Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saddle Fitting For the Wide Backed Horse

If you have read anything about saddle fit, these types of back are one of the more challenging backs to fit a saddle to. Rocker and sometimes bridging are a couple of the more common issues to contend with.

With the start of the ride season just weeks away, the process of finding a new saddle to fit Maggie has begun. It seems like just yesterday I was going through this same process for JB, who , is surprisingly wide for a smaller framed horse. I found the answer in the Duett Companion Trail saddle. It's by far the best saddle I have ever ridden in.

Maggie will be more of a challenge than JB ever was, and that was a challenge. JB atleast has some withers to speak of. Maggie's build features the classic old style Morgan, known as the Lippitt Morgan. In the beginning, the breed consisted of 17 mares and 8 stallions going back to one stallion known as Ethan Allen II. It's hard to find a good Lippitt these days as breeders have introduced all kinds of other traits into them that, frankly , just don't belong. traits like color, height, and a myriad of other things. Maggie is one of the full blooded Lippitts and is as classic as you can get. Well sprung ribs, strong shoulders, short coupled, no withers, strong as an ox , and unfortunately, wide as a table. The Morgans were bred and used as cart horses, but Morgan's are also one of those breeds that can excel in many disciplines. For Maggie, it appears she'll continue down the endurance path but in order to do that with any success, I need to find her the right saddle.

Another Duett is a heavy contender, but I want to consider the Specialized as an option. I have looked at these in the past, a few years back for JB. At the time, they just weren't making them wide enough. They have since made some improvements and made a wider option on the tree. I took some measurements of Maggies back and have sent them off for Dave and Amanda at Specialized to review. Their initial impressions were wide tree and mule bars. No surprise there. It just so happens that a Specialized dealer here in Montana has a demo of a wide tree saddle. She also has a tree with the mule bars that she can send me. Mule bars are a bit shorter and flatter, made to fit, well, mules, or in this case, like Maggie.(shhhh, don't tell Maggie she has to wear a mule tree) Here are some photos of my wooly mammoth.Pardon the hair...Its winter in Montana..

Here's what I like about the Specialized Eurolight.

-The placement of the low spot in the saddle- its very balanced compared to alot of endurance saddles out there.
-The lightweight feature, 12 lbs.
-The adjustable stirrup position.If I want to jump in it, I can. If I want to ride dressage I can.
-The ability to adjust it to fit a couple of different horses using the shims
-The ability to adjust the fit for a horse as his/her back changes with age/condition using the shims.
-The minimalist build while keeping the attachments leather. I like to have as little leather between myself and my horse as possible but I want leather, not nylon or some other synthetic material for my girth or leathers.

I will keep you posted on the process. With any luck, the things I like about the saddle will work out for Maggie. If not, Duett will win out again.

Stay tuned

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Breaking the Ice

It’s been since November since I have been able to really do any riding. Four months of no work is far, far too long. There is more snow in the forecast, another round of winter weather advisories and warning. The icy wind has been blowing for days. The ice in the pastures were beginning to lessen until this recent refreeze. Old man winter is far from being done with us here in Northwest Montana . There isn’t much I can do about that. I’ll have to settle for taking solace in knowing that we are atleast on the back side of winter. Patches of brown grass are beginning to poke up in the yard, the angle of the sun is changing, the horses are beginning to shed, and the daylight is lingering just a bit longer in the evenings. There is still a skim of gray light across the landscape for evening chores.

Without wanting to get too fussed up over planning for the season, there are a few to-do’s before my riding season can officially begin.

This year I have a new challenge. Two horses to work, consistently, each with very different needs. Maggie needs continued conditioning , long and slow as they say . She’ll be six this year. Last year, I had just barely had her saddled for the first time by this time of year and in a short few months managed to get her through her first limited distance. What can I say, she was a quick study! This year, her muscles, tendons and ligaments are still underdeveloped for longer distances. Two definite rides are on the schedule, with 2-3 other possibilities. Maggie and I are also going to get a bit more serious about dressage this year. Maggie likes to be in charge and the discipline of dressage work brought her a long way last year, but we have a long way to go yet.
By the end of the season I hope to be riding her at training level and successfully riding Test 2 with ease. May as well set the standard high!! Ahh, the dreaded 20 Meter circle and canter transitions….

JB will begin conditioning again but not with the goal of completing any rides. My focus with him will be a slow rebuilding of his mind and physical well being after a year of being off any work from his surgery. More dressage and long slow trail rides will definitely be on the books for him. My guess is, he’ll be tagging along one way or the other on several outings. The simple joy of just spending time riding him again is enough to keep me totally content. It will be like long lost friends reunited and I am so looking forward familiarity of our partnership.

In the coming weeks, as things begin to shift, 9and hopefully the ice and snow really starts to disappear. I will take the anticipation of wanting to ride (and waiting out the weather) and direct that energy into something productive, like plucking away at the task list I seem to have acquired for myself for ride season start up. There is much to do.

--Maggie needs a new saddle -
It’s time I get serious about getting Maggie her own equipment . I used the Duett last year but that is JB’s saddle. It fits JB like a glove (or at least it did when he didn’t look like a stuffed cupcake like he is now!) For Maggie, it did the job and got us through the Thompson River Ride last year but it isn’t the best fit for her. Last fall, on any conditioning rides, I was riding her in my Wade but that isn’t something I want to ride her in for any distance. It’s fits her well, but it’s 33 lbs and doesn’t have free swinging stirrups. In the coming weeks, I will be working on taking measurements of Maggie’s back for a couple of different saddles I am considering. I will do my best to try to post pics of this process as time allows. Ofcourse, I’ll also need to get the required accutrements, breast collar, girth, saddle pads, etc…add that to the list…

--Maggie will also be getting borium shoes put on.

***Barefoot people, don't run to comments to give me heck about this one...I have already done the research on boots with studs and until they come up with a safer alternative, I am sticking with borium.. sorry to disappoint but that is just how it is going to be***

Having Borium shoes on will allow me to start riding Maggie now, as opposed to waiting until April or May. A few of my more adventurous riding partners that have already begun hitting the snowy trails. I am anxious to start whittling away at Maggie’s winter waist line (she’s a Morgan, she can’t help it) . Winter has been good to the girl.
Riding through deep snow is one of my favorite things to do on a horse this time of year and if careful, it offers some great conditioning similar to sand.

--Get the Horse Trailer ready-
I dread this one. The old grey steel gooseneck needs some help this year. I had hoped to purchase a new trailer by now, but it looks like the old Standy by will have to get us through another year, which is fine. It just makes camping for me a whole lot less convenient. New tires, a few welding repairs, and repacking of the bearings will get it ready to go. It’s also due to pulling the mats, powerwash the floor boards and of course check the floorboards for any signs of rot and replace as needed but they should all be fine as we redid the floor a few years ago years ago. Anyone in the market for a 1995 S&S Steel Gooseneck Stock Trailer??

--New windshield for the truck-
can’t ignore that crack any longer…

--Restart the boot fitting process with JB
I want to see if I can use the Easyboot Gloves for his hind feet. I also need to get new pads for front Epics.

--Get on Liz Tukey’s schedule for July or August for a couple of lessons.

As far as Horse related things to do, I think that should keep my mind and wallet plenty occupied for now. We are also getting ready for some new features to the farm this year.

What goes cluck and has big ears?

Stay tuned.

My First

Well, I never set out to win any awards for my blog and I rarely win anything but Karen over at Wren Loop Thoroughbreds nominated me as having a Stylish blog.. well fancy that!!!

Me.. Stylish?? Who'd a thunk???

Well, Karen , if you say so, who am I to argue?? Thanks for the award and here's to firsts in the world of blogging.

All of you readers, Go check out Karen's blog. Pretty good stuff over there!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I took a walk today on my horse, bareback with nothing but a halter to guide her. We tromped through snow drifts and lazily made our way around the pasture, once, twice, three more. My ears and nose pink with the cold, but my hands warm tangled in her mane. It was the first time since November I have climbed on a horse. My senses awake and alive.
It wasn't much of a ride, but Maggie was huffing a bit, almost felt a bit warm with all of her hair. Do I dare call it the first condition ride of the season??? No, not a condition ride. A time to remember, to remind, to reconnect. To feel, to sense, to listen to each others hearts.
It wasn't much, but It will have to do for now until the snow melts away, the evenings linger just a bit longer and the sun warms our faces. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

The road ahead hold promises, dreams to come and miles to run, and sunsets to chase.