Here is a close-up of the Barefoot Cherokee, size 1. The leather is very stiff, as I would have expected initially; I put the knee rolls into position which have made the flaps stick out and the girth is too long. However, these did not cause problems, but that leather ‘keeper’ on the stirrup leather did. It is to keep the long end of the leather in place, but as it was so stiff, it bruised my leg and pushed the stirrup out of my foot so I ended up taking it off and replacing it with some hair bobbins (purple!). I am sure it would soften with time and by rubbing in some of the cream recommended.
I have had a week to trial this saddle and have ridden out quite a few times, on short and longer (about an hour and a half) hacks.
Most importantly, Ben is happy. He is walking out with a long, relaxed, swinging stride and his head stretched long and low.
I can feel all the movement of his back through my seat which means I am following and absorbing his movement as never before and I feel any spook almost before it happens.
Did I mention that Ben is wide? This is the only negative but, unfortunately, it is a big one. I am stretched very wide on the saddle and, while I am sure I would adjust and stretch to an extent, I feel I have no lower leg, or, rather, my lower leg cannot wrap around him and I cannot see myself ever being able to do decent flatwork with him or to feel secure whilst jumping. (I would happily live without jumping, but Ben happens to love cross country jumps, so I will have to treat him to some small ones sometimes.) Possibly if I were taller – I am 5’5″ – I would be able to accomodate to Ben’s width.
Reluctantly, I am returning the saddle. Back to the drawing board.
Ben, by the way, does not approve of all the fiddling I am doing with the saddle. He is a real example of a saying I read somewhere: ‘give a horse a job to do’. Here he is once again heading towards the gate: