Friday, January 9, 2009


Yesterday I left the house at 4:42, dressed, helmet and boots already on. I jogged to the corn crib/tack room, grabbed Arabee's halter, quick-brushed her (it's frozen so she wasn't muddy, yay!) Applied tiny no-slip saddle pad, saddle, girth, fastened the crupper, one hole tighter on the girth, breastcollar, one more hole tighter on girth, picked up front legs to smooth out skin under girth, one hole tighter on girth, rhythm beads, picked left side hooves, one hole tighter on girth, right side hooves, put on the dr. cooks bridle. Now it is 4:56pm. This is taking me too long!

Matt had somewhere to be last night that he had to leave the house at 5:45, so I figured if I got off at 5:30 I'd have time to untack and jog back home in perfect timing. Or, that was the goal anyway.

I finally swung my leg over her back, adjusted the stirrups, and took a lap around the barn lot, walking very nicely. The girth was a little loose yet, so I decided to tighten it another notch. Another lap around the barn lot, and we ventured out across the road!

You would have thought we were playing spy or something! Arabee was tippy toeing and rubber necking the whole way, we walked the 75 ft of road, turned into the other driveway (we keep a feedlot of beef cattle at the barn, it was in the family way back) and walked that way. She was nervous as a tick. I found it kind of funny when she wasn't jumping back and forth on me!

We made it there and back mostly at a walk, she only broke gait a little bit, and was pretty good. It didn't kill her, and I'm hoping that built her confidence in me some. Overall a success.

I figured it was time to trot, (we really need to get that started!) so once back in the barn lot we trotted west, which went great. I brought her down to a walk to turn the corner around the big tool shed, then clucked her back into a trot. That is when she threw in a canter stride or two, and at that point, the crupper must have tickled her funny, and she started bucking and cantering the whole length of the tool shed, as we rounded the corner I thought "I am going to come off this horse!" then remembered the magic word. I commanded "WHOA" and she stopped, just like that! Too bad I didn't think of it sooner~

She calmed down faster than I did, so we walked a bit. 5:26 pm. One last thing I was going to have her walk through what was once a puddle, now a thinly frozen sheet of ice, then we'd head back and be done. 10 minutes later this mare still wasn't going to walk through that puddle, and I was supposed to have been done 6 minutes ago! I finally had to get off and lead her through by hand. It wasn't the ending I would have chosen, but at least I got her to go through it. Next ride I'll make sure she rides through, just to prove the point.

We jog in hand back to the corn crib, I whip off her tack, lead her into the paddock with the dr. cooks, take it off and rub her head (a reward for job well done) which she LOVES, and is a good way for me to sneak in touches on her ears, she's very ear-shy, but has improved since I've had her. Matt calls...."are you done yet??" I run out, shut the gate, and am back just in time for him to leave.

Mostly a good ride, but I really need to work on streamlining my tacking up routine!! A good 20-25 minutes out of my riding time is spent doing just that, not to mention getting myself dressed for the cold.

Any hints on faster tacking up??


Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hints on faster tacking up...I have lots of practice at this!

1) Skip the halter. Since you're riding bitless, you can catch your horse with the bridle. Just clip a leadrope to one of the side rings on her noseband (not the jaw strap that slides).

2) Skip any unnecessary tack. Unless Arabee's conformation is such that her saddle slips around a lot (in which case saddle fit could be an issue), you can probably skip the breastcollar and crupper for rides on the flat. I only use a breastcollar on Aaruba if I'm headed for the hills.

3) Brush only where tack will touch the horse. I know, I know, I struggle with this too...but unless the horse is crusted with mud, who cares?...nobody's looking, right? ;-) Besides, leaving the hair unbrushed (except under tack) preserves its weather-resistant oils, which is a good thing.

4) Unless Arabee is girthy, you can probably tighten the girth in bigger increments.

You know, when I was a kid, I nearly always rode bareback because tacking up was just too much nuisance. These days, I have it down to a style -- 5 minutes, not including hoofboots. :-)

Nicole said...

Good Tips, thank you!

Where is a good place to learn about saddle fit? I have had my suspicions that the one I am using isn't great, but it's better than the one I had been using.

Unfortunately, she is VERY girthy, which is part of the reason for using the crupper and breastcollar. She nearly always bloats awfully, but recently has gotten slightly better. The minute I get on, of course, the girth is "mysteriously" in need of tightening again! I have found with the little no-slip pad under the regular pad, plus the breastcollar (especially) and crupper, even if the girth is LOOSE I have quite a bit of security.

I will definitely try the things you mentioned, because I am just taking an insanely long time to do this stuff!

Endurance Granny said...

Tamara has pretty much covered it! I just want to second my opinion that when days are short, so what if they look a little long as under the tack area has no grit stuck to the hair.

On the mud puddle issue or any balky training issue, it is not a failure to get off and work the horse from the ground. Many of mine and Phebes training issues have been whipped by my getting off and working her from the ground until she is confident, and then climbing back up and riding her through. I've never regretted doing that, but I have had "sore" regret trying to train with me in the saddle and then finding myself on the ground wondering if I'm gonna get up this time...I have taken Phebes on foot leading her like a big dog on sections of trail letting her do her rubber necking, approaching scary objects, etc. Tamara was very helpful to me during this phase of Phebes training. Once she knew the trail, or the obstacle, then I'd get back on board and be a little more firm. Phebes will still do what I call "googling" and you call rubber necking like every bush is going to eat them. I found out that a good work ethic put a lot of that to rest. I ride with a crop, and if she starts googling at phantoms in the woods, I tap tap tap up to a trot, or a faster trot, and get her head focused on work, and me, and off the silliness.

A crupper caused me a pretty bad crash in February 08, and I had a mild concussion, and bashed a hole in my helmet. I've tried since to get her used to it longing and it has been a consistent NO GO. I'm chucking mine, and just sticking to my breast collar.

On cinching up: I do it in increments as well. Phebes doesn't like being cinched, and blows up like a balloon. So I put the saddle on and cinch up, attach the breast collar, and cinch up, then walk her out a few steps and really take up the slack that is left before mounting for the ride. That usually does it, and the breast collar handles the rest.

My catching, brush off, and tacking up takes about 15-20 minutes. If I'm booting add another 10 minutes.

Some time savers. I have the breast collar attached to the offside of my saddle and leave it there. I like to have my saddle pad lying on top of my saddle rather than under it. If you have keepers on your pad you can have the pad already attached to your saddle which saves a step too. Lastly, don't hurry. The more you try to hurry....the longer it takes, at least that is what happens to me. ~E.G.

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

Wow - great tips. I do the blanket on top of the saddle thing, no breast collar, crupper, or saddle bags (nothing but saddle and girth) when riding at home because it's flat. In fact I get into trouble at rides because with all the extras it takes ALOT more time to tack up....A lot of the time I groom with my hands in the saddle area (don't use a brush). I'm bad about picking feet. Most of the time I don't even look. does your horse meet you at the gate? This can be a time saver. I don't even have to walk into the pasture now. LOL