Further Adventures While Being Parboiled


Hot, humid, bad air quality, smog.  Yep, that says it all about the weather in the summertime in the sunny, sunny South.  At least WE are used to this type of weather, I feel so, so sorry for you people further North who are discovering what people living in the South have known all along.  Summers can be as brutal as winters. 


Last week both mares told me that I was not riding good enough to be ambitious in my Spirit Bridle, they were getting quite irritated with me.  So this week I bowed to the reality of the hot weather and changed back to my ancient Jumping Cavesson bridle.  This time I tried something new with it.  Since I now have a running martingle I decided to see how the mares went with the Jumping Cavesson plus the running martingle.  Since there was no way I could force the rubber rein stops onto my reins I gave up, searched through my miscellaneous tack, and came up with my Neoprene bit guards, hmm.  So I made up rein stops using these bit guards plus four thick rubber bands to keep them in place.  Debbie congratulated me for yet another proof of my ingenuity with getting tack to work properly. 


Mia was pretty happy with me because I had listened to her.  She seems to like having the running martingle on, I think because it helps the loose reins stop swinging so much.  I didn't ask for much, my two turns on the hindquarters were somewhere between a bit and the SB, and she did them much better to the right than to the left.  Then it got even hotter with the sun beating down and I slowed down, so Debbie and I had a good discussion on GOOD HORSEMANSHIP and how it is sadly lacking in today's horse world.  Debbie teaches her students good horsemanship, and she teaches it so deep that they tend to take it with them even when they leave her stable.  You see, Debbie learned good horsemanship from an old cavalryman who did not let her get away with anything, making her get off the horse until she apologized and promised to do better.  I really wish these old cavalrymen hadn't all died out because they would teach good horsemanship to their students.  I was not so fortunate, but my first teachers had been taught by old cavalrymen and they were just as determined, so I also got taught good horsemanship.  Too bad it is no longer taught as a matter of course.  It is a bad time to be a horse.


I had been planning on getting a Spirit Bridle big enough to fit Merlin, the 18.2 hand half draft horse at Shannon's stable but when I got money saved up I started getting this little whisper in my mind from Merlin that it did not matter what type of head gear I got and that until I got a saddle that fit him better there wouldn't be much improvement.  Then I started getting a fainter whisper from Cider that she thought that was an excellent idea.  Well, you know me by now, I obey the horses in matters of equipment and horsemanship, so I changed my plans, saved some more money, and got a Wintec Wide saddle, the one with the 3 extra wide gullets.  I had been using my old dressage saddle on Cider and Merlin, and with the Corrector pad the horses consented to move reasonably well, but these horses are getting older and their backs are changing.  Donna, at my "local" (60 mile round trip) good tack store, Waxhaw Tack Exchange, not only had one in stock that just about fit me, she also insisted that I take it for a test drive.  So today Shannon and I were playing with my new saddle, making sure that it would fit both Merlin's and Cider's backs and experimenting with girth sizes because the billets are long and the holes don't start until the billet is past the flap of the saddle.  Luckily I had a decades old dressage girth that I had used on a pony as a regular girth, this was short enough for Cider.  I think I have a girth that I can use on Merlin.  Shannon then saddled Cider using just a regular quilted pad and I got to try my new saddle out. 


Cider seemed to like it, she was moving her back more, especially at the sitting trot.  She was not trying to dive in toward Shannon as much.  Me?  I prefer a more forward flap, but since it doesn't exist for this saddle I will just lengthen my leathers some and adapt.  As it was today I took the knee roll pads off and the point of my knee went beyond the flap a little, just like riding in my dressage saddle.  It was a comfortable enough ride.  I will have to wrestle the widest gullet plate in though, there was four fingers of clearance with a heavy rider and the pad was dirtier under the back of the saddle.  Cider did not seem to mind by Jumping Cavesson w/ running martingle set up.  She did not twist into a pretzel and was reasonably obedient.  She did pretty good, after all she was also adapting to a new saddle, pad, and girth.  Next time I will try it with the Corrector pad and see how she goes.  I hope I can change the gullet, I just don't know if I am strong enough in this heat but at least with the Corrector pad I know that it won't bother her as much and the saddle should stabilize on her back better. 


I also asked Shannon to try the saddle out, I wanted to be sure she could ride in it too.  Shannon REALLY liked the saddle, said it was the most comfortable English saddle she'd ever ridden in, she was in exactly the right place and everything felt good (Shannon usually rides with a bare-back pad or Western.)  Her legs are shorter than mine so her body was aligned beautifully.  I told her if she ever needed it for a long trail ride just to ask.  


Now I have SIX saddles and no horses.  My dressage saddle is now joining my Crosby, my A-fork Western saddle, and my regular Wintec saddle in temporary retirement until I get to ride a horse that needs that saddle.  All my leather saddles are from 30 to 100 years old, there is no way I can afford a good new or used leather saddle, hence the newer Wintecs.  By using these saddles with my Corrector pads I think now I will be able to fit the vast majority of horses I get to ride (maybe not Haflingers, though!)  Now that I ride other people's horses this brings me great comfort, a lot of people nowadays don't seem to realize it if the saddle does not fit right.  Debbie is pretty good at saddle fit, and she will bring in the local expert to fit the horse exactly, but not everyone is this picky.  I also feel safer in my tack, I get to examine it everytime I clean it and make SURE that it is still safe to use.  I just figure that the less the horse is irritated by its tack the better ride I will have, this is why I have so much more tack than when I owned horses--just so I can fit everyone, I hope.


When I started riding part of the true horseman's creed was that if you were a good rider you could ride just about any horse and in any saddle.  Fitting the horse was more important than fitting the rider, a good rider was expected just to adapt to whatever saddle fit the horse, at least until the rider could buy a saddle that fit both the horse and rider.  I have personally riden Forward Seat in an old timey hunt seat saddle (no knee rolls, almost straight flap) and my dressage saddle, both with my knees in front of the flaps, my A-fork Western saddle, regular Western saddles, GP saddles and my decently made European leather jumping saddles.  If the saddle is too small I do a lot of two-point, if the saddle is too big for me I work at keeping my heels down, and I ride the horse.  I bless the Corrector pads, with them I can use a saddle that doesn't quite fit the horse without soring the back, but they work better with saddles that fit!  And now I will be able to fit almost anything equine with a properly fitting saddle and the universe looks like a wonderful place!


Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran                   


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