No one is going to mistake me for a professional horse trainer, but I definitely subscribe to the idea that anyone who interacts with a horse is stepping into the role of an educator. We teach our horses how to behave around us, in part, by the behaviors we reinforce. The following quote jumped out at me in that regard.
“The overall goal in educating a horse is not only to teach him what we expect him to do, but to cause him to want to do it- with enthusiasm, enjoyment, and even a kind of commitment, as if he felt himself to be a partner in important work.” – Dr. Deb Bennett
If you are wondering that in the world that has to do with the title of this blog post, please stay with me here while I explain.
The “important work” of my horses, as I see it for my situation, is keeping me safe. Whether I am on the ground or sitting on their backs. Safety is always on my mind.
I can’t avoid all disasters, but I can try to help my horses help keep me safe. One way I can do this is by finding tack suited and comfortable to each horse.
After all, how can I expect my horses to consistently do things “with enthusiasm, enjoyment and a kind of commitment” if they are constantly distracted-constricted-hurting in some way by what they are wearing?
All this has been on my mind as I get to know my newest horse, Piper. My tack options are limited by price and access, but my goal is still Piper’s comfort.
In his former home, Piper was ridden in a Western trail-type saddle and curb bit. So I started off riding him in my own Western trail-type saddle and a Myler curb bit I had in my tack bin.
Unfortunately, my Western saddle seems too wide for Piper. It slopes down somewhat towards his withers rather than sitting level on his back. With the curb bit, he seemed to carry it comfortably in his mouth, but any rein pressure accentuated his tendency to get behind the vertical.
Then I bought a quality Circle Y Western saddle on sale. But Piper flinched when I mounted as though the saddle dug in and pinched him. And while the saddle was couch-comfortable underneath me, as soon as Piper started gaiting, I was in a chair seat. I struggled constantly to put my feet back underneath me with every stride.
After returning the Circle Y, I borrowed a saddle-seat saddle from my riding instructor. This saddle seemed to fit Piper well. But the slick, flat seat didn’t give me the most secure feeling. Especially when riding a horse that I am just getting to know.
So when I saw an Australian-looking-type saddle for sale at a second-hand tack sale, I decided to give it a go. I say “looking-type” because it doesn’t sport all of the details that I normally associate with Australian saddles. My uneducated identification may very well be inaccurate. Maybe some of the blog’s Australian readers could set me straight on that?
In any case, what I like most about this saddle is that the saddle tree is similar to the saddle-seat saddle that seemed to fit Piper well. I really appreciated being able to borrow the saddle-seat saddle, because I don’t think I would have thought about trying a saddle with an English tree without that experience of seeing how Piper seemed to like the saddle-seat saddle. He just seemed to feel more relaxed in it than the two Western saddles that I tried.
I also sampled several saddle pads and girth styles. I got the impression Piper preferred my five star saddle pad paired with a traditional English girth. He consistently flinched when girthed up with the wider Total Saddle Fit girths that my other horses seem to like and that I happily gave a positive review to on this blog.
After riding Piper in both a curb bit and a snaffle bit, I have recently settled on a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle for the moment. Piper’s tendency to over flex is more pronounced in the curb bit than the eggbutt snaffle, but I feel like he relaxes and stretches out even more with the bitless bridle. I may switch back and forth for awhile between the snaffle and the bitless bridle until I get a better feel of him.
So long story short, we’ve got a bit of an eclectic tack situation going on. The Australian-looking-type saddle, the Western saddle pad, the English girth and the bitless bridle (with the eggbutt snaffle a close second). Winter (the end of my backyard-riding season) is fast approaching so this is likely how we will finish the year.
I know I am not the only one who has struggled with finding the right tack combo. How about you? What is the most unusual tack combination you’ve ever tried? Let me know in the comments section.