Monday, October 16, 2017

Groundwork exercises

I have been around horses long enough at this point to know that while I could never religiously follow any of the natural horsemanship "salesmen" out there, I do believe groundwork is an important part of a horse's education.  There are so many things that can be taught on the ground before asking under saddle, and it seems silly to not utilize groundwork with every horse.

I am definitely not an expert by any means, but I have audited and participated in a number of clinics over the years with a wide variety of horsemen, taking bits and pieces of what I think works and incorporated it into my personal equine philosophy.  My roots are classical dressage and balance seat, so I closely follow the training pyramid with my horses.  My ultimate competition goals may be dressage and eventing, but my overall horse goals are to create a partnership with my horse based on trust and to evolve my horse into a versatile and content partner.

After spending the majority of my childhood and most of college on Morgans, I have ridden exclusively Standardbreds since 2003, when I first got Dreamy.  Now that I have Ellie, it is funny to me how much Standardbreds truly are super calm and laid back.  Ellie is smart and curious, but boy oh boy, she is a flighty thing LOL!  She has the typical Morgan overreaction followed by the no-big-deal reaction.  Now that I have owned her for six weeks, I can see her trust building with me to the point where she often will stop and think and look before having a reaction, which I like much better than when she used to want to flee.  Alternatively, my Standardbreds were so handled and exposed at a young age that much of the groundwork I did progressed quickly because they didn't care and were truly unflappable.  The most important groundwork with my Standardbred mares was teaching them what pressure on the girth area meant, because while they understand rein and voice commands easily, the idea of leg aids were totally foreign.

I say all of this because despite the fact that I knew I wanted a young Morgan as my next horse, I do miss the ho-hum Standardbred attitude.  I know Ellie will get there eventually, but sometimes it cracks me up how silly she can be.  It is just going to take time and time and more time before she decides to be an unflappable horse herself (like maybe in ten years LOL).  I can totally understand how easy it would be to turn her into a crazy energetic saddle seat horse.  ;-)   

I dug out my ancient rope halter (with the foolish lead rope that I hate but I cannot seem to find the nicer 14 foot lead with a clip I bought at one time.....will keep looking haha).  We have worked on all the basic stuff like yielding fore/hindquarters, carrot stretches, and head down command.  She lunges quite well and I can easily point/send her with just my hand/arm.  She is calm about the barn cats in the ring, which is annoying yet helpful; both cats like to walk/run/lay down/hide under jumps while I ride.  I guess if we are ever doing a dressage test and a cat comes running out in front of us, she will be calm and we won't lose any points LOL!!  ;-)  She has her moments when it is hard to focus (like yesterday when the two newest/smallest calves were turned out for the first time and were being morons in the round pen), but she tries really hard to do the right thing and trust me instead of bolting.  She also still is skeptical of the calves because they are obviously the devil, but she has calmed down about them quite well since her first day here!  I was super impressed with her manners with the calves, because they were partially obscured by the tree line that separates my ring from the barnyard, and she could have easily had a meltdown about their noise. Instead, she worked through her worry and we ended up having a good ride.  I don't know that she will ever be totally unflappable like her Standardbred sisters, but I think she's such a thinker that she will learn to think before she reacts.  I like that just as much.

Last week, I asked my husband to haul out the wooden platform that he sets over his livestock scales.  I figured asking her to walk over a bridge is a good idea, plus I do like to weigh the horses every so often.  I fully expected her to need a bit of time to decide walking over the plank was a good idea.  I walked her up to it and sorta waited at the side, thinking she would need to sniff and get a good look at it.

She literally walked right over it despite the fact that I didn't even ask her to. Oh OK LOL! How funny the things she deems super scary and other things are NBD.

I did it a few times from each side and then asked her to halt on top of it, since that is what she will have to do when actually being weighed.  I couldn't believe I was able to snag a pic LOL!
Not scary
Then, I hauled out a tarp the other night, which proved to be slightly scary but really intriguing.  She shied a bit at the crinkly noise but wanted to taste it and paw it at.  We practiced walking over it and having it touch her sides.  She wasn't quite ready to have it draped over her, so that will be next time.  Maybe I should try a plastic bag to sack her out first, then move onto the tarp.  

She's sleeping haha ;-)

I still have a few other things I want to work on from the ground, such as a flag (you never know when you might be asked to carry a flag LOL) and moving over when mounting.  She tends to want to swing her hind end one step away from me when I step onto the mounting block anyway, so we have been working on that every ride.  But I think I will just teach her a command to move a step (or two as needed) towards the block and it will help cure this.  I also need to do more work with ropes and such around her legs and then eventually hook her to a drag, because while she will ground drive, I want to eventually hook her to a carriage, so the next step is finding a whiffletree.  I also ought to practice opening and closing a "gate" (rope between two standards) and eventually use one of the actual metal pipe gates here at the farm.

I used to have a noodle curtain but it fell apart when I moved years ago and now I am not even sure where it went to, which is a bummer.  What else am I missing?  Any groundwork exercises or obstacles I should add to my list?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fryeburg Fair 2017

My husband and I made the decision to bring our little red steers to the Fryeburg Fair for the week of October 1-8, 2017.  This was a fairly large undertaking, as being at a fair for eight days is a lot of freaking work haha!  It was possible only because it was one of my husband's vacation weeks and because we live just ten minutes from the fairgrounds, so we were able to come home each night, in order to take care of our other pair of steers and the horses as well as sleep in our own beds!  We don't have a camper (yet!), but we still would have had to care for the animals at home anyway. 

All set up on the first Sunday!
My plan was to buy a few mums and pumpkins to decorate our stall.  My husband chimes in with, "Why don't you paint the pumpkins?" hahaha so I did my best.  
I ended up being at the fair for five out of the eight days, as I took two (of three) personal days on Wednesday and Thursday.  I went to work on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.  Thankfully, we had the day off from work on Monday, October 10, so we were able to recuperate, catch up on laundry, and go grocery shopping!  And of course, I finally had time to ride my horse and actually do more than just throw food at them and clean them out!  ;-)

Overall, I would say it was a good week yet incredibly exhausting.  The heat was crazy for this time of year and then the last day, Sunday, was yucky on-off rain and humid.  My husband took the steers in the working class on Wednesday and the scooting contest on Sunday, while I did best matched, best pair, and single steer on Thursday.  He won the working class out of fourteen pairs and placed second (just barely behind the winner!) in the scoot out of 35ish pairs, which was great!  Red and Rusty really are a handy team.  I placed fourth with them in best matched and sixth in best pair, which I was sort of disappointed with; they are light for the class (they organize them by weight), but I also think they are a nicer looking team than some of the others, but that's showing for you!  ;-)  In single ox, I just took Red and out of 33 animals, he placed third!  

Working class
Working class
Our first ribbon of the week and it was blue!
So, what does all this mean?  I admit, I knew basically nothing about showing steers/oxen before I met my husband, because all I had seen was showing dairy cows, which is kind of just an in-hand class.  Working class is really just a class where the judge looks at how the teamster handles the pair and he asked them each to come out of the line up to do haw and gee turns (a figure eight) and then back up.  We heard later on that the judge told other officials at dinner that night that my husband was one of the best teamsters he has ever seen, so that was a nice compliment!  The scooting contest is where the teamster drives the pair through a little course (usually cones, but at Fryeburg they use stumps) with a wooden log scoot attached behind.  The object is to score as close to zero in the fastest time possible.  You accumulate penalty points for hitting an obstacle, going out of bounds, and how far away (in inches) you halt the scoot to the post at the end of the course.  The first place winner of the scoot scored a zero with a time close to four minutes, while my husband was mere millimeters away with a time of 3:06 minutes, so he was given a score of one.  In fact, the left runner of the scoot was right on the line, while the right runner was just behind it (I watched the judge measure both runners twice and supposedly they are only supposed to measure from the left runner...) so I suppose my husband should have won but heck, second in such a huge class is pretty awesome too!  It took three hours to get through that class in the rain on Sunday LOL!

Scooting contest
Scooting contest
Scooting contest - halt at the end
Best matched and best pair are pretty self explanatory and you really just walk around once and then stand in the line up.  This judge had us do gee and haw turns out of the line up as well, but that doesn't happen with every judge.  In best matched, they are looking for the pair to match the best in size, shape, and color while best pair is the pair the judge would take home, so more of a best overall class.  Teamster skills matter too, so the cattle should be well broke, which is why I was surprised that our well matched pair who are super broke (and I never had to touch with the stick) placed below cattle who were not nearly as broke, and driven with much more stick and voice.  That's showing for ya.  Red and Rusty are quite handy and as long as I place my body appropriately and raise/move the stick in the right spot, they barely need much direction.  I did softly say gee and haw, but I didn't have to repeat myself or touch them.  

Single steer is kinda weird where you bring your best animal in alone with a halter and a stick.  I had to finagle how to hold the stick and the lead rope a bit because my instinct was to hold the lead in my right hand and the stick in my left, but when you drive you hold the stick in your right hand, so it was awkward to me.  I do like the feeling of being connected by the halter, because only using a stick, my body, and my voice to handle a pair of animals hooked together with a yoke is foreign to me as a horse girl!  I just stood there with Red and had to fight my instinct to move around him to keep him between the judge and my body, as one would do in an equine in-hand class LOL!

We also participated in a large group photo, where Fryeburg Fair was trying to set a world record of the largest gathering of yoked animals.  I am told there were 159 pairs!  We are down in the lower left hand corner, and you can see me in a grey shirt and jeans.  My oldest son is sitting on the white fence in front of me in a blue shirt.

The parade was funny, because normally as my husband got older out of 4-H and into pulling, he would not participate.  I figured since this was my first time having cattle at the fair for the week, we should do it!  I took Red and Rusty and my husband took our youngest son in his little Radio Flyer red wagon haha.  We did use a halter because you just never know how animals will react in such an environment and there were A LOT of cattle and people and other animals.  Red and Rusty were fine (of course) but the halter made me feel better and we were given a dollar bill and a little blue cucumber ribbon for our participation! Because our two year old child is so darn cute, he was given his own dollar and ribbon as well.  He held it all the way back to the barn and once we had un-yoked and gotten the boys back into their stall, my son crumpled them both up and handed them to me with the word, "Trash!" hahaha.  
Waiting in the longest line in America, aka the line for the Fryeburg Fair parade to start!

I have yet to train my husband to take photos of me, so this is all I have from the entire week LOL!  My head looks strange, but I am happy to note how well my outfit matches my steers lmao!
Not impressed with his dollar bill LOL!
Fair season is now over for the year.  I am slightly disappointed Red and Rusty did not sell, as our plan had been to buy them, train and show them for fun, and then sell them at Fryeburg.  I hear that no one bought or sold anything really, which is weird.  My husband said in the past there was always a lot of cattle dealings on the last day.  I guess that's the last time I listen to his grand ideas haha!  ;-)

We really didn't plan to winter them, and they can't be turned out with my horses because the darn things won't respect our electric fence (ugggg).  Of course, at the same time, they are a super nice team and will be fun to play with again next year, though my husband will be back to pulling.  He sat this year out with a young team who were not yet big enough to fill the smallest weight class (1600), so I don't know how we will make time to show a pair and pull a pair, since pulling and showing are not on the same days.  We shall see!  Maybe they will sell at some point later on, which is fine too.  Either way, we had fun and I loved seeing how to take a pair of babies (Red was only two weeks old when we got him in March!!) and train them up!

Our ribbons!

I don't normally put a ton of photos of my kids on my blog, but these are too cute not to post!
It looks like he is checking his phone, but that is his little toy train (James, from Thomas the Train) in his hand
Yes, he is hugging (and subsequently kissing) his steer on the bum LOL! 

I love how the baby is drinking his sippy cup and hanging onto the grain buckets
Helping fill water buckets...
And of course, you have to splash a little!
Watching pulling with his milk and his train!

More helping

Fair naps are the best naps!  This was occurring at the same time on Saturday LOL!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stifle that inner tack ho...or not!

Having a new horse means my inner tack ho comes out full force.  I am trying my best to subdue the desire to buy all the things.  

Granted, beyond the new halter and flymask, my saddles, bridles, and most tack will not only fit Ellie, but I am totally planning to use it all anyway because I love it and I'm not a millionaire LOL.  The Stubben jump saddle looks to be a good fit already and my fitter is coming out this weekend to readjust my dressage saddle from Snappy's settings to whatever Ellie will need for now.  Just kidding, totally went back to a Stubben dressage saddle this week and the DK is for sale.  The Stubben did arrive safely last Thursday and it is PERFECT!!  More on that later!  *sigh*  That damned DK needs to sell!

Also, Ellie's current work bridle was originally Sparky's show bridle, then Dreamy's show bridle, then Snappy's work bridle (it was becoming worn out at 22 years old LOL and I bought Snappy a nice new show bridle last year), and now it is Ellie's work bridle.  I changed out her Dark Jewel Design browband from Snappy's custom race colors to a light grey strand for now.  Most of my custom browbands were not made for a specific horse, just for a specific XC outfit or whatnot, so besides Snappy's personal strand, Ellie can wear all the rest.  I am SURE she will need a new one bought just for HER at some point, but thankfully Amelia is on a short break due to a move, so I am forced to not make a rash decision on new browband strands LOL!

I kept forgetting to measure her or try on the blankets I have (maybe because summer has returned and it has been 80* plus around here with 90+% humidity! GROSS), but I finally had a fashion show the other night to see if my ridiculously large collection of blankets, sheets, and cooler in the 70-72" size range of blankets will work.  I just tried four different ones, but they all fit fine, so she should be all set.  I really am glad because I didn't want to have to buy more because I like what I have now!  Though I did totally forget I had bought this adorable brand new sheet from Shires in 2016, so Ellie decided it was saved just for her! Of course, she plans to eventually take up fox hunting someday like her barnmate, Dreamy! Hahaha!

BUT, as I was organizing the tack room the weekend Ellie came home, I found I had FOUR custom saddle pads with either Snappy or Snap Dancer embroidered on them.  They are all nice pads and there is no rational reason why I cannot use them, but as we know, I am not exactly in a rational state of mind.  I just can't put Snappy's name on someone else.  I washed them all and put them aside for now.  So that meant that OBVIOUSLY Ellie needed her own pads.  I seem to have plenty of dressage work pads but nothing I liked for AP pads, I bought her a white/grey pad with her name.  Because obviously she needed it!  ;-)

I kind of wish the silver crown and grey name matched better, but oh well!
And I also bought her a white/teal pad that I have been wanting anyway, because I saw that If The Bonnet Fits had a random "Kennebec" fly bonnet (seems that two other local Maine Kennebec Morgan owners bought them and somehow the owner of ITBF accidentally made an extra...).  So of course, I totally justified the new teal pad because it would match the bonnet.  Ellie wanted to be like her two big brothers who already wear theirs! 

I was going to wait on a show halter, but holy moly, I saw halters from Enter at A on Facebook and they are so gorgeous!  
Not what I bought, but this pic lead me to buy Ellie's halter.  Tiffany blue/teal is my favorite color and I slightly regret going with hunter green for my farm color instead of Tiffany blue/teal.  *swoon*
I ended up ordering one for Ellie with her registered name and sire-dam in black with green padding.  It is such a super nice handmade halter that she can use for showing!  I love buying nice things that I know will last for years and years!

Lastly, I ordered her a stall plate from Dover, because for whatever reason, I have had one of these for every horse I have owned since 1993 when I first got Sparky, so Ellie needed her own.  It was so hard to see Snappy's still on her stall, but it was even harder to remove it.  I waited to remove Snappy's until Ellie's arrived, and I put it up the other night.  

Along with receiving her registration papers with my name on it the other day, I guess it is really official!  She's all mine!  ;-)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Riding the Greenie and a Baby Canter!

Ellie is a blast to ride, despite the fact she is pretty green.  She's a forward little compact sports car, completely different from the Standardbreds I have been riding for the past fourteen years.  She is the horse I grew up riding and my skill set for riding a horse like her has started to come back to me.  However, this time around I also have all the skills gained from teaching my Standardbreds to move like dressage horses, so I'm excited.  I personally brought Dreamy along to showing First Level/schooling Second from a broodmare who had never been backed (which isn't some huge accomplishment, but it wasn't easy!), so I feel hopeful that Ellie and I will eventually have a strong competitive career.  And of course, we will do other fun things like trail riding, driving, chasing cows, going know, all the cool stuff I did with Sparky and Dreamy that made them both so enjoyable and versatile!
I totally begged my 13 year old to take a few pics on Saturday, because I was dying to see what she looked like haha

She looks as cute as expected!   😍
We have worked out some of the typical greenie problems, like steering and how leg can mean forward AND sideways, but she still has a ways to go obviously.  I am still briefly lunging her before I ride, which I do want to phase out sooner rather than later, but she seems to find comfort in the routine of lunging before I hop on.  I am patiently working with her on standing still to be girthed (she likes to swing one step to the side) and has come a long way about standing still at the mounting block.  She now stands still while I mount, but wants to move off the moment my butt touches the saddle.  It will just take time and practice.  She is definitely full of energy and does well when the expectations and boundaries remain the same all the time.

I have been pleased that she is beginning to understand that inside leg means move over underneath herself and therefore she is starting to understand the outside rein.  She is much easier to ride into the left outside rein, but that has seemed to be typical of most horses I have ridden in my life.  I also wonder how much of this is my own body dynamics, as I know I tend to hang on the left rein and have a stronger right leg.  Because of her small 14.1 pony stature, when she does relax through her topline and give to the inside rein, her stride easily extends and I can tell once she figures this whole thing out, she will consistently have a big horse stride in a little horse body.

Ohhhhh hello dressage horse
After some really low key and consistent trot-canter and canter-trot transitions on the lunge, I decided this past weekend I would try a canter under saddle.  I am told that they never cantered her under saddle before at her home farm, so this was something I can say I did with her for the first time!  Ellie was super good and unphased about the entire thing, which was great!  No rushing, no tension, decent balance for her age and training, and a lovely three beat canter.  And when asked to go back to the trot, she just did it, without any tension or rushing or anything.  It was......absolutely LOVELY.

It is funny, because it still amazes me that she will canter so easily from the trot; Standardbreds will just trot faster and faster and FASTER because they are so conditioned to not break on the track.  Ellie just pops into the canter when I swing the lunge line a bit towards her rump and kiss to her.  Uhhh that's it?  You just canter like that?  Hahaha!  And her canter is already 90% better than all the Standardbreds I have ever ridden.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Standardbreds, all three of them I have owned and trained, but man, I DO NOT miss the canter struggles.  And the balance struggles.  And just the general struggles of training.  Ellie will have her own set of struggles, but I personally as a rider just needed a change.  :-)

She is definitely more balanced going right at the canter, but that will be easily sorted out as she becomes stronger and fitter.  We have gone out to hack in the Christmas tree field closest to our ring again a few times and she was super calm.  She is brave and inquisitive, and I daresay is starting to trust me.  She nickers when she sees me now, but let's face it, that's probably because I am the food lady haha.

Left lead not as balanced, but still not terrible!
I have been trying to ride her 3-4 times a week, both weekend days and twice during the work week, and so far I am able to keep to that schedule. I need to start incorporating ground work into our training, but I kind of jumped the gun and wanted to get her started under saddle before we have to (mostly) quit for the winter/snowy months.  I know all too soon we will have thigh high snow and be stuck to the plowed barnyard area, which is perfect for ground work and learning about scary things like tarps.  I have reached out to a somewhat local instructor named Sherry (who has an indoor!) and while she is hunter-jumper focused, I know she understands dressage concepts and the training of young horses.  I am hoping to set up some lessons and to give me an opportunity to trailer Ellie off the farm to a new place.  Plus, she would be a good person to help us in our jumping eventually. My dressage instructor, Judy, does not have an indoor, but perhaps in the spring we can head over there as well.  It has been FOREVER since I did lessons with Judy!  I love taking lessons and it will be good for Ellie to get off the farm and learn to settle in at new places in order to get ready to eventually show.  

So far, so good.  Ellie has just fit right in and I am loving the challenge and fun that comes along with training a young horse.  I feel excited about setting and meeting goals as a rider that maybe were not attainable in the past.  
Neck pats for a good mare

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Oh, the Saddle Saga is neverending....

So, earlier this year in June, I finally found a decent fitting dressage saddle for Snappy.  The joke is on me as I ended up having to put her down just two and a half months later.  *crying* I figured the saddle would easily work for Ellie, as that was one of the selling points of purchasing this super expensive saddle.  I bought it used, not brand new at $6000+, but still it was not cheap.

I know many folks have opinions on this brand of saddle (see original post for brand - I am trying to be kind here), but honestly, I didn't mind it.  It wasn't my most favorite dressage saddle I have ever sat in, but I didn't hate it.  And mostly importantly, it fit Snappy quite well and she seemed to like it.  

I was finally able to arrange to get the fitter out last Friday.  I figured this would be a fairly easy procedure to adjust the gullet width and air panels.  Ellie is a completely different horse than Snappy, so I assumed there would be changes.

I was admittedly sort of shocked when I was told the saddle would work as is.  Uhhhhh, OK?  It just seems odd to me that Ellie, who fits perfectly in my wide jump saddle with a round barrel and short back, would use the same exact configuration as Snappy who was built downhill and narrow but with big shoulders/withers, a much longer back, and who really didn't fit well in the same wide jump saddle.  *confusion*

Next, the fitter girthed the saddle.  It was on hole three on the off side, and she gently put it up to two on the near side.  I was standing at Ellie's head on the same side as the fitter, and Ellie was on the crossties.  No sooner had she tightened the girth (in a very easy, subtle manner), then Ellie reared and bucked and bronced, hitting her head on the florescent light fixture above the crossties.  I have a very high barn ceiling and I cannot believe she hit it.  Thankfully, the bulbs are encased in a protective plastic so they did not shatter, but holy moly, the plastic casing and bulbs breaking made a super scary noise.  Ellie was completely freaked out, flailing around, and she ended up releasing one of the safety snaps on the crossties, thank god.  We were able to catch and calm her within 15-20 seconds of her episode, but I will tell you, that was the scariest few seconds of my life!  For some reason, all I could imagine was her maiming herself and me having to put her down.  Crazy, I know, but it's only been a month since I lost Snappy, and I am still pretty raw from the entire thing.  

It was honestly the strangest thing I have ever seen.  There was no obvious reason WHY Ellie reacted the way she did.  I have never had any problems girthing her with my Stubben jump saddle, she has never had any previous girthing problems before I bought her (I asked the BM at her old farm via text that night), and there was no reason why she spooked.  The only thing I could think of was she was stung, but I checked her over thoroughly and couldn't find anything.  

I have no media for this post, so here's a picture of Ellie "enjoying" her first bath and first time being tied to the hitching post.  Look how thrilled she was LOL!  She was very good and is much cleaner now!
The fitter was apologetic and stated she has seen horses react this way.  I was pretty stunned and there was no way I was riding in the saddle.  I just sort of went into that weird mode of smiling and saying "everything is fine!" when in reality you are like WTAF JUST HAPPENED.  The fitter recommended I do lots of desensitizing, which I totally agree with, as Ellie is an overreactive mare and needs to learn a lot about life.  But all that was running through my head was SHIT NOW I HAVE TO SELL THIS SADDLE THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DESENSITIZING.

The fitter checked the Stubben jump saddle for me, which she agreed looked perfect.  Ellie was fine about that saddle being girthed, but I held her on a lead this time just to be sure.  I tried to just pretend it was a one time incident and everything was normal.  The fitter left, I cleaned up the mess of plastic on the floor, and Ellie seemed to be completely over her incident.


The next day, I prepared to tack her up, calmly removing the crossties when it was time to girth the Stubben.  She stood there just fine, and I swallowed my nervousness at the idea that the last time she was girthed she transformed into a bronc horse.  She was also calm on Sunday and had Monday off.  

Now, there are plenty of reasons to believe her reaction had nothing to do with the dressage saddle, but my gut tells me differently.  The dressage saddle is made with air and conformed totally differently than the Stubben which has wool flocking, so there is something to be said about her disliking the feeling of the saddle.  It just seems too weird to me that she had such a STRONG reaction as well as that the saddle was fit to her while still on Snappy's settings.  I am a pretty brave person, but there was just no way in hell I was putting that thing on her again, much less getting into the saddle.  I am not even going to speculate here further than that.  ;-)  Just keepin' it classy and not bad mouthing anyone or any brand.  What works for one horse doesn't necessarily mean it works for all horses.  And that is OK!  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Again, no media, so enjoy the sweet little sunflowers in part of my garden!  LOL
I knew I might as well just go back to my tried and true Stubben Juventus dressage to match the jump saddle in wide.  The funny thing is that I sold my medium wide Stubben dressage this spring, so at least I am not completely bummed because a MW wouldn't work for Ellie anyway.  I did a little Googling on Friday night and lo and behold, there on the Stubben website was exactly what I need: Stubben Juventus dressage, 17" seat, 32 cm wide.  It is a demo saddle that a Stubben rep used, so it is in near perfect new shape, and it was three times less than what I spent on Snappy's dressage saddle.  I ordered it yesterday and it should arrive no later than Friday.  The fact I found exactly what I need so easily is interesting to me, too.  Saddle shopping usually sucks.

I have had some interest on Snappy's dressage saddle, so I am praying it sells soon.  And of course, let's hope the new Stubben that arrives will be as perfect for Ellie as the jump saddle! I feel oddly calm about the entire thing, like it is meant to be and will all work out.  Crossing fingers!