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Life Lessons

Having the right equipment makes life easier.

I remember back in my competitive whitewater days, I had a very old, very well travelled closed canoe that I purchased for $75 and fondly named Fugly. That thing was old school and even after spending many a summer evening covered in resin and fiberglass, that boat never did fit me right.

The first year I attended Jr. Ntl. Championships in South Bend Indiana was with Fugly. You can see why I named her that.

Then one day my coach convinced me to stop being a tight wad with my money and buy a boat better suited. My eyes were set on the Junior National Championships for a second year and the thought of showing up with Fugly again wasn’t appealing. We found my Norma Jean, a smaller, newer and more streamlined vessel that I still have to this day.

Norma Jean. A better fit to my body type and size.

The first time I took her in the water it was like coming home. All my technical flaws didn’t magically go away, but some did and it was easier to execute everything. My turns between the gates was quicker and better timed. Upstream gates were more easily ducked under saving precious seconds. She cut through the water cleaner.

It was my first lesson in making sure your equipment is the best suited for your own body type and athletic style in your chosen sport.

Because I’m now down memory lane and miss this dog with every fiber of my being after four years without her, here is Bones enjoying the river inside the kayak

Last night I threw the Wexford up on Eeyore. For a brief moment I debated riding in the Bates since it had been nearly 10 days since I last rode him and after that much time he is usually pretty expressive. Then I thought that would be the perfect time to test this thing out and see how secure it really was. Sure, it may leave a few questions as to his comfort but by now I’m pretty familiar with his attitude and figured I could tell the difference between “I always assume I’m fully retired after any time off at all and now I’m angry that I’m back to work” and “Ouch! This is pinching me! Take it off!”

The ride went about as expected. He started off pretty amenable to life, coasting around at the walk and trying to look at anything and everything that would avoid having to pay attention to my requests up on him. Typical Eeyore stuff.

The fit was really lovely. The flocking needs some adjusting but the bones of it fit him nicely

What I did notice right off the bat was that my lateral aides were not only easier to use but were also getting through to him louder and clearer. My legs naturally dangled straight down and I wasn’t fighting the need to constantly bring them back to use them. I always tend more toward my legs being forward and braced so it wasn’t necessarily a Bates issues but it also wasn’t being corrected in it either. In the Wexford I never had to remind myself to bring my leg back under me.

In fact, at the walk at least, he gave me some of the best bend on a 20 m circle to date.

Until he realized this was going to be work and flipped me the bird that is. I have his number on that one though. Typically I will let him canter. A lot of times once he gets moving and gets his initial ADD knocked out of him he settles into “OMG I’m going to die! Can’t breathe. Can’t move” mode and life gets good again. Not always though. Yesterday he needed more of a reminder of who is boss here so after we careened around a while fighting each other, I made him do rapid fire transitions between walk, halt and trot randomly and allowing only 3-5 steps in each before changing.

Wither clearance was spot on too. I’m a bit worried t may be too snug around his large shoulders and fat deposits but again, some flocking changes should help and weight loss would be even better

That got his attention real fast and soon enough he was once again pliable. He never fully settled but again it had been 10 days and I gave him some leeway there.

What I loved though was that in the Wexford my posture was naturally and easily more vertical. The Bates always has me slightly forward which made getting out of the tack to jump easy but made things like sitting the canter really hard. Plus I naturally tend to tilt forward in a defensive fetal position so it isn’t necessarily the fault of the Bates but again it wasn’t helping either.

Post ride. Looks the same as pre ride. That folks is a big deal. Even with the anatomic girth the Bates tends to slide forward a bit during the ride and always gave me some ruffles hairs when I took it off. This saddle has an after market customization that includes a point billet and a rear v billet that keeps this thing exactly where you put it.

In the Wexford, my legs hung down and my back sat straight. In fact, I was so vertical I worried I wouldn’t be able to get out of the tack to jump. When we did canter, I wasn’t magically relaxed and flowing with him but I also wasn’t posting and fighting to just get my butt down and in the seat either. I was connected and being connected allowed him to lift his front end up and slow down so I wasn’t feeling like we were going nowhere very fast.

I did manage to pop him over a few jumps and liked how I could follow him better to the base and didn’t feel like I was already half way up his neck before take off. It wasn’t hard to get out of the tack either.

Overall, I’m as in love as I remember from my trial last fall. The structure suits my anatomy and helps ease some of my natural flaws and tendencies without creating new issues. I’m not all of a sudden a Grand Prix rider but I’m also feeling like I’m not fighting my tack either.

Having the right equipment matters. I learned this decades ago but can’t seem to remember it.

I’ll ride again today in it to try to see how he goes and if he has any sore spots from yesterday. I’m trying to get in touch with the BC rep in the area to have it checked and the flocking redone as well but I think we have a winner here folks!!!

22 thoughts on “Life Lessons”

  1. The right equipment can make so much difference, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow the price tag. Also, I had no idea you had “competitive whitewater days”. Way to just toss that in there all casual! That’s so badass!

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    1. Ha…It was a long time ago. I was braver back then. Yeah I generally think the best you can do is get the best fit within your budget. Not everyone can afford or needs a 6k custom saddle. Even Gemmie’s endurance saddle was used. I tend to like used because I can get higher quality. Like, no way could I order a new custom Wexford but I can snag an older used one. This one was made in 2006 so it is a 13 year old saddle.

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  2. I’m sure this will resonate with you: Nate (DH) bought these boots from Kohl’s several years back. He liked the styling, and they were essentially just very plain riding/cowboy style boots, and at typical Kohls prices, around $50 a pair, which is “cheap” for boots. They made his feet sweat, but elevated his heel enough that they helped ease leg cramps, etc. They died in 3 months.
    So we buy another pair. Same experiences, except now we have new cottony, dry weave socks to help with the sweat…and then the boots die in 3 months. He wants another pair. To which, I note that in 6 mos we’ve spent 100 bucks on boots, can we go look at a decent brand that should last longer and just spend 100 bucks once, instead of 80 bajillion times? He hates spending $$, especially on himself, but acquiesces. He ends up with a pair of men’s Ariat Heritage boots. Roughly 120 on sale…which six years later he still wears. Quality and fit make all the difference! I am so glad that this is working for y’all, and the white water stuff? That is really bad ass!

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    1. It’s hard though when you are cheap like me. It’s easier to shell out less right now but I’ve learned that buying higher quality eventually means less money in the long run. Plus I’m a shoe nazi and never let anyone buy cheap shoes. Comes with my line of work.

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  3. Yay! So glad the saddle is working out! Fit IS so important and having the right equipment. I realize this a lot when I “upgrade” but like you, have a tendency to think what I have works just fine.
    Bones is adorable, thanks for including the pic, I love seeing happy dogs 🙂

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    1. She was the best dog. Always happy. Always ready for anything. I miss her.

      I think it is so easy to blame a lot of stuff on bad technique or poor ability and while I do have a lot of bad habits when it comes to riding, sometimes it really is the equipment being used. I’m not bashing the Bates, it is a good solid saddle and had this one not fallen in my lap I wouldn’t have been looking, but the right saddle can make life a lot easier

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  4. Umm, you used to brave white water in a kayak… way cool. Ugh your description of new verse old saddle reminds me of all the ways im fighting my current, super comfy, plush, expensive saddle. At some point fighting a saddle become silly. Horses are hard enough.

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    1. I learned a long time ago with Gem that fighting the fit for the horse isn’t worth it. She was so hard to fit that I went with “good enough” and added gizmos and gadgets hoping to fix things until I landed on a saddle that actually fit and everything clicked. I regretted wasting so much time, money and stress.

      Now I’m learning that fitting me is just as important.

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  5. I’m definitely in agreement that finding the right fit for *us* is so so critical in helping us be effective in our position and ride. Glad the saddle works out! Also I love all those old boating pics!

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