Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring Cleaning



I should be doing some Spring cleaning inside my house, but as usual, I’m more interested in horsekeeping than housekeeping. I pulled out my white vinegar, soft chamois cloths and Oakwood leather conditioner. My beloved old Bob’s cutting saddle and my bridles need some attention.

One problem that I have on the East Coast that I never encountered in the deserts of Southern California is mildew. The easiest way I’ve found to remove it is with some vinegar and a soft cloth. Then, I use my tube of Oakwood. It’s magical stuff, making the leather soft and shiny without being oily or sticky. It doesn’t change the color or stain clothes, and I’ve had this tube forever.

I also changed out my funky, beat-up stirrups for these never-been-used new ones that I bought for five dollars at a barn sale this winter. One of my neighbors was moving and had sold all her Western gear now that she rides dressage. The stirrups match my saddle perfectly.

I hosed my Supracor Cool Grip pad and set it in the sun to dry. Over at Midwest Horse, Callie was talking about saddle pads, and I commented on how much I love this one. It’s made from the material they use for padding in wheelchairs and hospital beds to prevent soreness. There are little holes that allow air to circulate, and I just clean it by rinsing it off after I ride. Silk had a sore back when I bought her, but the combination of a saddle that really fits her and this amazing pad make her very happy. After many years, the pad looks just as good as when I first bought it.

Finding a saddle to fit Silk was a real challenge. She has a long back and pretty high withers. When we were living in North County San Diego, it took me almost a year before I was lucky enough to acquire one of Warner Ranch’s well-used saddles. It doesn’t look like much, but it sure is comfy.

It always surprises me how many people ride in saddles that don’t really fit their horses. Then, they wonder why the horse is irritable and won’t cooperate. I check Silk’s saddle every six months to be sure it still fits properly. When I first bought Silk, the saddle I already owned was too narrow. I had no idea how to tell if the saddle was good for the horse. The trainers and old timers at the barn weren’t any help. They acted like they were some kind of mystics or visionaries who could divine whether it was right for the horse.

Eventually, after working at a great tack store and meeting some incredible saddle-makers, I learned how to measure and fit a horse. It’s no mystery. If you want to learn more, take a look at Dave Genadek’s website and video. What I do to check Silk’s saddle is place it on her back without a pad and put my hands between her back and the tree of the saddle on each side where the withers are. I can feel if it’s too tight or pinches her. I also check the back, reaching under the saddle to be sure it isn’t putting pressure on her. Obviously, the saddle should sit well and not pop up in the back. It only takes a few minutes, and as a horse gains or loses weight, what once was the perfect saddle could be the cause of a major problem. Your horse will thank you.

Now, I’m going to clean the rocks out of the arena, and it will be time to ride. Yahoo!

10 comments:

Callie said...

Ah Ha, I went to the site with your saddle pad. Interesting, looks like a decent pad. I can see why you like it.

Victoria Cummings said...

Callie - It is expensive - about $230 - but I've had it 6 years, so that's ended up being less than $40/year. I'm not pushing them, but obviously Silk and I are very satisfied customers. I don't usually put a saddle blanket over it, but you can if you don't like the black pad. It doesn't slip.

LJB said...

I am so jealous of your having crocus in bloom! I still see sooo much snow when I look out the windows...

Chrisss said...

Great blog...will visit again.

billie said...

Hope the ride was wonderful - and that your spring continues blooming.

XmaryX said...

Thank You for the saddle-fitting link- it is SO timely! We are having issues with our horse's back. The vet checked the fit of the suspect saddle, and says it looks good, so now I'm all confuddled. I will definitely check out Dave's site.

Heidi the Hick said...

Ah- informative!

I'm still fiddling with a saddle for Phoenix. My ol Champ was 1/2 arab and had a barrel like.... a barrel.

Phoenix is taller, longer, leaner, and has those high withers. I'm using Champ's saddle on Copper now, and soon I'll have to resume my search for another one. At least I still have another month or so before I start really riding them. Still snow and ice in the corral this year, believe it or not.

Rising Rainbow said...

Dandy is very hard to fit as well. He has very high whithers and an extremely short back. Most western saddles are just too long for him. I still have not been able to find something that fits him really well. I have had to settle for getting one with a skirt that is short enough and padding him up on the whither to protect him. It's a real pain.

This is a great post. Too many people don't have a clue that there even is a proper fit for a saddle and just ride in what they have. Not understanding the problems they are experiencing from their horse is caused by an ill fitting saddle.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I've decided to put off Spring cleaning until the temps stay in the 60's for a week. How's that for an excuse not to do it.
We had a hard time fitting a saddle to Blue and Dusty, they have no withers and round barrels, but we finally found an all purpose saddle that fits both of them pretty well. My daughter worked with a saddler fitting saddles in Scotland for a while, it is so important to have a well fitting saddle. A lot of training issues can be traced to an ill fitting saddle I wish more people were aware of this. It could save a lot of heartaches. Siete looks especially cute today.

Bill Evertson said...

You deserve a ride. Anyone who checks her horses for growth like a mother checks for new shoes for a child needs a good ride. Ride on Victoria, you deserve it!!