So saddle #1 was a fail. We headed to another horse show in November and this time I discussed more fully with my trainer what exactly I was shopping for. We settled on looking for an Antares and a larger seat size than a 17″. They make lovely saddles in France and have a great reputation both for their customer service (even on second-hand purchased saddles) as well as for having a quality product. We ruled out a couple other brands for quality and fit issues and kept a couple as maybes. I have a tendency to get fixated on things, so I was pretty set on getting an Antares. My trainer mentioned the Antares Spooner, which is an off-the-rack saddle that Antares offers, but I mostly blew off that idea (in my head, not out loud) because it was a few hundred dollars more than what I was planning to spend. This would become laughable later.
As I previously posted that show went pretty well (we got 6th in our first ever hunter derby) and we headed home with renewed energy to shop for that new saddle. I shopped. And I shopped. And I shopped some more. THIS IS THE ONE! Wait, no, I don’t think that flap is long enough. I love it, but it is too expensive. I talked Boot City’s ear off about the whole thing. Maybe I should try this one, or maybe this one. I got so in my own head that I didn’t even try another saddle until Christmas. And what a lovely Christmas it was.
Boot City pays a lot more attention to things than I generally give him credit for. He is unbelievably supportive of my obsession with all things horsey and genuinely supports every harebrained idea I get about what I want to do with my horses. So, Christmas morning, this is what was under the tree:
An Antares Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak!
He took it upon himself to order the Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak for me to try. Yes, the saddle that was a few hundred dollars over the budget I had set for myself he just went ahead and got for me to try. I had to sit down for a minute. I HAVE THE BEST HORSEY HUSBAND EVER. The trial saddles from SmartPak generally only come in a 17″ (as previously mentioned, this is the most popular size seat). If you like the saddle you try, you can just keep it. Having discussed the larger seat size with my trainer already I was fairly certain I was going to need a bigger saddle, but with the trial I could make sure it fit my horse and that I generally liked it so I could order the correct size.
How does the saddle need to fit the horse? I’m no expert, but I can explain the basics. You want the gullet, the channel down the middle of the underside of the seat, to be wide enough that it doesn’t put pressure on the horse’s spine. You also want plenty of clearance over the horses’s withers (the hump behind their neck and before their back), but not hitting the top of the withers. Lastly you want the underside of the saddle to touch the horse evenly. The more evenly the panels touch the horse, the more evenly the rider’s weight is spread out. If all the rider’s weight is only supported by a couple spots then the horse is going to have pain in the spots over time. Thankfully my horses are all rather easy to fit. Sterling especially.
The back view. Not the best photo ever taken, but you can see there is plenty of room down the gullet to give his spine plenty of room.
In this shot you can see there are no issues with his withers being pinched or hitting the underside of the saddle. Things are looking good!
All signs were pointing to yes to the Spooner. Yay! Now to ride in it a few times. SmartPak very specifically says to ride in it like you own it already. Often when you try new saddles you have to cover up the stirrup leathers with a sock so as not to damage the leather and you can’t do much in it because the saddle still needs to look brand new if you opt to not keep it. Not the best way to try a saddle. So we spent the five days after Christmas riding in the Spooner as much as possible and sending myriad photos to my trainer to get feedback on fit.
Definitely too small, but leg position is improved. Trainer says shorten the stirrups and send more pics.
Stirrups shortened. Getting better. Trainer requests another pic with stirrups shortened again. Done and done.
Day 4 the-saddle-must-be-mailed-back-tomorrow
Looks good! Trainer says to order the 18″. 18″?!?!?!?! #selfimagesuffering
I’m a female in the United States of America in 2015. Bigger size, means big person, which is generally frowned upon in the culture that worships young and thin. I need an 18″ saddle?!?!?! So, I ask my trainer what any female student would ask, “is my butt really THAT big?” Here I get another lesson in saddle fitting. It isn’t about how big my derriere is, it is how long my legs are and how skinny my horse is. Huh? I have long legs. What?! No one has told me that since I was 17. I thought that I had somehow become average in all aspects of size as an adult, but evidently my legs did NOT get shorter upon entering adulthood. My horse has flat sides and doesn’t have a huge barrel. This combination means I need to ride with a shorter stirrup than I would on a larger barrelled horse which pushes my seat back in the saddle and results in needing a larger seat size to accommodate all this accommodation for my skinny horse. Make sense?
At this point I have a whole new level of respect for saddle fitters and for people with hard to fit body types and horses who are hard to fit. I’m just a little bit out of whack and it made getting just the right saddle that much more complicated. But, I knew now that I needed an 18″ Antares Spooner. I boxed up my beautiful test ride saddle and sent it back to SmartPak and called to order my 18″. Except that they no longer carry the Spooner in the 18″. Wait. What?! Nope. No. Can. Do. I’m quite certain I nearly cried. I guess the bright side at this point was that I knew, for the most part, what size I needed and that I needed the long flap (not the Normal or Short flap, the long one for my long legs. I was pretty excited about having long legs again).
So, next week will be the big saddle shopping finale.
I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.
I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.
We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.
The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.
The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!
Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!
Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉
Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!
Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!
At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!
Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.
I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.
Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.
For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.
GHHJA Mini Derby Nov 2014
It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!
Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!
How is it already June?! And mid-June at that! I have travelled for work, family or fun every week for about eight weeks. I know lots of people who travel much more than that, but it has been a lot for me. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody so I have to recoup in between trips and this week hasn’t been any different.
Tonight I wandered around the property enjoying the AMAZING weather and snapped some cute and funny animal pics.
Cute mother and kitten post scratching
Until the chicken ran up and scared everyone!
New buddies; Sterling and Coco
Baby’s first lizard
Annie meets kitten
Everybody loves Pablo
Sterling has the least appropriate registered name of any horse I’ve ever owned. Queens Black Tie. I don’t remember his bloodlines and I don’t know Thoroughbred lineage very well, but his name really says absolutely nothing about him. Which is why his barn name is Sterling. At least it indicates his color! When I bought Sterling nearly six years ago Boot City and I thought it appropriate to give him a barn name that matched his personality and was derived from something to do with where the breed originated. The modern thoroughbred originated in England and he’s grey so we landed on Sterling. I think it fits him quite nicely. Don’t you?
Sterling looking dapper
He’s seven years old now and has become quite a lovely horse to ride. I consider myself an advanced rider, but when it comes to jumping I am definitely more towards the beginner skill level of knowledge. I’ve had Sterling since he was a yearling and for the most part have taught him everything he knows. This is why it is somewhat of a miracle how lovely he is to jump. The horses I jumped when I was a kid were all Quarter Horses with cowhorse bloodlines and one in particular was a really dirty stopper. He’d go up to the jumps like he was going to go over no problem, then slam on the brakes at the last second. Not the best way to build confidence in a 13 year old kid learning to jump. That and my cowboy Dad wasn’t the most supportive of my love for English riding.
Ready for a ride
Sterling and I have been taking lessons at a jumper barn not far from where I live. The same barn I bought Coco from. Kayce has a lot of patience with my ingrained habits to ride with really long reins and going much too slow. My hope is that by the time Coco is old enough to start riding and jumping Sterling will have helped me advance my knowledge to a point where I won’t inhibit her progress and talent. I took Sterling to a few regional shows last year and plan to do the same this year. He’s jumping 2’9″ rather easily now and his lead changes are delightful. But the best part is that he’ll jump pretty much anything I point him at, unlike Giorgio!
The view from up here. We have a lot of yucca on our property.