Much to my surprise and delight, after 5 days without being ridden he was AWESOME today! I lunged him first and he was lunged yesterday, but I hadn't ridden him since our lesson last Monday. It was so nice to see that all the progress we did the weeks after Christmas has stuck. I started two handed with a shorter rein but really quickly he started stretching out and down spent most of the ride on a loose rein, even at the lope, even doing multiple simple lead changes. He got a little cranky while I was trying to get him to lope off in the middle of the arena on the lead of my choice, tossing his head jigging around. He quit eventually, of course, and did some more correct lope-offs. I worked on loping off from a walk on the lunge, too and he was picking it up really well. I also got a few decent pivot-on-the-haunches out of him, too.
I put his saddle on without the pad so I could check the fit. I've been reading more about proper saddle fit. We're using a saddle with semi-QH bars but now that he's gained so much weight and muscle I wonder if it still fits. I ran my hand under the saddle and I could feel exactly where the bars started and it was awful tight in there. I'm going to ask KAT if I can do the same with her full-QH saddle and see what that feels like. It took me a while to adjust the new pad to where it looked like it was fitting properly with the saddle. It's SO much thicker than my old fleece pad that the girth had to be looser. It didn't seem to bother him while lunging or riding, but I did have to tighten my girth after a while and could feel that I was drifting to a side. Kind of felt like the saddle was perched on his back instead of surrounding it. Didn't seem to bother him in the least, but I'll run this all by KAT and see what she suggests. I have a LOT of tack to buy if I'm going to show this summer so buying ANOTHER saddle just for daily riding doesn't thrill me, but I certainly don't want to ride in a saddle that's not good for the horse. I want some professional advice before I just go saddle swapping. Before I got this saddle KAT said she'd probably buy it from me if it didn't work for me, but she's since bought a new saddle so I doubt that offer still stands. We'll see what happens.