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Boot Camp Canceled

Riding during the winter was easier when I lived up North. Pretty much every barn had an indoor arena and while some were smaller and more difficult to ride in than others, the footing remained dry and you were out of the elements. While living in WI, I would ride indoors down to -5F which allowed me to ride pretty consistently year round. Indoor arenas are almost unheard of down here though there are a smattering of covered arenas which serve to protect you from the rain in the winter and the worst of the sun in the summer. 

Watching H’Appy and Old Man Winter play is one of the highlights of my days. At 28 Pete still whoops the young H’Appy’s butt on the regular after H’Appy initiates a game of bitey face which Pete escalates to rearing, chest slamming and galloping. 

This past weekend we got our first snow storm of the year. Since moving here in 2013, we have always had one week of nasty snowy/icy weather and then a return to sunny and mid 50s temperatures. I’m not very hopeful that this year will follow suit. It has dumped rain in huge quantities since September and there is no end in sight with another 1.5″ predicted for this Friday again. The ground is a soggy mess and my arena is currently under ice.

While the arena stays firm under the onslaught of rain and I don’t mind riding through puddles, this mess is going to take a while to clear out before I can use it again. 

All this made me stop and think on Sunday about my training arrangement. The barn is an hour north where they got more snow than down here and I was nervous that perhaps dropping him off wasn’t the best use of my money. I reached out to the woman via text verifying that she does in fact have a covered space to ride in so that he would get worked the agreed upon 5 days a week. Her response was that she didn’t but I could still bring him up. I really do not see the point in paying to have him sit in her pasture/barn for a month and not get worked. He can do that for free at home.  I’m glad I asked her and I am a bit miffed that she didn’t say anything first. I would have been really pissed had I taken off work, driven all the way there and then be told he wouldn’t be getting 5 days a week work.

My new normal routine of hanging blankets out to dry. I do not miss this part of northern living though I am now glad to have an excess of stalls to use for hanging cold, wet blankets on

This means no boot camp until probably after the holidays and into the new year. I’ve reached out to the local trainer only 30 minutes from my house that has the cross country course and a covered arena hoping maybe she has a spot available to take us on. It probably makes more sense to go with her anyway since she is the one I hope to transition to for lessons once we have our sea legs back under us. This way she knows him inside and out. We will see what comes of that. 

Thankful I have a barn this year to use. The horses have been kept inside more nights than not recently. H’Appy is a bit of a nervous wreck inside and paces more than anything, but with so much practice he has started to calm down and now finishes his hay every night and half the water in his bucket. 

There are a ton of options for trainers over in Aiken and their weather is more stable than ours two hours northwest. A lot of the top eventers in the NE winter there and the Aiken Facebook page is a constant stream of requests for temporary housing for humans and horses from now through March as people flood the area for winter training and showing opportunities. I’m not sure my timing is all that great for getting in with a trainer there plus the prices sky rocket in the winter. Plus it is 2 hour away and would be very difficult for me to find the time to head down for a lesson. It is a back up plan I hope to not have to engage.

Wyatt had to be picked up early at school the day after his birthday. He tried to make it up to me by drawing me pictures. It might have worked. 

Meanwhile I am awaiting the arrival of my beloved new sticky leather saddle. The tack shop lost power with the winter storm and will hopefully be back to normal today or tomorrow. I might be able to sneak up there after work tonight if it has come in, but if not my Friday is now free so I can make the trip in the rain then. This weather pattern of sunny and mid 50s Mon-Thursday and then 30s and pouring rain Fri-Sun has settled over the area since early October and will not go away. It is depressing and makes building a relationship with the hairy orange beast difficult. I’m also looking into the option to pay to use the indoor at the trainer’s facility and haul over there to work him a few days a week so that at the very least we are working on our hauling skills, working in a new environment and get some saddle time in as well. 

Cold wet weather means lots of snuggle time on the couch. 

Not all is lost, but 2018 sure is starting to kick my butt and I’m finding my typical resolve to always find the open window when a door closes begin to wane a bit after all that has been thrown at me this year. I still need to do my Waggy Tails update (she is generally ok, still happy, still wagging but her leg is dead and we are up in the air whether to give it more time or amputate) and Duke Energy coming to do a site visit planning to ruin our entire property with a new high voltage tower line through it which I’ve tried numerous ways to fight and am hitting road blocks every which way I try. I’ve tried to write a post about that numerous times, but each time makes me want to vomit, so I stop. Fifteen years of plotting, planning and working hard to make this dream come true and after a short 10 months of living the dream it all comes crashing down. My nerves are on edge and being completely honest, this boot camp for H’Appy was what was pulling me through the rest of this year. Now that that seems to be gone as well…well lets say I’m not a great person to be hanging around right now. 

Waggy tired herself out playing in the snow and spent the rest of the day curled in a Waggy sized ball on the couch

 But again…all is not lost. I have some tries left with Duke, a new situation potentially in the works for H’Appy and that sticky leather luxe saddle on its way. Always look for the open window folks. I swear it is generally there. 

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2018: A Review of Sorts

This time of year, blogs get flooded with year reviews and recaps. I love them all. With old familiar blogs, it is a way to remind myself of their journey and relive those happy and maybe not so great moments with them all over again. For newer blogs I just found, it is a nice way to quickly catch up. 

Who remembers this little guy?? He recently showed up and won a schooling jumper show in October. Still full on pony attitude but looking really good.

My year was not really that great. It could have been, maybe even should have been, but it plain old wasn’t. There isn’t a whole lot to do a month by month blow by blow recap of, so instead I’m going to try to sum up how I feel the year went, lessons I have learned, and where it puts me heading into the start of 2019. 

I’m going to select my favorite picture of each month from the blog to re share.

Gem and I conquered this ditch together in February on a xc school. It was the only jump I attempted that day.

The start of the year had me really focusing on Gem and improving my own consistency when it came to riding her. I set a goal of three rides a week and it really paid off through the beginning of the month.  With the recent move to the farm and having access to the arena and lights, there really was no excuse not to.  It paid off too through January and February. Gem was calmer, more willing to go to work and I felt like we were really making progress. 

March. Schooling rounds at FENCE. We did three 18″ rounds and Gem never said no to a single fence.

Except life happened, I needed to buckle down and study for my surgical boards and we decided to renovate the arena, a project that still isn’t completed and may never be.  My consistency flew out the window, Gem started showing signs of ulcers for the first time ever and after a 45 minute ride where all I got to do was try to reinstall the halt for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to listen to what the mare was shouting at me. After 9 years, thousands of conditioning miles, a 100 mile endurance completion,  a 30 mile Ride and Tie Championship completion, one amoeba level CT, and two schooling jumper shows, it was time to retire Gemmiecakes to a life of getting fat and happy in the pasture with her BFF Pete. 

April. Bette, Trainer and I headed out for a fun trail ride on our bay beasts. PC: Bette

That led me into the frenzy of horse shopping, not a fun or cheap experience. You would think living only 2 hours from Aiken and 1 hour from Tryon (home of TIEC and WEG), horse shopping would be a piece of cake. Nope. I ended up choosing Eeyore, now H’Appy, and brought him home with a clean PPE in early May.  We had a fun two weeks together and then he ripped his hoof half off with his shoe leaving him lame for nearly six freaking months. Currently he is healthy if more than a bit feral from all the time off and vacillates between amazingly fun and easy to hell horse extraordinaire. Depending on the day, moon cycle, status of his friends, and how desperately I am in need of a good ride. 

May. My first between the ears picture on H’Appy. Better weather, better attitude, better fitness. I want this back!

And that brings us to the here and now. Not where I thought I would be and not where I really want to be, but at least he is healthy and sound once again. The attitude can be worked on. 

What Went Right

  • Retiring Gem. Hands down this was the best decision of the year. Since retirement she has become a love bug. She nickers for me when I’m out doing yard work. Walks to meet me in the pasture. Begs for scratches. It’s a bit sad to see her lose her top line, butt muscling and abs but her mental health is the best it has ever been.
  • Consistency. The beginning of the year saw me really buckle down and ride three days a week regardless of how tired I felt after work, how cold it was or the dark. A lot of that was due to having and arena and lights which made riding in the evening possible. Gem was more willing work each time, knew what was expected and had more fitness. Of course that went out the window when I became horseless all summer but the lesson was learned.
  • Buying H’Appy. Ok, so the jury is still out on this one. I’ve spent so many hours re watching the test ride video of myself, looking at pictures and running every second spent with him during the test ride and PPE through my head looking to see if there was a red flag somewhere that warned me of his recent behavior. And there isn’t. If I were to find him and test him again (as he was then), I’d still choose him. The six months off have made him a bit feral but I believe he can come back from that. Time will tell.
  • New farrier. He is hard to get in touch with at times and scheduling is a bit touchy but his work is top notch and he is extremely patient with H’Appy. he has started coming out when I’m at work as long as I leave the horses in and even puts them back out after. Seriously can’t say enough good things about him. I love him even if my bank account does not.
  • Lameness Eval. I dragged my feet a long time before I made the appointment. It served to confirm my thoughts: Saddle fit and hoof issues. This let me let go of a deep fear that I purchased a lame horse unknowingly. 
June. Went cross country schooling on the orange beast. He was really well behaved, tackled everything I asked of him and it only took me half way through the two hour school to relax, let go of past baggage and enjoy myself. 

What Didn’t Go So Well

  • H’Appy. Yeah he is on both lists. I’m not sure I could have done much different to prevent his hoof coming off. He was being stalled at the time and out in the smallest back pasture for short periods when it happened. He had the shoes on he came with and I already had a farrier appointment set for them to be redone. Sometimes crap just happens. The spiral leading to six months off before shoes could be put back on sucked and led us to where we are now.
  • The arena project. My arena is awful. It sat unused and uncared for for six years before we bought the place and we new it was going to be an issue. I tried to do it myself. Fail. I hired someone to get rid of the vegetation and grade it. Fail. Now I still have vegetation but with the added bonus of really deep spots and valleys. We have called out three arena pros and each one has no showed the appointment even when we took off work to meet them. It’s a mess. Then only bright spot is that it dries really well and with winter here it should be passable until spring.
  • Training. I fell off my Trainer’s schedule from April-November due to work commitments, horse shopping and then lameness. When I finally got things in order to lesson again it was clear things weren’t going to work like they used to. All parties agreed a new situation would be best at least for a while until the basics got smoothed back out.
July. My favorite picture of Doofus. He is grace. 

Lessons Learned

  • Throw away expectations. One of the biggest issues with H’Appy is that I expected A and got B. I clung so hard to A for too long which did neither of us any good. By taking a step back and looking at reality an actionable plan can be made.
  • Trust my gut. Always in all things. I knew my original farrier wasn’t going to cut it. I knew his feet were the root of his issues. I knew my saddle wasn’t working. I’m not always right and I make more than my fair share of mistakes, but when my gut says something I need to listen.
  • Exposure is key. Getting out and doing things goes a long way in the training process. H’Appy is a pretty amenable dude in general and is happy to go out and see the world. The more times he goes the better he gets. He wont magically be a great traveler or show horse without the experience to get there.
  • Form a tribe. So I admit to being ornery in general and hating all these new hipster terms, but this one I like.  I didn’t need one for endurance, but having a support network is proving paramount in this whole jumping thing. Trainers, fitters, farriers, vets. Surrounding myself with those I trust, who I know have my best interests in mind and who want to see me succeed is what makes this thing work. I’m really starting to gather together a solid group: I love the fitter I worked with, my farrier is amazing and the lameness vet was pretty solid. I need to hone in on my training situation next. 
August. Wyatt started school this year. I can’t believe how fast the time is going.

2018 can best be summed up as a transition year. To the farm. To a new horse partner. To a new discipline. I’m finding myself surrounded by new people and looking for new knowledge and experiences. 

September. Trail hand walks to continue doing something with him while laid up waiting for his hooves to grow.

Going into 2019 I’d really like to get things on the training front hashed out, settle H’Appy mentally back into work and build his fitness so he can’t use that as an excuse to complain. That should set us up really nicely to make some sort of competition plans for the spring and fall which I really hope includes an amoeba level HT at Full Gallop. Its 18″ and only three mandatory xc fences plus a w/t dressage test. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to do.

October. First trail ride with Doofus. All in all he did really great for our first solo outing on new to him trails. More trail time would be fabulous. 

And that is that. Maybe not the best year but a lot happened and a lot was learned. Everyone made it out alive too which hasn’t been the case for the last several years. That is something to celebrate.

November. 5th Annual Thanksgiving Waterfall Hunt. Yellowbranch Falls.

This month is going to see H’Appy off to training boot camp for at least 2 weeks. I’m really hopeful that it goes well and sees us getting back on track and heading into 2019 in a much better place with each other. He has a lot to teach me both in and out of the saddle and I hope to get the chance. 

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Houston, We Have A Saddle

This is a story about the absolute best customer service in all the land. Seriously folks. It does not get any better than Farm House Tack. I’m fortunate to live about an hour away, but they also help over the phone and online. I can’t say enough about how wonderful they have been to me.

Monday night Nicest Fitter On The Planet drove all the way to my house after work to help fit the Bates with an anatomic girth. The girth was pricey at $300 (imagine cheapskate me pretty much dying inside with that price tag) and I likely could have found a cheaper one online, but her offering to bring it to me when the store is an hour away was pretty amazing and worth paying a little extra for. Shopping local and independent is important to me and while it can be a bit extra, you can’t get service like that from an online store. I’ll buy from them again and again just based on that.

Plus you know. My new horse is the most expensive gelding on the planet when it comes to tack preferences. Gem was a cheap date. This guy? Just assume the most expensive option is the only one that will work. Every darn time.

I bored. I getting ignored. I eat lead rope while glaring at you.

So anyway, she came out and met my orange beast. He was on his goofiest behavior but she had an Appy in the past and laughed at his ways. It helps that she didn’t have to take him home with her though he is slowly teaching me to get the stick out of my own butt and lighten up. He has a long way to go. I was born this way.

She brought two options in his wide load size (50″), one pure leather with elastic ends and another leather with a memory foam liner. I chose the one with the liner becasue I knew his princess self would probably like that even better.  And you know what? Angels sang when I tightened that thing. I already knew he preferred leather (see above regarding his tastes) and apparently his delicate nature approved of the memory foam liner because this was the first time since I brought him home that he didn’t try to eat me while I girthed up a saddle. He didn’t even flinch an ear when I tightened it all the way. With his fleece girth I had to dodge pawing legs and gnashing teeth while I did it up regardless of the saddle I was using at the time. It’s the reason the Stubben rep thought maybe his sternum was out he reacted so violently to being girthed. Except with this memory foam lined leather princess girth. You wouldn’t have known I was girthing him up at all.

I still ignored. I abused and neglected poneh. I paw and stamp hoof in protest.

I was leaning towards being sold at that point. He obviously approved but it still felt tight on his shoulder. Being the Nicest Fitter On The Planet, she put up with my insistence that it was pinching even though she knew better and eventually had me hold my hand in the spot I worried about while she walked him forward so I could feel. And I’ll be darned. No pinching at all. His shoulder moved freely.

I told her she could head home if she wanted to at that point. I wanted to ride in it but felt bad keeping her out at my place in the dark. Being the Nicest Fitter On The Planet she asked to stay and watch me ride in it and see my reaction. Seriously folks. Nicest Ever.

I still ignored. I sad poneh now. I stand good and rest.

From the moment I sat in it I really liked it. It was cushy enough to be comfortable yet didn’t feel like I was in a couch. The knee blocks were large enough to be secure but out of my way to make me actually learn to ride on my own and not rely on them. I think I need to move them up and back a little but that is the glory of velcro blocks. The only thing I didn’t like was how slippery the leather was. Now it wasn’t synthetic seat slippery like my saddles in the past and maybe I was spoiling myself with all the other lines I tried, but it felt a bit more slick than my wimpy butt would hope for.

We walked and he was free and moving really well without expressing any negative opinions about life so I asked for a trot. Or tried to. He had opinions on that and did more flailing and then slamming on the brakes because “oh crap this feels like work” but it wasn’t saddle fit related. That’s just him at the moment.

All was pretty great even through some tantrums. He moved super well, the saddle didn’t budge with the new anatomic girth and it fit me pretty well too. Of all the saddles I had tired to this point (14 not including the Bates), it was the absolute best fit for us both.

But I had one hang up. The girth cost some big money and the saddle was in great condition but still used and not that much cheaper than a new one. I asked Nicest Fitter On The Planet if we could negotiate the price down. Using my ever famous wife math, if the saddle could be reduced by the cost of the girth then the girth would basically be free. She wasn’t sure the owner would go for it, but said she would ask.

Well, Tuesday she got back to me that the consigner wasn’t up for reducing it. I thought on it. The new version of this exact saddle with the upgraded super sticky luxe leather was only $400 more. I loved that sticky leather. That isn’t a whole lot more money. I loved this saddle other than the fact it was slick. If new was the exact same I would not hesitate to save the money and go used but I wanted that sticky leather.

The more I thought on it the more I convinced myself to return the used one and buy new. I never treat myself. I own two saddle pads. Two. And I still feel that is excessive. Pretty much everything I have is second hand and well darnit I want that luxe leather. I work 50 hours a week in a very much thankless job and well…merry Christmas to me. (I told Hubby he isn’t permitted to buy me anything for Christmas this year since I’m spending so much in tack and boot camp. Treating myself comes with a heaping dose of guilt)

So I texted the now Ever Patient Nicest Fitter Ever and asked if I could ship this one back and have her order one in the sticky leather. Of course she said sure. I mean you don’t get that title for no reason and she definitely earned it after I changed my mind three times on which saddle I wanted. Maybe I should stalk her online and see if she likes wine?

She then went even farther. I’m telling you all. Shop at Farm House Tack. You won’t regret the experience. Anyway…since I live an hour away and work to the point where I can’t get there except on a weekend, she said the store owner was fine with me holding on to the consignment until the weekend when the new saddle should be ready to pick up and save the money on shipping it back. If I had had any doubts about spending that extra money they were all gone now. I’ll spend that much to support them any day. What an amazing experience this has been.

Good pony gets to take selfies and be fawned over and petted. Good pony is smart. Good pony needs to learn this.

Of course I couldn’t help myself from being annoying still (maybe I’m like Doofus after all. That’s a scary thought) and triple checked that it would be the exact same saddle. I was assured it would be. But what about the blocks? They would be that same big size, right? Yup. And the panels would fit the same? Yup. And the seat…not only the same size, but with the same amount of cushion and everything? Yup.

Maybe I need to send her two bottles of wine.

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H’Appy Doesn’t Live Up to His Name

Things with H’Appy haven’t been, well… happy. In fact I broke down and told him I hated him Sunday. Not my best moment and I’m not proud, but this is reality and not some horse fairy tale. I remember hating Gem for a long time in the beginning too.

What is a shame is that the horse I brought home and rode for 3 weeks was lovable. And fun. And willing. And safe. And sane.

If that damn hoof wouldn’t have ripped off he wouldn’t have been off for six months and I wouldn’t be here now.

But it did. And I am. And I need to figure out a path forward that leads to a resolution that makes us both happy be that a workable partnership or a new home for him and a new horse for me. Right now I actually don’t care which way this story ends as long as it does soon because honestly since bringing him home all I’ve done is burn money with absolutely nothing to show for it.

His coat matches the fall hues

A lot has been against us. His lameness to start. Then non stop rain. Now add saddle fit issues to the heap with continued non stop rain and well it hasn’t been conducive for consistency. He is fat, out of shape and mentally in a place where he is a toddler saying “I don’t wanna” while he throws down a major temper tantrum.

The thing is that it scares me and he knows it so he pulls his crap more and more with the hopes it will get him out of work. He isn’t violent and he certainly isn’t in any pain. He just plain doesn’t want to and my lady balls aren’t currently big enough after six months out of the tack myself to make him.

Anyone know a company that makes horse sized rain boots? Or maybe i need some swim flippers instead. This rain is insane.

The last good ride I had with him was a magical night under the arena lights on November 6th – nearly a month ago. He was light, responsive to my seat and relaxed. I felt invincible on him that night. It was amazing and I fell on his neck in a heap of giggles at the end.

Then the lesson from Hades occurred on the 9th and every single ride thereafter has been a quick saddle test ride where I’m not really schooling him on anything or riding him out because that’s not what the fitter is there for.

So I’m not surprised that he has no interest in working. I don’t fully blame him. It’s why he hasn’t been listed as a project for a massive loss of money already. Someone recently said “never quit on a bad day” and it is the motto I’ve chosen to live by with him. If we have a ride like on the 6th and I’m still done? Ok fine. Sell him and move on.

Not all rides with him have sucked. This day was pretty fun.

Sunday it was finally done raining and while the ground is disgustingly squishy and my arena is half under water, I wanted to try the saddles and ride. He was a massive pain from the get go. I worked with him in the cross ties until he finally chilled out and then he amped back up in the arena.

He wouldn’t even stand still for me to mount and began his head shaking popping up crap at the block. That earned him time on the longe line and big boy let his energy out.

What I found impressive, and what keeps me holding out hope for us, is that even though all he wanted to do was gallop around, fart and kick up his heels as soon as I asked him to trot he did. He kept an ear on me and I could tell he was trying but could barely contain himself.

I worked him with a lot of transitions both directions until he was sweaty and that crazy glint was out of his eye and then I mounted. He still felt like a powder keg under me and the saddle was slipping all over the place so I only asked for a bit of a walk and then halted to get off. I knew if I asked for a trot he would fling around and tranter instead and there was no way I was riding that out in the County.

After I finished I debated pushing my luck in the Bates, but knowing it would have the tendency to slide forward (much like my Thorowgood which has a point billet and still does it) didn’t make it look too appealing.

Naps are very appealing to him

Things aren’t all lost yet though. I still believe that once back in actual work he will settle to being the horse I brought home. He has so many good qualities that I love: he is brave and curious in new situations, he has yet to spook at anything, he goes alone on trail or leads in a group, he has never refused or run out of a jump even with me clinging like a monkey to his back, he does water (I never would have ridden Gem even on her best day in a flooded arena), and when in work he goes in a lovely natural rhythm that makes things easy. He just needs to get over himself a bit.

He is leaving me on December 14th for boot camp. We are starting with two weeks and will go up to a month depending. I’m hoping two weeks will be enough. Well, my pocket book is hoping two weeks will be enough. I’m not looking for him to learn anything specific. This isn’t a training camp for jumping more technical courses, or adding flying changes or the half pass. I just need him ridden through this transition back to work by someone who won’t back down or escalate it. He has the basic training that I need already in there under all that bullying attitude.

It will be an hour from me which isn’t preferable but the lady is very good, highly recommended and super nice. I like her way of teaching and training a lot. I’ll get one lesson a week while he is there too. My biggest fear with this is that he will be great for her since she won’t let him bully her but will come home and return to his ways here with me. We will see.

This was early summer. Sure he is strung out, paying more attention to the camera than to me and I am a tense hot mess, but he was cooperative, steady and didn’t pull any of his current tricks.

After his boot camp one of two things will happen. He will either be great for me, or at least good enough, and then I can join up with the local trainer I want to use and get back to three day a week rides and twice monthly lessons.

Or he will flunk out of camp/ come home and degrade back to his current behavior which will tell me that our relationship isn’t going to work and he will be listed for sale. At least then I can say that he has had a professional refresher and hope he would sell easier. This is the worst time of year to sell since everyone is, but such is life.

The day we went xc schooling. We did the log into water then the log out and he was great. He trotted or cantered everything, never said no and I want this horse back.

Of course, this depends on him having a saddle that fits so come hell or high water I’m buying a saddle before then. This boot camp must happen and it must happen before I sink too much more money into him. I look back on pictures from the summer when he was rideable and I wonder. He was so good before all this time off. Not perfect but he was fun, safe and sane. Heck, I wouldn’t be thrilled to pull Gem out right now after her 8 months of retirement and try to actually ride her and that is with a decade of history with her and a huge amount of trust banked up. Where would we be if I could have ridden all summer? I’ll never know.

Either way this plays out it is going to be an interesting December and a life lesson learned.

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Saddle Shopping Saga/ November Hours

Time slipped away in a flurry of celebrating Wyatt’s 6th birthday last week and I completely missed my call for hours. I don’t have any for November, so if you volunteered at all please get them to me asap.

The saddle hunt has continued despite my best intention to narrow it down to the BC Wexford which is proving difficult to find without a wither gusset. I’m still searching multiple times a day, but I need to ride the hairy beast before he gets too far gone so I’ve opened the search back up. Some internet research shows that people who like the Wexford tend to also like the Albion Kontrol and County Conquest, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Happy 6th Birthday little man!

First, I need to write about the Stubben visit. I nearly swore off fitters after the Custom lady tried to push an over priced demo that didn’t fit me at all and the “independent” fitter showed up with no saddles and diagnosed him with extreme back pain and ribs out of place requiring robaxin.

But I’m cheap at heart and when Michele texted me the Stubben sale I decided to burn all my money and have the Stubben rep out. I know her really well from the year I boarded with her. She was just starting back then and let me sit in all the models she had. Interestingly enough, most have been discontinued since then. Anyway, I wasn’t much of a fan but when saddles are on sale for $4,000 off, it’s hard to turn your nose up. Unfortunately, I still didn’t like any of the saddles. The good news to come from that visit was that the big orange butthead didn’t palpate painful anywhere although he did react strongly to the girth being done up. I know he isn’t a fan of the fleece girth, but I can’t buy him a leather one (why on earth does this PITA horse have to only like expensive gear?!?!?) until I know what saddle I’m going to end up with. She declared his sternum out of place which is something I’ve never heard of but I took it in stride and moved on.

It’s interesting that everyone who meets him for a few minutes diagnoses him with some new ailment completely unrelated to any previous one. Trust me. He isn’t painful, he is just being an ass.

Who me? Never!

Anyway…no matter how cheap they were I still didn’t like the fit for me at all and cried silently at another $150 down the drain. If anyone is keeping track, that’s $481 in fitter fees. That’s more than my current, albeit ill fitting, saddle cost.

That was when I said screw it, it is BC Wexford or bust. I could still hold that line but if H’Appy stays retired for another 6 months he may never come back from the brink. I need to ride my horse. The above mentioned search of Wexford like saddles showed the County Conquest and Albion Kontrol were similar in feel.

The County Conquest in decent used condition. The pommel is very high but the overall balance sits on him nicely.

It just so happened that someone responded to my ISO ad with a 17″ W Conquest for a decent price. I took it on trial and it arrived Friday. I knew immediately it wasn’t going to work but threw it on him anyway. I was right. The width was ok but the panels were made for a very different shape and came up too high with minimal contact. It wasn’t bad enough not to sit in, but I pretty quickly dismounted as the saddle was very unstable side to side with nothing to keep it from rolling down his barrel. It was a shame since it is a nice saddle. I’m shipping it back, but if anyone is interested in the details let me know.

A good tree angle match but the top of the panels sits well above his body. The saddle had a lot of motion side to side

Having failed that one ($60 in shipping lost, will return it tomorrow after work so I’ll know the total cost then) I grew pretty frustrated. There are two great tack stores near me: Farmhouse Tack and Aiken Tack Exchange. Both handle used tack and while I’ve scoured the Aiken store online turning up nothing, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Farmhouse. Being in driving distance means saving at least one way in shipping costs, so I figured they were worth a look.

Friday afternoon I perused their site and saw that they had a 17″ Wide Albion Kontrol on consignment plus a Bates Elevation Deep Seat with massive blocks that caught my eye as well. I had sat in a new Caprilli and didn’t like it so hadn’t thought much about the Bates line, but why not give it a try if I was going up there anyway.

Saturday afternoon I dragged the kiddo up with me. I really liked the Albion. A lot. So comfy. So much security. Except the panels were really curved and he needs a flatter panel. It wouldn’t have worked for him but I was glad to find that out in person without shipping costs.

The Bates Elevation DS. This saddle sits the best on his back but you can see the once glaring issue. With it girthed up appropriately, it shifts forward over his shoulder.

The Bates though. That was a nice saddle. Beautiful condition and super comfy. The saddle fitter who works there is one of the nicest people and spent a lot of time with me in the store. Bates is having a special where they are upgrading to their luxe leather (a stickier leather) for free. A new saddle with the upgrade would have only been $400 more than the consignment saddle.

I texted Emma for a voice of reason. New or used? Grippy or standard? She talked me off the ledge of buying new – thanks! – by reminding me that the $400 would be better off spent on his training versus sticky leather. I ended up taking the consignment home with me on trial though they only allow four days. Even if it didn’t work, I’d only have to pay shipping one way if I couldn’t drive back up there.

A close of view of where the saddle needs to sit for the billets to line up. Right over his shoulder. Not good.

And…..

It’s up in the air. The saddle fits him great with the wide gullet in place. The panel shape and angle suit him well and when girthed up it had a lot of stability.

Great fit through the panel without bridging. This is a pretty flat tree/panel configuration which confirms my suspicion that the lovely Albion would have too much curve to it.

I wasn’t a fan of how it sat on his shoulders though so I called the fitter and she asked me to send a bunch of pictures. Turns out what he lacks in wither height he makes up for in length meaning I needed to move the saddle back a good bit. She liked the look of it when pushed back and it no longer sat on his shoulder only the billets were too far back and I know that trick from years trying to fit a jump saddle on Gem. Girth a saddle like that and gravity wins every time. It will end up on his shoulders.

Placed farther back behind his large shoulder. The balance is even better here, but you can see the issue. Look at the tips of the billets and draw a line straight down. They lie pretty solidly behind his girth groove so that when it is girthed up it will shift forward and on to his shoulder.

I texted the fitter again and she recommended an anatomic girth to help hold it back. I’m leery. I wasn’t blogging back then but I’ve been through this with Gem. Anatomic girth. Cross the billets so the back is on the front buckle to change the pressure. Go wider. Go narrower. Nothing worked because the billets didn’t line up.

A closer view of the billets alignment. The saddle should have been a titch farther back still.

I couldn’t make it back to the store before they closed by the time I was finished with everything. She had two anatomic girths in his size and offered to bring them to me after work today so I can try it. The issue with an exchangeable gullet is that you can’t add a point billet since there isn’t a fixed gullet in the saddle.

As close to a confo shot I could get alone. His low, long wither and large shoulder are proving to be a tad more difficult to fit than I thought.

I can’t say I’m keeping the saddle the way it is now so we will see. It will be a shame if it can’t work out because I really like the saddle otherwise and think it could be a good solution.

If it doesn’t work, well at least she will take it with her so the entire experience will have cost me nothing for once plus I’ll have her keep an eye out for me for any 17 wide jump saddles that may come in on consignment. They have a lot of inventory which is nice and while I don’t want to wait that long, they may see an influx once people get some new tack for Christmas.

Keep your fingers crossed we can make this work out. I have an update coming about his behavior and my plans but it all depends on getting a saddle that fits and right now I’m open to just about anything. This fitter is super nice and knowledgeable so having her over, even if the Bates goes home with her, may prove beneficial just to get some more ideas on what would work for him. They stock Pessoa and HDR as well as the Bates new but I wasn’t a fan of the Pessoa. The HDR may work in a pinch (and is cheap enough even new) but the twist was pretty narrow and I’ve found that I like a wider twist. I’ll let you know how it goes!