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Don’t Be Me, Folks

Oh look! My new to me FreeJump Pro stirrups came in the mail. I need to try these out!

Ugh. That color makes my eyes bleed. Can I spray paint them? Is that tacky? Probably no worse than mixing royal blue with navy.

Hmmm…how do these go on? Why isn’t there a R or L on them? Even my headphones have that and who knew they were side specific. There is a flat edge and a rounded one. It looks like it slopes towards the heel when put on like this but then the colored arm is on the inside. Maybe that is a good thing since it’s ugly anyway. I don’t know.

5 minutes of internal debate later

Screw it. This looks right. I’m trying it.

Huh. These things are really sticky. I have to pick my foot up to adjust it. Why do I move my feet so much? Is is just because now I can’t that I have to? Or am I always this fidgety with my feet? Oh great. Another riding issue to fix. I’ll be 100 before I’m a decent rider at this rate.

Walking around getting the feel. H’Appy is feeling fantastic and is listening super well.

Let’s trot. And really I mean trot. Not canter. Or gallop. Or slam to a halt.

30 seconds later.

Holy mother of God why is someone stabbing my peroneals (outside ankle tendons) with a hot poker? Make it stop. Canter. Yes let’s canter.

Two laps of canter later

Nope. Nope nope nope. I’m crippled. I’ll never walk again.

Hobbles up to the barn to untack.

Maybe it’s the length. Maybe I need to lengthen them. I’ll try that tomorrow. If my feet don’t fall off first. Maybe it isn’t a stirrup issue. Is it the saddle? Did I spend all that money and need to resell it? I don’t want to sell it. But what else could it be? It’s the saddle. Shit. How am I going to tell Dusty I’m selling the saddle and getting a new one? What would I even get? Happy loves this saddle. Oh man. I should have just eaten my body weight in Mac’n cheese and chocolate for Valentine’s Day instead of rising. Damn.

Posts photo to Instagram and FB about the new stirrups.

Oh. Someone commented. Hmmm…oh fuck. I put them on wrong. Huh. Maybe I don’t need a new saddle after all. Just a brain transplant.

Thanks Amanda for letting me know I put them on wrong. I was on the verge of listing the saddle for sale, so I owe you one.

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The Pads Are Off

Farrier came out Tuesday afternoon while I was at work. I can’t repeat this enough. Finding him has been a life saver. Not only is he amazing at what he does, but he comes out when I’m not home and even offers to let the horses back out after he is done.

This has killed off so much stress. I used to have to trailer Gem and Pete to TrainerJ’s barn the night before the farrier was to come and have them spend the night so they could be done the next day. I would then go get them and bring them home after. It was a pain and not very sustainable especially if something were to happen before the next due date.

Front left almost looks normal.

My current farrier isn’t just prompt and willing to work with my work schedule. He makes all his shoes from scratch so H’Appys oddly mismatched sized hooves don’t need to be trimmed to a size or placed in an awkward shoe. He hot shoes and doesn’t use clips, two things that I’ve been on board with.

He comes out every five weeks or at least that is the plan. There were a few cycles in there where H’Appy decided to drop his shoe at week four, which isn’t so terrible except at $245 a pop the whole monthly habit was getting a bit hard to swallow. Thankfully the last two times he has managed to maintain for the entire five weeks.

The right front is the high hoof in his high/low syndrome feet. It’s about a trim behind the left in regards to health and growth rate from his awful state last summer

Farrier always shoots me a text when they are leaving to ask if I want the horses back out. Typically I tell him he doesn’t have to bother unless they are in the closest pasture which they aren’t right now. I also love the quick dinner feeding when they are already inside.

The text opens up my chance to pester him with questions which he is always gracious enough to answer. Or he just knows I won’t stop if he doesn’t respond.

No pads! This is the first time I’ve seen his front soles since fall. Fingers crossed he does ok.

I asked if there was anything new and he informed me that the soles have changed enough that he left the pads off. He wants me to check in with him after I ride next to let him know how he does. I’m really excited they are gone but also a bit worried he will be sore.

H’Appy is not shy about telling me how he feels so I won’t need to guess. The pads weren’t really a big deal and if he needs to go back in them then fine, but less is more in my typically barefoot fanatic mind. If I ever do get him out of shoes it will be a very happy day for me.

I pay him via PayPal once he texts he is finished. My wife math came out in full force

It’s supposed to rain for the next week, no exaggeration, but it’s ok. H’Appy is always a bit sore after the farrier leaves and giving him a few days off has proven wise in the past. As he continues to grow out a better hoof I’m thinking that will go away.

It has been 9 months since I brought him home and he ripped his hoof to shreds. His first major hoofiversary will be the third week of May, when he did the damage to his already poor quality hoof capsule. The second one, the one I’m more interested in, isn’t until August when I found this farrier and had the xrays done by the lameness vet. That is day one of good rehab in my mind.

Hoof growth is super interesting to me and while I tend to lean towards barefoot for healthier circulation and overall function, sometimes that just isn’t possible with the horse you have. H’Appy proved that to me last summer. Maybe with his stronger hoof wall and thicker soles he can withstand barefoot in the future but other than hating the damage shoes do to my pasture, I’m not anti shoe either. I’m pretty much pro whatever makes my horse happy and pain free and at the moment that is shoes sans pads.

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What Am I Doing Wrong?

Everything apparently but that’s horses for you.

There is something in particular that I’m doing wrong and I need to figure out what it is. A trainer would be helpful here, but I’m not quite ready to re enter the world of lessons. H’Appy isn’t to the point where I think the money would be well spent yet. Soon though. Instead I’m turning to the hive mind of the blogosphere for suggestions.

Daffodils are up and blooming! Spring is on its way. 

The problem: all my horses think “canter” when all I want is “trot”.

It happened a lot with Gem and both TrainerJ and I chalked it up to her hyper sensitive, high energy self.

But it is happening with H’Appy too and I’m convinced it is something I’m doing to confuse him.

Let me fill in some details.

Saturday afternoon I hopped back on. This was the third ride with the Dynamic Duo out of sight in the new pasture and true to form he was settled and focused once again. He may be a Doofus but he is a Doofus with a brain and time has shown me that after a few repeated experiences, he returns to his calm self. He didn’t even need time on the lunge before mounting.

Finally had someone show up to look at the arena. Waiting on a quote to scrape all this off and replace with manufactured sand instead. Will see if we can afford it or not. 

Off we went for a nice long walk warm up. While he was more focused, didn’t yell for his friends and didn’t argue with me, I could tell he had a lot of energy so we quickly proceeded to trot. Except he wanted to canter instead. We talked about that and after a while he chilled out about it and acquiesced to trotting.

Confession time here. I could enter an arena and remain in the trot for hours and never tire of it. That’s probably not normal and more than likely bores the horse to death even with changes in direction, various figures and walk breaks. I get it.

Since I wanted to work on the canter anyway, once he gave me an entire circuit of the arena without breaking from the trot, I cued for the canter and off we went. I focused hard on sitting down, leaning back so that while I felt like I was laying on his butt my shadow proved I was vertical (I’m a habitual forward leaner) and not driving with my seat.

Used the pasture as a rocket launch pad. Look closely and you will see the two senior horses hiding beyond Doofus watching intently while he is in lala land grazing. 

By the end I was feeling a lot better about my position and steering and it was a fantastic ride.

Except….

When I did take breaks from cantering and then got him back into the trot he would try to canter again. Now I know canter work jazzes many a horse up and I’m sure he was also anticipating the cue, but this isn’t unusual for horses I am riding to jump to canter.

Since he was attentive under me, I decided to pay extra attention to what I was doing so that I could maybe isolate some factors and play around with my position. This led to the following data:

  • Leaning forward while posting speeds him up and he breaks to canter
  • Leaning back does the same thing
  • Sitting tall and vertically slows him down and keeps him in the trot easier
  • Slowing my posting allows him to stay under me better and therefore maintain the trot better
  • Turning is almost always where he breaks to canter. Maybe I’m sports car racing around my turns? Or maybe he learned in lessons that he was always asked to canter in a turn?
  • Going back towards home is another favorite spot to try to canter. That’s bad behavior related not necessarily my fault.
  • He does prefer to shuffle in the trot or break canter versus give a nice true working trot. Extended trot leads to cantering. Fitness issue? Connection issue on my end?
  • I tend to throw him away in the trot transition. This was created by Mr. I Like To Throw Temper Tantrums throwing his head all over the place in the transition. I think maybe I should stop doing that now and keep contact so he can’t go racing off in the wrong gait.
  • I am always more tense than I should be and I’ve figured out that I have a pretty hard core driving seat at all times. I yell even when I don’t think I am. This probably isn’t helping.
Gem’s nemesis. She could care less about walking buckets, quads, Wyatt attacking trees with sticks, rockets being launched. But a kid swinging in a tree? Brain melt. 

There were other issues that popped up in the ride as always but this is the main one I’d really like to fix soon. I want to be able to trot when I want and for how long I want without breaking gait. For a lot of reasons but mostly because it is annoying as hell to be trotting one step then cantering then walking or halting and cycling back through. That whole rhythm thing and all. I had the same or similar issue with Gem too so it has to be driven by me and something I’m doing while trotting that tells the horse to canter without me knowing it.

Any suggestions from you all on what to work on or improve to fix this?

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Hold My Beer

You remember how I was all “his first ten minute temper tantrum has all but disappeared?”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The look of regretting your life choices
 

So yeah about that…

H’Appy got Sunday and Monday off, but Tuesday was 72F and there was no way I was going to miss that ride. My plan going in was to work on canter transitions and force my butt to sit in the darn saddle.

The issue? We had moved the horses to the pasture on the other side of the drive for the month of February and possibly into March depending on when the guy can come to spray for weeds/fertilize. The move meant that even with the Dynamic Duo left outside, Butthead wouldn’t be able to see them.

Who you calling Butthead?

The whole evening started out on a bad note. Tuesdays Dusty is supposed to get Wyatt from school which gives me the chance to finish everything up at work and head straight home, shaving off a half an hour plus. He was running late though and I ended up needing to get Wyatt. So I was already kinda peeved off that I wouldn’t be getting home until closer to 6 instead of 5. There went my shot at riding in the light.

Then Gem was being a complete witch about coming in for dinner. I was going to bring them all in before riding to limit the amount of chores needing done later, but the darn mare wouldn’t come near me and when she finally did she wouldn’t let me get the halter on her stupid bay head. I was pretty dumbfounded on what got up her butt. Ever since being retired she meets me at the gate, walks up to me when working in the pasture and is a general love bug.  Then it dawned on me.

I was dressed to ride. I even had my helmet on and there was no way in Hades that mare was going to be led in with me dressed like that. She is retired and plans to stay that way.

The look of thoroughly enjoying your life choices

By the time I caught H’Appy it was getting dark, Dusty still wasn’t home and the Dynamic Duo were still outside. This wasn’t going well. I took a deep breath though and shook my mind free of stress while I groomed my orange beast.

He was really well behaved in the cross ties and for tacking up which is generally a sign that he will be malleable for work. Nope. Not Tuesday night. As soon as he realized he couldn’t see his friends his brain melted out of his head and he was checked out.

Back on the lunge line and back to galloping circles around me. I wasn’t amused. I don’t have time to lunge my horse for 40 minutes at 630pm in fading light watching him get sweaty knowing I still had to feed afterward. This is ridiculous and completely unnecessary behavior and it needs to stop. He knew where his friends were as he had just left them yet he acted like he was all alone in the great wide world.

The only silver lining was that the lunging took about half the time as it did the week prior when the horses were left inside when I rode, so progress?

It was dog night at the hockey game last weekend and during an intermission/period break they held a dog race on the ice. Adorable!

Once he lowered his head and began chewing and licking his lips, I forced one last circle and mounted. We were not going to have another walk/halt ride. Big Boy was going to work.

As I walked him around he felt ok-ish under me. Super tense and wanting to look around and scream for two horses who could care less if he was dead or alive, but he was quiet about it and his halt was firmly installed. At least that lesson from the previous brainless ride had stuck, so I felt a little better about the work I’m doing with him. Maybe some of it is sticking.

He also had nice flexibility, giving me bend in both directions when asked even when he desperately wanted to stare off into the darkness looking for his friends. Eventually I felt like his attention was on me enough to ask for the trot. It was ugly and swung from short and choppy to near cantering, but he stayed in the trot the entire time and went where I asked without arguing. He still felt like a coiled spring under me but all four feet did as I asked and well it was a huge improvement from prior.

Old Man Winter is always well behaved. I love this old face. He will be 29 this spring.

I ended the ride after he gave me three nice trot transitions in a row and took him up to the barn to cool down before eating his dinner. Then I finally got to bring the other two inside at which point he settled down. Of all his quirks and nonsense this is the one that annoys the snot out of me the most. His friends are always around. He always gets to go back to them at the end of a ride. He acts like it is such a shock every time that he gets to see them again and other than more time and more miles I have no clue how to fix it.

The horses will be out in that pasture for all of February and part of March when the big one gets sprayed for weeds so he is going to have to learn to deal with not being able to see them when we ride. Hopefully by the end of the month he will have chilled out about it. Either that or one of us won’t make it to March alive and I have a strong suspicion who it would be.

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Taking The Kid Gloves Off

First I’m going to get this out of my system:

SQUEEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE!!!!!!!!

This feeling…hard to describe, probably don’t need to to all those reading

Ok. I think I’m done.

SQUEE!

No. Now I’m done.

Saturday was gorgeous and I thought to myself “Sara, you have standards and poles, why wait to trailer out when you can set up a small course here at home?” It was a good question and one I couldn’t answer, so I set about dragging the arena to improve the footing and placing some jumps.

I’m not too educated on striding so I was nervous to make a course with anything related. Instead, I kept the cross rail along the far rail, made the near rail jump into a vertical and then added a new vertical on the diagonal.

Everything was set to go. The footing was soft and fluffy, it was warm and sunny, and the horses were left out to not blow poor H’Appy’s mind. In my mind, everything was set up for a successful and fun ride.

You can imagine my surprise when I found a fire breathing dragon rearing in the cross ties throwing a massive temper tantrum. Over what? Your guess is as good as mine.

The second time he nearly slaughtered me trying to brush him and I’d had enough. Ok. You want to be this way? Fine. I’m about to go MOTHER on your ass. Ask Wyatt – when the MOM voice comes out I’m not playing.

Wheee!!

I marched him to the arena not tolerating even a single hoof out of place on the way there and threw him on the line. He promptly farted, bucked, and dug in deep taking off in a hell bent gallop to no where. His training in lunging is awesome though and while he was a maniac he stayed out on the circle and never pulled on me.

So I stood there and watched him go around and around and vaguely worried that he was about to blow a tendon, but then realized I didn’t really care in that moment if a limb fell completely off. When he tried to slow down I didn’t let him. Finally I asked to trot and when he did I asked him immediately back into a canter then worked him transitioning between all gaits with no more than five steps in each until Homeboy no longer cared about anything but me. Then I changed direction and made him do it all over again.

By the time I let him stop he was caked in sweat, lathered between his abundant buttocks and blowing hard.

He can be a very good boy when he decides it is in his best interest to be so. 

I didn’t care. This wasn’t my fault and I had had enough. We marched back to the barn where he stood like a gentleman to be groomed and tacked and then headed back to the arena to work on the exercise I had set up.

Under saddle he started off with his head up his butt. I thought “oh no you don’t. I’ve been too easy on you treating you like some super fragile glass horse. No more. I set everything up for you to succeed and I refuse to let you bait me into an easy ride”

Flagged pissy tail, head in the air, short choppy strides. This is a pissed off H’Appy. I didn’t care. We were going to work on what I wanted to work on and not end up in yet another walk only ride so I don’t ruffle his feathers. Play time is OVER.

So we trotted and he wanted to canter. I had words with him over that and he eventually settled. Sorry bud, none of this is my doing. We are jumping this course today. If it takes you an hour to decide to comply that’s on you.

I think it was about 40 minutes later and he settled in to the task at hand. He became adjustable and listened to my half halts. If he did ask to canter instead of trot and I said no he came back within a step or two versus two entire laps of the arena.

At that point we got to jumping.

My favorite jump picture of me ever. Why? Look where I am looking!! Not at his neck, not at the jump, not straight ahead even when I want to turn. Nope. For the first time I am looking where I am going independent of where the horse is pointed. This is a big, big step for me. 

And guys….it was AMAZING. Capital AMAZING.

I started off going over the cross rail away from the gate, looping around the right to the vertical along the rail and then going around the crossrail to hit the vertical on the diagonal. Some times I’d stay going right and do it again, others I’d turn left and go around that way.

H’Appy got better and better each round. After a couple of times I let him canter and…yeah…I’m addicted. He is easy to jump. He never says no. He never waivers. He locks on and just goes. After a bit I began to relax and  I used my brain. It had long since stopped screaming “we are going to die!” and gone quiet so it seemed like a good time to start engaging it too.

I really have to start forcing my butt in that saddle when we canter. No clue what my deal is with that, but activating hover mode isn’t useful.  

As we came up to the vertical I found my brain turning on and told myself to sit back and up, wait with leg on until the base and then relax and let him go. And shocker of all shockers, the jump came up and we went over smooth as silk.

It was hard to make myself stop but he had worked really hard and was  stinky with sweat. Plus we had a hockey game to go to that night and I was running out of time to get him cooled down and put back out. He got a ton of praise for the second half of the ride, a nice long cooling shower with a ton of time spent on his legs, and then I had just enough time to change and not smell like a horse before we had to get going. Below is a video of the end of the ride.

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I Have A Forgetful Butt

Ask my employee and she will tell you my brain is like a sieve. She thinks I’m the most forgetful person. The thing is that I actually have a fantastic memory it’s just that my brain is trying to balance about fifty different things at one time and once it has moved on it generally doesn’t circle back around again for a long time.

So yeah. I’m sorta forgetful.

Snuggling with Waggy on the couch is always an adventure

It turns out though that my brain isn’t the only part of me that takes a vacation from time to time.

I went to my first physical therapy session and it was eye opening. Turns out there are plenty of reasons I hurt, none of which include piriformis syndrome which was what I thought I had. Go figure – Dr. Google wasn’t correct.

My pain lies within all three groups of the gluteus muscle complex with the medius the worst culprit. As I explained my symptoms to my therapist, he smirked (we have a great working relationship as I send all my patients needing therapy to him and enjoy having lunch with him several times a year) as he told me

“You just explained gluteal amnesia to a T”

Uh…what?

Gluteal amnesia is also called “dead butt syndrome” and is a condition that stems from being too sedentary. I sit all the time. I sit to talk to my patients. I sit to treat them. I sit to type up the medical record. Heck I even sit to do my surgery. The reason I choose to sit is to protect my cervical spine as early and debilitating arthritis of the neck is extremely common in my field from being bent over people’s feet all the time. Sitting allows me to raise their feet to my eye level and protect my neck.

The trade off apparently is that now my butt has Alzheimer’s. Great.

Dusty turned a year older last week as well. He hates cake, so I make him two layers of brownies with frosting between and over the top. Wyatt added decorations this year.

There were other issues he found as well mostly that my left hip is an entire muscle grade weaker than my right (muscles are graded on a scale of 0-5 so losing one grade is roughly 20%) ) and the hip flexors on the left are extremely tight.

This has led to my symptoms: fine walking, standing and riding but flare when I ask for muscle power jogging, cramping in the butt, eventual feeling like my entire hip is about to give out on me, improper gait mechanics in my foot strike, medial knee pain. He said that I feel like my leg will collapse under me because it actually will due to my glutes “forgetting ” how to fire to provide stability and power.

The good news is that with some work and a better balance of standing versus sitting, it should be reversible. Unfortunately it’s been going on for a really long time, but he was optimistic.

He treated me with cupping followed by dry needling to try to break down the contracture that my glutes are currently stuck in and gave me a topical magnesium foam to apply before and after working out. Phase 1 is to get the complex to relax through physical modalities as above plus a ton of stretching every day.

Phase 2 will be strengthening the surrounding muscles to allow them to function better.

Phase 3 will be standing more for prevention and I’ve already figured out some ways I can do that.

He gave me the green light to keep riding as long as I’m stretching and even said I could do light jogging too as long as I stop if it starts to act up. This apparently isn’t something you can just run through which was a lesson I learned last year.

It will be super interesting to see how my riding changes once my left butt decides to join the party.

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Bates Elevation Deep Seat Saddle Review

Being the least trendy equestrian blogger means that I don’t get to do a whole lot of reviews on here. I also admit to mostly skipping over review posts since I don’t think I’ve ever read one that had anything negative to say and the skeptic in me just doesn’t buy into that

All that being said, be prepared for a very honest, not paid for, and mostly positive review of the Bates Elevation Deep Seat Jump Saddle which I purchased for around $2400 with a free upgrade to the luxe leather in early December. Since having it, I have done flat work, jumping and trail riding adventures. This was saddle number 14 to grace his fluffy orange back with saddles ranging in price from $6,000 all the way down to $200 and with leather from Germany, England, North America, and South America. My own tush has ridden in French leather as well as synthetics and a synthetic/leather mix.

img_3893
All tacked up in the new Bates saddle. The chocolate brown color looks super good next to his orange coat and paired with navy. 

I’ll skip the fluff and get straight to the point to begin with in case anyone wants to stop reading here: I love this saddle. H’Appy loves this saddle. It works for us and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants a saddle to fit a similar shaped beast and wants to perform similar activities. I’d also highly recommend the luxe leather upgrade even when not given away for free.

Now for the details.

My Orange Beast has a very wide, flat back with long and low withers, a big shoulder and a girth groove that sits farther back due to those long withers. He required a wide or extra wide gullet on a regular tree (not a hoop tree), a soft flap to allow his shoulder to move under without impingement, and a full four finger spine channel that extended the entire length of the saddle. This saddle fit the bill in all those regards.

img_3829
Not the best shot, but you can see his general build here. 

The only issue with the fit was the billet alignment. Since the saddle has a changeable gullet (a feature I recently swore I’d never buy again, thanks Universe for proving me wrong), it is impossible to add a point billet. I solved this fit issue with an anatomic girth and the saddle has yet to budge, but beware of this if you need a more forward billet placement for your own beast.

Speaking of the changeable gullet, it is simple enough to change it, but not quick and not something I would want to do between horses if I was riding multiple in a day and trying to use the same saddle. It works well for him and is a nice option in case he gets even fatter or decides to shed a few pounds and I need to alter the gullet for him, but was not a main selling feature for me.  It also has the ability to add shims to the saddle panels themselves versus needing to get a pad with shims. I like the theory behind this, but he doesn’t need it so I can’t speak about the practice of doing it. You do need to basically take the entire thing apart to add shims, so again if it is a one off thing, fine but I don’t imagine doing it between horses on a daily basis.

img_3896
Ignore the fact that the pad is shifted slightly right and the saddle slightly left which makes this an odd picture. There is plenty of wither clearance which was the point of the picture. 

For myself, I’m 5’4″ and 135 lbs with a regular leg length. I jump 2′ sticks and neither wanted nor needed a more forward flap. The flap on this is not AP straight, but it also isn’t cross country forward either which works out to be just perfect for me. I can jump with shorter stirrups one day and then have longer stirrups for pretend dressage the next. I have no idea if you can order a more forward flap or not, but if you are someone who really needs/wants a +2 forward flap, you may not want this particular model.

The knee blocks are velcro and are huge, which was a major selling point for me. I’ve played around with the placement and currently have them pretty high and far back to act more like thigh blocks. They are present and function for when I need them, but when H’Appy is motoring along compliant with his life, they stay enough out of my way that I don’t feel claustrophobic. There are also two smaller, fixed calf blocks as well. The seat is deeper, but I’ve had no issues getting my tush out of the tack to practice two point and to go over fences and I’ve not felt the cantle hit me (a problem I’ve read about some of the deeper seats on the market). I’m used to my very spacious endurance saddle and like the ability to move around and this saddle gives me a good balance between feeling secure yet not locked in.

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Even with stirrups too short my leg falls in a nice spot beneath me and my knee tucks into the block without sticking out past the flap. 

Really, it functions super well for the purpose I bought it for.

As for quality, with the leather upgrade it feels more akin to the French leather saddles I sat in than the under $3000 price tag would lead you to believe and way nicer than the German leather saddles I tried at more than double the price. It is grippy, soft and makes me happy to touch it. Now, this is not in fact a $6000 French saddle, so there are some areas of the saddle where the leather isn’t quite as nice, namely the underside of the flaps and the flap against the horse (this is not a monoflap saddle by the way) which have a more utilitarian grade leather.

There are some additional features I didn’t see in other brands I tried that I really like as well. The first is that they recessed the stirrup bar. One thing I hated about my Thorowgood was that I could feel the lump from the leathers under my thigh and I made note of this in the other brands I trialed. The Bates was the only one that recessed the bar making it a all but disappear under your leg. The second is that they didn’t put in a flimsy little leather loop to hold the stirrup leather. Instead they created a channel to hold the leather (again reducing bulk) and added a reinforced hole through the flap so that the excess goes under the flap and is not only hidden from view, but also can’t catch on anything.

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This was the trial saddle I took out before ordering mine, but it shows how the leather exits the underside of the flap and gets tucked under

I have cleaned the saddle with the included leather balm once and have stored it covered in my tack room which is not humidity or temperature controlled. I’m not babying the thing, but I’m also not abusing it either and it still looks brand new after multiple rides in the mud and muck.

What else? Oh! The panels. So….this saddle has CAIR and there is a lot of debate out there about air in a saddle versus traditional wool or more modern foam flocking. I was a little nervous buying a saddle with CAIR to be honest and I did a lot of research, read reviews, watched videos and hemmed and hawed a bit. Here is the deal, for me anyway.

First, I think wool is the best way to go IF you are willing/able to put the maintenance into getting the saddle checked and re flocked every 6 months. I am not. I’ve owned wool flocked saddles for the majority of my riding career and never once had a saddle re flocked after 6 months of use. In my opinion, having balled up, shifted or rock hard wool is worse for your horse than air or foam.

Second, I hate foam. I could get all nerdy on you all about foam, but this is long enough as it is. I treat diabetic feet and pressure ulcerations with an entire room in my office dedicated to the manufacturing of offloading devices. I hate memory foam in every incarnation and while the CWD I rode in was glorious, I do not think foam against my horse is the way to go.

Last, we come to air. Dusty rode Pete for nearly a decade in an original CAIR Wintec and both boys loved it. The issues I read were: it bounced like a ball under you, it could pop, it got rock hard in cold weather. We lived in WI and it doesn’t get a whole lot colder than a high of -25F and that saddle never felt any different, so I am calling BS on that claim. Neither myself nor Dusty have ever felt any bouncing either, so I don’t know. I suppose it could pop if punctured, but I’m not sure how likely this one is. Anyway. For me, I feel no difference in my seat, security or comfort, for better or worse, in the air panels versus wool. It is slightly firmer than foam and softer than wool. My horse loves this saddle, so I’m going with it. The panels can be taken apart and changed to wool by a fitter for around $300-500, if someone feels strongly that is better, but for now we are both happy with the way the saddle is constructed as is.

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Mom….I’m eating! No more pictures!!!

So this is way longer than I anticipated. The bottom line: for this price point, my horse’s anatomy, my own anatomy, and the activities I perform under saddle, this saddle was, well the only saddle out of 14 different ones that we both really liked. If you find yourself in a similar position, I’d highly recommend taking a look at this saddle and giving it a shot. It has been a lot of fun to ride in, my horse is pain free and moving well, and my confidence has soared knowing I have a good base of support without being constricted by the saddle.