The long-awaited, much-dreamt-of Western saddle finally arrived on Thursday afternoon, to my absolute delight and somewhat juvenile excitement.
It had been a busy but good day, starting with a jumping session on Reed. He was in a bit of a lazy frame of mind, but I put up a 60cm cross and a 70cm upright and took turns jumping those until he was confident; he only ran out once. By increments, I raised the upright to 80cm, then 90cm and Reed popped over without protest.
As resolved, I was experimenting with my position, concentrating on letting my hands follow his head instead of using them to keep my balance. I notice that on landing I lose my balance slightly and my feet tip up along the horse’s sides a little. It only lasts a stride, though, and I’m back in balance and ready for the next fence almost immediately. I suppose it’ll take some practice to perfect. Once I gave Reed too much rein too suddenly, giving him a fright and making him take down the pole. He did this twice, but kept jumping well, so I put up a 1.00m upright to challenge him a little. Reed was a star. He was slightly hesitant, but I rode him right up to it and he obliged by jumping beautifully.
Titan was next. I brought him in myself this time, albeit using a stud chain to make sure I kept control over him (I can just picture him breaking away from me and galloping off to damage himself or cover someone else’s mare), but he was fine and didn’t do any acrobatics. I saddled him up and got on without lunging him, and although he did his usual trick of missioning off as I mounted, he was absolutely wonderful for the rest of the ride. His working trot was calmer and more balanced, he pulled much less, and his canter was a little slower and more controlled.
I was just thinking that next time I would introduce him to a few little crossrails at a trot (I had already done some trotting pole work with him) when the Mutterer put up a crossrail, about 40cm, and said, “Go for it.” Titan doesn’t like the stripy red-and-white poles and stopped the first time. I knew the jump was small enough to step over, so I plunked my heels in his sides and he popped over, looking shocked that the scary poles hadn’t eaten him.
After that he was just dreamy. We stuck to a trot and went up to 60cm crossrails, and he jumped every time with no bucking or bolting. He broke into a canter for a few steps after some of the jumps but was easy to get back to a trot. He also didn’t panic, and stayed in a settled working trot without running about pulling on my hands the way he used to. I was extremely pleased with the big boy.
Then, finally, I was allowed to play with my glorious new El Paso saddle. I learnt to ride Western in an El Paso, which I loved, and this one was no different. It’s not the highest quality leather, but it fits on virtually anything with four legs and a tail, and it’s incredibly comfortable even for my short legs.
I was surprised but delighted when the Mutterer brought in one of the quarter horses for me to test my new saddle on. Tees Custom Chrome has a very cool name and thinks he is a golden retriever or, possibly, a baby spaniel. A three-year-old chestnut colt, he has brilliant breeding, a beautiful temper, and a rich, red chestnut coat. Chrome has not officially been backed, but he’s been ridden bareback to and from his paddock for ages, so neither of us had any reservations in plopping my new saddle on his back. I followed, and took him for a spin. Perhaps it’s true that quarter horses are born with an aptitude for Western, because Chrome seemed to know instinctively what to do. Apart from a dramatic but short-lived bucking fit when I asked him to lope the first time, he made no protest at this new human fallacy, and he is one of the most comfortable horses I’ve ever ridden. I love him.
As soon as I got home I was dragging the Western saddle down to my own horses. To my delight, it fits both Skye and Thunder like a glove, and don’t they look like real cow ponies! I hurriedly put together a black bridle for Thunder from a bunch of spare pieces I had lying around – his brown bridle was poor quality anyway, and looked atrocious with a black saddle – but I’ll be looking for a proper Western bridle shortly.
Thunder went for his first proper test drive in the Western today. Accompanied by the Mutterer on a disgruntled Skye (she hates all men apart from my [awesome] boyfriend), we went for a nice, long, slow hack around the farm. Thunder was amazing. He had two little spooks – both at holes, which, for reasons unknown to the human mind, are terrifying – but apart from that walked briskly but calmly on a loose rein the whole way. We had a short jog and an awesome canter that (intentionally) turned into a mad gallop. Thunder didn’t even think about bucking and stopped the moment I asked him to. He was fantastic, and I was loving the new saddle.
The only problem is, the thing makes more noise than an asthmatic elephant. Its new leather groans and squeaks so loudly with every stride that I could barely hear the Mutterer talking. Perhaps that’s why Thunder was so well behaved – he couldn’t hear any scary noises above the saddle’s deafening racket.
I don’t enjoy going deaf on outrides, so as we speak the saddle is soaking up the last rays of the summer sun alongside a generous coating of Dubbin. Hopefully that will quieten it down a little.
Praise the Lord for all the small blessings He mixes in with the big ones. He knows our hearts’ desires, and it is His joy to grant them whenever it is in line with His will. And as His will is what is best for us, and is formed based on His mighty love, there are few things we wish for that He won’t give us, if we ask Him humbly with faith in our hearts. Blessed be His merciful and loving Name.