Saturday, February 5, 2011

Getting dressed....

Shannon over at It's Quarters for Me was commenting on her Western saddle recently. I started to think about how completely intimidated I was when I first started using a Western saddle. I started out English, so a Western saddle seemed so bulky to me and awkward to handle. Actually, it still does. I admit that I am Western saddle challenged. :-) Once I am in it, though, I love it!! I thought I would share how I get tacked up. Once Gem is saddled up using LA's technique, I have no worries about the saddle slipping or sliding. It's me that I have to worry about slipping and sliding. :-)

Here's my usual routine :

  • I take my 75 lb. saddle from the rack in the tack room, making sure that I scrap my knuckles on the door frame as I walk through the door, carry it down the barn aisle, which I estimate to be about a mile long, making sure the metal stirrups smash against my legs leaving bruises and place it on the rack at Gem's stall.

Hello. Are we going to play?

Open the latch and let me out.

  • I put Gem in the cross-ties. After a good brush and hoof cleaning, I put the under pad and saddle blanket on him.

  • I hook the right stirrup on to horn, flip the girth over the seat and carry the 75 lb. saddle (OK! OK! it's only ~25 lbs) from the saddle rack over to Gem, banging the left metal stirrup against shins as I go, causing additional bruises.

  • I lift saddle basically up over my head (Gem is 16.0hh) and gently place it on my beautiful boy's back. Most Western riders simply swing the saddle up and on their horses. I tried that once. I slammed the saddle into Gem, and the bounce-back slammed me into the stall door. Yep, that left a mark.

After I recover from carefully lifting and placing the saddle down on Gem's back, I step up on my little stepping stool and adjust the saddle pad and position of the saddle - you don't want it too high on his withers, but you don't want it too far back either. I also smooth down Gem's hair under the saddle pad. You may be asking yourself, "Why doesn't she just step up on the stepping stool and place the saddle from there?" I tried that once and as I tried to manipulate the saddle, I lost my footing and stumbled off of the stepping stool and ripped one of my nails as I stopped the saddle from slipping out of my hands. Obviously, I cannot manage my balance and a 75 lb. saddle at the same time.

  • After the saddle is in a comfortable position, I feed the leather strap through the cinch buckle and then through the strap's loop.

  • Once the strap has been fed through twice, using the strength of ten mice, I slowly start to tighten it. In the beginning, this was a high risk area for me to pinch my fingers. I am better at this now.

  • When the straps seem snug, I place the buckle hook through one of the holes in the strap and pull the straps towards me to tighten and engage the hook.
  • I feed the rest of the strap through the little strap holder on the saddle.

Are we done yet???

  • I don my helmet and put the bridle on Gem. After I walk Gem to the arena, I repeat the tightening process. At this point, Gem usually looks at me and says it's tight enough. Oh, sure. I have fallen for this in the past, but I am smarter now. Yep, it only takes a couple of times of the saddle slipping while getting on to teach me that I need to check the girth prior to mounting! By the time I have tightened the girth, another 4 inches is added to the length of the excess strap.
So, there you have it. Some people like their girths really tight. I have seen some riders tighten theirs until there is almost no clearance between the gullet and the withers. I am no expert, but to me, that defeats the purpose of having a gullet. Gem's is tight, but I personally don't want it so tight he's uncomfortable. So, as I am tightening his girth, I think of a bra. Yep, a bra. You see, I know how uncomfortable it is to wear a super duper sports bra, so I can relate to how irritating it can be having something tight around your chest. However, I also understand that you have to have a snug fit to ensure that nothing really moves around. So.....I guess Gem can thank my sports bra for his comfort. :-)

What was I thinking....?


  1. Interesting! (Glad you mentioned that the saddle is only 25 lbs., 'cause I thought you were serious about the 75 lbs.!)

    How long does all this take?

  2. DD - I am telling you, it feels like it's 75 lbs when I am carrying it or trying to lift it!!

  3. Thanks for the lesson. I have no idea how to fasten a western cinch, I've never done it. The few times I rode western it was on trail rides and the horses were tacked for us.

    I'm glad you feel comfortable in a western saddle after riding english. I can't do it to save my life except at a walk. No kidding. I've cantered, galloped, jumped good size jumps and have no problem, put me in a western saddle and I'm all over the place. Thought I was going to hit the dirt more than once at a trot.

    I really like the knuckle scrapping part, I can relate to that. Humorous post Wolfie.

  4. I thought I was the only one who compared the tight girth to a tight bra! And I'm no saddle tosser either... bad elbow, bad shoulder... it's easier for me to place it. Of course I am tall - so that helps.

    I think my saddle weighs 75 lbs, too.

  5. GHM - It took me a while, but I actually like sitting in a Western saddle. It sort of cradles my butt. Holy crap, scraped knuckles hurt!:-)

    Tammy - Nice to know that I am not alone! I hate those stupid bras, however they are a necessity for me. I am 5'7", but it seems like I am much shorter when I have to lift that 75 lb. saddle up!!!

  6. Sorry, Detroit Dog - I didn't answer your question. From start to finish, including grooming, it takes me about 1/2 hour to tack up.

  7. I know what you mean about western saddles being heavy! When I first started as a volunteer as a tiny 12 year old, there was one saddle that I could not lift onto this one horse's back. It drove me crazy for like a year. The day I was able to get the big old roping saddle on her back without slamming it down (I don't like it when people slam saddles down on horse's backs...makes me feel bad) was a good day.

    I have never buckled my cinch, I've always tied a cinch knot...I was never convinced it would stay Apparently it does?

    As for the girth tightening, I definitely agree that it's wrong when people just yank it all the way up...makes horses "cinchy" IMO. I always tighten mine enough that the saddle won't slip when I'm in the stall, and then tighten the rest up once I'm ready to ride. I think it helps make them more comfortable...

    Loved this post...very funny!

  8. lol... as one born in the year of the horse, all things horsey prick my interest :)

  9. Mare - I have never had a problem with the buckle coming undone and I find using it much easier and quicker when it comes to tightening or loosening the cinch.

    LW - I was born in the Year of the Monkey. :-)

  10. First time reading your blog, that was great. I started off (back in the dark ages) riding Western and I remember the shin bruises. lol
    And I learned about tossing the saddle up there when I casually tossed a stock saddle onto the back of a three year old, just off the track appendix and he tossed it right back at me.

  11. *LOL* What a great post!! I too thought you were serious about the saddle weighing 75lbs -- my jaw dropped!! And what a great step-by-step photo guide, though I think I'll be sticking with English even tho Western saddle frames me behind so well ;o)

  12. Barbara - Welcome! He tossed the saddle back at you?? LOL Shorts are not an option for legs are always covered in bruises!! :-)

    Joy - Nice to hear from you! Now that I am used to it, I really like the way I sit in a Western saddle....I like the way it frames my behind, too. :-)

  13. Great post!

    I think there's a reason why a lot of Western riders (even huge men!) ride 14 hh quarter horses.....

    Western saddles can be a work out.
    I have a used roping saddle that I like to ride in, although it's about 45lb. I usually try and park my horse RIGHT outside of the tack room door. Then, it's grab the saddle, two steps out the door, swing the saddle onto the horse. A short horse.

    I use my English saddle if I ride our draft cross! :)


  14. Hi Mary! Thanks for stopping by. I think you make a good point....most of the horses where I board are around the 14.3 mark! LOL Boy, a 45 lb saddle - that's heavy. I am looking forward to checking out your blog!

  15. Enjoyed this post!!!! What a great start to a Monday morning!!! I can especially relate to banging the stirrups on your shins.
    I'm the opposite, western gone english, and thinking about switching back now!!!

  16. You are awesome!!! Thank you so much for posting pictures to help me with my western saddle impairment. I did take note of your last comment to me and tightened up the off-billet enough so I could actually buckle the cinch and the latigo using the holes. It was so long before that all the holes were past the buckle. It made a big difference! No more sliding.

    And, FYI, my shins are all bruised up from toting that saddle around so much in the past couple days- I am literally feeling your pain :)

  17. I feel the same way as you do - awkward in a western saddle. But I appreciated this post, because I cinch mine differently. I'm going to try it like you showed, and see if that makes any difference. Mine stays tight now, but i have a really hard time adjusting it while mounted and sometimes Spoon puffs out a bit and I need to adjust.

  18. Morning!

    MP - I haven't given up on English completely! I still have my English saddle and I will definitely give it another go at some point. :-)

    Shannon - My pleasure!! So glad that it's working out for you. I believe the bruising caused by my Western saddle has actually made me resistant to pain..... :-)

    Lauren - Of course Spoon puffs out. :-) I have seen riders who use this method adjust the tightness of their cinches while mounted quite easily. Just like tightening your belt.

  19. so was my sis... monkeys are brilliant!

  20. I don't know if you will find this comment, since the post is an older one, but I do want to tell you how much I enjoyed your description of the damage done in carrying your saddle. I live that every day...although mine is somewhat lighter!!!
    Yeah.. those bruises on the shins - I KNOW what you are talking about!

  21. Thanks, Dreaming. :-) I have never had so many marks and bruises on my body!! The end result is so worth it though.

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