Monday, May 23, 2011

Hacked

With my new saddle theoretically due any day now, Brian and I decided it might be nice to have a spare saddle that will fit Steen in case we have guests who are good riders but perhaps not comfortable in a treeless saddle. We've been watching ebay, and late last week we made our move. We picked up what looks to be a pretty nice saddle that is also pretty old and worn but built on a good tree, hoping it would suit our purposes.

Today we hauled it out to the barn to see what Steen thought of it. At first things went well. He didn't mind the tacking process, and when I let him out to the strip, he stood quietly after I  mounted. Then I put my feet in the stirrups.

My right knee has been a problem for me almost as long as I've ridden horses. With stirrups that are too short, it causes me a good deal of pain. One moment with my foot in the right stirrup on the new saddle clearly indicated it was too short. And unfortunately the leathers had been cut at one point, so I couldn't make it any longer.

So Brian and I assessed our options. Of course, I could ride bareback, but the whole hope of the saddle was that it would fit Steen and I wanted to knew if it did or not sooner rather than later. So, Brian held the horses and I hiked back to the barn for my Abetta, which we harvested the fenders and leathers off of, threaded these through the tree of the new saddle, and I set the stirrups to a more comfortable length. It sounds easy, but in actually it took Brian quite a few minutes of using his rather strong hands to accomplish this feat. I'm not sure I could have done it alone.

Back on board, I was comfortable. The next question was to ascertain whether or not Steen was. We did our usual thing, walking and trotting around on the strip. At first I thought he was behaving very well, but over the course of the ride he seemed to grow more nervous. He was more inclined to try to pick up the trot than he had been in a while, more combative when I asked him to stop than has been usual lately, and he also did a mini-bolt (something he hasn't done in months) for no particular reason.

On the other hand, he was jogging nicely, standing quietly, dropping his head at the trot and showing a willingness to settle into patterns. None of these things were true when I rode him in my old saddle a couple of weeks ago, so it at least seemed certain that the new saddle is a better fit than the old one.

So I will admit I was disappointed when I pulled the saddle off and saw a telltale dry spot on his left shoulder. Interestingly, though, there was no matching point on his right side. Since I pulled the saddle on and off so many times during the whole fender debacle, there is a part of me that is trying to hope it was faulty saddle placement that caused the problem.

Regardless, I'll probably go bareback again for a few rides to give the sore spot (and his head) a break. And in the meantime at least I can laugh at the "hacked" saddle. I suppose once we decide whether or not to keep it we can evaluate having new leathers added to the fenders to it won't look so ridiculous anymore.

The new saddle before we tampered with it

Time-worn leather and nylon just don't go all that well together

Horseback hours YTD: 26:10

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