Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather when, a week before WEG, I picked up a voicemail on my cell phone (couldn't answer while mucking stalls) from a gentleman named Keith Brooks, a representative from Stubben, who wanted to talk to me about potential sponsorship.
For me? And Forrest??
Because, as you know, I'm right up there with their other dressage riders, Jan Ebeling, Michelle Gibson, and Catherine Haddad-Staller.
Flattered, I told Keith that I had just purchased a Wintec that was working nicely but agreed to take a look at a series of saddles that would fit, he said, the average shark finned Thoroughbred to a "T."
Well, what would you do? I'm not one to begrudge anyone, anything. If you're a trust fund baby who can buy whatever you want, lucky you! If you've just gotten a huge tax refund or your husband has surprised you with a new trailer, fantastic. And if, out of the blue, a great saddle company thinks enough of what you're doing with Thoroughbreds, that they approach you for sponsorship, goodness, well, thank you!
Keith and his assistant, Katherine Knauz, arrived at my farm at 9:30 on the dot and, Holy Cow, talk about feeling like a kid in a candy shop...
I must say that Forrest was an absolute star as he stood patiently in the cross ties for a good 40 minutes while Keith showed and described the mechanics of each saddle and tree and listened attentively to my concerns: Forrest does have a history of body soreness from the track and I am diligent in his back care with regular chiropractic and massage therapy. As tempting as it is, I explained, to have one of these beauties, if it doesn't fit my horse perfectly, if my horse's back is compromised in any way, I simply can't accept it.
Forrest was led to the arena, I mounted up and rode in 4 different saddles. That is asking an awful lot from a 4 year old: to be trotted about, halted, untacked, tacked back up, taken out again... he could not have been more willing. And I have to admit from the very first step of trot, he was utterly relaxed in the back, and this is what I've been striving for the last few weeks. I was won over.
So as much as I've enjoyed my Wintec and will absolutely continue to use it on any horse I back in the future- including a lovely Contucci filly arriving next week- when I ran my hand along the panels on either side of the gullet of the Stubben, I could honestly feel a substantial difference in softness and comfort. And most importantly, my horse clearly reflected that.
For now, I'm using a loaner while Forrest's new saddle is being custom made. I chose "ebony," which is a deep, dark, chocolate brown. It'll look awfully nice, I supposed, on a chestnut. After all, I see that Heather Blitz rides the brilliant Paragon in brown tack. Maybe we'll be mistaken for them!