New Saddle!

I got a new saddle yesterday! Well, new to me. There was a used tack sale going on that my new friend at the barn, Natasha, told me about. We went first thing in the morning and searched around. Now, my back and Scarlet’s back have been hurting pretty bad from the saddle we were using so I did lots of research to find the correct fit that both of us would need in order to enjoy our rides in comfort. I needed somewhere around a 17.5 seat. Fitting to Scarlet was the more difficult part but I watched a bunch of videos and got a general idea of how I wanted the gullet to be. I also measured his withers/shoulders with a coat hanger so I could guesstimate if the saddle would fit or not.

I was extremely excited for the tack sale all week. What horse crazy girl or guy doesn’t love going shopping for horse stuff? I was slightly disappointed when we got there at the quality and quantity of things. Most of the tack was western based. Not too surprising considering that most of the riders in this area ride western. There were a few booths that had English saddles but many were dressage. The ones that were all-purpose or jumping were either too small of a seat or too expensive! People were asking $1000 and up for a used saddle! Now I know saddles are expensive but this is a used tack sale. Who on earth is going to buy a used saddle for that much on a whim?

I did find 2 saddles that would work for both Scarlet and me. One was a used Wintec saddle with girth, stirrups, stirrup leathers and saddle cover. That one had a 17.5 seat and seemed to fit the hanger model I had of Scarlet. It was going for $250. The other was a leather jumping saddle. I don’t remember the brand. It was being sold by a coworker of mine for $400. That one had a 17 seat and the withers definitely would have fit Scarlet. Since this sale was going on in the parking lot of a tack store, both the sellers and the tack store were nice enough to allow me to bring the saddles in in order to try sitting on them to see how they fit. Both of them fit pretty well.

So then I had a dilemma. I had a budget that I was trying to stick to. My husband is dealing with a bit of sticker shock at how much everything horse related is costing. Granted, this month we purchased, moved my horse down to our house and paid board. Not a cheap month. Maintenance will be easier to stomach at a couple hundred a month. But I was trying to find a used saddle for under $300. If I had to go much higher, it wouldn’t make much sense to me as a brand new Wintec from Dover is $550. One saddle fit in my price range and one did not. The leather was tempting and it was a nice saddle but I ultimately went with the Wintec. I owned one for 6 years when I first started riding Scarlet. It held up fairly well and I can always save up and buy another saddle later if I feel like I need it.

I did my first trial ride with this saddle today. I’m glad it came with another girth because the one I had was too short! That really shocked me but hey I had a useable girth and that’s all that mattered. Scarlet and I started off warming up and the saddle immediately felt better to me. When posting, I didn’t sometimes come down on the cantle on accident. That made my rear feel better. Scarlet was going at a slower pace for his walk and trot. Not sure if the saddle affected that or not. I did notice that he wasn’t diving through his circles. I’m pretty sure that’s because my weight was where it should be in the saddle and thus wasn’t throwing him off balance. When I asked for the canter, he reflexively pinned his ears since the last couple times it had hurt his back. Then he sped up when he realized that it didn’t hurt to canter. We did a few laps and then dropped back to the trot. I couldn’t get his trot to slow down! He was too excited to realize that we could canter and not hurt. It took quite a lot of circles and gentle serpentines to get his trot back to a reasonable speed. Once it did, I asked for another couple of laps each way and then called it a day. We have been working really hard in the couple of weeks we have been back together and I wanted to end on a good note. I also wanted to keep it short in case his back was still a little sore.

So the Wintec is great. Fits me, fits him. It’s synthetic and that’s always a minus but hey I don’t have to worry about maintenance and the rain with this one. The most important thing is that we can have a comfortable ride together now. Which is great. I’m really looking forward to riding this week.

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Saddles

It was probably too much to hope that buying my horse back and all his tack would magically be the perfect combination that would allow me to just hop on and ride off into the sunset.

Scarlet’s previous owner was around the same height but much thinner than I am. And did not have as large of a booty. So her saddle is definitely small for me. I keep getting shoved onto my front pelvic area when riding instead of sitting straight up as I should. That causes my lower back muscles to be sore. Not great but not super bad. So I thought.

But then the soreness started turning into back pain when I tried to twist to see cars for merging or pain when sitting at my desk. And Scarlet started pinning his ears when I asked for a canter. I’d kept a close eye on his back and strides, doing pressure tests to see how he would react to that to make sure I wasn’t working him too hard. But where my weight sits does not work for him when I sit back to ask for a canter. Between that and my sore lower back, I realized that I need a new saddle. Bad.

How fortuitous that there is a tack sale going on this weekend. I’m really hoping to find something decent that is used as my husband is starting to get a little wide-eyed at how much money I’m spending. (And in only 2 weeks. Poor baby.) I don’t think the idea “horses are expensive” really got through to him till now.

I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday I’m so excited to go shopping for a saddle. I’ve spent hours now pouring over how to make sure a saddle properly fits your horse. I’ve read so much on it and most of it revolves around putting it on your horse to see how it fits. Since I can’t exactly drag him around a tack sale with me, hopefully, I can measure length and tree width well enough to guess if it will fit. I’m going to use the wire hanger trick to measure his shoulder width so I can make sure it doesn’t pinch there. I also watched all of the Scheleese fit videos on YouTube though I’m looking for a jumper saddle, not a dressage one. The basic concepts should be the same. Seriously though, the best view and explaining of why the saddles need to fit the way they do. Couldn’t ever afford one of their saddles but the videos are free and really informative.

Fingers crossed that I know enough to find a good fit. And that I find one within my price range.

Boarding

Why is it so hard to find a boarding facility that is safe, clean and English focused without paying half of a paycheck each month?

Logically, I know this is due to the upkeep that is required on jumping and dressage arenas and the jumps. Its still frustrating because I’d love to get to know people who ride the same style I do. I’d like training partners so we can critique each other’s riding and help each other improve. It would be awesome to be able to hitch a ride with someone to a show occasionally when I have the extra cash.

The area I’m in, upper central coast, has several dedicated dressage barns, a couple eventing focused and a few all-around English barns. The only problem is they are $400 a month and up in board costs. I know that is reasonable but I can’t afford it. So I found a nice place to board with nice people for $200 a month. Western barn with a barrel racing focus. A good sized arena and everything is safe. The only limitation this is going to cause is I’m going to have to do everything myself. I’ll need to figure out how to give myself training. I’ll need to try creating my own jumps. I wont be going to shows unless I find someone else who is going.

I keep thinking about the things that I don’t have, now that I’m faced with trying to establish my horse life again. I don’t have money, trainer, time, experience etc. I think this is distracting me from what I do have.

I have Scarlet.

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I have time. I’m a good rider, I’ve been told this by various people. I’m smart and creative. I can figure out how to teach and exercise for the things I want to do. I can try finding a trainer who is willing to travel out to me. And if I can’t, I’ll just read everything I can get my hands on. But I can do this. I can ride to the level of riding I want. Even without all the fancy things.