Saturday, March 7, 2009

How not to do it, part 2

I went through a lot of saddles at first. Champ came with a saddle - a big ole roping saddle. Real roping, with the super reinforced horn and all. Damn thing must've weighed 40 lbs. Also it was pretty uncomfortable, even without much past experience to compare it to.

I took it to the feed store and traded it in for a crazy lightweight cheap little synthetic western all purpose saddle. This was way more comfortable for me, but probably less so for Champ - it had like 1/8th inch withers clearance. I whined about saddles to Sara and she recommended the National Bridle Tennessean. I whined about it to Graham for a while, then stalked the classifieds til I lucked out and found my saddle for $300. I knew I'd found The Perfect Saddle when I first sat in it, and lo I was happy.

But I still had the totally unsuitable little synthetic western saddle! I ended up selling it to The Redneck Kid for $100 and turning the $100 into a used cutback English show saddle. A cutback saddle is only used for gaited or ASB shows. It features a completely flat seat and stirrup bars hung about 5" forward of the balanced/dressage position - but it's English and that's how you show your gaited or ASB horse. Sigh.

So I had two saddles and two horses. Life was good. For some reason I never rode Champ in the cutback, but I did ride Silky in it fairly often.

On one memorable trip, probably in November or December, we were tooling down the scenic southern portion of the trail along the Loosahatchie. I was riding with my friend Chrissy. I can still see it in my head - we'd just gone past the hairpin turn where I saw a dead possum one time, before we got to one particularly pretty view of the river. My left leg CRAMPED UP, horribly. I tried to stand up in the stirrups, but obviously that's hard to do when the stirrups are that far forward, so I sat back down and kicked my foot out of the stirrups to let my leg relax. The stupid slippy English leathers let the stirrup swing more than I'd anticipated and the iron whanged into Silky's side. She teleported - there is no better word to describe her movement - and like a cartoon character, I was left suspended in midair as she reappeared 18" to my right, very upset.

WHUMP I hit the dirt, all kinds of confused, and all of a sudden my horse was staring down at me. She probably considered running, but Chrissy wheeled her horse George around and boxed Silky in, and I just reached up and grabbed the reins and started laughing. I still maintain that I did not drop the reins, it was just impossible to hold them when they'd teleported to the right with the horse.

I have not gone trail riding in an English saddle since that day. Rationally, I blame my horrible riding skills and the evil design of the saddle, but irrationally I am convinced that English saddle = dirt on my butt. This is why I'm always so confused when Kaci posts videos of her cantering down the trail on Wa. How could one possibly canter down a trail in an English saddle?! Madness!

I ended up trading that horrible saddle for $100 worth of Dixie's price. Which is about the value of her left front foot, or perhaps her mane. But at least I can't fall off of it ever again!

Next up in the "How not to ride" series: The Time I Sank My Poor Mare.


  1. LOLOL I rode with this Brazilian cowboy/trainer for a while at a ranch on the North Shore and he was the same way about English saddles. I tried to explain that I have just never felt comfortable in a Western saddle. We would take the problem horses or young horses out on the trails for hours. He would always tell me I was crazy for riding EVERYWHERE in an English saddle. He said every time he has ridden in one he's fallen off!

  2. Hahah, I suspect your Brazilian friend has the same terrible seat I used to have. I feel amazingly more secure once I got my ligaments stretched out to keep my heels under my hips. And I tied my western stirrups back to the right position and I am completely unfazed by whatever craziness they try.

    Once I get a job I am going to get a not-too-expensive AP English saddle. Probably not a real dressage saddle right off the bat, cause I kinda want to learn to jump on one of the two horses. Definitely a good synthetic AP.


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