I cannot comfortably spend any length of time or hard riding in a western saddle. I don't know why, but my right leg starts to kill me, especially my ankle. However, I can sit in my dressage saddle all day, which I did on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for some hard riding. I'm calling it my western lite saddle.
What western riders may find unbelievable but dressage riders will not (or they might if they've never chased cows before) is that I can stay with my horse turning a cow better in my dressage saddle than I ever did in a western saddle, and I grew up in a western saddle. I feel closer and more "plugged in" to my horse in my dressage saddle than in a western saddle. And, as I pointed out to my BIL, the knee rolls on my dressage saddle are just as good for stabilization as any swells on a western saddle.
I was on the ranch Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this past week helping my family sort cow-calf pairs for different pastures. Buddy had some moves! And I was right with him in my dressage saddle... all day (5-6 hours each day) three days in a row. We didn't work as hard as my sister and brother-in-law, but we had our moments. Besides, I'm older, and I also find that not getting the cows or calves excited the way they do usually results in less escape attempts and, as a result, less trouble.
The only trouble I really had, since Buddy LOVES working cattle, is that he got his tongue over the jointed mouthpiece of his pelham bit a few times and I had to get off to drop the bridle to fix it. If you've never had it happen, the joint will poke up under the tongue and bother the horse when that happens. Buddy tossed his head, until I fixed it. But he didn't stop doing it. So, I came prepared on the last day. When he did it again, I switched to a western bridle from a past horse I had, a low port sweet iron curb with a copper roller. It took him a while to accept it, but once he did, he quieted his mouth and didn't once get his tongue over that bit. Given this, we're going to try a double bridle, using the curb as a means to keep his tongue down while I ride primarily with the bradoon (a snaffle that is the primary tool of riding with a double; the curb being there only for refinement). I learned to use it on my last horse, a powerful and big warmblood who had an exuberance that could take him away from me in just a snaffle. With both horses, I had used pelham bits for some control when I could, but now with Buddy developing this new tongue talent and the curb having stopped it, I don't have much of a choice if I want to train him properly. I may not be able to go back to just a snaffle, but time will tell.
Buddy just had to make things difficult.
Thanks to my sister, I have some pictures of us at work.
|Getting a pair sorted. We need to keep this kind of|
forward in our dressage work!
|Taking a group down the alley to the loading chute|
to be hauled to one of the pastures Tuesday.
|Ponying my sister's horse back to the corral after|
a long day of work Tuesday. She took the pic
while driving the Ranger and leading her donkey.
|In the corral at the end of the day Wednesday,|
Buddy waits in his western bridle to move
cow-calf pairs to the pasture down the road
It's been a long time coming for Buddy to get to this point in his training, but it's a process. Dressage work has prepared him well for doing this. He had his good and bad moments, but those good moments made the moments of being ornery excusable. A few times, he sat down like a cutting horse to turn a cow, and I stayed right with him in my dressage saddle. However, he still gets intimidated by them looking at him and especially when they approach him. A few cows were chargey and needed caution near them. Those cows behaved with two riders coming at them. He's gaining confidence, but that can be unraveled quickly with a bad experience.
Buddy absolutely loves moving cows. He does NOT like being held back, which is funny considering he can be such a chicken. For example, he will snort at and try to get away from strange footing, but when it comes to cows, he doesn't think twice about muck or piles of dirt; he wants to chase a cow! He likes having a job and once he learns the routine, such as with sorting cows, he really gets into it. It's a lot of fun working with him.
In looking at the pictures, I see myself sitting crooked and don't know if it's the ground angle, the stride point, or me. I plan to get together with my instructor for a lesson this summer to fix things. It's been too long.
ps--Because I was so exhausted after these long days, I haven't gotten as much writing done as I wanted, but it was worth it. The writing will catch up, hopefully this weekend.
pps (6/7/20)--This is 100 miles round trip each day for me, which is one reason why I only see my horse (and family) on average 1-2 times a week besides weather factors and timing (no indoor arena like boarding stables, only the wide outdoors). And for anyone who thinks this looks romantic, I can only say NO! There's nothing romantic about farm/ranch life; it's the hardest work you'll ever do. (It takes a special person to work this hard (and harder!); family farmers/ranchers do it for the love of their independence and providing essential products for life, and they love the land and are the best stewards of those resources because their livelihoods depend on it.) Horses, humans, and dogs alike were beat at the end of each day. Thank goodness for sunscreen, or we would have been beet red and swollen of sunburn besides.