Champ used to get rubs all the time, right where the blevins buckles were. He had really round ribs, though, and I figured it was just a combination of my crappy riding + his round ribs. I wrapped the buckles with vetwrap and the problem mostly went away.
Now Dixie is getting them. She's not shaped anything like Champ, and my seat has improved (trust me! it has!) so what's going on? I'm super logical and there's a bunch of different elements at play here, so bear with me.
- I'm riding her a lot more than ever before. I rode her probably 12 days out of the last 15, and before Champ died I was riding her every other day. Not strenuous work - we don't usually break a sweat - but definitely lot more.
- I'm riding dressage-y, with lots of leg cues.
- I'm riding dressage-y, trying to keep my toes pointed forward instead of off to the sides like most western riders.
- The saddle has Cordura fenders and nylon leathers, and maybe they "grab" the hair differently than leather fenders and leather stirrup leathers.
- I've tied the fenders so they hang about an inch further back, so I'm not constantly fighting the chair seat.
- I just can't ride. Always a possibility, but I don't think my legs move THAT much at a walk. Not so much that it should sore her!
A dressage saddle has long flaps between the rider's leg and the horse's side. The flaps are smooth leather (or synthetic), and they keep the leathers/leg from rubbing the sides. If I just put leathers on, I wouldn't have that flap in place and I think I'd just rub different wear patterns and eventually sores on her.
I am still tempted to blame the synthetic materials, but the thing that bugs me about that hypothesis is that it's not just the fenders themselves rubbing. It's the BUCKLE. On any western saddle, the buckle's in roughly the same place.
What's changed lately? Most importantly is frequency of riding. She may have never gotten rub marks before because I was riding her 1-3 times a week. My riding has changed too; I've been trying to improve my seat.
Look at these two pictures. This first one is a still from a lesson on 2-14-09 - you can actually see the silver buckle peeping out just below my knee.
Now look at this one, from almost a month ago - right about the time I started riding her every other day.
My toes are pointed out in the first one. The buckle is also not in contact with her - well, maybe a little, on the inside edge.
On the second picture, my toe is pointed a tiny bit more forward. You can barely see the buckle, because my whole leg is (correctly!) pointed forward, which moves the fender forward and inward, and brings the buckle against her skin.
So am I right? If I'm right, what should I do for an immediate fix? I'm thinking of pulling the fender around so the buckle is lower, down near my ankle. Or I could ride with my toes out. Or I could be totally wrong about all this guessing!