Reluctant Cowgirl


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Notes from a Summer Evening

It was still in the 90s when I grabbed my pony tonight. Summer is real.

Lately we’ve been trying an assortment of approaches aimed at relaxation, focus and building our partnership. I’m sorry about how sappy and cliché that sounds. But when I have more bad interactions than good with my horse I am ready to try anything.

We start with slow, careful catching using approach and retreat. When he doesn’t show stress I move toward him, when he does I back away. There are generally some scratches and a treat involved. I do my best to wait until he’s fully relaxed and willing before I put the halter on. I’m tired of rushing. It doesn’t work for us.

Next we went to the arena and did ground work. The aim was keeping him with me and engaged, so I broke out some cavaletti and cones because he gets bored easily in the ring. We walked and trotted, we side passed, turned on the haunches. We worked on backing into parallel ground poles, which was the hardest obstacle for us today. I laughed and had a big stupid smile on my face because he seemed to be enjoying it all, which is mostly all it takes for me to be happy.

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OK, this is cool.

Finally, I threw on my saddle and did a few of the obstacles riding, then rode him out of the arena and across the property, climbing one big hill and taking a nice break in the shade for a few bites of grass.

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This is even cooler, frankly.

We observed that the cows had been moved from one side of the road to the other, and it was very interesting to him. I didn’t make fun of him and tell him to get over it. I said I was sorry the cowboys didn’t send him a memo; that he really should be the first one they tell when they are planning to make changes to the surrounding rangeland. I forgave his tension and waited for it to pass.

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But…but…but that’s not where they belong.


Incidentally, I also took some photos of my ass in the saddle while he was having that grass break and boy am I sure now that my 16.5” saddle is too small. Turns out I’m not some string bean teenager anymore. I keep lamenting how hard it is to stay in the correct position and going, ugh, stop making excuses, probably your riding just sucks. But maybe I really do need something a little more roomy.

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3-4 fingers? I can barely get a single pinkie back there. Geez. #amateurhour

I don’t even know where to begin the saddle search. I asked a couple friends on the East Coast and one said Wintec or Albion, the other, a saddle fitter, suggested County. When I google ‘dressage saddle fat wide short backed mustang no withers’ I get a lot of hits for Duett. But will I like a Duett? Will I like a County? WHAT THE HECK THERE ARE 7,324 SADDLE BRANDS AND MODELS OUT THERE WHERE DOES ONE EVEN START.

I’m not really ready to buy new, but even if I was, if I haven’t already mentioned this one thousand times, I live in the middle of nowhere, in cowboy country. The closest tack shops with dressage saddles are 3-5 hours away. Saddle fitters, same. So do I buy used from a seller/consignor with trial periods? It seems like that’s probably the safest bet.

I’m most comfortable in a dressage saddle, and think the right one should be something I can use for lessons and trail riding. Maybe down the line a proper endurance saddle will become necessary, but for now one good, well-fitting dressage saddle is all I want.

(Except for the Wade western saddle I need for my cowboy cred. I never can tell when one of my neighbors is going to ask me to help move cattle, and I absolutely cannot show up in a dressage saddle.)