Didn't head down to the barn until after the World Cup, so I got there verrrry late and had the ring all to myself, which was good: I was concentrating too much on him to have navigated any kind of ring traffic.
While pulling out boxes of kitchen stuff to sort through for the new apartment, I ended up doing a bit of re-sorting of Tristan's stuff, which meant that I was moving his other saddles a lot. I have three saddles in all: his everyday saddle, a Passier all-purpose that suits both of us well but desperately needs to be reflocked; a Wintec 2000 with changeable gullets that I bought for 70% off thinking of trail-riding; and an old, old, old (1940s) dressage saddle that I adore beyond words but will probably never be usable. It's a beautiful caramel cover, has a shallower seat than anything I've ever ridden in, only the tiniest hint of knee rolls and no thigh rolls, and I think the tree is in serious trouble. It creaks. There's also no padding left in the seat - you can feel your seatbones slide around *inside* the tree when sitting in it. Someday, if I have a few hundred dollars to spare, I'll have someone really look at it, but for now...
Anyway: I had the Wintec in storage because it never quite fit him right; the gullets were either too wide or too narrow. It was a good trail saddle, but it didn't make sense to keep it around just for that. Tonight, I looked at it again. He's really been bulking up around his withers lately, starting some muscles just behind the point of the wither that will, with time, really travel down his spine and give him more of a back. (They were my new favorite muscles two weeks ago; this week it's the filled in musculature just above his hocks - pony's learning how to sit!)
I liked it better immediately after putting it on his back; still not perfect, but it was settling better behind his shoulders than the Passier. Getting up I had to tweak the stirrups down a few holes; it still took some getting used to. It's far more built up the Passier, and it actually has padding instead of rock-hard leather. Consequently, it took some time for me to feel as deep in my seat and legs as the Passier lets me be right away. I never quite got the seat there, but once I got my legs settled it in I found that they were actually set better than on the Passier - whopping knee rolls on the Wintec, and the stirrup bars back a bit too, I think.
Ride went really, REALLY well. I think it was a bit of a perfect storm of three factors: first, he really is starting to go better and better, putting some air time and reach in his gaits and give me his back earlier and easier. Second, WOW did I have my leg on. Not until they got quite muscle-tired was I tempted to jack them up and go after him with my heel. Other than that, inner calf all the way. Which was both the saddle and the fruit that's finally starting to bear from T.'s incessant body mechanics talks and my own furious determination to work on my legs. Third, I do think the saddle frees up his shoulders quite a bit more - he was much looser much earlier through the base of his neck than he has ever been.
Cons: I didn't quite get his hind end the way I wanted it to. It was allllmost there, but not all the way. Should've gone for a few more leg-yields to really get the hind end moving.
Canter, though? Best it's ever been. Which is an excellent trend! Even got the right lead bending and through after some long discussion.
Will ride in the Wintec with T. on Tuesday night - we'll see what he thinks! Unless he has objections, I think I'll ride in it for the foreseeable future, ie until I can afford to get the Passier reflocked.