Clever Equines (and Saddle Stuff)

Hey all – thanks for all the support from yesterday’s post. I sure appreciate the empathy and ideas. You all rock.

Today it’s rainy and cold PLUS both Lee and I seem to have come down with something. I haven’t been sick since LONG before COVID, so this is a surprise. It feels like strep throat (isn’t COVID, says my test), but of course it came on after the local clinic closed for the weekend. We did go out for a very nice dinner Thursday night in the “big city” of College Station, so maybe we ran into a germ there.

The original plan for today was to have horse lessons for both my guys then take Drew back home so it could be another horse’s turn to go into training. Instead, things took a different turn. I went out to feed the chickens a bit late, due to the sore throat, only to see a whole lot of horse poop everywhere that isn’t fenced in for the dogs. Then I heard a greeting nicker. Mabel was saying hi from the little pond.

Well, hi, Suna. It’s a bit chilly out here.

That explained the horse poop. I went to check the gates and was a little startled to see someone blending into the front-end loader.

I’m using this tractor as camouflage.

Yes, the side gate had been opened by some clever equine. I was relieved to see the equine I usually blame for these things (Apache) and Fiona standing under the shed to keep out of the wind. Whew. I only had to wrangle two horses in my sickly state. Even better, Dusty and Mabel had decided it was too cold for them and were already coming back.

That grass was good, but we want shelter.

That was the easiest horse herding I ever had to do. They just walked back in. From the looks of the poop piles, they’d been out all night and were done. Of course, they pooped right by the tack room, in front of the hen house, etc.

Lee and I then hurried over to Tarrin’s to get Drew, but it had started to rain there by the time we arrived. There was no chit-chat or ceremony as we let him in and headed back. They got more rain than us, at least so far. But my boy is home and got the expected greeting of sniffs from everyone but Apache, who had to remind him he’s in charge. Apache needs a new boss.

About the new saddle

I got more questions than I expected about the new saddle I got for Drew. The reason I got a new one when I already had a fairly new one is that we are concerned about keeping Drew’s back healthy. Because he was ridden by large people when he was very young, he has already developed some arthritic areas. He also has a narrow torso and short back (basically, he’s a small horse). So, a standard saddle probably isn’t best for him.

Tarrin recommended a type of saddle made by DP Saddlery in Alabama that is good for both short-backed horses and those with back issues. The cool thing about their Quantum line is that it is a blend of the two most common ways of building saddles. It’s like the best of both worlds. It also comes in lots of different sizes to fit different horses and riders, so I could get one with shorter stirrups and the correct seat for my size.

My black saddle with short fenders covered in flowers.

So, there are lots of kinds of saddles, but in the US, most are either Western or English style (there are Australian ones, side saddles, and such, but these are the main two). A Western saddle is, generally speaking, built on a rigid and sturdy wooden frame called a tree, which is then covered with padding and leather. They usually have a saddle horn to stick your rope on, longer stirrups, and more covering of the horse. There are many variations, depending on what you do with your horse (roping, barrel racing, general ranch work, etc.) but they look similar. They are tough!

Parts of a Western saddle, from Horse is Love. See the link for more info. My saddle lacks the back housing and the rigging dees.

And English saddle is smaller than a Western one and built on a flexible tree with a lot of padding (flocking). It doesn’t have the saddle horn or the long stirrups. It’s used for jumping, dressage, and many other activities.

The parts of an English saddle, from Horse is Love (follow the link for more info)

My saddle (as well as the first one I had) is a hybrid between the two types. It’s their Quantum model (the link explains all the features, so I’m not gonna do it here). The top has all the expected appearance of a Western saddle, including decorative tooling on the leather, a horn, and a padded seat (mine is called a Western dressage seat). The underparts are English, though, and it’s fastened on with an English cinch instead of a Western one (uses buckles). I could have gotten a similar model with Western rigging (as they call it) but that one was sold and the one I bought was the closest to my ideal that I could get without special ordering, which would take months.

A Western saddle would have leather under the seat, not the pads you see here.

This hybrid saddle doesn’t touch the spine of the horse at all, and has padding where it does touch. Plus, it comes with a giant allen wrench that lets you make the saddle wider or more narrow.

The magic tool came with no instructions. Geez.

Tarrin adjusted it a few times yesterday to find what works best. As it gets broken in, it can be adjusted more, too. That is a very cool feature.

That silver circular hole on the right is where the adjustments are made.

Combined with the new dark gray saddle pad I got, Drew should feel as comfortable as possible, given that he’ll still have a big ole person up there.

Here’s the saddle, the new pad, and my old cinch that happens to work, but is slightly large.

I better like this saddle. It’s an investment, but if it saves future doctor bills, it may pay for itself!

Since I feel so sick, I think I’m going to go read all about saddles at the links below. You can, too, if it’s remotely interesting to you.

References

DP Saddlery – this page tells you how the saddle I got adjusts.

THE 8 PARTS OF A WESTERN SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. This is really informative! It shows you how the trees work and how saddles are constructed.

THE 15 PARTS OF ENGLISH SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. Also tells you all you need to know!

Dealing with People Like Me

Advice for me, too

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t blog for a while. I’m not back because people were clamoring for me to write (in fact, no one said anything at all about it, which is perfectly fine). I’m back because I figured out some stuff about my mental challenges that I thought might be helpful for others. What prompted it was a lot of introspection I did after seeing some of these motivational posts in social media.

Oh yeah, Nikki? Really?

My mental issues tell me that no one wants to see the unmuted version of me. It’s been backed up all my life by folks telling me I’m too sensitive, too judgmental, too negative, too…blah blah blah. And thanks to having this extra-unpleasant “rejection sensitivity dysphoria” (RSD) deal, when I hear something that sounds to my extra-sensitive ears like a criticism or put-down, my limbic system kicks in and goes into defensive mode. That guarantees I’m going to overreact and piss someone off. Nope, no one really does want to see the unmuted version of me! Consequently, I do try to make myself smaller, to avoid subjecting other people to my unregulated self.

Break!

And this week, after being told how negative I was, I fell into a deep well of self-criticism. And when I asked for help and support, I felt criticized for not asking for it appropriately, and was informed that when people tried to help me, it made it worse. You can see how a downward spiral might ensue, even when I knew in my head that I was being criticized for basically being who I am, which I can’t change as much as I’d like to. Being told not to react to things that trigger me the way I do is like telling a tree not to have bark. Well, yuck to all that, right? (Note that I know the person I was talking to was not intending to be mean. This is just an example.)

So, I was wondering how I could have the reactions in my head that my mental challenge makes me have but mitigate it somehow. One thing I thought of was for people who are forced to talk to me when I have an RSD episode to not add criticism about my reaction on top of my reaction. For example, if I react to something by hearing in my mind that I’ve been told I’m the most negative person in the world, an unhelpful response would be, “No, I just said you were ONE OF the most negative people I know.” Yep, my mind heard an exaggerated view all right, but pointing out that I heard it wrong just makes me feel worse.

I wonder what would happen if the response was empathy rather than added criticism? What if my reaction was acknowledged, but not critiqued? I was thinking something like, “I know what I just said was hard for you to hear. Just remember I care about you, warts and all. Let’s look at what I was trying to tell you, not how it came across.” I feel like that would give me a chance to get past that initial reaction and be more realistic. Who knows?

Break

I have to acknowledge, though, that just like I have no control over reactions that aren’t conscious, other people can’t, either. That’s how people end up where they each build on each other’s issues until there’s some bad result. Talking to each other and trying to understand each other’s struggles is a good way to start, though.

I’ll keep working at it, but no, I don’t think I’ll be subjecting my unmuted self to many of the people in my life. It’s just too much for them, and I honestly don’t blame them one bit. Some people are hard to deal with, and I am one of those. That’s something I have to deal with!

(By the way, in my mind, I’m a cheerful person who laughs and jokes around a lot and has a lot of fun – I wish I could expose THAT version of me!)

It’s not necessary to try to make people you are fond of like you back!

In my heart, I know that the work I’ve done here at the ranch has been good for me. I’ve felt much better about myself as I’ve been finding the beauty in my surroundings, treasuring kindnesses I experience, and working to be as kind and caring as someone like me can be. And of course, hanging around with animals who help me so much has made life much better.

The main reason I write this blog is to have a record of the good things that come through my life, like the nature, the travel, the uplifting people, and the things I learn. It may just be me talking to myself and trying to convince myself that there’s good in this messy world, but it helps. So, I’ll still be here blogging about horses, dogs, birds, and flowers.

Here I am, looking happy because I’m able to ride Drew and he likes his new saddle and pad.

You get to react to what I write however you choose to. I’m fine with that. I’m prickly, so I’m going to rub folks the wrong way, make poor word choices, and look at things from my RSD perspective sometimes. Oh well, it’s me. Who among us isn’t prickly in some way?

Welcome to Our Equine Rescue Facility

Just kidding! Don’t send us fixer-upper horses! But we DO happen to have two more over here at the Hermits’ Rest, because at least two of us are very soft hearted or see a lot of potential, or something.

Mysterious new equines

This afternoon we certainly tested the carrying capacity of the livestock trailer (well, it’s probably had more cattle in it). First, I went along with Kathleen to get Dusty and Remi looked at by Dr. Kilgore in Rosebud. As predicted, he was popular with all the humans. We waited a long time, but it was fine. I took pictures of plants and butterflies, including one of those bird poop moths. I’ll spare you the photos of the poison ivy, but I did want to show that even Johnson grass can take a good photo. And, there were cute dogs to enjoy.

The horses got wormed and inspected. They were declared fine, other than their feet, which will get dealt with tomorrow. Then, Kathleen said she wanted to go look at these two mares she saw in horse ads. Yes, she was still looking at horse ads. I think she figures Remington is not going to be a great riding horse, and she feels that Dusty (who has already gained weight, as you can see below) is not a beginner horse.

You can still see his ribs, but Dusty (left) looks a lot better.

So off we went. The road looked very familiar. Yes, it was in those outskirts of Milano where we got all the pipe and junk a few weeks ago! I’m sure the horses loved that road, poor guys. We pulled in to a property that was just beautiful, and so far off the beaten path…it made me sing “Almost Heaven, East Milano…”

No houses, just rolling pastures.

The guy did, indeed have two mares. They were very sad looking mares at first glance. I’m going to put in their “before” photos here, so I’ll have a reference as they get better.

We named them Mabel and Amaretto. But before that, the horse trader guy rode both of them for us. First was Mabel. When she is being ridden, you wouldn’t know this is the same horse. It’s like poetry. Her trot is so smooth the guy didn’t bounce, and her canter was elegant. I’m thinking to myself, geez, this is a gaited horse! Then they stuck me up on her (easier said than done; she is at least 16 hands, so I had to use the trailer as a mounting block). I rode her and it felt like she had air-glide suspension. I was not interested in a giant, brown (okay dark bay) horse with a droopy lip before, but suddenly I was. I hid my joy, of course.

Amaretto’s sweet face.

Then he saddled up the other horse, which could not be more different. But, she is only 14 hands, if that, and I can mount her from the ground. Even Kathleen could! Kathleen enjoyed riding her, and wanted me to try. Amaretto reins more fluidly, but rides like Apache, i.e., a normal Quarter Horse. I will enjoy my new saddle on her. She is actually a beautiful horse, but she’s so skinny it’s hard to tell. Apparently the horse trader had leased her out, and she was returned in this poor condition (OMG her feet look so sad).

Mabel working

So, after the requisite haggling, they bought them. And during the chit-chat portion of the discussion, we also were referred to a cool old guy who had some saddles. BUT WAIT. You remember the guy who sold Drew got rid of him because he wanted some beautiful stud horse? Guess where he got him! Yep. We should have just met in Milano and traded. I am glad we have Drew, though.

Don’t forget me.

So, off we went with four horses and two saddles. They let them out with Fiona and the other three horses, then all of us just watched everyone running around and getting to know each other. It was a lot of fun.

Meet and greet

When we came in, finally, I got to open my new saddle. It has many pretty details.

Around noon today, Kathleen and I went out to play with all our new toys. I cleaned the saddle they got yesterday. It turned out really nice!

Hardly looks old!

Then I got Apache out to see if he would do okay in my new tack. I got the saddle all adjusted and off we went. He did just fine!

I’m told the pad is a bit large.

Kathleen put on her “new” saddle and yay, the stirrups were short enough for her! It’s technically a kid saddle. Who cares? Amaretto did fine, too. She’s a good horse.

Kathleen looking good.

I got too hot (not my best time of day), so was able to blog a bit. I’m sitting with dear Amaretto, who is completely un phased by welding in her vicinity.

Once I cool off, it’s time to mess with little Drew. By then we may have all the gates up! Enjoy some bonus horse photos!

Things to Look Forward to

This is one of those days that I had to slog through, but I did it with style and grace. Now I get to look forward to tomorrow! And there’s so much!

I got the notice yesterday that my new Western saddle has arrived. I sure hope it’s as nice as it seemed to be from its description. It’s not fancy, but is good quality, and I hope to heck is as comfortable as it was designed to be. Apparently it is a women’s model, so it might fit well. It certainly got good reviews online.

I like the colors, which blend with any horse (though if I’d known I was getting a gray, I might have gone with black). And it has conchos (silver decorations), but not too many.

My other saddle, which cost three times as much, and I guess I could afford back when I got it, is a hybrid saddle, which looks more like a traditional English saddle, but is comfortable (really comfortable; I say it’s like the Barco-lounger of saddles). I just looked it up, though, and because of how it was made, the Western one weighs LESS than the hybrid one! My arms are happy to know that. (Photo is not my saddle, but a similar one.)

Well, this may not be obvious to everyone, but when you get a new saddle, you also have to get a new saddle pad or blanket, because saddles don’t sit right on top of horses’ backs. Ow. Because I’m getting the new saddle to ride on a growing horse, I decided to get a good quality gel pad, but one with hand-woven cloth on the outside, so it will look traditional. That way, also, at some point both of my horses could be ridden at the same time, because I have two saddles and two blankets. Yes. I’m excited about it.

But, that’s not all

Tomorrow morning we are going to have a visitor, and not just any visitor. It’s a representative of a swimming pool company! What? A swimming pool at a boiling hot Texas ranch? Where people work outdoors and sweat and overheat and feel really icky? What a dumb idea, right? Worse? One with an outdoor shower to wash all the grime off before getting in. And a sloping faux beach area, in case dogs want to swim. And a hyper strong filtration system, because of said dogs. Oh, and maybe a waterfall or bubbler. And hey, a hot tub for winter.

Something like this. We do have a gas line out back, too.

This all sounds like some kind of heat-stroke induced fantasy to me. Or nirvana. I guess we will just have to see what can be arranged within our pool budget, but at this point, anything fancier than a metal water trough would please me. It is, though, something to look forward to!

I’ll just be patient, prudent, and not over-indulgent when I talk to the guy. I won’t be alone, but the rest of the family is about as hepped up as I am. Even Lee. Yes. Lee.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

Back in the (Clean) Saddle Again

Hooray. I’ve got my horse back! It’s sure been a long road for Apache. Last night, I saddled him up for the first time since the dang abscess, and I made sure he was doing okay in the round pen by trotting him a lot. He was deemed okay, so I mounted him while Sara got on Spice, who really didn’t seem happy, though she behaved fine. I’d say the ride wasn’t a complete success, though it wasn’t a failure, either. Apache indicated what he wanted to do instead of what I wanted, fairly strongly, a couple of times. Still, I got through it and did a good job getting him on my schedule before I got off. I did give him a nice rinse-off, which delighted him.

This morning, we got out bright and early. We were delighted to see that there were clouds in the sky and a breeze. That made everything much more pleasant. I was happy to see that he was still clean, even though I KNOW he rolled in the pens.

Today, Sara decided to see if Bonnie Pumpkin, the horse who’d hanging out with us for a while, would be ridable, and she put the bareback pad on her. I decided to use the hackamore with Apache today, and apparently, that was a good decision. After a fine warmup, Sara carefully got on Bonnie, and she was fine! Hooray!

A happy moment for all.

I got on Apache, and off we went. He was a different horse today, very responsive and calm. He didn’t break into a nervous trot once, nor did he start spinning around if I dared to ask him to turn right. He must be feeling better. We went through the dreaded line of trees, and neither horse did anything other than walk, and occasionally stop to look at something. None of the usual spots bothered him. We made an entire circle, walked over some obstacles, and then, in a shocking display of obedience, I got Apache to walk past the barn before turning to go back.

Fiona wanted to be in a picture, too.

Sara and I both had FUN. That was so great. I felt so good (and not overly hot) that I decided to clean all my tack. I got all sorts of stuff off the saddle and got it gleaming and not all scuffed up. Apache’s girth was also really dirty and covered in hair, so I cleaned it, as well. The worst thing was the poor hackamore, which had been sitting since Apache was last ridable and had gotten all yucky and moldy, so I cleaned it all up again, too. I’m ready to go somewhere, once I have somewhere to go with him.

Everything got saddle soap except the suede parts, which just got wiped off and brushed. Horse people, this is a hybrid saddle made by Parelli back when I could afford such things. I intend to use it the rest of my life (it is SO comfy), though I’ll probably have to get a Western one at some point.

I hope that will be soon. Now that I am not spending so much time in Austin, I hope to be able to take lessons and fix some of my riding gaffes, then work on Apache’s horse gaffes. We both have a lot of work to do, but we do love each other!

Saddling Up

saddle1
This saddle is quite complicated to clean, and was really a mess before! Behind it is a glimpse of the Australian style saddle. We still need to polish up those old silver conchos!

One of the things we do here at the Hermits’ Rest (and our “sister” ranches, the Wild Hermits and Wild Type ranches) is hang out with our equine friends. My neighbor, Sara, has had horses most of her life, and is a great rider. I always wanted a horse, but didn’t get the chance to own one until Sara gave me Apache, my Quarter Horse/Arabian cross, since she needed a more spirited horse to ride. I was in my late 50s, but my childhood dream came true!

apache2
Apache not looking thrilled to be saddled up and eady to go. My saddle is a Parelli “hybrid” model. It’s neither English nor Western. It IS comfortable as an easy chair. And lightweight, for my bad shoulder.

We’ve been to clinics together, but recently we have just been riding around the ranch whenever Sara is in town on the weekends. We work on new skills and explore the area. I’ve been working with Apache “at liberty” in the round pen, and we’re making great progress trying new things on trail rides, too.

Sara’s horse has a lot more training, so she works on opening gates, cantering, and doing complex maneuvers at liberty.

We each have the “right” horse for our skills and inclinations. I just love riding around the ranch with a friendly and kind horse, so Apache is great for me.

Continue reading “Saddling Up”

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