Dec 17, 2011

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So today I packed up my trail saddle, took it down to my local tack shop and put it up for sale on consignment. While I think it’s a smart thing to do, I can’t help but feel like I’m closing the door on an era of my life. In another week or two it will be a year since I lost Tia. About thirteen years ago I bought this saddle to use with Tia and I can’t tell you how many miles it has on it. I always took good care of my gear and  my husband was kind enough to do the routine maintenance when I wasn’t capable. I brought my saddle inside during the winter and when the damp humid summer months arrived, so it’s in very good shape.

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I was thinking that somewhere down the line I’d like to get a better grade saddle for Dharla. My old saddle had some features that didn’t suit me anymore and although they weren’t enough to make me run out and drop a bundle on a new saddle, I did think that at some point I might start looking for a replacement. Then, in early November, I went to the Equine Affair; a colossal four day event that attracts retail dealers galore and multiple riding clinics. This event has everything you can possibly imagine that pertains to horses under one (well, under five or six) big roof(s).

I wasn’t planning on saddle shopping. Honest. But I was hoping to visit the booth of a retail shop that had been recommended by Dharla’s trainer. Unfortunately, their store is in a nearby state that is close, but not THAT close.  I thought I could see if they’d brought any saddles to sell and maybe do a little browsing or mind-picking without having to do a lengthy drive. Lo and behold, not only had they brought a HUGE inventory of western tack, Dharla’s trainer was moonlighting for them as one of their salesman!

I hadn’t seen Patrick since April, but he recognized me right away. We had a nice chat and caught up on Dharla’s progress before I turned the conversation to the question at hand. And how nice was it that I had someone right there to help guide me, who not only knew my horse and her specific anatomy personally, but also knew my strengths and weaknesses? I was stoked!

Needless to say, I was not planning to buy a saddle in the first hour that I was at the Equine Affair, but that’s what happened. They had a used Bob’s saddle, a close contact Doug Mullholland reining saddle that fit me very well. It was expensive …. far more pricey than anything I’d ever dreamed of buying, even for a used saddle. But it was oh, so nice. And broken in just enough to be really comfortable, but not so much that it was beat up. Because who in their right mind would abuse a saddle that cost that much?

I hemmed and hawed. I knew that thinking about buying a used saddle at an event like that was like seeing an antique you like at a flea market and not buying it right then and there. You snooze, you might very well loose. Not that this is a one-of-a-kind saddle, but the chances of ever finding a used copy in that size and great shape was about a gazillion to one.

So there I was in the first hour after arriving at the Equine Affair and considering buying a used saddle that more than exceeded my tack budget by a wide margin. By all accounts I should have just gotten in my car right then and there and driven back home because my shopping allowance was totally shot. But I was there with someone else and so it was a few hours  before I could call it a day.

I was pretty stoked to try my new saddle. I thought it fit Dharla well and I liked how it felt when we rode. That said, it was different and I had to ride in it for about three weeks before my muscle memory could “reset” to it. There were times when I questioned if the saddle was the right fit for me, because it didn’t feel like my old saddle felt, which meant my horse didn’t feel quite the same. But the more I rode in the saddle the better the rides got. I had to adjust to feeling more of Dharla’s action, to having a slightly different posture and alignment and a better feel of what was going on beneath my seat.  At first, it made my dysfunctional back ache, which made me question my purchase. But as I continued to use the saddle I started to get stronger where I was weak and the thoracic ache began to dissipate. I started to love the way the saddle felt, the way my horse felt under it.

I held off on selling my old saddle until I was certain I’d made the right choice on it’s replacement. I took my new saddle and drove to Rhode Island to talk with the tack shop owner and re-evaluate my purchase. I’d spent a lot of money and I wanted to be absolutely certain I was buying the right saddle for Dharla and me. Let me just say that sometimes you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the company of a great horseman …. and this was one of those times.

Steve knew stuff that made me wish I was sitting around a campfire recording his words. I mean, I know a genius and talented horseman when I hear one. So we talked … or rather, Steve did, and I listened. A couple of hours passed and I came away with a lot more tips about working with my horse (and my “new” saddle) than I bargained for. It made me wonder what’s going to happen when saddle makers and horse trainers like this are no longer around to share their wisdom? All I can say is that if you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop and pay a visit to Allie’s Tack Shop in Rhode Island. Ask for Steve, then sit back and be prepared to be amazed by his wisdom and humble horsemanship. Cowboys and craftsmen like this are a very rare find indeed

.So time will tell if my old saddle sells. I know I’ll be a bit sad if it does, but it’s the Buddha way  … if it’s not being used it’s time to pass it down the line.

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