Just a quick 5 miles today, since we only had an hour to ride. Christine & Tomas came along for their 2nd official conditioning/road ride and did awesome. Tomas wasn't all that thrilled to be leaving the farm, frankly, but he decided it was fun about 1/2 way through the ride.
Today's ride really impressed upon me the differences between Red & Rhio. Red is strong & powerful, and riding him gives me a sense of harnessing some awesome force. I also have to really keep my eyes open to anticipate all the things he will shy & spook at. Red's gaits are bigger and bouncier, and it takes more energy to ride him. But, I also completely trust him and know that although he may dump me accidentally with a big spook (which happens all too frequently), he won't buck or rear or take off with me. Red loves to trot and once he hits his stride will maintain a steady pace without any reminders from me. Red also prefers to travel down the center of the road, with deviations to either side as we have to swerve around the multitude of scary things (I expect people behind us think we are drunk.)
Rhio is light on his feet and riding him feels effortless. His gaits are smooth, and it sometimes surprises me how fast we are traveling, since it doesn't feel as fast as it is. He doesn't have as big an "engine" and hills are more work for him (Red flies up hills), but it feels as though he expends no energy while we eat up the miles. I don't completely trust him, though, as he has bucked me off a few times. He is very sensitive and pushing him too hard is a bad idea - I get bad behavior like bucking & rearing in response. So I don't feel quite as confident with him when he starts acting up; head tossing is his #1 expression of discontent under saddle. Rhio loves to canter, and typically has a lower heart rate at the canter. Unfortunately, I don't like to canter on the hard gravel roads too much, so I require him to trot more than he would like (hence the head tossing). Rhio spooks only rarely and never at the ground-surface irregularities (dark spots, lights spots, wet spots, dry spots, etc) that Red swerves away from - so I often begin a ride on Rhio micro-managing our path to avoid those things before I remember that he doesn't care. He prefers to travel on the edge of the road, and travels in a very straight line.
I love to ride both boys, but they are very different and require totally different things from me as their rider & partner.
The lighter-colored almost circular area in the center of the photo is a dry spot on Rhio's otherwise sweaty back
Unfortunately, although Red's saddle seems to fit better than Rhio's own saddle, I am getting these dry spots on both sides of his withers after every ride. Dry spots indicate too much pressure from the saddle, and in this case I think the saddle is slightly too wide for him. He is not sore, but pressure points are not good. I definitely won't be able to compete him in this saddle. I am going to have to commit to a solution soon - either send his saddle back for refitting or buy a new saddle. I can't afford a new saddle unless his saddle sells, and I haven't had any seriously interested parties. I would like a new saddle, both to try something different and to get something lighter weight. So I wait...