Wide, Short, Green: Tack inquiries for restarting a Fjord
I'm making my first horse purchase in ten days (pending a PPE)! Hooray! I'm not exactly a beginner--I've leased twice in the past and, after fooling around with horses for a couple of years (just trail rides, stupid teenager stuff like running as fast as we could across open meadows--I shudder at the thought now) I did five years of eventing. The last mare I leased was my eventer, and she was green-broke when we started, but my coach and I chose her because she'd jump anything she could see over. She was a blessing in disguise--I learned so much from her, under the guidance of a good solid trainer.
That said, it has been a few years since I rode consistently, and I've never started a horse from the ground-up before.
The horse I'm buying (a 7-year-old Norwegian Fjord gelding called Hans) has been ridden before, but not much. His story is as follows: The seller (we'll call her Alice, I guess) purchased him from Bear Creek Fjords as a yearling with the intention of adding him to her driving team as he matured. A friend (let's call her Bethany) fell in love with him and begged Alice to sell him to her as a dressage prospect, and Alice caved and did so. Bethany "started" him when he was four, "took him on a couple of trail rides" and then decided she was going back to college and left him in a pasture for two years before moving to a loft downtown and giving him back to Alice. Now, as mentioned, Alice drives, and she also rides Western, though she does not consider herself an 'experienced' Western rider. She tried to ride Hans, but found herself unable to communicate with him effectively. She says he walked/trotted for her the first time she rode him, but the second time he wouldn't move forward willingly and, after a lot of kicking on her part, he bucked her off.
She's selling him as "unbroke" because she doesn't know what he knows, and freely admits she isn't qualified to work with him in his current state. He's gotten a little lazy, pretty fat, and definitely rusty. He tacks without so much as a twitch, even opened up and looked for the bit, and his ground manners are great, he just doesn't have the miles to be good under saddle.
Speaking of saddles, hers doesn't fit him at all. It pops up in the back, and the skirts touch his loins, so I'm not sure I blame him for bucking her off. I'm sure it's uncomfortable. That said, he's going to be difficult to fit for a good saddle. He's very wide (in addition to being fat at the moment) and short-backed. I've never had this problem before--my eventer was thoroughly average-sized, and I bought a saddle that my coach literally had lying around (another client had given it to her for lesson use because it didn't fit her horse anymore) because it me and the mare both like a glove. Any tips on finding a saddle for him? He might need something draft-sized, he's that wide across the back. I am looking for something English, though beyond that I'm not picky--these days I just need something that doesn't "look" Western, because I'm doing medieval reenactment.
My other question is about bitless bridles. My worst habits when I started riding were all related to my hands, and since it's been a few years, I KNOW I'm going to be a little rusty. I firmly believe that you train a horse EVERY time you interact with him, and though I'm committed to re-learning my good habits and softening my hands up, I don't want to tug on his face and harden him up in the meantime. Would a bitless bridle be a reasonable solution, or would it just present an alternative set of obstacles? I'm not really thinking of a hackamore, but rather a sidepull or a crossunder. Is there one of these that would be more appropriate while I'm still regaining control of my hands?
One more note: I am !NOT! going into this alone. I have a wonderful trainer who's going to be working with us both. She's started many horses and people, and I wouldn't even be considering buying a green horse if it weren't for her guidance and encouragement.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any advice offered!