finding the right balance

I’ve gone through a slew of saddles in the past few years, and my amazement never ceases each time I have a breakthrough in my riding that has nothing to do with my riding or how much I practice, but with a simple change in equipment.  I’ve already written up about upgrade to a Hennig dressage saddle, so this time around you get a brief history of the evolution of my jump saddles.

When I moved to Florida I had a Henri de Rivel all-purpose/jumping saddle. I bought it in middle school by saving my lunch and birthday money and a friend of the family who owned a westernwear store ordered and sold it to me for cost – somewhere around $600.  Sharon Poulin told me it wasn’t balanced, adding to my chair seat, in my first working student lesson and I never rode in it again.  At some point during my working student stint when money was pinched, I sold it on consignment for a couple hundred.  I didn’t need it anyway; I was a dressage rider.

A few years later when I started jumping again, my friend, Nina, who also became a working student of the Poulins and gave up jumping (decades ago) let me use her old Pessoa.  In its day (decades ago) it was the close-contact saddle to have for show jumpers.  Now, it was flat as a pancake and stiff as a stone.  What the leather lacked in suppleness it made up for with slipperiness.  But it’s what I had available, so I rode in it, regardless that no matter how much oil I doused it with, the life refused to reignite.

After a visit to Pennsylvania (home), my step-mom sent me back with a Stubben she’d bought off a friend who used it for the AQHA hunter classes for her brief stint as an english rider.  It was an upgrade in leather quality, but was still … bad.  At this point I had just recently started Forrest and Jesse took pity on me and let me use her new used Devouceaux.  It was dreamy.  It had grip.  Thanks to the jointed stirrups having a secure lower leg with heel down came so easily.

Both Monte and Forrest were newbie jumpers though, and I was still just getting back into it, so when a horse sold and I bought  my Amerigo Vega all I cared about was the supple grippiness of the leather and that it  fit Monte well at the time.  It was a huge upgrade from anything I’d owned and it’s still a really nice saddle.

Fast forward a couple years though, and I’d noticed something.  I felt more comfortable coming into fences on Monte than Forrest even though Forrest was actually bred to be an eventer and has an amazing jump.  Monte felt smooth; 1, 2, 3, jump, while Forrest felt discombobulated; 1, 2, 3, agh, go!  I was blaming it on my eye, or lack thereof, but it was odd, since I felt more confident and calm with Monte.  I figured that maybe it was because I could leave Monte alone the last few strides and he’d work everything out himself.  (Other’s might say I was letting him take control 🙂 ) But it felt better.  I had no fear of a refusal from Forrest, but I felt like I had to say, “Make sure you pick up your front end and jump this!” or we might just canter through it.

When ride times posted for RH Spring, our jumping times were so tight I figured it wise to bring out Jesse’s Devouceaux.  I took Forrest out to school in it, and after I conquered my fear of slipping off (while soft, I don’t think Jesse’s conditioned it since she bought it), I couldn’t believe how much better Forrest jumped in it!  He was … balanced!!! 1,2,3, jump! I no longer felt the need to override coming in to each fence.  I could sit there and say: stay in this canter, no… this canter, good boy – and let him taking off propel me into two-point over the fence.

It’s amazing.  I’d already had a plan to check out and upgrade to a County for my next jumping saddle and still plan on going with them since I’m already acquainted with the local rep/will get better customer service and do believe their saddles will be equally as good as Jesse’s Devouceaux, but this definitely lit a fire under my ass to do it.  I haven’t tried Jesse’s saddle on Monte in fear I’ll never want to ride in my Vega again, and we do occasionally ride at the same time.  But now that show season’s almost over (eventing at least) selling my old saddles and finding a new one is at the top of my priority list (which always goes something like: horses, horses, horses anyway)!

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