Friday, February 8, 2019

keeping secrets (again)

So the saddle testing continues. I'm not ready to write out all my thoughts yet, because no decision has been made. Other than to ask for (and be granted, bc the Farm House Tack reps are wonderful) a trial extension.

saddle testing has made me more pushy about asking for video. sorry not sorry, but now y'all have to deal with the media explosion.
The thing is, there's a lot of deliberation, ya know? I'm a very slow decision maker. And to be perfectly honest with y'all, I tend to not like to write about things until I've fully evaluated my thoughts, solved whatever problems need to be solved, or chosen a course of action.

And as much as I love and value this community and the collective hive mind it produces, I prefer hashing out that deliberative process in more private, one-on-one situations with the advisers, friends, and team of trusted professionals in my life. This helps me avoid getting too defensive or affronted by any feedback or opinions that don't match my own, bc #thinskinned...

side note: charlie got to spend a day outside WITHOUT his blanket!! for probably the first time since like, november haha. the results were.... as expected lol. and yes, both sides have equal coverage....
Like, when after this jumping lesson written about below, I reached out to a number of said individuals to talk through what I felt and saw in the videos, many asked "Did you google or check out any forums to see if other people experienced this and what they did about it?"

i tried to pick the slightly more awkward phases of the jump for my pics vs the "everything is perfect" type shots. mostly, lol.
And. Ya know. YES. I did. Because the google and I are old friends and research is a powerful tool. But the thing is, if you research literally ANY horse problem, especially in the forums, these are the answers you will get:

"That's normal, nbd."

"That's not normal at all, you should be very concerned."

"It's going to actually kill your horse."

"Pros do it all the time and it's totally fine."

"It's definitely ulcers. Or teeth. Or saddle fit, omg."

take off and landing are kinda important phases to look at when testing a saddle tho, right?
Which like. How do we wade through responses like this? It's a bit of a trap bc of confirmation bias. When all else is equal, we're likeliest to gravitate toward answers that align with our own predisposed way of thinking. Which, naturally, in this situation is: "Omg but I want it, so pretty!"

But I don't want an echo chamber. I don't want validation or a pat on the back or to have my own limited understanding called "good enough." I want to increase my knowledge and understanding such that I can make an informed decision. I want to not just rationalize a predetermined outcome, but challenge myself to think clearly.

always curious to see what sorts of dance moves i'm pulling in the saddle anyway....
To do that within the internet forums, for example, I'd personally want to know the actual qualifications of those individuals providing the above answers. Meaning, I'd weigh the relative value of that input based on what I perceive to be the sound judgement, wisdom and experience of the adviser.

Advice from a 3* eventer is going to mean something different to me than advice from someone who doesn't jump or ride competitively, regardless of how good or bad that advice actually is for my purposes. That's just how bias works, I guess.

lol and yea, charlie was basically snoozin thru this whole exercise....
It creates a challenging environment when looking for answers to horsey problems on the anonymous internet tho haha, esp in forums. So I generally just skip that process altogether and go directly to the people in my circle who can provide feedback. Barn friends, riding buddies, trainers and coaches, professionals in the equine services industry.

And, possibly one of my favorite advisers of all time, good ol' fashioned video footage haha.

Which leads us to today's media. I begged and pleaded with Trainer P to fit us in for a quick private jump lesson one night this week, for a few reasons.

aw but i love him <3 and, uh, it turns out that my heels don't magically drop in a different saddle lol, go figure
Obvi I wanted to jump in the saddle. And I wanted to give her an opportunity to assess and evaluate. Plus I wanted the all-important video footage.

Which like, gets back to keeping secrets from y'all haha. Bc writing these blog posts often takes a little time, bc of aforementioned deliberative processes. So there's generally at least a day delay (or more) between something happening and me actually writing about it.

ooooh but there's charlie's excited face!
If you were subscribed to my Youtube channel tho haha you'd have seen that this jumping session actually had already happened by the time I wrote about the saddle in the first place earlier this week. Sneaky sneaky, lol!

So anyway. I jumped in the saddle. And? I freakin loved it. This saddle gives me this whole new spectrum of contact through my legs. Like, I actually have contact and a feel through the back of my thighs and top of my calf. Since my Bates feeds my addiction to pinched knees, I want to just use the front of my thigh, squeeze my knees, and then curl my heel up to get contact.

indoor lighting is so challenging, i wish it wasn't blurry!
With this L'Apogee, my leg stays long and stays under me. And actually you can see that my stirrups look way longer on this saddle than they do in the Bates, despite being the same length. I've since shortened them, after Trainer P observed I'm a bit straight-legged over the fences.

Charlie also continued to move fairly well for his own abilities and level of training. It was a bit of a lazy night (highest temperatures we've seen in a long time and homeboy has been working his tail off this week) so it kinda felt like we were phoning it in at times, not our sharpest jumping through the grid. But perfectly fine.

ha more excited face. big guy loves to jump!
And to that point, we kinda wanted to keep it simple in exercises. My main objective, again, was to test the saddle. Considering the heat and indoor confines, we decided to go with a grid, and one single jump. We schooled everything in both directions off both reins, but not everything got caught on video bc P was, ya know, coaching me haha.

We had some issues with straightness and twisting down the grid tracking left and took the whole thing down a couple times. Mostly tho, as you'll see in the video, Charlie was a good boy.

After going through that a couple times, we moved on to a single vertical down the quarterline, set at about 3'. We jumped it going both ways before Trainer P made it an oxer raised to about 3'3. We then jumped that twice (both in the video), coming to a forward and ever-so-slightly gappy distance the first time, and then a closer distance the second.

same jump as before, just a slightly closer takeoff point
Excellent fodder for testing the saddle haha!

We called quits on that, at which point we pulled tack to conduct a more hands-on evaluation. The saddle is a little wide, per Charlie's apparent preferences (it's pretty similar to the Bates he's been happy with in terms of tree size). I tend to prefer using a half pad when jumping anyway just to add that extra degree of shock absorption, so a little extra room is something I find desirable.

Nothing else stuck out from the hands-on assessment, so we declared it "pretty good!"

landing wishing he didn't have to turn immediately in this tiny ring haha
All told, it was a very successful and informative test ride. Alas, tho, not conclusive.

After reviewing the video footage (frame by slo-mo frame....) and seeing things that aren't always visible in real time to the naked eye, my opinion evolved from "pretty good" to.... deciding the half pad configuration used for this ride falls a little shy of "acceptable," unfortunately.

Thus the trial extension. Now we play the Game of Shims to see if there *is* a configuration that works for both me and the horse. This saddle has to pass the test of "Is it better than what we currently got???" And if not, well. C'est la vie.

So. Uh, wish us luck, I guess? One way or another, a decision will be made by Sunday. I reeeeeally want this saddle to work but also have a distinct fear of the unknown and desperately crave definitive certainty. Which is notoriously hard to come by with horses... So we'll see.

It'll be a busy fun weekend anyway tho, with a planned clinic outing that's gonna be awesome regardless of whatever comes for this saddle's future! Hope you all have a good weekend too!


  1. The internet can be a hard place. I remember reading reviews on saddles in the fall and for every “it’s the best thing ever!” there was a “it will break your horse and put you in the worst position”. I’m more of a person of averages. Throw out the obviously bitter and overly excited and see what is left. If one comment is pervasive it’s probably closer to the truth.

    1. Ha yea that makes a lot of sense. I’m definitely a law of averages type person too, tho I’m not sure it holds true for what gets published on the internet bc I think there are correlations and skewed distributions of the types of people (myself included) who are likelier to actually publish on said internet. If that even makes sense LOL

  2. I was trying to buy spanx last night and there was a 5 star review that said omg best deal ever super thick really held my gunt in and immediately after it a 1 star review that said cheap and flimsy did nothing to help me.

    Like fine but which is it????

    Good luck with operation all the shims, I bet you'll find a configuration that works.

    1. also that example was meant to show what a fickle beast the internet is

    2. Sorry but I’m still laughing / dying / etc over “gunt” lololololol

    3. And yes. The internet be so fickle. As do I. Really we are a quite the match!

  3. I'm the exact same way when it comes to accepting advice. I tend to not ask for advice from the world (for the same defensive reasons) and typically don't put out content unless I've already thought it through. Like, I have a group of local horse friends (who all have their own private farms, but hardly ride and never compete), and they had a very different perspective on P's after-injury riding than my FEI level vet and 4* rider trainer. Sorry guys but I'm going to take Dr. H's and Trainer B's perspective a little more seriously.

    And Google is your best and worst friend, seriously. I learned my lesson about Googling certain things when P first got injured. NEVER AGAIN.

    But your leg looks super in that saddle, so I really hope you can find a good half pad configuration to make it work for C!

    1. omg yes, that's exactly it. like we all laugh and nod at the joke of "ask two horse people and get three answers," but esp when you're in the throes of a crisis it's reeeeeally not all that helpful haha. after all you went through with P, it's so awesome to see the advice you followed worked like a charm!!

  4. I hope it will work out, sounds like you're both comfortable in it, which is the majority of the battle. But if not, I'm sure the right one is out there somewhere!

    1. thanks, and agreed completely. if i learned one thing from the K&M disaster, i really should not underestimate the importance of my own comfort, security, and effectiveness in the saddle. bc if you throw that out the window, suddenly the horse's job becomes 1,000x harder. and like, charlie's already got a big enough job as it is to deal with me not being able to do my part!

  5. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a professional you could pay to evaluate saddle fit? Sigh. I used the same people you did with similar results. Never again :( I think you're using the right process to make the decision. And, I mean, if you need an Ogilvy, I might know someone who will give you a great deal on one ;)

    1. omg the heartburn i have over those many many debacles STILL has not cleared up! and like, here i was thinking i was doing everything by the book, checking all the right boxes on my list. like i still believe there's a real art and science to saddle fit, but i'm more inclined to crowd source the process among my existing circle (like Trainer P and the other two trainers i'll see this weekend, and my other barn friends etc) and - possibly most importantly - be guided by my horse in our ultimate choices. lucky for me, Charlie has a robust history of expressing himself haha, so i don't expect to have to guess.

      and re: the ogilvy, i'm not gonna lie and say that the thought hasn't crossed my mind. so far it's looking more like a shim type situation, but we shall see!!

    2. Obviously my last horse and I had HUGE issues beyond my saddle, but I really blame the whole crazy saddle fitters issue on at least a portion of our problems. I was so worried that I was causing him pain that he got away with way too much when it reality he was just an asshole taking advantage of my kindness.

    3. yea i mean it will always be impossible to isolate every.single.variable with horses, but i'm with ya in feeling like my saddle fitting disasters contributed to the woes in my partnership with isabel. that's a tough pill to swallow too :( but it's so so so hard to know when to push when we're not fully confident in ruling out discomfort or pain!

  6. I hope it works out. When I was test riding in saddles a few years back, videoing a grid made really helped me make the right decision (obviously with trainer support). Of course, my horse eating shit over the oxer on the way out and how I maintained balance definitely sealed that deal for me! I'm going to be venturing down new saddle territory this year (now that Scout is turning 6 and just about in his big boy body) and I'm kinda dreading it!

    1. grids are just so dang useful for everything haha, apparently including saddle testing! i was definitely happy to include one as part of the above for that exact reason!

      good luck with your own searches too! it's not the most fun process in the world at all, tho hopefully there's the happy ending to look forward to!

  7. I commend you for taking your time, IMO only fools rush in and with horses and tack we seem to pay the price by not doing due diligence. I'm glad they gave you an extension and my fingers are crossed you find a shim configuration that works since the saddle works so well for you and saddle shopping is such a pain!

    1. ha thanks - i'm trying to be thoughtful but possibly it's mostly just paranoia and fear of change/the unknown that's holding me back. hopefully tho when all is said and done i'll have a lot of confidence in whatever choice gets made (hopefully a choice that includes keeping this pretty little frenchie haha)

  8. I hear you! Saddles are definitely a huge decision, and it certainly pays off to take your time on these decisions. The saddle looks wonderful, and I am so hoping that you can find a way to make the saddle work! When it comes to things like that, I tend to make a decision first rather than put it out to the internet as well. It creates less chatter for your brain in my opinion. So good luck, and I'm crossing my fingers for you!

    1. thanks! and agreed. the chatter can be so overwhelming esp when i'm already kinda paralyzed by the decision making process HA

  9. Love love love it!! I really hope it works for you guys, it looks like an a super awesome saddle from the pics and your description. Fingers crossed for you!

  10. You look nice and secure in that saddle.
    But I'm curious as to why you think it needs to be shimmed from watching video!

  11. Ugh - totally hate saddle shopping. It's super helpful that you've got a generous trial policy though. Re the internet opinion/review effect - I generally throw out the highest and lowest "scores" and take a look at what's left lol. Good luck!


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