Holiday Break

I took a break from writing to enjoy the holiday and enjoy it I did.  I can honestly say this was probably one of the nicest I’ve ever had.  Oh, we were busy, as always, but it was a good busy.

The poor dogs haven’t had much work lately, and that may be the way it’s going to stay for a while.  Merlin has changed my perspective on things, in a good way.

Split in particular has suffered a bit since Merlin came.  I finally admitted to myself this weekend that I was holding a grudge against her for making me fall off Merlin.  Of course, it wasn’t in anyway her fault, but I was angry with her.

I don’t like it when things are wrong and I can’t fix them.  The saddle situation was driving me mad.  I went up to a local tack shop on Wednesday and brought back a used saddle (the leather one) to try on Merlin.  Nope, it wasn’t going to fit.  Brought that one back and took the synthetic saddle home.  I put that on him on Thursday, but it didn’t look right either.  I was frustrated beyond belief.  I need a saddle that is going to sit on that horse without turning.  Tough to do with a horse with a wide barrel and low withers.

Wally and I drove over to a local woman’s house to see if she could help.  I had been communicating with her a great deal via e-mail about the saddle situation.  What a small world we live in.  When we pulled into her driveway, Wally asked if this wasn’t the same house where I had bought a small dog run.  At first I said no, but I was wrong, it was.  The woman, Sheila, was preparing for company and asked if the woman who owned the tack shop wouldn’t let me keep the saddle over the weekend.  I called and she agreed.  Yes!

We talked a good amount while we were at Shelia’s house though and a few things that she said hit home.  She said that even though she rode extensively when she was young, as she aged, she lost some of her leg strength and reaction speed (Shelia is younger than me); also that if she fell off her horse and was injured such that she couldn’t work, she couldn’t support her horses.  That’s what really made me reconsider riding in an English saddle.  You need a good amount of leg strength and balance to stay in an English saddle.  I really didn’t want to go with a Western saddle so we talked about Australian saddles.

An Australian saddle is sort of a cross between an English and a Western saddle.  Australian saddles are lighter and more compact than a Western saddle, they are naturally more comfortable for the horse.   The poleys (or kneepads) at the front of the saddle will keep a rider in the seat better than any other type of saddle. In combination with a deep seat, the poleys give the most secure ride around.  Like an English saddle, if you should come off of the saddle the leathers can slide off the stirrup bar in the event that you get caught up in the stirrup.  The seat of an Australian saddle naturally puts you in a balanced riding position, with half of your weight in the seat and half in the stirrups.  The close contact nature of the flaps, leathers, and rigging mean that you get a better feel for their horse, allowing better control.

On Christmas day, I decided to bring the English saddle back and buy a new synthetic Australian saddle.  The price was only a little more than the English saddle was.  I wasn’t terribly happy with the decision to buy a synthetic saddle, but I couldn’t afford a new leather saddle.  I brought the first English saddle that I bought up to the tack shop on Thursday to be sold on consignment and if I didn’t keep the synthetic English saddle, I would be without a saddle and needed to do something.

Enter Craigslist … wonderful Craigslist … Christmas evening I saw an ad for two “top of the line” Australian saddles in Gastonia.  I called the number in the ad and the owner of the saddles called me back.  Sure enough, they were top of the line saddles.  One was a medium seat, the other a large seat.  You could buy one saddle for $200 or two for $300.  I made arrangements to go out to look at them the next day.

We got there around 9:00 AM.  The man met us in slippers and a bath robe.  He lived in a very affluent section of Gastonia.  He still had two horses, but he said they did not get ridden much.  That seems to be the norm in this part of the country: horses that sit in barns or pastures and rarely get ridden.  What a waste of money and horse.  Anyway, the saddles were in his garage which was packed full of stuff.  So full, that the two Lexus sedans that sat in the driveway couldn’t be pulled in.

The saddles were f*king beautiful but hadn’t been cleaned in a long time.  They were dirty and moldy, but we couldn’t find anything wrong with either saddle.  I sat in both of them and thought the larger seat (which also had the widest tree) would have been the right saddle.  I tried to get him to sell me the one for $150, but he wouldn’t budge.  That was when we decided to just take both of them.  I felt that if we cleaned them up I could sell the one I wasn’t going to keep on e-Bay or Craigslist.  On the way home I called Sheila and let her know that I had the two saddles in my car.  When I told her what I paid for them, she said I got the deal of a lifetime.  These saddles, new, go for over $700.  While on the phone with Sheila, I arranged for her to come over and help me decide which saddle to keep and to bring me a girth that would fit Merlin.

This is the saddle, but the image is of the base model.  There are several upgrades to the saddle I bought such as brass stirrups:

Wally and I got home, off-loaded both of the saddles and started cleaning them.  Just that little bit of cleaning that we did made a huge difference.  I need to get some brass cleaner to finish the job.

Sheila arrived with lots of goodies and tons of useful information.  Before she got there, we put the larger saddle on him and Wally said that he thought the smaller one would fit both of us better.  He was right.  Sheila brought a neoprene girth, saddle pad and Webber stirrup leathers.  If the exiting stirrup leathers on the saddle are pulled up as high as they need to be for me to ride, there’s a ton of leather rolled up at the top of the stirrup making it a bit uncomfortable.  The Webber stirrup leathers are not at all cumbersome.  Sheila gave me a lot of pointers on working with Merlin.  She thought he was a very nice horse: sensitive and willing to learn.  The saddle feels wonderful!  It feels extremely secure and fits Merlin perfectly.

Now I need to return the English saddle and girth and leave the English bridle to be sold on consignment.  It fits Merlin okay, but the brow band is tight which makes it difficult to put on him given his tendency to being head shy.  I am hoping the owner of the tack shop will let me swap out the English bridle with the Western bridle that I left on Thursday.  I expect she will given she deals primarily in English tack.  I’ll need to get a new set of reins for the Western bridle.  At which point … my tack is all set!

We sold the larger saddle the next day for $250 which means I only have $50 into the saddle I kept.  The deal of a century!

We got most of Merlin’s shelter up on Sunday.  We need to get the backside on, hopefully tonight or tomorrow night.  We also got the sheep moved.  I thought we might let Liath run loose while we were setting the fence dragging a long line.  Usually we tie her out because she can be hard to catch.  Unfortunately, catching her wasn’t the problem.  While she was loose, “Soupbone” (one of the dogs that live up near Red’s house) curled her lip at Liath.  Soupbone is a very dominant bitch.  Not a good move on Soupbone’s part.  I had to drag Liath off her.  So much for letting Liath loose when we move the fence.  Liath’s aggression towards other dogs is a bit of a concern to me.  She’s fine with Gel, but it was dicey having Fern in with her.  Split isn’t going to take any gruff off Liath, but I’m afraid if push came to shove, Split would be on the loosing end of that deal.  We’ll need to address that situation in the near future.

While Split drives me mad; she is extremely aggravating, but she doesn’t really know any better, I am confident that she can step into Gel’s shoes if need be.  I worked her on the geese on Saturday and she was brilliant.  Her sense of group still isn’t great and I need to work on that, but even without steady work, she’s remembered her flanks.  Working her on poultry is tightening up her excessive flanking which is a good thing.  I might as well put the worthless ducks to use and work Split on them.  The ducks are worthless because if they are laying eggs, I don’t know where.  We’ve got three drakes that need to move on as they are starting to fight each other and harassing the females.  I just listed them on Craigslist.  Not sure if they’ll sell or not.

Until later …