Well, I Tried It
As planned, I tried the Ansur Westernnaire. I was super comfy, and seemed well balanced. I did not find myself being thrown into a chair seat, but was easily able to keep a more vertical, correct position.
However, it's pretty clear to me that I do not particularly like riding in a western saddle. (Sorry, Muriel) There is just too much leather between me and my horse. Chance wasn't too sure about it either, but he did just fine, giving me a nice smooth little trot to test out the balance. I did not canter (lope) as I did not feel quite secure...but that's always been an issue when I ride western after not having done it for a long time. Since I really wasn't planning on riding for a full session in the saddle, I didn't bother to "get used to it."
So, were I in the market for a western saddle, the Ansur/Northwestern treeless model would be tops on my list. The quality it beautiful and, as I said, it just put in me a very natural, balanced position. If I had a few days to practice in in, I'm sure I would feel far more confident and comfortable. The seat is soft and felt good too.
After perhaps ten minutes, of western effort, I took Chance back into the barn and switched to the Excel dressage saddle. I was "home" again! Curiously enough, my natural position in the Excel was about the same as in the Westernnaire, so both saddles encourage the correct, balanced, vertical seat, but the closer contact of the Excel gives a much better feel for the horse under me.
That said, I rode Chance for a nice schooling session with lots of bending from one rein to the other, asking him to stretch down and into the bit. He's not quite steady at it, but he certainly does have the concept. The big issue is getting both the stretch down and some nice forward strides all along. He uses the canter as an evasion when I push the trot too forward for him. Since he's not yet confirmed in this "on the bit" concept, he does not always step with enough energy and will break into a nice little canter rather than trot with more power. But, the potential is there as every now and then he gives me the impulsion he needs and he feels great. I am sure that as he builds some muscle and gains even more confidence in his balance, he'll be fine.
I am far, far behind in his training at this point. As I've noted before, he's so much fun out on the trails that I've ridden him more out there for fun than I've ridden in schooling. Granted, I could do a lot of softening exercises on the trail, and I will, eventually, but just going out to have fun is well....fun.
Oh the other hand, I am pleased that Chance has not backtracked in any of the dressage training I have given him. Each ride builds on the last, even when there are months in between. Essentially, he lost nothing with virtually the entire winter off. As long as he progresses that way, we'll get trained--together.
Considering my back, I did not try to ride anyone else. If the weather holds, I'll get on Tucker tomorrow.
Then, I guess we just have to wait to see if it snows....again. *sigh*