I started posting here at the end of last year, around when I started horse-shopping. I'm a new rider, older than most new riders by a mile, and I was looking for a been-there-done-that horse. I found a half draft/half arab cross, 12 years old, who had been through the Parelli method for a few years and trail riding before that. She had a very calm demeanor during the visits and the vet check went really well.
I brought her to the stable the first week of January (happy birthday to me!) She fit in well with her paddock-mates, low girl on the totem pole, and started to lose the extra weight she was carrying.
Problem was, I couldn't ride her. She has a short/wide back that needed a special saddle and I'm not comfortable enough to ride bareback. After making molds of her back, templates, and every other thing I could think of, I finally found one that would work - the Lady Fabtron Flex-tree Trail saddle. I ordered it online from the horsesaddleshop and waited. And waited and waited and waited.
I live in France, so anything coming from the U.S. takes a long time. And this time, of course, customs got involved. They held my box for an extra week (the buttheads). In the meantime, I got her teeth floated and her feet barefoot trimmed. She's always been barefoot but the trims have been done by not-so-qualified people. Now her feet are fabulous. Yay! It took forever to find someone to come out who knew what she was doing.
I also bought a French link snaffle bit, even though this mare has always been in a hackamore. Her last owner used a knotted rope halter with reins connecting under the chin, but I got the feeling she didn't like it because she was constantly tossing her head whenever a knot would press in. It made it hard to control her during turns.
I switched her to a Nurtural bitless bridle but still wasn't sure she was as responsive as she should be. She was being ridden on weekends by a friend who is way more experienced than I am and who can ride bareback at all gaits. She seemed to delay turning and stopping in that bridle, but it was hard to be sure from my viewpoint, and my friend says everything is great, even when sometimes it isn't. She's too experienced to be bothered by little malfunctions, unlike me. :)
So the saddle arrived this past week, along with the bit and the mecate reins and all the other doodads I bought. I planned to start training her to the bit this weekend, but we had our first lesson together Thursday and she rode like a dream without a bit, using just the Nurtural. I was so nervous I was sure I was going to poo my pants or something, but I shouldn't have worried. She's been nothing but a sweet girl since I brought her home.
The horse I used to ride for lessons was slow as molasses and gave attitude over everything, not to mention he spooked easy. My mare on the other hand was a speed demon. She needs only the lightest feather touch of legs and/or seat to move out. The draft horse in her was apparently gone for the day and the arab came out to play. Every trot was a speed trot. Every turn was suitable for barrel racing. It was such a refreshing change from the half-asleep horse I was used to.
Yes, we need to work on her being more easygoing. She did calm down whenever I asked, so that was nice, but she wasn't consistent with her speeds. Sometimes she tossed her head a bit, reacting to the pressure on her face from the bridle. I think a snaffle would stop that, but I can't be sure until we try it, which will take quite a bit of training (no pun intended!)
The saddle was awesome! I'm used to riding in an English saddle, and this was just ... oh my ... fabulous. I felt so secure. Posting was loads easier, even when she was going around tight circles and trotting like a speed demon. The only thing that wasn't perfect was a small hard spot near the inside of my right butt bone that I fear will rub on longer rides, but I'm going to buy a gel pad to fix that.
So all in all, I am very, very happy, and I just wanted to share. Thanks to everyone who offered me advice and encouragement along the way.