Monday, March 1, 2010

How things fit

Part of saddle fit is the saddle fitting the rider. If the seat is too small or in some cases too large, you can't get into position where you need to. If the stirrups are too long or too short, your overall position can easily go right out the window as you try to keep you feet in the stirrups at all costs. Sometimes it is easier and better to just drop them and ride without. Your muscles may tell you otherwise later on, but other muscles will rant and ache from trying to keep them. The choice is yours.

When I was getting started in team roping, I rode without stirrups. Why? The horse I was riding belonged to a guy with long legs. The first time he let me ride he asked me how high to put them? I told him without even checking first, "All the way up." So we raised them as high as they would go and they were still too long. My first few runs, just hazing the cows- I was trying like hell to keep the stirrups and not paying attention to much else.

If I was going to even try throwing a rope, I had to find my balance and forget about the stirrups. Which I did and I soon began swinging the rope at least. I felt bad for Ron for having raised the stirrups and me not use them. A few nights we raised them and dropped them when swapping out on the horse and before long when he would hand over the horse to me, we just left them where they were.

As a lot of people know, team roping seems to be a guys sport. Believe me, there were plenty of guys around and soon they all started hassling poor Ron for not raising the stirrups. They gave him a lot of what for and were poking fun, but questioned him being a gentleman and not at least trying... When I proved not to need the stirrups, they left him alone.

I had ridden quite a bit at that point. Every and any horse I could throw a leg over, saddled or not, in fact. I had found my balance through bareback riding and stirrups or not, I could stay on. And coming out of the box is a hell of a rush! Doesn't matter which end of the cow you are on. Just like diving into the turns around barrels and shooting up out of the pocket as you leave them.

I eventually did start throwing the rope. I had hazed cattle out of the headers and heelers box. My first throw- I caught the cow. Wasn't pretty, wasn't fancy and certainly wouldn't have put me in the money if there was any that night, but I had caught him. In doing so, it pissed off one of the other guys who rode Ron's other horse. See this guy had been coming out 3 times a week to rope. He had grown up in feed lot ranching, he just hadn't ever thrown a rope. He kept trying to head a cow and for about four months had tried to catch one with no luck. Me, first time I throw the rope I caught the steer. Not exactly talent, sure wasn't skill- more like dumb luck really, but he was ticked.

He didn't like me much and told Ron not to let me ride his horses anymore... Thankfully Ron didn't listen. I got to ride his horses, was able to catch several more cows, roped myself a couple times, hazed the slow pokes, tried heeling and had a great time all the way around. All without stirrups.

I also learned that a saddle too big for you can sometimes be a blessing. You can move forward more, back a bit and position yourself where you are out of the horses way and make things easier for them. One of the best things about riding in someone else's saddle? You find out what you like and don't before you spend the money.

**Edited to add photo's. Yes that is me riding hubby's mare Johnie. The stirrups are a bit too long and my leg has come out of position in my efforts to jam my foot in the stirrup and keep them from banging her sides. We may have only been walking around, cooling her out after a workout, but still. You can see what a difference only a few holes up or down makes in your leg position. Worrying about the stirrups can distract you from a lot of other things you may need to be fixing instead. Not only are my lower legs too far forward, they are also sticking out- another bad habit of mine, left over from the Arabian horse world days.**

Below are two pictures of me on Psyndi in her first few rides. From back in March of 2007. Notice the difference inmy leg position in my saddle as compared to hubbys.

And how is breeches and ropers for the fashion statement? lol


  1. what an awsome story, I have the worst luck trying to find a saddle that fits me and my horse... also i always feel out of place in other people's saddles... Guess i just need to to it more and more bareback..
    Thanks so much for this inspiring story..

  2. I hear you on the sore muscles trying to hold stirrups that are too long, I did just that a couple weeks ago trying out a greenie. rather than let them flop I thought I should reach and just hold them steady. Walking like a duck the next day!
    I have a great saddle now,there are some that you instantly love , and or instantly hate , but the only way to know seems to be to sit in them

  3. Great post!
    So true, a bit bigger saddle is waaay more comfy than too small.

    I cower before your roping skills!

  4. Lottie- My one western saddle was bought after three rides. One to check the fit for the horse, the next one to check the fit for both of us, the third to confirm the thoughts on the first two. It was offered to me as a kids saddle, which it is not.

    One of my friends offered me a ride on his young horse, to see what I thought. One lap around the arena I dropped my stirrups, two laps around I handed her back. "I like your horse and hate your saddle." is what I told him.

    It had a way of throwing you forward unless your feet were out in front and you braced against them to shove your butt back where it belonged. How is that fun, comfortable or any form of good riding? He loved it. Whatever works.

    FV- I was thinking about you as I typed the post. I have a few pics of me on JR's mare Johnie. Same thing, the stirrups are a bit long and I was trying to hold them from clunking into her side, more than keeping them on my feet. They are useless at that point.

    GL- I tried a lot of things in my day. I tried them, had fun and found what I really enjoyed, then stuck with it. Roping is a blast. Especially launching out of the box on a nod.

    Barrel racing is fun. Team penning and sorting, jumping, saddleseat, driving, trailriding, gaited horses and now dressage... not a whole lot left to try. The main thing I have found, once you have found your balance and can relax into position- the rest comes pretty easily no matter what kind of tack you have on the horse.

    But a saddle that is not comfortable just makes for a miserable ride. And a horse that doesn't behave, can at times make any saddle miserable to sit in too.

  5. And how could I have left put cutting? I mean Come On!

    *hangs head in shame*

  6. Photos of the infamous CNJ!!!!!
    I started back into this riding thing with a Wintec got from a friend. Easy to clean, light, wonderful new marvel of human kind. I figured out right away that I hated it, just took me a while to realize that it wasn't just me, it was the saddle.
    Found a scuffed up leather, but otherwise good shape used polo saddle on Ebay. MUCH better. I sit so much deeper and solid. I didn't like the wintec (it had knee pads as well) cuz I felt like it pushed me forward and then bunched me up at the same time. Felt like I was "perched" not "seated" on the horse.
    Sometimes I think I ride really weird for somebody who prefers an English saddle. Oh well! As long as I'm having fun and horse is too I don't care what anybody thinks!

  7. Oh, and CNJ, after reading way too much about potential causes of head shaking, I decided to just observe more carefully. After last ride and fiddling around, I think my missus is just a bit sensitive to bridle (and halter fit) around her ears and what not (I think GL called it!). I made sure everything was adjusted correctly, no rubbing up to close against base of ears, no forelock sticking here and there to tickle, and she was much better. Princess pony.

  8. PF- haven't I posted pics of me before? I thought maybe I had. If not, well, there's a couple at least... It's tough to argue about my position on a horse when the camera shows that yes, I am doing that- good or bad, usually bad. :( why is that? Told y'all I am a redhead.

    Glad to hear you have sorted out the mare's head shaking. Did you see the nose cover thing I put a clicky link up for, back on the friday post?

    And yay typo's!

  9. dibs on that mare.

    She'd probably dump me, but still.
    Nize mare.

    Off to look again:)

  10. And you've helped me see/understand another basic difference, that can confuse the two disciplines..

    off to muse.
    Thanks, Roper Lady!

  11. Which one? They are both mares... Lol.

    Neither of them would dump you. At least not intentionally.

    Which difference between which two disciplines??? I'm confuzzed. Do I get horsesticks? Someone said there would be horsesticks. Where's the horsesticks?

  12. Okay, I totally recognize you from the Scottsdale show (I think). I know you said you were doing some sort of setting up with jumps, were you there for the Gambler's choice that last Sat night? And did you also show during the liberty class?

  13. Okay, now more on-topic... I don' have money for a "nice" saddle right now.. the one I have fits reasonably well... reg QH bars are too narrows, full QH bars are too wide... so i have a FQHB saddle and I double pad, with a felt pad and a built up cavallo pads. This seems to have evened out the sweat patterns, but makes the saddle slip a bit. It is a Fabtron trail saddle... and I plan to also dabble in several things this year- I want to take my mare to the local show here in town to hopefully do walk-jog WP, I want to do some competitive trail, and I want to introduce her to some cattle sorting... all in my classy Fabtron saddle.

    I do have an AP english saddle that fits her (or seems to, at least) but I haven't even approached that yet!

  14. Amy- That was us on the jump crew. JR and I were in the gazebo during the class, I drove the truck and he stood on the trailer as we picked everything up.

    You should have come by and said "Hi." Kellimare was there too but we didn't get to catch up on anything at the show. That wasn't me in any liberty classes. I haven't shown anything at Scottsdale since 2005. That's the year we started doing jump crew.

    Even my old pleasure saddle is a bit too wide for our old QH mare known as the COB. My saddle is narrower than JR's and fits horses with withers, but on her I have to pad it more in the shoulders or it slips down and back, pinching and making for a miserable ride for us both.

    I'm thinking this could be another topic in the saddle fitting category. "How do you pad things?" Thanks.

    Let me know how you do it and I will post that, as well as how I do it. Maybe we can help someone else through this?

  15. I didn't realize it was you, or I would have!

    I use a standard wool felt pad directly on my mare's back, and on top of that I put a Cavallo built-up pad... that pad was almost 200 bucksa... or roughly 2/3 what I paid for the saddle.

    Lately, we have been working on cantering, so the saddle has been starting to slip back. Like you, I pad the shoulders up and actually put the saddle up further on the shoulder... if I don't it just collapses down on her shoulders and pinches... we were even starting to get a rub mark. :( I think I'm going to have to start using a breastcollar for schooling to keep the saddle from slipping back.

    I just got done riding, if I knew you were going to do that topic, I'd have gotten pics- before AND after the slippage. I will get some pics next time I ride and send them to you if you'de like... I am more than open to suggestions as well. Who knew an acerage to chunky paint would be so hard to fit?

  16. Oh, and I don't jump... I'm also a nurse... I spent the entire class CONVINCED one of those little kids was going to DIE and I was going to have to try to administer first aid... those horses were really freaking hot... I know I couldn't handle one, although guess if I was like 11 and fearless I probably could....

  17. Oh, and I don't jump... I'm also a nurse... I spent the entire class CONVINCED one of those little kids was going to DIE and I was going to have to try to administer first aid... those horses were really freaking hot... I know I couldn't handle one, although guess if I was like 11 and fearless I probably could....

  18. The paramedic was in the gazebo with us. Plus JR trained and worked as an EMT for some time and I have been well versed in First Aid. We would have had it well covered, but extra knowledgeable hands in times like that? Always welcomed!

    I posted on the blog that we would be there... Guess maybe you were out riding that day? Or maybe working? No harm done, there will be others.

    That family had us freaked out in more than just the GC class. Like Mom or Dad holding the really young infant and leading two horses. Or putting the infant up on the horse, in front of one of the kids.

    I am just glad none of them got hurt. The girl taking the jump with a loose saddle- insane. All it takes is once. They may never ride again or be able to. Nothing in the world is worth that. Not to me anyways.

  19. And if you would like to take pics and send them, I would be glad to use them. I will be taking some this weekend. Just gotta clean the old broad up some. Shaggy, matted and looking like a yak coverd in mud. Yippee!

  20. Well, I knew you were going to be there, but I wasn't sure who you were! Oh well... anyway, I would have felt like a fool hollering "C&J!!! HI!!!!" across the arena... LMAO!!!

    Um, the little girl took that jump right in front of us after her saddle slipped. She looked SO confused, poor thing! Someone was yelling at her "Keep going!!" I was with a lesson instructor friend, who was irate. Needless to say, I was all OMG!!! and gasping when she took it. I have seen head and neck injuries... NOT pretty, I always wear a helmet when I ride for that reason.

    Anyway, I took some saddling/padding pics, posted them on my blog:

    Take whatever you want! Even if you see some "don'ts," let me know, I'm relatively new to this horse thing!

  21. Might need a stiff drink when I tell you this.

    That was Her Mom yelling to her. Can you believe that????

    The entire gazebo let out various groans and I think I may have heard an "Oh Gawd!" or six mixed in. Head shaking, hand wringing, a few heads turned away- all done and accounted for.

    I will take a peek at the pic's. And can you believe more rain in the forecast? Like we haven't gotten enough already... I may never get a chance to work my horse.

  22. Rain? Honey, I live a couple thousand feet higher than you. Try snow and sleet. :)

    My mare is nearly shed all the way out.... no shivering yet, they ahve a barn... but I really do not want to have to buy a blanket this year.

    Yes, my irate friend suspected that was a horse show mom, not wanting her kid to blow the class. Nice.

  23. If you would not like to believe it, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes with that group. Enough to make the GC class stuff seem petty in comparison. Sad, isn't it?

    My mare came from up your way and Canada before that. She's not so affected by all of this. The rest of the herd? They are shedding like mad. Clumps of hair coming out, still glued on by mud- yep they are a fine looking group at the moment. *sigh*