Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A new saddle for Buddy

Growing up on a farm, we didn't have much. Farmers/ranchers (especially those who do both) work long hours that would exhaust anyone else and for very little money and recognition. But we did the best with what we had, even when we didn't have much money for food, clothes, or heating at times. My parents sacrificed a lot to give us what they could. We were dirt poor but had the best life! I wouldn't trade that life for anything.

I learned the value of hard work and appreciating the little joys in life. And I learned the value of a loving family.

On a more personal level, the best parts of my life on the farm always involved animals. We tamed the kittens born to the wild barn cats. We showed sheep and cattle. My first "horse" was a steer that I had trained to let me ride, even if only in a pen. I took him everywhere, until I got a real horse.

I only wish I knew then what I know now. How my poor horses suffered. But I gave them the best that I could at that time and was always seeking greater knowledge.

Now that I'm older, wiser, and have a job of my own and money of my own, I can afford to give my horse something that I couldn't back then--a saddle that fits him and me. In the last twenty years, saddlemakers have been offering greater customization. You can now find exactly what's right for you and your horse and not just settle with whatever you have.

I've been working in my dressage saddle that I had specifically bought for a previous horse but coincidentally also fits Buddy (not exactly perfect but pretty darn close, which almost never happens!). I love that saddle. Now that Buddy is on the farm where I grew up, which is what my plan had been for him at some point but came out of necessity rather than choice, we have another need--a western saddle. After all, who wants the cowboys to give you funny looks at brandings? (But I would sure love to see them try riding in that saddle doing some of what I can do with my horse!) My dressage saddle is so comfy and my balance is so perfect in it that I could work cows all day, BUT...well...I prefer not to be the butt of jokes. Also, I had been planning on getting a western saddle for Buddy at some point.

So, I went saddle shopping. I found a western saddle designed for a woman's conformation (as opposed to a man's--yes, there's a difference! Check out these articles, which explains why I used to hate western saddles when they were all designed for men-- and and that is wide enough for mister broad shoulders-withers here:

You can't tell from this picture, but he is very wide. My dressage saddle is a medium wide. However, since the flocking has squished with use, it now fits like an extra wide and is just right on him.

As I mentioned, to find the right western saddle, I went saddle shopping, which meant lots of research. I already knew english saddles, but I had to learn about western saddles, what I didn't know while growing up riding in one (the wrong one, as I realized with greater knowledge). I haven't saddle shopped since buying the dressage saddle four and a half years ago, when I really learned a lot from the saddle fitter about what to look for. I checked out the brand that I felt had the best options and a solid reputation for western saddles and looked in person where they are sold in my area. I was able to sit in some to check seat size and looked closely at the tree sizing and cinching options. This is going to set me back financially, but I've learned not to underestimate the value of the right saddle for me and my horse--it will save me money and trouble in the long run. The right saddle fit for the horse makes a HUGE difference on their comfort and performance. The right saddle fit for the rider makes a HUGE difference in reducing saddle soreness and being able to be an effective rider, which is important to me as a dressage rider.

Since I don't have to pay for boarding while Buddy is living at my family's farm, this is the perfect time to make this investment. Also, Buddy is coming on six years old--pretty much a mature horse who won't be changing any more. The timing couldn't be better, so I bit the bullet and ordered the saddle. It's custom, so I'm still waiting on it (6-8 weeks projected from the order date). I wanted it before spring though. The expected delivery is in a month, but I've already purchased the cinch and saddle pad that I think will be right for him. The saddle I ordered is a good all-around saddle that we can use working cattle--and Buddy has gained a LOT of confidence just working cattle in hand and even seems to enjoy it!--and for western dressage. I feel that it's the right investment for him and me and hope that we get a lifetime of riding together in it. I've gone back to my roots but with a lot more experience and knowledge and options available.

Because he's so wide, I also purchased a matching breastcollar. Wide horses tend to have saddles slip more easily and this will help keep it in place.

Buddy lives up to his name--he's worth the investment. I have always strived to do all I can for the horses in my life with what I have. If we expect them to work for us, then we should respect them enough to make them as comfortable as possible, just as we expect that when we work.

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