The past few weeks I have been suffering from a head cold, serious business for someone with MS.  Last Wednesday, since I had not ridden in twelve days, I dragged myself out to Debbie’s stable though I was still weak and unsteady on my legs.  I wanted to ride more in my new treeless saddle!  By the time Mick was brought in, groomed, and tacked up I was wondering if it was a good idea but since he was all ready, the sun was shining, and because we had to evaluate how I had changed the saddle, I literally dragged myself up into the saddle (yes, I did use a mounting block.)  I was bad enough mounting that Debbie commented about it. 

During the week I had gotten strong enough to battle the layers of Velcro to get to the stirrup hanger harness and moved it back around half an inch.  I also moved the cantle as far back as I could.  Then I put the Cashel pads back into the saddle pad so that there would be more clearance under the pommel.  My main problem was that I did not get the stirrup harness moved back equally on both sides so my right foot was further back than my left foot.  Mick, as usual, put up with all these changes and my clumsiness mounting with good grace and I proceeded to walk around the ring.  My two-point was a little better since I had a little bit more room before my belly ran into the pommel.  Again I noticed that Mick’s usual back stiffness improved more quickly than it did when I used my old jumping saddles, and Debbie noticed his freer movement from the ground.  So far so good as Mick carried my exhausted body around the ring.  His turns were still stiff and I did not have the energy to use my legs and seat enough to improve them so I tried to keep all the turns wide.

After around twenty minutes I was exhausted and I asked Debbie if she wanted to ride in my new saddle again.  She did, so I asked her to come to Mick to help me down.  I got through the first two steps of dismounting fine, but after I swung my right leg over the cantle something went wrong, my left knee sort of collapsed before I got my left foot out of the stirrup (Peacock safety stirrup.)  As I hung off the left side of the saddle I managed to get enough weight off my of left foot so Debbie could slip the stirrup off my foot, when I slid down and landed on my feet.  Mick just braced himself and stood perfectly still.  My wonderful treeless saddle did not move at all even though the girth was sort of loose.  It did not move during my super clumsy mounting, and it did not move at all as I was hanging onto it from the left side.  The EZ-fit saddle is advertised as having a “non-slip” lining and pad, and they did not lie at all, the saddle did not move.  We did not even have to readjust the centering of the saddle before Debbie mounted after tightening the girth some.  As I hung off its side I felt as secure as I would have with a properly girthed up treed saddle, and the girth was not tight at all!  Mick then carried Debbie quite well, with a cheerful look on his face, and he did not seem upset from all the difficulties I had mounting and dismounting.  And his trot looked divine, even though he was sort of plodding around the ring his trot showed plenty of impulse and he was pushing off from his hind end better than I had seen when he was ridden in a treed jumping saddle.  I think he will get to like this saddle.

By Friday I was still exhausted from my ride on Wednesday so I didn’t ride Mia, and today, when I was supposed to ride Magic at Shannon’s, I woke up to heavy rain, so no riding.  Next week Debbie has her spring riding camp so I won’t get to ride there and my next ride might be a week from now.  Very frustrating, this saddle rides differently from my jumping and dressage saddles, the “geography” of the saddle is different especially since the stirrups are hung on the saddle differently, and it will take me a lot more practice before I will be able to mount, ride, and dismount from it correctly.  Plus the saddle does not “break in” completely before it has been used for eight hours, and now I have six and a half hours to go before I will really know how the saddle rides.  I went ahead and paid for the saddle anyway, it wasn’t the saddler’s fault that I got sick during my trial period.  I suspect I will end up liking this saddle a lot more than say my Wintecs though I suspect I will always prefer a properly made treed leather jumping saddle, but those are so much more expensive!  I went ahead and got this treeless saddle sort of as a substitute to the saddle I really wanted, a Smith-Worthington sole leather tree (as in the leather soles of a shoe) custom made leather jumping saddle.  THAT saddle I’ve wanted for over thirty years, but alas, I have never been able to save the $4,000 to $6,000 dollars it would cost me to get one.  Since I no longer jump I think my new treeless saddle will be an acceptable substitute for both me and the horses I ride once I get it adjusted right and broken in.

Besides, the lining of the EZ-fit treeless saddle is REALLY non-slip.  The saddle moved less than a treed saddle would have as I hung off on the side, desperately grabbing and pulling on the saddle to get the weight off my left foot.  It sure saved me from a possibly nasty accident.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran    

 

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