dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, November 23, 2023

That Was Easy

 Way back when I was having the clinic with Danique I remember her talking to me about Carmen. She told me that Carmen was a beautiful and smart horse. Which I agreed with, of course. She paused and then said 'she's not a horse for just anyone though'. And that is the total truth. 

A. horse like Carmen wears her emotions on her sleeve. There's never any doubt about how Carmen feels. Which is different than Quaid who tends to internalise more. 

So many feelings- happy to be done the ride, 
worry about the black clouds behind her, and 
annoyed that I'm bugging her for a photo

The problem with Carmen is that, while it's easy to know if she's unhappy, it's not always easy to figure out why. So when she was getting resentful of being asked to go forward I had a list of things to consider: 

  • ulcers- unlikely but not impossible
  • hocks- she's 13 this year and we're asking her to carry more behind so it would be a real possibility
  • poor riding- I could be squeezing with my thighs, poking her with a spur. Honestly my flaws are endless
  • checking that I'm sure I really want her to go forward
  • saddle fit 
After ruling out the first four I kept coming back to saddle fit.  But I couldn't find any sore spots on her back. I know that's not conclusive either but it felt like I was close but not quite right. What I became aware of was that the saddle was not staying put. When I put it on everything is good: 

But as the ride progressed the saddle would slip forward onto her withers.  The girth would end up right behind her shoulders and the saddle with it, no matter how I placed it or tightened it. I swapped it out for a girth that was a little more shaped. It was the brown one that I use with my Spanish saddle. This was better and I could feel an improvement but it was not perfect. 

This coincided with Jane coming to teach and I told her what I was thinking. She agreed that Carmen's shape (round barrel, low whither) was designed to pull a saddle forward. I told her I was thinking of trying an anatomic girth. As luck would have it she had a student selling one that was exactly the size I needed. 

I arranged to get it to try. It fit her fine so I sent the payment but wasn't able to ride for a couple days (November is hard for outside riding).  I could immediately see how it worked better than our girth. 

Before our ride

I was happy where it kept the saddle. I took a short video before mounting to see how she moved with it. 

See how her shoulder has more freedom.

When I mounted she felt like she was striding out more. When I first asked for trot I got the pissy mare reaction. It was funny because I could feel when she went 'oh, that's okay'.  I finished the ride and when I dismounted the saddle was still in the same spot. 

after the ride

I've ridden a few times in it (when weather allows) and she's getting better and better. Today when I asked for the first trot she just moved forward with happy ears. 

Best money I've spent. 


  1. A saddle fitter I had out recently told me it usually takes 2-3 rides for them to realize something doesn't hurt anymore. I'm unsurprised that it clicked for Carmen quicker. What a great day to have a girth fix the saddle issue instead of having to go through saddle fit he**.

    1. That is my experience as well. The first ride she was defensive. T less so on the second and third was the charm.

  2. isabel had the type of build that tended to pull saddles up onto her withers, and she HATED it! tho she also had the sort of build that most anatomic designs weren't the right proportions for her either... so nice that this girth seems to be a good fit for Carmen!

  3. It's nice when it ends up being such an easy fix. Girths have been the one thing I've experimented with most over the years, but always anatomic for Connor, who is shaped like Carmen. Otherwise the girth ends up in his armpits every ride.

    1. There are a lot of similarities in their shapes. I always worry thst I’m throwing tack at an issue that needs another solution. But I think this is right.

  4. Yay for an easy fix! We don't want a grumpy Carmen now do we? :o)

  5. That worked out well! It appears to be making a big difference already, too. Has her body changed a lot through the years?

    1. I am not sure. She is definitely more muscled and filled out. It could be that our asking has got to the point where it's impacting her shoulders.

  6. It's nice when the starts align and the fix is an easy one! So glad you got it figured out!

  7. I have a contoured girth like that and it's a life saver!


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