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Sometimes things happen and we don’t understand why.  We cry, we rage, we feel frustration and wonder, “Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?”  We try to come up with reasons, we justify.  We cry some more.  However, if we choose to live our lives looking through the rose tinted glasses of The Silver Lining, we will always be able to see the good in everything.  (Well almost everything.)

That is what my mom does.  She taught me to always laugh at yourself, if you do you will never be bored.  She taught me keep on trying even when it feels impossible.  She taught me to keep my chin up and a smile on my face… even when you don’t want to.  Because a smile can be your gift to someone in need of one.  She has taught me about the true gift of giving.  When you look at life through the rose tinted glasses of The Silver Lining, you can always see a way to turn your hardship into someone else’s gift.

Recently I got a call from my step dad that my mom had an accident and was in the ER.  She is fine, but she fractured her back.  Talk about heart stopping!  She had just bought a brand new saddle for her adorable little arab/warmblood cross mare.  She had just started riding her mare on trails.  She had called me a few days before to tell me all about the wonderful hour and half long trail ride she went on, how much fun it was, how empowered she felt being able to get out and ride like that again.  I was heart broken for her.  Because she has always struggled with back issues, she made the difficult choice to not ride anymore.  She just can not take that risk.  So what did she do?

I’ll tell you!

She put on her rose tinted glasses and found The Silver Lining and sent her brand new saddle home with my handsome hubby for me to try out.  I am so excited!!!  As you all know, I don’t have a saddle budget and though I DO have a daydream saddle budget a truly nice, McCall saddle is just not realistic.  So to have this opportunity just blew my socks off!!

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It’s a bittersweet feeling because I know how hard she worked for this beautiful saddle.  I know how excited she was when she got it.  I know how excited she was to go trail riding.  But she knows how nervous I am to ride Billy, it’s been so long since I’ve ridden!  She knows how having a nice, well fitting saddle will help boost my confidence, and Billy’s!  She knows that she can help me, even when her dreams have faded to daydreams.

So THANK YOU mom!  Thank you thank you thank you!!  I just don’t think words can express how grateful I am.

 

I do not have a big budget for a saddle. Actually I don’t have a saddle budget at all, so when I went out shopping I knew I was going to have to pinch my pennies. Luckily my mom gave me her old saddle to sell and that started my saddle fund!

The first saddle I purchased, back when Billy was just a two year old, was a Wintec Wide Dressage Saddle. I thought it would be the perfect fit because it has the adjustable gullets, allowing you to change out the gullet as your horse grows and changes. The problem? When Billy was two the widest gullet was the one that fit. Also, because Billy started out with such a dip in his back, the saddle bridged terribly. The more I padded to help with the bridging the taller and more unstable the saddle became!

I had been sitting on Billy bareback and in the bareback pad and he took to it like a fish to water. (He has a very small bubble and loves to invade my space, so having me on his back was the perfect solution! I can’t get any closer to him than that!) When I sat on him with the saddle on he was stamping his feet, swishing his tail, his ears were back and he humped his back up, giving a little crow hop.

I decided that he didn’t like that saddle and it was time to go shopping.  Now some will say that I am spoiling him because I listened to this feedback and didn’t make him adjust to the saddle. I say, why fight it? If he doesn’t like it then neither do i! I’m not the one that has to cart me around the mountains. His comfort is my top priority. If he is comfortable then I will be too.

So off I went to do some research and find the perfect starter saddle for Billy and I. This took me many months because many of the treeless saddles that I truly loved are way out of my price range.

The Freeform Ultimate Trail saddle is my dream saddle. It’s on my wish list for when I win the lottery…

The Freeform Ultimate Trail Saddle:  $1979.00
FF-ultimate-2TEXCITING NEWS!  A great new saddle for trail and endurance!!  Woohoo!  After many years of riding I wanted to design a comfy saddle for my older body.  I worked for a few years on prototypes of different seat styles.  Finally I’ve come up with what I think is the perfect seat!  A wonderful gel seat that fits a woman’s pelvic bones.  It’s wide in the seat, narrow in the twist and high in the cantle with soft gel poleys.  The seat will keep you in the saddle for many hours of riding.  I’m in love with the comfort and security of it.

I like the Barefoot treeless saddles as well, though they are not on the top of my list.

“The Barefoot Barrydale VSD Treeless Saddle: $995.00

BD-2The anatomically shaped knee rolls and seat on the new Barefoot Barrydale frame the rider thus affording the ride a low and secure ride.

The new Barefoot V-belting allows the girthing to self-adjust and distributes the pressure of the girth over the entire saddle.  The position of the v-belting also positions the saddle directly over the horse’s center of gravity, the perfect position for the horse to support the rider’s weight.

Each Barefoot Barrydale incorporates Barefoot’s VPS (vertebrae protection system).  The Barefoot VPS system’s components are totally flexible and therefore the saddle adjusts immediately to the movements of the horse.  The Barefoot VPS system is not bulky and allows for a very close contact and connection between horse and rider.

** I have a friend that got the Barefoot Tahoe and did NOT like it.  She said it was very uncomfortable as there was something under the seat that was hurting her as she rode.  She rode in it only a few times and then had HORRIBLE customer service when she tried to return it. They pulled a few unethical moves, however Emily was able to return it in the end. After hearing her story I would be very hesitant to purchase a saddle from Barefoot.

The Startrekk saddles are very interesting to me! I like the look of the Iberian saddle. I feel this would be an excellent trail saddle.

The Startrekk Iberian Portuguese Treeless Saddle: $1875.00

ST-Esp1The Startrekk Espaniola is an Iberian/Portuguese style treeless saddle modeled after those used in classical riding.  It has moveable panels secured with Velcro and a changeable pommel configuration.  The seat is built up to provide a twist for the rider.  The Espaniola works well for wide, short-backed horses such as Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Icelandics and other gaited horses.

I ended up finding Rocky Creek Hill Treeless Saddles located in Canada. They are able to keep the prices of their saddles down because the don’t have a middle man. They get them straight from the manufacturer and don’t have a retail store, so can keep the overhead costs to a minimum. This is something I appreciate.  not only that, they are always available and the customer service is wonderful! Also they look very much like the Barefoot brand of treeless, but cost much less.

My favorite saddle of theirs is:

The Diva: $499.00 (this includes leathers & irons and 2 sets of velcro spine clearance pads!)

thedivaThis is our Dressage/Trail treeless saddle with long leg flaps- extremely comfortable for any type of riding.  We even have clients using The Diva in endurance; these saddles are THAT comfortable!

The flaps lift up like a traditional saddle and are padded, and smooth (not stitched).  Built in knee blocks.

I bought this cute little treeless saddle (pictured below) this past spring. It was one of the sale saddles and though it wasn’t the exact saddle I wanted I figured it was a great place to start!

The Rocky Trail Blazer:  *ON SALE for $399 + shipping

SONY DSCSONY DSCAll purpose/ Trail treeless saddle with designer stitching.  A join-up of western styling meets all-purpose everyday flexibility.  All in a compact, lightweight, treeless saddle.  Flaps are one-piece padded and stitched, with NO knee blocks.

** note the leathers and stirrups pictured here are ones i already owned.  they did not come with this saddle.

I actually really love this saddle. It feels like sitting on a cloud, doesn’t weigh much (maybe 4 or 5 pounds?) and the most important part… Billy LOVES it!

Over the course of a few months I have figured out a few very important things about fitting this saddle to both Billy and myself… but that is information for another post. Stay tuned!

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Saddle fit can feel very overwhelming and confusing.
Good Saddle Fit

Saddle fit can feel very overwhelming and confusing. There is lots of conflicting information out there about what kinds of saddles fit the best. One thing that I think most people can agree on is that almost all saddles are built too narrow for our big bodied horses.

Balanced Saddles has put together a very informative article about saddle fit and how that changes as our horse changes through proper riding, or improper saddle fit. We can build our horse’s back up with the proper fit and teaching our horse to carry himself correctly.  On the opposite side of that we can actually damage our horse’s back when our saddle fits improperly and/or we ride incorrectly.

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I want to show the flat panels on the underside of my saddle. This is a wool flocked saddle. I prefer them over the air panels. The flatter panels allow the saddle to sit down better on the muscles of the horse’s back. Thereby distributing the weight more evenly.
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This photo clearly shows the width of the channel running down the middle of the saddle. This will distribute the weight on either side of your horse’s spine.
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These pictures show how the saddle sits on Billy’s back with and without a saddle pad. Because of the shape of Billy’s back it is difficult to see how the channel of the saddle straddles his spine. He has quite a dip in the middle of his back which could cause bridging of the saddle so I will have to supplement my set up with some shims.

I have been working very hard with Billy’s posture and teaching him to use his topline correctly, but teaching him to properly use his hind end may come when I really start riding him. I’m curious about how a young horse that has a bit of a weak back starting out, will respond to riding and challenge of carrying a rider. I can’t afford to jump right into an expensive saddle at the beginning only to have to sell it and buy again in a couple of months when he changes. To get me through that stage I have my Wintec saddle, but I am interested in correctly padding his back to encourage proper muscle build up. I know from just watching him grow and mature over the last few years that he is going to go through even more body changes when I start riding. Helping him to mature correctly is top on my list.

We can use our conformation/posture photos to help us understand our horse’s body and how we can help them through correct saddle fit. As you ride, over time you can take similar photos of your horse from both sides, front and back and see if there are any changes. You will be able to see muscles changing in the back getting bigger, or are they changing side to side? Are the muscles of one shoulder bigger than the other? Are your horse’s hips staying level or are they beginning to drop one side or the other? The photos will be so helpful with this. Because we are around our horses every day we may miss some of these things as they start and not realize what is happening until the muscles are so atrophied that we have to do some rehabilitation. If we can catch these things quickly we can effect change even faster!

Your horse is your mirror can also apply to posture. Do you drop a shoulder when you ride, causing you to be off balance just a tiny bit? This will show up in your horse’s shoulders as well. Do you ride with one stirrup longer than the other? This will throw off your horse’s hips and could cause soreness in the back. It’s amazing to me how many people are riding with two different length stirrups and don’t even know it! Some people ride with different length reins, pulling their horse’s head off to one side just a little bit, but over time you will develop the muscles in the neck differently on one side than the other.

There are so many ways our horse’s will mirror our posture. I highly recommend a chiropractor for your horse (and yourself!) and an equine massage therapist or body worker. It’s amazing what a good one can do for your horse in just one session!

I also use essential oils to help with Billy’s different posture issues. Young Living’s Valor is an amazing oil for helping the horse (and human) realign. In fact it’s been called “Chiropractor in a bottle.” The oils along with body work, massage or chiropractic care can work wonders.

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Finding a good saddle that fits properly and learning to ride in a balanced way, in harmony with your horse can work wonders too.