Tag Archives: treeless saddle

A new saddle

It arrived yesterday morning, just before I headed off to work, a Barefoot Cherokee saddle:

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Of course I had to unpack it in the kitchen, and dream of a lovely ride in the evening. So post dinner, post 4 year old in bed, post story, post cuddle, out I headed. It was later than I wanted but I was anxious to take things slowly and not lose the soft connection that has grown with Ben in this time (about 7 weeks) without a saddle.

I put Rosie in the stable with her tea and some hay and proceeded to tack up Ben, slowly, waiting for release from any possible tension at each stage. He gave me release at each stage, with enormous yawns as the saddle cloth was produced, and plenty of licking and chewing at other stages.

The Barefoot saddle is treeless and has its own saddle pad which has integral shims. The Cherokee is the model used for trail riding but with knee rolls, which can be positioned to suit, to allow for jumping small jumps. The stirrups are set further back than in my old saddle and the buckles on the leathers are down low by the stirrup iron. It takes a dressage girth. The pommel comes with a fibreglass insert in size medium so I ordered a wide insert, as recommended, for Ben. You fit the insert against the horse’s shoulders where it should sit flat. There is a template for this on the website.

It was fiddly. Saddle on, I realised I had forgotten to change the insert. This necessitated a call to my husband to help as I struggled to fit in the wide insert. The stirrups were fiddly, as was the girth. I am not used to a dressage girth. I stood back to check everything for the umpteenth time and Ben decided it was time to go. He was standing at liberty for all this, and he just headed off along the track towards the back gate.

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Excuse the blurred photograph, but I couldn’t resist a quick shot before I followed him. Half way along he heard a digger start up somewhere and he stopped to check it out. I came up and he moved on a bit, stopped to listen again. So I went past him and said ‘Coming?’ and he followed me, at liberty, to the back gate.

Mounting up, the saddle slipped. This might be an issue, Ben is very round right now, what with early summer grass, although strictly limited, and lack of work. It will make me very nimble I hope! Mounted, we set off. My stirrups were too short, but I had no idea how to adjust them from the saddle and I had no knee rolls as I had forgotten to put them in, but we were off, our first hack from home in nearly 7 weeks.

One big spook at a white gate post in the growing dusk, which I felt through the saddle almost before it happened, and Ben suddenly settled. He blew through his nose, his head stretched down, his stride lengthened and he walked out, my lovely Ben, relaxed, forward going and I, despite too-short stirrups, loving the saddle for the feeling of following and absorbing the movement that it gave.

It was late so we did a short ride, half an hour at the most, but how lovely to be riding on a relaxed horse, on a quiet evening, smelling wild honeysuckle. Not even occasional clouds of midges disturbed our harmony.

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We arrived at our open back gate. I usually dismount there for Ben to eat the long grass that is just outside the gate. As I turned Ben towards the gate, he slowed and looked around at me as if to say, ‘Is that all we’re doing?’

I will write more on the saddle as I go, but so far I can report that in that saddle Ben definitely carries his head lower and longer and has a longer, much smoother stride than in my old saddle.

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A saddle

How is it possible to become so attached to a saddle?

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This is my Albion GP saddle, bought more than 7 years ago for my first horse, Mali. I well remember the day I went to visit a chap near Waterford who sold new and second hand saddles. I had a budget and was buying my first saddle. It turned out that he was an ex British mounted policeman and they used Albion saddles, so he was keen. Well, I fell in love with one and spent double my budget.

On this saddle, I rode my first dressage test, jumped in my first show-jumping competition, hacked many, many times, schooled, had lessons and generally made that giant leap from being a life-long riding school rider to a horse owner. I learnt about the right way to oil a saddle, learnt about different sized girths, developed preferences for certain types of stirrups, learnt about the many different kinds of numnahs, even bought an almost invisible one so that I could show Mali. I discovered just how big saddles are and how awkward they are to store, when you don’t want to trust it to the tack room at the livery yard and have to find space at home, when you take it into the kitchen in the evening for a good clean and the horror of when the cat jumps on it and inflicts a scratch on that lovely leather.

And then you buy a cob, with a wide, flat back who already has two white patches on either side of his spine from what must have been an ill-fitting saddle. And, when the chiropractor comes and puts her iron fingers into his back he squeals, actually squeals aloud at a certain point behind where the saddle would have sat. And you gradually realise that this lovely, recently re-flocked saddle is sitting tight just where those two white spots are.

So the saddle has to go to fund the purchase of a treeless saddle and to my surprise I feel a pang of regret and nostalgia for all that this saddle has meant to me, for the memories of adventure, of starting out, of discovery and most of all of a simply wonderful horse.

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Mali. Fenloe Malibu. One day I may tell her story.

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Connections

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Harmony is: walking around the track, falling into step, one rhythm, one pace, one relaxation. Harmony is: stopping, dropping into silence, waiting. Harmony is: being accepted into the energy and then the silence that encompasses my small herd of two.

I have ordered a new saddle for Ben. My much loved Albion general purpose saddle seems to be a bit tight on his back and, after borrowing a friend’s Barefoot treeless saddle to try, I have chosen one of those for Ben. But the delivery has been a lot slower than I hoped and, in this pause from riding, I am finding that my connection with Ben is growing. Having no agenda seems to allow me to stay present and be without rush and build on those moments of connection and harmony as they present themselves.

This evening, Ben was jumpy and nearly ran me over.  So I moved him away and Rosie too and we moved off together around the track, me initially pushing Ben and Rosie but very quickly we all fell into a rhythm together and it was no longer a push or a lead or a follow, just a walk around the track in synch.  When I stopped they moved on a few paces and then stopped, falling into a stillness in which I joined.

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