Friday, July 20, 2012

My good old saddle

I wanted to share a story about a saddle with you, or just a story about why I love riding, and how a lot of my ideas and training methods came about. Because that, at the end of the day is why I have horses, because I enjoy it.



When I was a bit younger I think I was something like fourteen, maybe fifteen years old. My mum brought me a brand new saddle, the lady I was taking lessons from had said it was time, which in itself made me proud,I needed a proper jumping saddle, so mum, bless her, went out and got me one. Not just any saddle, a brand new jumping saddle, it was my pride and joy. A flat seat, close contact, and pristine tan leather.I was going to treasure it.




Now our winters, while not to cold, are wet, and where I live on clay soils, this means mud, and not just a little bit of it. Thick, deep,sticky, mud and if its not deep, it's slick and slippery. Just riding one horse usually mean the horse and you come back coated in the terrible stuff. It wreaks havoc on good quality horse gear.Any leather has to constantly be washed and dressed or otherwise end up, brittle, moldy, and scarred from the ingrained dirt and wet.



My brand new tan leather saddle, didnt need to be subjected to this kind of treatment.. Somewhere in that teenage brain, I'm sure was the thought, that cleaning gear was a chore, I just didn't have 'time' for. So in my mind at the time, my treasured saddle, if it was to stay new and beautiful, was only to be used for lesson, or competitions. Not for farm riding. Plus in those days, I just like to jump on my horse and ride, bareback, back to front it didn't matter.

To my mothers dismay, I stored my jumping saddle away, and most of the time, continued to hoon my ponies around bareback. (things havnt changed much, mum brought me lovely leather boots recently,she thought were for on the farm, but they are safely stowed away in my cupboard, while I clomp around in cheap rubber gumboots) I was lucky in the fact that my two best freinds were also horse riders, and my most of my teenage memories revolve around adventures with these two on horse back. Usally making homemade jumps, galloping around paddock and roadside, breaking in horses and doubling on our ponies,generally just seeing how far we could push the envelope wihtou coming to serious harm. Amoung the three us, there was definetly a good dose of competivness. When I wasn't with them, I continued to see what I could do, so that when we met up again I had some new tricks or show off.

Bareback was defintly my specialty, the months of doing everything saddleless,for fear that I would damage my new saddle meant I developed the ability to stick on my horse like glue. Every day after school I would ride my pony along a dirt track by our house, on which I had constructed various obstacles, like tree branches, barrels, and brushes to jump. Or other wise I just galloped up and down the hill, the steeper the better.

Even when we moved houses, and had more horses, I still only had one saddle, and I loved riding bareback anyway so I continued the tradition, winter = bareback riding. From my adventures with my freind where we had to sneakily get on unbroken horses without our parents finding out, I discovered that horses actually cope really well, with people just hoping on them without a saddle,and generally were much calmer about the whole process, so ever since I have always broken my horses in ,by first riding them bare back then introducing the saddle.

I've always liked riding without a saddle. But after finishing high school, and workings in barns riding properly for a few years, I was so focused on competing and training, the galloping around bareback slipped to the back of my mind. I thought I'd out grown it. Even though I still did break my own horses in bareback, I never really did more than than. I'd forgotten the daring feats of being a teenager and doing xcountry courses with no saddle, I'm grown up now right?

Well its a wet and muddy winter again, and my old saddle, is well worn, and obviously has earned some respect. In the last ten years, it carried me to wining a national series, countless wins and placing in eventing and showjumping, and has been squeezed on every size, shape and variety of horse. Most of the ribbons, rosettes, and rugs I have won have been collected in this saddle. It's had countless hours riding, and been used in the wet, mud, rain at competitions. It's got scratches, watermarks, stains, and in places the leather is worn almost paper thin. When it was new, it was cool, the latest style out, now ot looks almost old fasioned, with all the new saddle on the market.Yet it still does the job, the horrible joke, is that it still is my only jumping saddle, even though i ride a huge a variety of horses, compete at a high level, and this is my profession, I still havnt quite got around to buying a new saddle, it's on the list, one day..but other expenses keep cropping up. So it gets chucked on every horse I need to jump (I have a much bigger range of dressage saddles), and somehow with the help of various pad and blankets, i get it to fit well enough, to pop my horses over some fences. But the poor old saddle definetly has had a hard life despite all my efforts to keep it in pristine condition.

When my old freind came up for some horse riding, it was time to be teenagers again, and give the old saddle a day off. I remembered how much fun I used to have just jumping bareback and playing around on horse back. So here's the pics, riding the wild mare just like I used to ride my ponies back in the good old days. Having a blast out cross country schooling..it's funny though how it was a saddle that taught me to ride bareback.