I rode Aruba first and since she has an ongoing issue with popping her head up either thru or following a stop, I put the German martingale on her. She can sort it out with her own bad self and she did try at first. We made a few laps around the round pen with plenty of walk-halt transitions in there and she got the idea pretty quick. Our stops were much cleaner since she wasn't hollowing out her back and looking like a giraffe with her head in the air. Big difference and so much nicer. Now I find that I could use a bit longer reins. The reins that came with it are fine on smaller, more 'normal' sized horses- QH, Arabs and such, but for her there isn't a whole lot of room at the ends for bridging my reins
Then I took her out of the round pen and we walked around the yard a lot. We even moved out onto the street and headed out away from the house. That got my TB mare and Kat all stirred up, but Aruba kept a very level head, both literally and mentally so we walked a bit further away and she seemed to enjoy her trip exploring. She was happy to be out doing something different so hopefully there will be more expansion on this later.
I don't like resorting to using things (especially gimmicks) if I don't need to, but with Aruba the head popping has been an ongoing thing for a while now. While it doesn't change the way she moves, it is annoying to me and I finally decided to put a stop to it. I have tried a variety of methods with riding her and find she also does it in the long lines, so if nothing else the German martingale works wonders for this. Keeping her head down also seemed to help the mares attitude a bit. She was more confident going forward and out into the 'real world' or at least she felt that way.
Then it was time to ride my TB mare. I figured I would try putting the western pad under the English saddle and see how it goes. It seems the dressage and close contact saddles are a tad too wide for her. Although it looked strange and felt weird up there at first, it was enough to do the trick for her and got the pommel of the saddle UP off her spine and kept it there. I know because I kept sticking my fingers in the channel to make sure there was plenty of room in there and no contact. I started with the dressage saddle as it seemed to fit better than the close contact- before padding it up.
I have searched online for a thicker pad for English saddles and while there are a lot of them out there- half pads, pads that allow for shims, riser pads and everything else I found, all seemed to be around $100-$150 and UP. Some were around $200-$300 or more. The shim pad inserts were separate and were anywhere from $17-$35. I certainly don't mind shelling out and paying for quality, but when it is (hopefully) a temporary need- that seems to get a bid ridiculous. At least it does to me.
So for now at least, I will stick to using a western pad under my English saddles and keep looking for something reasonably priced to get the job done. Either that or I will come up with something on my own. Surely I'm not the only one out there with this problem and not in the position to dump one saddle or buy a new one. The square pad sticks out behind the saddle so maybe a shaped or barrel pad would be better suited, but this is what I have to work with and I'm good with that. It's not like we're out there to win any beauty pageants or anything. As long as it is effective and my mare's back isn't sore as a result- it's all good.