Princess Floyd and the saga of sensitivities

Ever heard of the Princess and the Pea? It’s an old fairytale about a prince desperately searching for a princess. He travels around the world, but sadly has no luck. When he arrives home, he’s greeted by a terrible storm. In the middle of this storm, there’s a knock at the door, and a soaking wet, bedraggled young woman is stood outside. She claims to be a princess, but the prince’s mother, the queen, doesn’t believe her. So, before the princess went to sleep, the queen decided to conduct an experiment. She placed a pea on the princess’s bed, then covered it with 20 mattresses and 20 eider-down beds.

In the morning, she asked the princess how she slept. The princess’s answer: terribly, of course! The pea made the bed so uncomfortable that she could hardly sleep. The queen knew immediately that the girl was a princess – as only a princess could be so sensitive as to feel a pea under all those mattresses. And so, as is lore in the land of the fairytale, the prince and princess got married, and lived happily ever after.

Floyd is this princess. He’s so sensitive that even a lock of mane out of place offends him. Luckily for him, he’s got a mug of an owner who’s happy to pander to his sensitivities, and ensure that he’s always got the best of the best. Can he wear a saddle pad that isn’t covered in half a sheep? No. Can he bear to have reins touch his neck, without losing half his coat? Nope. And can he possibly wear a rug that isn’t one of Horseware’s finest? Definitely NOT.

With the weather struggling to decide if it’s up for Arctic freezes or Indian summers, I’ve had to fork out for half a new wardrobe. He’s slightly too hot in his medium-weight rug, but not warm enough in his no-fill. The answer – a 150g rug. Perfect. But will he suffer through wearing a cheap, tack-shop own-brand? Ha. Will he ever! Luckily for me, Millbry Hill do his favourite brand for much less. Despite his protestations about having to wear purple in the boy field, I love how perfect it is for this temperamental weather.

Next up: my horse is fast beginning to look like patchwork quilt, with his coat coming out whenever anything touches it. From his reins to my legs, he’s sporting some horrendous hair patterns. After scouring various forums and Facebook pages, I’ve bought some sheepskin slips for halters, which I’ll slip onto his reins and secure with plaiting bands. The patches on his body, where my leg sits, are slightly more troubling. Can I wrap my leg in sheepskin? Can I wrap him in sheepskin?! I’ve found suggestions from smothering him in Vaseline or mane and tail spray, to draping a towel over his body or buying him a body bandage.

As he’s so easily offended and hates his stomach being touched, I’d rather not fork out for a body bandage. I’m 99% sure he’ll react to it like one of those bronking straps they use in the rodeo. And while I’m always happy to buy him what he needs, I’m categorically not spending money on something that’s going to get me deposited on the floor. So, we’ll try Vaseline for now, and if that doesn’t work… well, I’ll make sure I’ve got my neckstrap.

Is fate telling me not to buy a dressage saddle?

Darling Floyd’s sensitivities don’t just stop there. Oh no. I’ve been searching for a dressage saddle for about ten months now, and we’re well into double figures. From Albions and Stubbens, to Ideals and Wintecs, we’ve tried everything. Floyd is a vocal sort, and quickly lets it be known if he’s not a fan of what’s on his back. We tried the beautiful Kent and Masters S-Series dressage the other day, and Floyd bronked through the barn with it on his back. Muggins here got on, with poor Pat instructed to keep hold of Floyd. Needless to say, it went back in the saddler’s van pretty sharpish.

I was beginning to lose hope, and thought maybe we’d need to look for a straight-cut GP or a VSD. Until we discovered the PDS Carl Hester range. And oh my GOD. It was love at first sight for both Floyd and I. It fitted perfectly, which in itself isn’t easy. Floyd’s incredibly short-coupled, needing a 16.5 to 17-inch saddle. He’s got high withers, a big shoulder, a flat back and a round barrel. So, finding a saddle that actually fit was often a struggle.

Then came the moment of truth: could I get on, and stay on?

I tentatively sat in the saddle, and waited for Floyd’s back to come up. Nothing.

I put my leg on, asked him to move, and waited for the kicking out and mini-broncs. Nothing.

I went in the school, and asked him to work. And I got the best ten minutes we’ve ever had.

FINALLY, I thought, we’ve FOUND the ONE!

It was *slightly* over-budget, but you can’t put a price on happiness, right?

Our lovely saddler let us borrow it for a few days before paying, to make sure Floyd really was happy in it, and it wasn’t just some weird fluke (I joke, but it’s happened before…).

And, just as payment day came up, my car’s gearbox decided to give up.

Fabulous.

But, not one to be put off by little things like having no money, the saddle is still coming home with us. And I can’t wait for our first lesson in it with our new dressage instructor next week.

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