doesn't have any twist to it, so it's really wide, and I need to figure out if I can create some kind of a bolster to go under the seat, but other than that, it was surprisingly comfortable and secure. Of all the treeless I've tried, I think I like the Freeform the best, but this one isn't too far behind.

  3. I had the same great Ahhh experience after 1)getting Scrappy chiro and 2) going treeless. So glad that Mimi moves out well in it, hope you can get some trail time in! And yeah, don't forget bit, martingale, gloves..coughcough askmehowIKnow :P ;-)

  4. Yeah, Mimi! Very glad you solved the issue, hoping for many comfy happy miles. There are some good bolsters out there, I can't handle much of a wide tree so the Freeform works for me.

  5. I love the Freeform the best…would still like to eventually get one, but the budget's gotta free up a bit first. So creating/finding a bolster is a good intermediate step.

  6. Glad you are figuring the stumbling issue out! I remember that was one of the things mentioned as being attributed to saddle fit when I was having issues with Cartman's saddle last year- it makes sense but isn't what I would have thought of first off!
    Oh, and I'm enjoying your trail running posts too-I just ran my first 5K fun run last weekend and it was a blast!

  7. I've known the pain of a what-is-wrong-with-this-mare situation followed by the inevitable but-I-can't-afford-lots-of-vet work. I think I might have solved Jet's issues but I'm not rushing to push the situation just yet.

    But it sounds excellent if you've figured out what's going on with Mimi. I do so like treeless saddles, I've had several and here's to hoping things work out!

  8. That is awesome that you found a solution to the problem! I've been hesitant to try treeless saddles, but I'm becoming more receptive after hearing about so many positive experiences. Your situation is especially interesting because Mimi is wide, and I was wondering how that would feel with a treeless saddle. Please write more about how it works for you guys!:)

  9. Wide horse = wide feeling for rider. I would *highly* recommend going with one of the more structured treeless, like FreeForm, because they have more of a twist in the seat and much less hard on rider hips. Or at least trial between ones like FreeForm and the newer Barefoot, which also have some kind of a panel system now, which may give them more structure.

  10. I read this post the same day it came out, but am late in commenting! (Really hate commenting from my phone!) Just wanted to say that I'm so happy you found a solution! I've been very much enjoying your running posts but had wondered about Mimi. :)

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