I had my first dressage lesson today in my new Wintec 2000 saddle. I think I rode a lot better today even if a few times I felt really out of whack. Girlfriend actually acted like a dressage trained horse at certain points in my lesson too which was very exciting for me. And I didn't fall off which I was quite afraid of. My instructor once said it's practically impossible to fall out of a Western saddle (if you know how to ride and your horse doesn't flip out on you) but English saddles feel so small and slippery in comparison. Of course, one of the big things I learned today which was kind of a "duh" moment was, it is not the saddle that is keeping me on the horse, it is me that is keeping me on the horse.
I was very nervous about how things would go with this new saddle. Would she flip out and try to throw me? Would I not be able to handle her and fall off? I was trying to be calm about trying out the new saddle and finally had to admit to my instructor that I was feeling anxious. Finally she asked, "So, how many times has your horse taken off on you and you've lost control?" and I had to admit, "Ummm ... never." Then I said, "But she took off with Jessi and threw her," and my instructor asked again, "How many times has she taken off with *you* and tried to throw *you*?" and I said, "Ok ... never." And she said, "And how much have you ridden her?" and I said, "A lot." She reminded me of when I first got Girlfriend (what was I thinking???) and for a couple months I had to just ride her at a walk because she was so hyped up and excited to be ridden in an arena again that if we tried to trot she'd just take off. But she'd always stop when I asked her and I was always in control and she always has listened to me and been attentive to me. So, this fear I have that she'll take off with me is unfounded and I'm starting to maybe believe it!
Last week I was riding in the arena while my instructor was giving a lesson to her friend, Cindy. Cindy asked why I was using a Western saddle but riding English. Sheryl said, "That horse is so hot that if she hasn't been ridden for a couple weeks it's better to ride her in a Western saddle. She's hotter than any horse I've known. She's so hot that if she weren't so well trained she'd be too dangerous to ride." But Kristen, Girlfriend's previous owner who traveled the country competing in team penning says that Girlfriend is a great beginner horse and totally mellow and safe.
So, I finally had to ask my instructor why they had such conflicting views of Girl. My instructor asked if I'd ever been around horses bred to be gaming horses and I said no, and she said for a gaming horse Girlfriend is very easy to handle. She explained that gaming horses are bred to want to race and to be obsessed with racing. They are hot and myopically obsessed with speed and that is what makes them successful. So, for a gaming horse Girlfriend is a great package - crazy hot but well trained and easy to handle (comparitively) . So, that finally made sense. Kristen has spent her life around horses bred and trained completely differently than the horses Sheryl and I have spent our lives around (dressage and eventing trained horses). That makes me feel more confident that when I get another horse I can consider an off-the-track thoroughbred from rescue because I will have so much experience handling hot horses.