Tristan has been chuffing right along, but this week we were greeted with a setback. After some lovely long road hacks and some good flat work, two things happened nearly at the same time.
The first is that I pulled off his saddle and finally, sinkingly, acknowledged that the white spot on his wither was not just an artifact of his winter coloring (which does in fact change from season to season) but an actual saddle rub/pressure point. Neither saddle interferes too much, and in fact both fit him well, but with the lack of muscling on his back (still, ugh) saddle pads are slipping down and pushing tight against his withers by midway through the ride.
Soon after that, he got a massage in which we confirmed that he was pretty tight and awful through his left side, in a triangle out from that pressure point, and his muscling is lopsided. My friend, his massage therapist, looked at saddles with me and agreed that they are both essentially good fits – the jump saddle perhaps a bit less so – but that saddle pads almost instantly want to slide back and down.
So a solution, in two parts:
1) A fleece half pad, to be his only saddle pad for a period of time. The idea is the fleece will be forgiving and cushioning and I’ll just have to stay on top of brushing it off/cleaning it regularly.
2) Longeing in a regular program. In an ideal world, this would be in side reins. In Tristan-world, this is simply not an option if I want him to develop proper muscles. He has never, ever, ever softened into side reins, and I made another attempt at it a few weeks ago and still he braced and flailed and fought through every stride. They don’t have the responsive give that he needs and also he’s kind of a jerk and stiff through the jaw anyway, and side reins are just not the right tool for him.
So for now, longeing nekkid, 2x a week, for 20 minutes at a time, 3 minutes per side. Friday night I brought him out and warmed him up at the walk and trot, then set out poles in a circle of death exercise. He started off tripping over them every time, but eventually softened into taking them in stride and doing some stretching over his back.
Here’s step 1, at the walk and trot (please ignore my sad pathetic graphic skills):