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 things......you 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 - so...you 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).
Now....to 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 problem....it 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!!