Obviously I started at the walk. I haven't ridden bareback a whole lot, and it shows in my complete lack of ability to sit a horse. I remember when I got Gazab, way back in Nebraska, my dad rode him bareback around the pasture at a canter. I wouldn't even canter in a saddle at that stage.
I still can't canter bareback, but after a lot of initial wobbling, I got to be pretty comfortable in the trot on Friday. I felt a real sense of teamwork with Blue. It seemed like he was working just as hard to stay under me as I was working to stay on top of him.
I have been contemplating getting some sort of deep-seat "Englishy" saddle as an alternative to the Specialized. I feel like swapping periodically might be better for Blue's back and my riding. Part of this contemplation has been looking at Blue's back. Sitting on it bare gave me a better sense of how he's using it now, and what the overall silhouette is. The next step was to stand on something tall behind him and look at symmetry (or the complete lack thereof).
My poor track record of staying in the saddle attracts me to something like this:
Short of someone turning the horse upside-down and shaking him, I'd pretty much be glued in. The trouble with poleys (i.e., those leg-holder-inners on the front of the saddle) in endurance is pretty obvious: You might end up with bruised legs from posting into them for hours at a time. I also have heard from many people that the fit on Aussie saddles can be iffy at best, and that the good ones cost a fortune. Plus, I really love the dressage-style rigging on my Specialized. I'd hate to go back to a bulky western knot or a fat English buckle under my leg.
So what are my other options?
|It seemed like a good idea at the time.|
I flirted with the treeless thing for a while with Otto. I bought a very pretty used Torsion to use as a backup saddle. It was so light and cushy… like a leather easy-chair. Unfortunately, it was amazingly slick, and the lack of twist made it feel like I was a living in a Thelwell comic.
Needless to say, this is not a particularly secure way to sit, especially for Otto's "sideways teleportation" style of movement.
They make treeless, flex-tree and semi-treed saddles that are meant for a more secure ride.
|Like this one, for instance.|
I'm intrigued by the Kuda saddle above because it looks like it might offer a bit more security and grip. Maybe even a teeny bit of twist and lift so I don't feel like I'm sitting directly on Blue's spine. On the other hand, they aren't exactly cheap from the dealer, and they are new enough that the secondhand market is almost nonexistent. It would be an expensive experiment.
The other saddles I came across seem almost too good to be true.
|Kind of a dressage/endurance hybrid.|
|This one doubles as a mattress.|
|That seat is completely impractical for my needs, but look how pretty!|
|Imagine, no fenders or leathers under your leg, plus a front grip. And again, all that padding!|
|This one reminds me of my RL Watson, a saddle that made my butt very happy.|
All of the saddle styles above come from the same maker, Sycamore Creek/CTK. And they have dozens more styles. I always check horsetackreview.com when I'm thinking about a piece of equipment or clothing. Sycamore Creek has no ratings lower than 4 out of 5. That's pretty much unheard of, even for some of the most upmarket commercial saddles. The reviews rave about the customer service, great price-to-quality ratio, super comfy construction… Did I mention the prices? I think the most expensive of the saddles above comes in under $700. You read that right.
The hardest part about Sycamore Creek would be choosing a style. I actually emailed Tony, the U.S. distributor, and asked for his opinion on my situation. I told him the four models that seemed closest to what I was looking for. He said any one of them would probably work for Blue's back conformation, so the choice was more about what worked for me as a rider. They will customize the saddle to fit us both.
What would fit me, dear reader, is a leather saddle with some grip, at least a 5-inch-deep seat, a high cantle, dressage rigging, leathers instead of fenders, and enough rings and straps to contain all my gear. I also need it to cost less than $1000, last forever, and fit my horse perfectly.
Is that so much to ask?! :)