As I stood in the tack room switching the stirrups to the correct side on H’Appy’s saddle, Gem’s endurance saddle caught my eye resting on its saddle stand. A small sad smile spread across my face, the type that appears when you feel both happy for the memories yet sad that the time has past.
That saddle was the culmination of years of trial and error, of fine tuning to the point that it fit her like a glove. My eyes ran the length of the fleece lined stirrup leathers, remembering the exact reason and day I purchased them and settled on the bright red caged stirrup irons I bought on a whim on Facebook and worked perfectly to resolve the last of the twitches in my ankles.
I turned my gaze to her red mohair cinch, the cinch that took me years to settle on. One single inch longer and she would get girth galls. It was a bit of dumb luck to get this cinch. I had ordered it for a different length and it came incorrectly, but fit her well and solved the girth issue, so I kept it.
Then my eyes stared longingly at her pad, an incredibly expensive full sheepskin pad with shims I never needed. That pad weighed a ton, but wicked the sweat and heat away from her back allowing her to move freely and comfortably even in the dead of a SC summer on a long conditioning ride. Her back scores remained an A on every vet card thanks to this pad.
Finally, I looked over at her endurance bridle hanging on the bridle hook next to H’Appy’s. The black and red side pull with bit hangers and halter ring. It not only functioned perfectly, it fit her well and showed off her feminine face well. The brow band was hand crafted by fellow blogger Karen and remains on the bridle to this day.
As I looked over everything, remembering the first rides I used each piece of tack, the reasons and function to every new addition or change, I smiled and recalled fondly all those miles spent arguing with my favorite bay mare. All the views between her black tipped ears. All the times I bit the dust and hopped back on her to finish out the ride. Her equipment was not cheap and did not happen all at once. No, I started endurance in a cheap Wintec AP, cotton AP pad and leather bridle with suede half chaps and tan breeches in 2011.
By the time we started the Biltmore 100 in 2016, I had upgraded every single piece of that equipment, after much trial and error and a lot of research. When I finished my visual tour of memory lane, I looked over H’Appy’s gear – a hodge podge of used and new equipment mostly bought out of convenience or a quick need with the exception of his saddle and girth. I’m not a fan of the pad I use, his bridle is missing the throat latch and isn’t a perfect fit which is fine since I bought it for Gem, I don’t have a breast plate for him yet, no boots for protection while jumping, and I’m still fiddling with stirrups.
And while I feel a little frustrated at times, not knowing exactly what he needs or will like, I have to remind myself that I didn’t start out with Gem in endurance in the gear I retired her in. That set up took a long time to hone in, to tweak until it was perfect. It is a bit hard to go from that, from the absolute perfect set up that I knew like the back of my hand where every piece had a specific purpose, to this entry level mess. I’m slowly figuring things out though. Exchanging pieces as needed with more researched, more specific equipment. Fortunately, I have the saddle and girth, two major pieces of the puzzle. I have my eye on a specific pad I would like to try, a few other types of stirrups if these ones don’t pan out, and a new bridle on my wish list. Patience is the key. I know someday I’ll look over the gear for H’Appy with the same fondness and memories.