Thursday, May 19, 2011

Saddle Care

We're back in town after a trip out to AZ to visit my family. We were mostly there to socialize with people, but we had a few horse-related goals as well.

First, conditioning Brian's new saddle in past weeks has caused me to suffer some pangs of guilt regarding the old saddle I used on my first horse and now my sister uses on Jak. My parents bought it for me over 15 years ago, and in the time I have dusted it off regularly, cleaned it once, and been caught in several thunderstorms while riding in it. But I was a kid when it was mine, and since I sold my first horse have mostly not been living at home, and nobody else has taken the time to care for it either.

So, it was with some dismay that Brian and I looked it over. I wish we'd taken a 'before' shot. It was covered in dust. The leather of the fenders was so stiff it was bordering on brittle. The edges of the skirts were curled. In the worst areas, a thin web of cracks were visible on the surface of the saddle.

The sad thing is it's a decent saddle. It's clearly hand-made, and built on a rawhide wrapped wooden tree. Unfortunately that's about all I know about it. When my Mom and I went saddle shopping all those years ago, neither of us knew the first thing about saddles. We somehow found our way into this goofy little tack shop in South Tucson that I've looked for repeatedly but have never been able to find since, where an enthusiastic little man pulled saddle and after saddle free of stacks that reached well above his head. While I sat in different seats, he gave me various pointers. He was the first person to tell me to look at a sweat pattern after a long ride to make sure the saddle fit.

The saddle I chose was unusual - I have still never seen one quite like it. I liked it because it was simple and pretty and comfortable to sit in. If the man who sold it to us passed on any information about its history, I can't recall what he said.

Unfortunately, it is a small saddle. I was only 12 when I got my first horse, so not yet fully grown. It's seat is only 14", so it is a bit small for me now, and way too small for Brian to be comfortable in. Still, it was nice to spend some time working on it. We oiled the entire thing, paying particular attention to the fenders. We conditioned it several times over the course of a few days, and in the end it was looking much better, and the fenders were more flexible than they've been in my memory.

Jak, who's worn the saddle for many, many hours, didn't really seem to notice any difference. Still, I'm definitely going to try to give the saddle some TLC once or twice a year in hopes of making itl last at least another 15 years.

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