|Lily after the ride. But this is what we rode in, sans the hind boots, which I will tell about later in this post.|
1. The Wintec is lighter. Lily can move out more and recover faster with less weight on her back. That's a no-brainer. You too would move faster hiking with a 15 lb backpack than with a 50 lb backpack.
2. The Wintec fits perfectly with a thin pad, not so much with the Woolback I use with the Alta.
3. I wanted to see how Lily's performance with Wintec + all the saddle bags would compare to her performance with the Alta + all the saddle bags.
4. I'm kind of an anomaly I guess in that I like a wide twist on a saddle. The Alta has a wide twist and so does the Wintec. Now, the panels and flaps are slim, so the saddle feels so much more narrow when I'm riding in it and the giant knee blocks will sometimes give me bruises on my knees. I figured adding the full saddle cover over it would help with both of these things. I wanted to test this out over a longer distance.
5. The footing was extra-dry (no boot-sucking mud) so I wanted to test, yet again, Vipers vs Gloves. (I've been alternating bare and booted for training rides in the park and booting only fronts or hinds when booting at all. Less boots to worry about falling off!)
We set off towards the park across the street. As we made it onto the pea gravel path, I could feel the pull in my inner thighs from the bulk of the sheepskin + knee blocks. More than I had expected. Figuring this would not get better after 10+ miles, I dismounted and removed the sheepskin stirrup leather covers. I re-mounted and felt much better. The saddle still felt wider than the Alta because of the knee blocks + sheepskin, but not too horrible. We continued on down the driveway.
I had dropped my stirrups two holes to compensate for the sheepskin cover and the EZ-Ride stirrups (they have a thick footbed), but when we picked up a trot on the driveway, I realized they were way too long. So again I dismounted and adjusted the stirrups, shortening them a hole.
Lily was a little looky once we were in the park, which was to be expected given that it had been 2 weeks since we went out there. And she may have been in heat, based on behavior observed later that same day around geldings. But lately these days I can't tell when she is or isn't. SmartMare Harmony and 24/7 turnout have been da bomb for this horse.
We picked up a very energetic trot and I was surprised when MapMyRun started calling out the miles. Lily's average pace in the park, despite our faster training rides in the fields, had been consistently about 6.6 mph (9 minute miles) and today she was going at 7.5 mph (8 minute miles) without any effort. I felt that this proved my point re: saddle weight. She stayed at that speed of a trot without any extra urging from me, and excitedly attacked all of the park hills I pointed her at at a bounding gallop.
We'd consistently been having days in the 70's for the last 2 weeks but on Saturday we were having a short heat wave: temps were soaring into the mid-80's, and about half way into our ride, Lily was dripping sweat but it did not seem to affect her enthusiasm whatsoever. Another point for the Wintec.
However, the stirrup leathers were driving me batty. For dressage rides I have offset-eye stirrups that don't bother me, but the EZ-Ride stirrups are normal so the leathers twist when your feet are in the stirrups. I have Wintec Webbers on this saddle because I hate the bulk of buckles under my leg and I had set the stirrups so the leathers wouldn't twist all the way around when my feet were in the stirrups. The problem is that the prong for adjusting the length was lying right against my shins and I knew if I didn't do something about this, I was going to end up with matching giant raw spots on my shins despite my half chaps.
We had just finished a canter set when I realized that Lily was trotting funny. I looked down at her boots: the Vipers were fine, but the Glove on her RH had spun off and was hanging by the gaiter. Grumbling, I dismounted...to realize that the boot had come off because the gaiter had torn. WTF?!!
I'm really happy with these particular boots when they work out. Like at the Old Dominon 50. But the truth of the matter is that, while the shells are great, the gaiters are crap. C.R.A.P. I tell you. The Velcro is flimsy, the gaiter neoprene-ish material frays, and the stitches used to attach the gaiter to the rubber part that screws on to the shells are poorly done. They need to use stronger thread.
|Behold the flimsiness of the Velcro.|
Older Gloves had a wider, sturdier Velcro which has changed in newer models.
This shit is supposed to stand up to miles and miles of use? I don't think so.
We walked back to the main trail and then I asked Lily to pick up a trot again. She trotted on happily and very forward-ly, until we were almost back at the first creek crossing. Lily's gait suddenly felt off so I stopped and looked back at her hind boots.
The RH Glove, the smaller one I had just hammered on, had popped off and was hanging by the gaiter. GRRRRRRR! At least the gaiter was still fully attached to the boot... I dismounted and simply removed both hind Gloves, grumbling about what a POS these boots are. I don't get it: every other ride, they are terrific. I've had them stay on through fetlock-deep mud and despite trotting up hills coming out of water, two of the hazards most likely to make you lose boots. But on this day with perfect footing? Nope. I will stop hating them again next time they perform fantastically, but I get SO FRUSTRATED with them when they don't work on training rides! Next time I'll just Viper all the way around. More points for Lander Industries and their awesome products!
Adjusting the stirrups allowed me to figure out where I had to be in the saddle + cover to be comfortable, and once I was where I needed to be, everything just flowed so much easier for us together. I'd been fighting the saddle somewhat up until that moment. I noted that with the cover I didn't get the knot behind my left shoulder blade nor the twinge in my left sciatic nerve like I have in that saddle in the past on long rides sans cover. I felt solid in the saddle and Lily felt forward and nicely in front of my leg with no effort from me.
We did part of our usual loop in reverse, in a way that allowed us to string together the different equestrian trails without having to ride any of them twice. We were coming back out onto the meadow trail when MapMyRun called out 9 miles. At this point Lily's gait changed again. I brought her to a stop and she immediately started frantically stomping her RF: the Viper had spun around and was hanging by the captivator. I managed to swing off while she continued stomping. "Get it off get it off get it off!" she said. "Hold on Lily" I said, as I reached for the boot. She was holding her foot up in the air and when I reached for it, she started stomping again. I had to reprimand her when she almost kneed me in the cheekbone. "You need to hold still if you want me to help you," I told her. As if she understood, she simply lifted her foot and held it in the air while I removed the boot and replaced it correctly. She was fine after that.
I decided we'd add 3 more miles in to complete 12 miles. Lily loves cantering on the meadow trail, so I let her go. She picked up her all-day canter, easily putting in 2 loops around the meadow trail without stopping (one turn around this trail is a mile), and then I had her veer off down the Hidden Pond Trail. She trotted down the slope back into the woods, then picked up a canter all on her own. She didn't ask to come back down to a trot, so I simply let her canter this loop until we were almost back at the meadow trail. I brought her back down to a walk when the app called out 12 miles. We had completed them in 1 hour and 37 minutes. I was thrilled with our pace.
I dismounted and, since we were facing home, decided to practice tailing with Lily. She is always confused when I stand behind her holding her tail. I clipped one end of the reins to the halter on her halter-bridle and held the opposite end. Lily stood and looked back at me as I took my position behind her. "Go on." I said, and clucked. Lily started walking slowly forward, but she kept turning her head slightly to check on me. "Are you sure this is what you want me to do?" she asked. "Yes. Good girl! That's exactly it." So she straightened out and walked on more confidently, still keeping an ear on me.
|You can see her ear pointed back at me.|
Have I mentioned how much I love this horse?
In this manner we walked over to a friend's new barn whom I was helping to get set up, where I untacked Lily and turned her out in the empty fields. She flirted with the neighbor's geldings over the fence, then had a ball walking around, exploring and grazing by herself for 2 hours. A situation where a long time ago she would have turned into a nervous wreck at finding herself all alone. When it was time for us to go, I found her in cannon-bone high grass in the front pasture. She didn't come when I called but she stood and waited for me to go to her, giving me happy ears. I tacked her back up and walked her on a loose rein back to our barn.
I write about these events and feel like I can't put into words what each of these little things means to me. The fact that she trusts me so much now, that she is so happy being my horse now, that I can ride her for 12 miles, take her over to another barn and have her stay completely chill, then get back on and have her be fine with carrying me a little while longer. All the little things that I never thought I'd be able to do with her, and that now I can without thinking about it.
I love her.