Bandit would be an interesting horse to work with Harry Whitney. you might consider trailering him over to do a clinic at his Arizona ranch.
I'd love to do that some day. If you will remember, at first I didn't like Harry Whitney and considered him too "zen" for my tastes. But over time, I've come to appreciate his way of thinking. I think sometimes we need to have certain experiences, or come to certain conclusions on our own, before we can understand what another person is really saying.
If I'm at A, and someone is teaching about D, it may make no sense. But if I've got A down, am thinking hard about B, and encountering something that is making me consider C, then the same passage can fill in the blanks and get my MIND to A, B, C & D. Unfortunately, my body may not be able to perform D. Or my mind may not be able to read the horse well enough to do D. But if I can grasp D, I can then work on it.
And a lot of times, I find my horse is already operating at E, and reaching back to me. But my horse may have physical limits too. Bandit can canter OK in our arena counter-clockwise, but he needs to take an egg-shaped circle. At the top of the egg, you could see how he falls into a trot and then resumes a canter coming out of it. And in the opposite direction, he takes a counter-canter.
I ought to do more arena work to loosen him up at a trot clockwise. Just as stiffness in MY body hampers MY riding, stiffness in Bandit's body hampers his ability to be ridden. I guess one advantage to taking Motrin before a ride is that I can understand when he is stiff, and not complain he is being rebellious or stubborn!
I think Harry Whitney allows for auditing. If so, I might try that first. "He reaches very well and stays even around the bends. Really a nice, straight mover, uses his body well.
I was happy with his attitude. He was tense because we don't do this sort of thing often, and it was his first try in that sidepull (which I like a lot better than the first - softer rope and no knots on the bridge of his nose). He also doesn't like just going in circles. But he was willing enough..."If it matters to you, I guess I'll give it a shot
" type of thing. Horses seem like very eager to cooperate creatures, which is why I don't understand the folks who think their horses spend their nights plotting to take over the world.
"Why ARE english stirrups attached to the front of the tree?
Because there is no where else to put them. I think the question ought to be, "Why does the English saddle tree end at the stirrup bars?
" Some folks are experimenting with flared ends to the English tree, but I think the English tree is fundamentally flawed. Suppose, instead of the front ending in a point, one placed a ball bearing at the point, and underneath had something similar to the front of a western tree, about the size of a persons hand, and rounded like the western one so the muscles could slide easily underneath. The ball bearing would automatically allow the front of the saddle to adjust to an angle it was resting on.
The English saddle panels now extend down the sides, forming an L. The Australian style never gained that downward panel - it just goes front to back. I think that L-shaped panel was added to help distribute weight toward the front, but a panel running nearly vertical on the side doesn't do that. It seems to me English saddle makers need to replace the "point" with a "palm".
When people talk about saddle fit, they discuss the spine and the ribs as if the bones carry the weight. But what bothers the horse, IMHO, is pressure against the muscle and skin. Heck, the front legs of the horse aren't even attached - if one looks at skeletons. The muscles in the shoulder bear all the weight of the horse's body, plus the rider. We are carried by muscle and skin, not by bones. So why would we EVER design a saddle tree with a front end like this:
I realize there are panels and flocking underneath. But when I tried my western saddle on a short wool pad, where the pad barely reached the front of the saddle, even THAT created a ridge of pressure in the front.
But a western saddle has a very wide twist, so to speak. Keeping lower leg contact is easy n my Australian saddle. Rarely happens with my western one. Which then raises the question: Why do so many people say they can ride a Western and English saddle the same? I try to, so I know it CAN be tried. But the western saddle does NOT fit me anything like the Australian (and English) one.
What I tried yesterday, leaning forward and back, has convinced me I can probably ride an adapted forward seat in my western saddle, and my horse won't care. As long as my center of gravity lines up with his, the saddle will take care of protecting his back. But I think this photo, probably taken around 1930, shows how a western saddle it designed to be ridden:
I would feel incredibly uncomfortable riding fast like this:
Same guy here: I don't have it in me to ride that way
. But I'd also bet my horse wouldn't mind if I did. Almost all modern teaching is that the rider above is abusing his horse, but most modern teaching is rooted in the English saddle. I've only been able to find a handful of western riding books, and not a single one discusses western riding.
The guy I took lessons from at Utah State one quarter, who was an ex-cowboy, wrote a book. He did a cut & paste from a dressage manual. He included a cut & paste about how shoulder - hip - heel all need to be in a vertical line. Yet in a hundred photos of him riding in the book, the ONLY one where he obeyed that rule was the one taken to illustrate it!
I guess that is why I feel free to experiment with Mia and Bandit, and try to adapt the forward seat to my western saddle, while keeping my main goal - keeping the horse between me and the ground, even when the horse doesn't tell me what he is going to do - as my top priority.
I truly get frustrated when almost all the studies about weight and balance in riding are oriented to riding dressage with warmbloods. I know that is where the big bucks are available. But it would be soooo nice to see a study done of weight distribution, in motion, using a western saddle and multiple styles of riding. Which one IS best for the horse? Instead, we study rollkur...