Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trial Trail Saddle

I have not been on a horse since the show, a week and a half ago,where Maddie unceremoniously dumped me. This is partly because the fall severely pulled a muscle in my back, partly because the weather got cold and nasty about the same time my back started feeling better, and partly because, in being laid up for a few days, I got seriously behinder on all the projects that had been waiting for summer break to get going.
Not to be discounted, as well, was the fact that my ego was bruised, and my confidence a bit shaken.

But last night I called my trail-riding friend Pat and basically committed myself to getting out with her by the end of the week.
So I needed to get back on a horse. This horse.
And I have a Tucker "Plantation" model saddle that a friend gave me to try out. Tuckers are supposed to be super comfortable for both horse and rider, and this one has an extra wide tree, and I wanted to see how it would fit Kate (and Maddie, too). It's also considerably lighter weight than my current roping style saddle, a plus for this increasingly arthritic lady. The Plantation is a hybrid saddle, with elements of both English and Western saddles: a fairly high Western style cantle, but no horn, instead having a pommel reminiscent of a McClellan; more free swinging stirrup leathers, though it has modified Western style fenders, making it more comfortable (less pinching) on the legs without having to wear tall boots. The Tuckers also have the "Euro-style" cinch set-up, which eliminates the back cinch, while still keeping the rear of the saddle securely held down.
It unfortunately is far enough from either "traditional" style that it would not pass muster in the show ring. So I don't think that I will be buying this particular saddle--the Tuckers are expensive enough that I would have to sell my good (but heavy) Western saddle--I can't afford to have one of each. And showing is one way that I market my young horses, so I have to have something acceptable, at least at the local level. So I am trying this Tucker with the idea that if it fits my wide-bodied beauties (and my wide body, as well), then I might start watching for a more traditionally styled Tucker, while trying to sell my roper.

So this morning, before starting on any projects (but after socializing a bit with Jackson), Kate came out of the paddock and got saddled up in the Tucker.

I didn't do any more lunging than a few times each direction at the end of the mecate lead. Kate stood quietly while I mounted, and we headed down the driveway, for a brief ride around the neighborhood.
But Kate felt that this was different than her past few outings:
For one, she was ALONE! No other horses in front or in back, just HER out in the world.
Another factor that no doubt had play was the fact that, as soon as we were on our way, everybody back at the barn started carrying on--calling, racing about their paddocks, and generally inviting Kate to be stupid.
And stupid she was!
In spite of the fact that this was where she had started her riding horse career, suddenly nothing in the area was to be trusted! We walked forward at the blistering pace of 10 or 15 steps, then 30 seconds of eying things and looking back over her shoulder at her buddies. And this was just down the driveway. Once on the road, heading north past the neighbor's house and feedlot was excruciatingly slow. Where I had hoped to make the four mile loop to the next cross road and back on the unpaved ditch road, I moderated my goal to making it to the hay barns and service yard a mere half mile ahead.
I don't like working on asphalt, so I didn't argue with her much, just insisted that we keep going forward. One . Step . At . A . Time . (okay, sometimes four or five).
Complicating the trip was the pickup that raced up behind us, despite me waving him to slow down several times--he finally did, but I think only because by the time he got up to us, Kate had whirled to face him, smack dab in the center of the road.
Then just before reaching our turn-around goal, the neighbor's teenage haying crew also came up behind us, towing a flatbed trailer loaded with baling twine. They approached much slower (they know better), but there was a strange "thu-bump" noise joining the raucous farm truck's engine noise. I pointed out that they had a flat tire on the trailer, to the point that the rubber was totally disconnected from the rim--they hadn't noticed, and would surely have destroyed the rim (the tire was already toast) by the time they got to where they were going. They waited for me to reach the better footing of the service yard, and then limped their truck in, as well.
Now on dirt, I got after Kate for her obstinate behavior. We did a bunch of yeilding and circles, backing, more yeilding, until she got the message that I was in charge of our itinerary. We worked around the barns, the boys and their dogs, and various farm implements until I had her full cooperation. Then we headed back down the road the way we had come, at a remarkably improved pace--though not jigging or otherwise being inappropriate, Kate's walk was free and willing--after all, we were headed for home.
Or so she thought.
At the end of our driveway I turned east on the cross road!
Kate got as far as our mailbox before she realized this wasn't the route she had hoped for. She stopped once, and I urged her forward; she hesitated once more, then agreed that I was in control, and we headed along the north end of the farm. Because of her cooperation, I then turned south along the ditch road at the east edge of the farm, thinking to cool out on our way to the south gate into our pasture, and the last leg home.
But upon reaching that gate, she threw a minor fit about being asked to side pass to the gate to open it. That particular spot is between two branches of the main irrigation ditch, with a distinct possibility of her backing into steep, wet trouble. My back had been starting to ache, so I took the conservative approach to this problem: I got off and worked her from the ground--yielding, circles, backing, more yielding. This was actually as naughty as she had been the whole ride, half-rearing as she changed directions on the circles. We both worked up a bit of perspiration before she finally settled down to listen to ME. Then, at my insistence, she stood stock still next to the gate for a minute, before we went through and I found a log from which to remount and ride down the pasture to the house.

One thing that was positive about the whole affair was that, upon unsaddling her, the sweat pattern across her back was more evenly distributed than with my roping saddle. So the extra wide tree on the Tucker was the right size. (The seat, however comfortable it was with it's "gel-cush" padding, seemed a little small for me, however.)
I hosed her down and put her back out with her friends.

So much for an easy first ride back after my lay-off!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a good (if hard-working) ride to me - you got done what you intended (modified to match what your horse was capable of that day) and you ended better than you started!