I started lessons on Madigan a few weeks ago, and I was excited to do so. He was going well during his training rides and I looked forward to getting more comfortable riding him. My enthusiasm was short-lived. Our first lesson was ugly. He was crooked and so behind my leg that I had to kick him like a kid on a recalcitrant pony to get him to move faster than a crawl. And on the bit? Forget it. His neck took on a llama-like quality and stayed that way while we flailed around the arena at a tranter.
This baffled me. I’m a competent rider, despite spending the last four-ish years exclusively hunting and trail riding. Our trainer assured me my position was good, my body was quiet, and I was doing all the right things. I chalked it up to Madigan having a baby day and figured our next lesson would be better. Spoiler alert: it was not better. I suppose the best thing I can say is that is wasn’t worse than our first lesson.
At this point, Madigan began acting squirrelly in training rides, too. This was unusual. He’s typically focused and willing. Even when the questions are hard or new, he tries to answer them. But familiar questions like leg yields were resulting in him kicking out, sucking back, or flailing.
Nothing in Madigan’s life changed. His diet, turnout situation, and training schedule were the same. His training rider suggested the saddle might be bothering him. I saddled him with my Trilogy for his next training ride. It’s significantly wider than the King’s, but the points are at a different angle. Madigan went better in the Trilogy for both his training rider and me. Problem solved, right?
Of course not! His training rider suspected he didn’t love the Trilogy either, so she brought out the trusty treeless western saddle he was broke to ride in. He was noticeably better- moving freely and looking happy. She also tried a Fairfax Gareth on him, which he seemed to like as well as the treeless western saddle.
I spent some time searching for a used Fairfax I could try out. I found one at a tack shop in New Jersey, Dutchess Bridle & Saddle. They were terrific to work with- I filled out a form online, they called to get my credit card information, charged me for shipping, and sent the saddle. It shipped on Friday and arrived in perfect condition on Tuesday.
The saddle is a Fairfax Classic, and Madigan had a training ride in it on Wednesday. He appeared more comfortable than he had in the Trilogy, but not as comfortable as he was in the treeless western or Fairfax Gareth. I’ll try it this weekend and he’ll have another training ride before the trial period is up. Perhaps he’ll go really well and I can call the nice people in New Jersey, buy this saddle, and not have to order a brand new saddle or hope something turns up on eBay.
Now, you might recall that I had the King’s fitted to him at the beginning of January. It is now the end of March. Somehow, in the span of approximately 3 months, giant baby has widened so much through the shoulders that he outgrew his saddle. This is an annoying problem to have, although I know he will eventually stop growing. And I should just be glad he’s finally getting wider, right? Right?