March 2015 archive

Saddle Shopping: Stage 1

A few years ago at a fox hunt, one of the other members made the comment that my saddle was too small. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was moderately offended. What?! Me?! I know how a saddle should fit and this one fits just fine! Or. Not. Then I went to take a riding/jumping lesson at a very nice barn near my house. I was so proud of my Pessoa A/O saddle and I was absolutely convinced they would take me seriously because I had a nice saddle. Except that I didn’t, but I didn’t know that yet. The head trainer took one look at my 10 year old Pessoa and promptly suggested I ride one of their Antares saddles. Ant-what? I had never heard of the thing. It was like riding in velcro disguised as buttery soft French leather. It was at that moment that I knew I had a has-been saddle.

Pessoas were great saddles when I got mine. In 199ahem. Made in England of durable, quality leather. I probably hadn’t taken the best care of it, but that was mostly due to ignorance rather than laziness or not caring. I was raised by a cowboy who thought it was absolutely ridiculous I cleaned my saddles before EVERY SINGLE HORSE SHOW. Once a year was clearly more than enough. I won’t go into how he started copying me and borrowed my saddle soap and Neatsfoot oil. But its 2015 now and things have changed quite a lot. Technology in all facets of riding equipment seems to have advanced exponentially in just the past 5 years, but some things like proper fit never change.

This is the Pessoa in all it's glory at a local hunter show in 2013. Now I can totally see why it was too small. More about that later.

This is the Pessoa in all it’s glory at a local hunter show in 2013. Now I can totally see why it was too small. More about that later.

Fast forward a few years to having a broke horse worth taking to a few horse shows and the need for an actual saddle that fits became very real. A lovely friend let me borrow her beautiful Hermes Essentielle for nearly a year. She had shown in it as a youth and rode in it in college and then it took up residence in the back of her car when she started working and no longer had time to ride nor a horse to put it on. It was a full inch bigger than my Pessoa so I thought surely it was “my” size. The most common English saddle size is 17″ and they are generally sold in .5″ increments. I’m about 5’8″ tall with more leg than torso. In my head this was “average” size. Not so as I would learn later.

And the lovely Hermes. Who wouldn't want to own an Hermes! Beautiful and classic. And also, too small.

And the lovely Hermes. Who wouldn’t want to own an Hermes! Beautiful and classic. And also, too small.

I went to a few shows and finally asked my trainer what I should do. You should get a new saddle, she says. She hates where the Hermes puts my leg. Ok. Works for me. I need got get my own saddle so off I go on my saddle shopping spree. I was so excited. I set a budget for what I thought would get me a nice, used, French saddle. My initial thought was I’d get a used saddle now and when Coco gets bigger and ready to show (and presumably I have more $$) I would then get a brand spankin’ new FANCY saddle. Maybe even a custom one. Then this used one would get used primarily for fox hunting and riding youngsters. Wishful thinking. I didn’t ask much beyond whether or not I should get a different saddle so went into my search rather blindly.

I follow a few used tack pages on Facebook and lo and behold a lovely, used Hermes Oxer showed up one day. 17″, which I thought was just the right size. The price was right so I contacted the seller and she agreed to do a trial. She’d ship the saddle to me for a 5 day trial. If it fit I’d keep the saddle and she’d keep my money. If it didn’t fit, she’d refund the money and I’d send back the saddle. Easy peasy. The saddle I had been riding was an Essentielle and this was an Oxer, so the where-it-put-my-leg woes shouldn’t be the same. The saddle arrived and it was lovely and in great condition. I convinced my horsey bestie to come over and tell me what she thought as well as take photos to send to our trainer for further advice.

Hermes Oxer 1. There should be at least 4" between my honey and the back of the saddle. Not happening here.

Hermes Oxer 1. There should be at least 4″ between my hiney and the back of the saddle. Not happening here.

The flap should hit my leg in the middle of my calf. Also, not happening here.

The flap should hit my leg in the middle of my calf. Also, not happening here.

Trainer vetoed. The seat was too small and the flap too short. Saddle number 1 = fail. Hey, no worries. There are more saddles out there. We just have to keep kissing some frogs. I was still upbeat and excited about my license to shop for something I “needed”. Keep up the positive energy! Saddle fit Stage 2 will come Thursday. And we haven’t even gotten into the fitting the horse part!

Texas Snowmageddon

Most anyone who knows me very well knows that I love winter. When people ask me if I moved to Texas for the weather, I tell them I moved to Texas DESPITE the weather. I don’t love hot summers. What I love most about Texas is horses, but that is for another post. Having grown up in rural Montana I took for granted how much more prepared communities in the northern climates are for below freezing temperatures. I don’t ever remember being really truly concerned about pipes freezing or having to haul water to the horses during winters in Montana. And that is really saying something considering it wasn’t terribly unusual for temps to dip well below zero for days or weeks at a time.

Now that I’m a “grown up” living in Texas I still love winter, but those cold snaps bring with them a LOT of work! First and foremost our property sits on solid limestone. As in you can’t dig a hole much deeper than 6-9″ without hitting sold rock. That means none of our pipes aren’t much below 6-9″ underground and therefore are prone to breaking when they have water in them and freeze. FUN! We’ve always been pretty good about turning the water off to the barn when it freezes, but we had a lapse in judgement this year and now have the fantastic chore of fixing a broken pipe. Enter stage left the perfect husband who can fix it himself rather than have to wait on a plumber.

Another winter issue is food. A horse’s natural heater is hay. Eating hay all day long runs their internal heater and keeps them warm. This means they eat a LOT more hay than usual. A LOT. My three usually get about a full bale each day in moderate temps, a bit less than that when there is lots of green grass. During the recent cold snaps I was feeding 2 bales per day. That is with a fully insulated barn, 2 with full winter hair coats and 1 with a full collection of the latest Baker blankets and sheets to keep him warm.

Feed the beasts' heaters.

Feed the beasts’ heaters.

I’m a big believer in not locking my horses in the barn when it gets icy/snowy as long as they can get out of the elements and away from the wind. Jaguar, having grown up in the tundra of Eastern Montana, generally thinks Texas winters are a joke and scoffs at his pasture mates for being wimps. This generally results in him keeping all the other horses and donkey out in the elements much longer than they ever would have without his leadership and Pablo inevitably loses and ends up a donkeycicle.

Pablo the donkeycicle. Brrrrrrrrr!

Pablo the donkeycicle. Brrrrrrrrr!

In addition to feeding the internal horse heaters, we have to be mindful of ice/snow buildup in their hooves. In their natural habitat as a “wild” horse, their feet acclimate to the geography where they live. This serves them in many ways, but in the winter especially their hooves have adapted to not letting snow/ice build up and cause them to slip. By living in an unnatural environment and often having shoes on, we owners need to be sure to pick out their hooves and even put something like Crisco in them to prevent the ice/snow from building up. Only one of my steeds has shoes on (Jaguar), but they all need their feet cleaned out at least once, generally twice a day to prevent a big ball of ice from forming and causing them to fall. The last thing I need is for one of them to slip on snow/ice and have a vet call on top of the amazing thundersleetnado conditions.

Coco being VERY careful walking on the snow. Notice how high she is picking up that hind foot?! #diva

Coco being VERY careful walking on the snow. Notice how high she is picking up that hind foot?! #diva

Our other main concern/high maintenance creatures during cold weather are the goats. I may have mentioned this before, but goats are made of sugar. If they so much as get a rain drop or a snowflake on them they are likely to melt away into puddles of nothing. For this reason they require all food and water be brought directly to them during conditions of most anything other than sunny to partly sunny. During exceptionally cold weather it is preferable that the water be warm. Seriously. Do they have our number or what?! We are expecting goat babies soon so we gave in to their neediness in order to provide them and their unborn kids all the sustenance they require.

Sugar babies.

Sugar babies.

Do I still love winter? YES! Freezing weather means less bugs in the spring/summer and I tend to better appreciate the warmer days when I’ve had to suffer through some cold ones. If I lived in a climate where the weather was the same every day (ahem, California) I’m entirely confident I’d develop some sort of seasonal affective disorder. And now that the snow and ice have melted I can look forward to our wild daffodils and SPRING!