The saddle fitter arrived on Friday evening, about half an hour after I'd got back from Inverness, so I was still running round the field with a wheelbarrow trying to clean up a day's poo. My lovely neighbours still let me use their school whenever I want (I'm selfishly pleased that their proposed house move to Aberdeenshire this summer fell through!), so I caught Finn, grabbed his tack and went through.
Clare, the saddle fitter, has an injury to her back which means she uses crutches and Finn really wasn't sure about them - he kept side stepping away from her while she was trying to take tracings and kept one ear firmly locked onto them at all times. She asked me to tack him up without his numnah and ride him so she could see how the saddle was in use - the moment I put my weight in the stirrup to get on he took off bronc-ing around the school. I ended up face-planted in the sand with bruises to the underneath of my arms and my dignity! I put his numnah back on to see if it was the different feel of the saddle which had triggered it and called Mick over to drag the mounting block in for me while I went to borrow my neighbour's lunging equipment as Clare suggested a few spins on the lunge before trying again! While we were digging through the tack room for a lunge line, Finn had pulled away from Clare and bronc'd round the school again - I think it must have been the crutches spooking him, because he lunged fine and when I got on from the block and trotted him round for five minutes he was absolutely perfect. I would have suspected a back problem, but I've ridden him four times in 10 days, including mounting from the ground, and there hasn't been a single issue.
The upshot is that the saddle fits fine, the bit I was worried about with the nails doesn't touch him, so I just need to pick up some wool from the field and glue it into place. The saddle is a good one, a working hunter Farrington, one of the original ones made before Derby House took over. It does need reflocking, but not urgently and she's recommended that I just get out and ride this summer and then let her have the saddle for a week at some point over the winter when the weather isn't so kind.
If that wasn't enough beating up for the weekend, he got me again this morning. His nappy rash has cleared up beautifully with antibacterial gel twice a day, but a lot of the gel has ended up in his tail which has made combing out the occasional small piece of poo that gets stuck in there (it's a proper full bushy native tail!) rather unpleasant, so I marched out to do battle with a bucket of water, a sponge and a bottle of shampoo. Being a typical pony, he stuck his nose in the bucket to see if there was anything edible in it and came up just as I turned round from closing the gate and bent down to pick it up again. Pony forehead met human nose with a loud crunching sound and I think I'm quite lucky not to have broken it! A few minutes of swearing later, bath-time was underway and it's a lot less sticky now, though I think I'm going to have to have another go in the next week as there's still a bit left in there.
Merlin, after initially loving having a friend, has now got a bit arsey about the whole thing and if Finn is on a bit of grass he thinks looks tasty, he'll march up to him and bite him on the bum to get him to move. Finn has now got wise to this and will trot off if he sees Merlin walking over with his ears back. The rest of the time, M is happy enough to graze next to him and yells when I take Finn out to ride even if he can see us in the school, so I think they'll settle down together before too long. Hard to believe Finn has been here less than two weeks. Interestingly, Clare - who is a BHSII instructor as well as a saddle fitter - doesn't think Finn is overweight, the stomach is just down to saggy muscles and the amount of air he's inhaling from cribbing on fence posts. She says get him out and about and working before I put him on a diet, so we'll give it a go :o)
It does show that my confidence is coming on though - a year ago there's no way I would have got on a horse or pony I'd just seen do huge bunny hopping bucks around a school. There's trust building here already.