When I got pregnant with Lily, I asked my doctor about riding Kaswyn. He told me that he didn't think I should ride. I told him that I knew plenty of people that had ridden until very late in their pregnancies (Blair, for one), and besides, I really trusted my horse not to pitch me into the dirt. He replied, "Well, you can ride if you really want to. Just remember that if you fall off and the placenta detaches from your uterus, we can't save the baby. So it's your choice."
I chose not to ride.
It was really hard watching my trainer ride Kaswyn for nine months. Not that she's a bad rider or anything - it's just that Kaswyn hadn't ever been in training before (except once for six weeks when I had hurt my back) and, well, I wanted to be the one riding him. While I was thrilled with how much he learned both of the times I was pregnant, I was really glad to get back on after the girls were born.
A lot changed while I was pregnant with Macey. Craig lost his job (again!) and I was forced to lease Kaswyn out part time to be able to save some money. The gal that leased him owned a mare who wasn't as trained as Kaswyn so the rider was able to learn a lot from him. Her mare also had many physical problems, despite being a young horse, and the rider did everything she could to help her horse feel better. This horse, who was eight or nine, had (if I remember correctly) navicular, degenerative hocks, arthritis, and possibly some kind of brain tumor that was giving her neurological problems and making her spontaneously lactate. She spent a lot of money on vet bills, special corrective shoeing, and a saddle.
Her saddle was new on the market and was a Freedom Holistic UltraFlex dressage saddle. It's basically a treeless saddle that flexes in every direction possible. I don't know if it really helped her horse any, but at least it wasn't hurting her back because it was a custom saddle.
When I got back to riding after the pregnancy the rider asked me if it would be okay if she tried her saddle out on Kaswyn. She said she really didn't like my Cobra, and found her saddle much more comfortable and easy to sit in. I told her no, I really didn't want her to do that. First of all, it was a custom saddle that was made to fit her horse, not Kaswyn. Secondly, I didn't think it was a good idea, now that we were sharing rides on Kaswyn, for him to be ridden in two different saddles all the time. I had heard about the UltraFlex and I didn't have a doubt that it was a nice saddle. My concern was that Kaswyn would prefer it to the Cobra, and then when I'd put the Cobra on him he'd be sour and not want to work. Lastly, I knew at that there was no way I could afford the saddle at that point. Besides, one night I had ridden her horse in the UltraFlex and I absolutely hated it.
One day it appeared that she had ridden Kaswyn but my saddle had not been moved, so I asked her if she had ridden bareback. Turns out that she had gone behind my back to our trainer, who had told her she could try the UltraFlex on Kaswyn. I was not amused. She tried to plead her case, saying how much better he felt in the saddle and how it was better for his back. But I put my foot down. I told her, once and for all, she was not to ride him in that saddle. Period.
A few months later, I ended her lease with Kaswyn. He hadn't really felt right since I had been back to riding, and in an effort to try and at least figure out what was wrong with him I thought it was in his best interest for me to be the only one riding him. There were other factors too, like the saddle incident (which I thought was a childish, underhanded, and manipulative move on her part), the fact that one night she refused to allow me to help her with a problem she was having with my horse (she said she wanted to just think about it and figure it out on her own), and the fact that she told me flat out that she didn't always warm him up as much as she should because sometimes she just didn't have that kind of time and just wanted to get down to work. It was a relationship that needed to end.
Right around the time the lease was over was the beginning of the long, painful, and expensive game of "What is Wrong With Kaswyn and Can He Be Fixed?" For eighteen long months we spent diagnosing, laying off, medicating, and analyzing Kaswyn. During that time he did very little work due to his constant, nagging lameness. Much of the time was spent simply walking my horse. I bought a bareback pad and we spent weeks and weeks just walking around bareback and in a halter.
When we finally fixed him, and I was bringing him back to work, I still rode him bareback. I really enjoyed how much I was able to feel his back and the connection I had with him. I could easily get him on the bit and walk, trot and canter him. I thought it was great for both of us at the time, but soon I really felt like we were working enough that I needed the saddle.
I put the Cobra on Kaswyn and got on. We walked around on a loose rein for ten minutes, then I asked him to get on the bit. He pinned his ears, tightened his neck and back, and threw his head in the air. He had never done this when I was bareback. He was giving me a message, and I heard it loud and clear.
It was totally obvious. Kaswyn hated the Cobra. I needed a new saddle. Again.
To be continued...