Yesterday was not a good day for me. I woke up feeling very, very sad. I spent the whole day trying to remember what my mum's voice sounded like and I couldn't. My head was thumping all day, I did everything at a snail's pace, but couldn't speed up no matter how much I tried. The saddler arrived and came down to see Wolfie. I opened the stable door to lead Wolfie out and his words were ' wow, look at the shoulders on him'. Wolfie exploded out of the stable (I have no idea why) and the saddler had a good look all over him. He was very complimentary about his big sloping shoulder and length of stride, saying it was text book angle for stride and elevation and any serious dressage rider would be envious of that shoulder. (Hmph that would be all well and good if he was a 16.2hh Warmblood). However, coupled with Wolfie's flat back and no real defined wither, it makes it a very difficult fit for a saddle. The saddler listened to all my thoughts and fears on the whole saddle / fitting issue and we discussed various options. Ultimately, I have known that every saddle I have tried on Wolfie recently does not nearly fit. I no longer have any confidence in myself or my judgement that I can even put a saddle on him and know that it is even placed correctly. If I am to ask any more of Wolfie in terms of his schooling and level of collection I need to have confidence in my tack. I need to be sure that any resistance shown is not down to a badly fitting saddle causing him discomfort. Wolfie is still pretty much a blank canvas to me, the foundations are there and so far he's a happy, confident horse who enjoys his work, I don't want to ruin everything we have achieved so far by making him sore and sour. As I've said before, Wolfie wears his heart on his sleeve. He lets you know how he is feeling every inch of the way. Like most youngsters, everything has to be in black or white, and with him you cannot skip a step, but I feel he would be a horse that could easily become very angry and bitter if things weren't done correctly or he was forced into something which caused him pain.
So the upshot is, Wolfie is having a custom made saddle. This is not something I wanted to be doing right now. This was a 'one day' dream several years down the line, but I have to do what is best for Wolfie right now. The saddler is coming out on Saturday to measure him up, take tracings and photographs. The saddle will be black, and he has said I can have any choice of leather at no extra cost. The tree will be made to try and allow as much room for alteration as possible as Wolfie continues to change shape. It will be a close contact balance saddle. It will take 3 to 4 weeks for the saddle to be made and the saddler will come out fit the saddle and watch me ride in it. He will then make any final alterations. He said he will then come back out after we have been using the saddle for a few weeks as a follow up call to check it. The saddle comes with a 2 year guarantee (the majority of saddlers only offer 1 year guarantees) and the tree has a lifetime guarantee. After much discussion with the saddler I have decided on the Wallace GPD which has a medium deep seat and straight cut flaps. The panel has been designed to give maximum comfort for the horse, allowing an excellent fit while allowing freedom of movement around the shoulder area. It is a general purpose saddle but straighter cut like a working hunter type to free up his shoulder but also means we can still jump in it. I love tack and leather. Normally, I would be so excited by the thought of our very own custom made leather saddle, it's a dream come true, but right now it just feels like another set back even though I know it's the only way forward. The saddler then went off to fit J's new saddle and I was left with Wolfie, who was looking particularly pleased and happy with himself as my world once again came crashing down around my ears.
Fortunately, J's new saddle was a good fit on him and only needs reflocked. H came down to see me after the saddler had left, with her jaw on the ground, she said the saddler had commented that Wolfie's shoulders are bigger than J's. I'm trying very hard at the moment to think of the positives of Wolfie's shoulders. With his huge stride, he covers alot of ground, so we can hack in half the time it takes every one else to do the same route. I mentioned to the saddler that I had to have Wolfie's bridle customised as even his head doesn't fit a standard size. He laughed and said that it's the complicated ones that often make the very best ones.
I think in my heart, I knew that this is where we were going to end up, although part of me had hoped that the saddler would miraculously fit a saddle and we'd be able to join in the centered riding lessons next week, I really want to try that. But no riding Wolfie for the next month. I had considered getting on him bare back in the school, but I've never sat on him bare back and I really don't fancy ending up face down in the surface at the moment and could do without any injuries. So I will get the long lines back out and we will do some ground work for the next few weeks.
I have started clicker training with Buttons over the last 2 days. It took me a little while to get my head around it and timing is crucial. I used a schooling stick as the 'target'. At the moment it is teaching him to understand the clicker. Every time he touches the target, he gets clicked and rewarded with a tit bit. Buttons is a pony that has always been fed from the hand. He mugs anyone near him and is at perfect pocket height. When I tried for the first time on Wednesday, after a couple of goes, I could actually see him processing the whole thing in his mind. He was working it out. Normally he always snuffles around your jacket, but he was standing back, and then he would hesitantly 'touch' the target, he was then clicked and rewarded. You could almost see him thinking, 'what's the catch, this is too easy'. Yesterday I took him into the school for 10 minutes to do some clicker work. When there's food involved, you have Buttons undivided attention. To say he is food motivated is an understatement. He touched the target as I moved it around. He was desperate to do anything else to be 'rewarded'. I think Buttons would stand on his head if he could if he thought there might be a 'reward' in it. It's good fun, I'm still getting the hang of it with timing and co-ordination. I've been giving Buttons a good brush every day, trying to get that winter coat out. He's brilliant, he loves being groomed and would stand all day being fussed over and cuddled.