Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Saddle!

I was out of town the last two days for work, and it was a little tiring.  After I got home I lounged in the recliner wondering what I should do with my afternoon when the UPS guy came up to the door with a huge box in his arms.  My new Bear Trap Rancher saddle.  It came fast, as we just ordered it on Saturday.

Pulling it out of the box it looked even better than the pictures online.  And those pictures looked pretty cool.  We pulled off some of the superfluous nylon bits and propped it on the stairs to admire.

Then we changed and went to the barn.  How could we not try it out?

The barn initially looked quiet, but then we saw a few people in the pasture, and another border pulled up right after us to give a lesson, so it was actually hoppin for a Wednesday.  We also got two new horses in the feed lot pasture, so all those horses were really running and kicking up their heels.

Bear and Steen were relaxed, though.  Bear was a tad fidgity while I groomed him (he was attracted to the chopped hay; yesterday Robin reminded him what it tasted like).  The initial fitting of the saddle without a pad looked good.  So I finished the tacking up and took him in the arena.  Our barn owner's daughter was getting a lesson, but they didn't mind us joining them.  Bear was good with the traffic, and we just did our mostly normal warm-up stuff (sans groundwork).

The saddle felt good to me.  Roomy and comfy.  But what really surprised me was how easy Bear was moving.  He seemed to be walking faster and more steadily.  And when we were doing tight turns he was bending like no other.  Even to the right!  His bad side.  It was so amazing I spent quite a few minutes just doing tight right turns, and he never once heaved himself over or shuffled to the side or anything that he often does.

So it is possible that the other saddle pinched or did something to make him comfortable.  It is certainly a little too early to tell for sure.  But really, he has never turned right like that.  It is quite shocking.

Robin took this with the little camera, so the quality isn't quite as good as the others.
After a little while I gave Robin a chance to try it out, and she agreed with my assessment: Bear was ultra relaxed.  She trotted on Bear again, and I had never seen his trot look so even and smooth.  He was reaching better with his hind legs, and he wasn't flinging himself up as high as he used to.  So I jumped back on and did a bit more walking and then we tried some trotting, too.  I hadn't been trotting at all because of how uncomfortably stiff I've felt in the saddle.  It has been a mixture of the bad-fall nerves and a really tight right hip (mine, and I kinda thought Bear's too).  It might also have been due to a poorly fitting saddle.  Anyways, today we trotted for a few minutes.  It was decent.  We've got some work to do.  I think my stirrups were too long, and Bear was really not excited when I got back on him for the second time.  So we'll need to work through those things.  But all in all, everything is good.

Except the weather.  The next few days are supposed to bring cold temps and some wintry mix.  The midwest in march.  Nice.  So after Bear's hard work yesterday, and a little today, I thought we should give him a big snack.  The bails are getting low, too.

With food in the picture, Bear got pushy again.  So I moved him around while Robin laid it all out.  While he and Steen ate we  swapped the thin, rawhide stirrups for my old, nice and fat stirrups.  And we took some pictures.

Bear was not happy when I tried to get him to pose with me for the camera.
Hopefully next time we can work more on working the kinks out of Bear's trot (and my seat) and the creaks out of the leather saddle.  Both might take a few rides.

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