Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here's What I'm thinking:

For the next year or 2, my horse time is going to be had probably 0-3 times per week, about an hour of saddle time max at a time. I might get an occasional chance to haul out for a short trail ride - but this would be the rare exception, rather than the rule.

My goals will include working with Arabee on "scary" things - working through Rick Pelicano's book "Bombproof Your Horse" (in quotations because I can't figure out how to get it underlined.....) getting her used to dragging things from the saddle, me putting a coat on and off in the saddle, getting used to traffic and tractors and 4-wheelers from the saddle, walking on/through/over weird know, things that would make her a safe, enjoyable pleasure horse! We're going to get really good at turns on forehand and hindquarters, and sidepassing. I want to be able to open a gate from her back and check the mailbox. I'm also going to continue working with Cora (I haven't posted yet that I put her on Arabee last weekend - she was sooo cute! And Arabee was an angel, too!) and teaching her basics - steering, walking, stopping.....on a leadline for the foreseeable future.

Ok - know - all that is pretty low-intensity, easy stuff - at least physically, compared to legging up for endurance competitions in the hills! The things I have in mind are more mental exercises. But still, I will need a good-fitting saddle, or at least one that won't hurt her back.

My thorowgood broadback dressage saddle worked well in the past, but now is making a muscle-ridge, tightness thing right behind her withers that I notice when I take her saddle off. Massaging the area makes her relax again and smooth out - this is a sure sign of poor fit. If I don't have her wear her crupper, the saddle slips forward while longing. Also not a good sign of good fit. She doesn't really care to walk downhill when I'm riding in the saddle, and when we trot, she gives all-over body shakes, repeatedly. Yes, Arabee.....I hear you!

What I reallllly want is one of the endurance saddles that you can adjust to fit. The two I've been looking lately at are Specialized ($$) and Reactor Panel ($$). Yeesh! I'll have to work on saving up for a good treed saddle that I can adjust for varying fitness levels - maybe there are other brands out there I haven't discovered yet. Right now I'm not looking at putting too many miles or hours in the saddle, and really can't justify laying out that kind of cash right now. I've got a year or 2 before I'll realistically get to do any endurance competition (but I do think I'll REALLY enjoy 50's!! I've DEFINITELY been dreaming about doing Michigan's Shore-to-Shore ride, and have sorta kinda maybe thought about the Old Dominion 100. Maybe...heck, I haven't even *started* an LD yet....but a girl can dream!) Anyway, the point is, serious competition requires a really good fit.....but tooling around on CTC style obstacles on short pleasure rides just requires a good fit. I think my budget right now can get us good fit.....really good fit is going to have to wait.

For quite some time I've been eyeing the Little Joe Saddles - I've seen nothing but good reviews for them. Probably not as secure as a saddle - but they say you can mount from the ground with stirrups and they won't slip - and I know my riding will improve from riding a bareback-style saddle.

They recommend using breakaway stirrups - I'll probably go with the Side Step stirrups. Not particularly "traditional" looking - but who cares? They sound really comfy, and look like they'd be safer than my caged endurance stirrups (which are also not particularly "traditional" looking). get synthetic, western-style fenders, or biothane stirrup straps? I'm leaning toward the fenders - but would love to hear from others why they'd choose straps over fenders. I'm thinking it may be just a personal preference sort of thing...but there may be more to it than I am aware of.

So that's what I'm thinking of starting with. And we'll see how that goes - I anticipate some problems cropping up though - so on the just-in-case shopping list (but I won't actually buy until the need presents itself is:

A sheepskin seat cushion. Not sure if this one will be perfect for the Little Joe/Western Fender combo......but it looks like a close fit to me. I'm a little worried that the top of the fenders will rub my leg - so if this cushion will extend far enough down to cover the fender top, then this should solve that problem (if it even becomes a may not bother me).

A spine-relief saddle pad. Leaning towards a Skito Treeless Half pad/Interpad with Dryback. Tell me if I'm wrong - but I'm having a hard time seeing why I couldn't use a treeless half pad under a treed saddle some day if I needed to? I know with a half pad I'd have to use some kind of thin pad as well - but those are cheap and easy to come by, and I think the pad that comes with the Little Joe would work. I like the idea of the dryback, too. BUT....if Arabee doesn't show any signs of discomfort with the Little Joe saddle and the pad it comes with - I'll leave well-enough alone and keep my $135+ in my pocket!! So this would be another wait-and-see item.

So...that's where I stand now. But we'll wait until after the 4th of July to do any ordering. Would love to hear any input on what I've just written about, positive or negative. None of it's ordered yet - I can still change my mind!! :-)

Looking forward to this weekend!!


Anonymous said...

My husband uses a skito with inserts for a treeless saddle (it was made for Bob Marshall) under his treed Big Horn western saddle and it works great! I will only ride in a Bob Marshall endurance saddle (treeless). You can't sell me on anything else. Other treeless brands don't compare. They are truly worth the money. Definately consider getting a full seat covert that goes all the way down to the stirrups, especially if you want to do 50's or 100's some day.

Good luck, hope you get to realize your dreams.....eventually!


Nicole said...

Thanks Michelle - I had forgotton about the Bob Marshall! I know even a used one isn't within my price range for right now, though - but I will have to add it to the list to consider for "later."

I'm a little leery of it though, in theory, for someone my weight for long (50 mile +) distances. Though, I know there are heavyweight riders using them. We'll just have to see how she does with the LJ saddle in the meantime. I've got a lot of homework to do, though - I'll probably start a chart of pos/neg of each endurance saddle and try to get a test ride in every one I'm considering.....But thankfully that's a long way off!

I'll try to see what full-length seat covers I can find. Thanks for the tip!

Welcome said...

Saddle fitting has been a continuing issue on our front, especially now that I've changed horses. I personally don't like how the saddles feel though others are certainly sold. When researching these saddles they were recommended for lightweight riders. My concern would be pressure points with a heavier rider, and also with a rider who tires towards the end of a ride. A good fitting treed saddle is far superior in supporting the rider's weight over a broad area of the back, rather than concentrated in the seat. Note I said GOOD FITTING. An ill fitting saddle tree is horrible for the horse. I was so lucky to find the Crestridge for Phebes. BTW they now make a 15 lb. lightweight saddle. It isn't adjustable, but the one Phebes used fit her at all weights. Mine was a little heavier than I wanted at 25 lbs. Wish I could run out and buy the new 15 lb. one.

I'm still out on the Specialized. I'm moving to a regular tree vs. the wide for Journey. A bigger seat for me. I'll let you know how it goes.

Good luck on your hunt however you decide.

I've got some beautiful new trails to show you btw...

Welcome said...


I've used a Skito with pads under my treed saddle, especially right now with a tree that is a bit wider than I like. Not a long term solution, but it works.

Anonymous said...

There is also the Abetta Endurance. It's a treed saddle, but they make flex, arabian, and wide trees. You could get a used one for less than $300. And they are pretty cheap new on Chicks I know a very successful local endurance rider who uses one. I am considering getting one for my oldest daughter. She has started taking my saddle over because she can't fit in the kids saddle anymore. I had been riding in Laura's Bob Marshall. But now she's been taking it back and forth to her house so she can ride her neighbor's horse. So I'm having to ride bareback when I ride with my daughter because my husband's saddle is too big and the stirrups won't go short enough for me. I'd rather get another Bob Marshall but just don't have the money right now either!

Your correct that riding bareback or in a treeless saddle can be bad for a horse too. But that's why the saddle pad with inserts is so important to use. It helps distribute the rider's weight. Also, the way the Bob Marshall is made helps eleviate pressure points.


Anonymous said...

I would lean towards a Bob Marshall or a abetta for endurance versus what you are looking at. No matter how bombproof your horse is, there will still be instances where she is startled. After ten years of on and off distance riding I still prefer a saddle that affords me some security ! You can still work on your despooking, I love that book, BTW. The "heads away" exercise is good for horses that hyperfocus on scary things. I also trained my husband to "babysit" so I could ride.. I was back to longer rides when my son was two.
You can also pay a helper (I used to use a 12 year old) to babysit when my husband was home just to give him a break. Good luck!!