A brief Specialized update: I have not yet worked on my pads, but I have concluded that the dealer I've talked to seems more focused on sales than on what's best for the horse. The only thing I really liked about the saddle she fitted to the other horse was the shoulder clearance (and I do intend to fiddle with mine as a result). The withers and spine hitting.. well, I'm not so thrilled about that, and frankly can't see how that saddle ever fit the horse with her setup. Very unimpressed. Luckily, other boarder is looking at other brands of saddles for unrelated reasons, so I don't have to explain why several of us find the whole situation utterly appalling.
It's been the strangest winter out here. The dam goes up, the dam goes down. Dam goes up, dam goes down. Normal winters involve the dam going up and staying up for several months, then down again for the rest of the year. Most likely the lack of rainfall is the cause - can't let the fish die, I suppose!
So. Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday? We trotted circles in the back woods. I couldn't motivate myself to take her out on the highway by myself, so we settled for boring work instead. Average speed was 6+mph. Good enough!
This past weekend was sunny, warm, gorgeous, and the dam went back down. I practically skipped out to the barn, tacked up, headed out solo for a longer-but-moderately-brisk ride. Really lovely and moderately forwards for the first five miles. Next thing I know, she quits on me. Yes, I pushed for a bit more forwards-uphill than usual, but it was an 'ask' and not a 'demand'. Pony didn't want to go forwards, even walking. She'd give me a few steps and then stop again. I got off, thinking that might help; she was still reluctant to go forwards. Cue thoughts that I broke my horse. Breathing hard, trembling legs, we're still halfway up this particular hill and there are several more yet to come.
We switched gears three hills later. Break at the top of the Very Big Hill, so we both had at least five minutes of standing around and recuperating. Her breathing was back to normal, legs were fine, nibbling at the moss on the trees. I got back on. The new mindset: pony gets to pick the pace as long as she's moving comfortably. She didn't really feel like trotting or cantering our usual gallop-hills, so we moseyed on up at a walk, then down the next slope, around the next corner - and look, another rider from the barn! Never going to get a better time to ride sloooowly with her than when the pony isn't interested in moving out. By now my working theory was that she probably needed to pee. Moving well enough, just incredibly lazy and unmotivated about it.
So. Joined up with L & her gelding. Walked awhile, itty-bitty-tiny sitting trot a few times while he gaited along, and thus we went the last three miles home.
I got off and walked her to her stall with tack on, into the stall. Lo and behold, she peed immediately. Oh, pony. I don't know how to get her over that, but clearly it's needed. Barn chores were up next, and then I got back on bareback in hopes of ending on a better note.
We actually ended up going on another trail ride with C. Two Haflingers, both of us bareback, late afternoon ride as the sun was setting. This was a really big deal. I regularly take the other Haffies out bareback walk/trot/canter on trails, but when I've tried it on Fetti, she's been too unpredictable for it to be any fun. Flounce into the trot, slam into the walk, repeat. Saturday? Lovely transitions both directions. 4mph average, 2.4 miles, mostly medium-trot with some walk and photos for good measure. There was no grabbing mane for dear life, no worries that a spook would unseat me, just a lovely lovely lovely ride. (Though it would still be dumb to take her out bareback on her excessively forwards days, at least I have more options for our leisurely evening rides now!)
Short trail ride on Confetti on Sunday, some major mane-work with the Haffies, and then seven miles bareback on another Haflinger at a brisk pony-sized trot much of the way. It's an incredible feeling to ride the whole thing on a loose rein, relaxed, casually going down the trail with just a bareback pad while sitting a bouncy little pony trot. Lots of smiles. Lots of happiness.
Life is good.