After the confidence building of jumping illadvised things at the Ranch previously, the thought of a new saddle was in my mind. It wasn't a NECESSITY of course and what horse person doesn't have a saddle in mind at all times in case someone comes up to them and offers to buy them the saddle of their dreams but they only have 5 seconds to blurt out what they want?
It could totally happen.
A bit of back story on me, I've never owned an english saddle. At least not one of any worth. Growing up, I showed, trained, and did everything in borrowed saddles. I was at an almost "adult only" barn and they took pity on me and loaned me tack to encourage me I think. So my dressage saddle was a "leftover" from the barn owner (I learned to jump in that bad boy) and then when someone retired a Collegiate Senior Event from their horse, they let me "lease" it for I think like $10 a month but then never collected the money ><
After I quit going to college, one of my many jobs was working for an EPIC tack shop. We'd spend all our down time sitting in the saddles, trying them out, deciding which was the one we couldn't live without if we could afford anything. I took every test ride saddle home systematically and tried them all on Athos at the time. My favorite was the Prestige Eventer but I only had a test ride in the Red Fox. The Fox was great so I assumed that the pricier Eventer would rock my socks off.
A few years down the road, my husband to be gave me a credit card and told me to buy all the things I wanted. I was in shock but immediately went for that saddle. It was going to be like the heavens opened up. $3000 later and the glorious thing was on my horse. I got on and... couldn't find my balance. At.the.walk. I'd been down for a bit on riding but cripes. It was like I'd never ridden. When riding at the canter was scary, I got off and fumed. It was obviously me, not my perfect saddle. I'd NEVER had a saddle that was bought for me so this made no sense. Discouraged I left it in the spare room and pouted.
A year or so went by and I sold the pretty saddle to someone that was super excited to pay $1500 for a saddle that was used only 5 times. Lucky lady. At that point I bought a Crosby Prix de Nations that was about $100. No knee rolls, flat seat, square cantle. Yes, THAT saddle. And BOOM I could ride again. Disgruntled but able to ride, that was my saddle for several years and I vowed to never spent that sort of money again.
When I let my old boys go to their new home, I loaded up EVERYTHING I owned in their trailer and told them to sell it, use it, whatever. The saddle went to a dog friend of mine at the time. I had nothing after that day in hopes of discouraging me from getting another horse (hurr hurr).
When I inevitably went back to the horse world, I was going to ONLY ride western and simplify my life. Maybe. A friend that was interested in dog training classes offered up a deal: a used old Stubben of unknown origins in exchange for dog training. The saddle was in nice condition so I agreed. I could also ride in the thing so yay me.
This got my through my first year with the girls but after I started jumping I knew it was time to saddle shop for reals. I have a really long femur so I knew I needed a forward flap. I looked around, read reviews, had spent most my older life sitting in saddles in tack shops to feel the differences and I've ridden tons of horses with tons of saddles owned by other people. I was going to get a "jumping" saddle so I could do both dressage and jumping in it as I suspected at this time eventing was in my future. The draw of entering the hunter/jumper world was growing but its such a bizarre place I can't ever commit.
My search was down to the Toulouse Marielle or the Ovation Tierra. I've never seen an Ovation saddle in person but the reviews online are great. The Marielle has bleh reviews but I like that its modeled after a great saddle. Nothing was striking me as a great idea and the test ride for the Marielle from Smart Pak was on backorder for like forever so I just sighed and went on.
Over Christmas my parents asked me what I wanted, I laughed and told them the same thing I've told them for 31 years: horse stuff. Not expecting anything (like normal), I went to Christmas Eve dinner expecting nothing and getting... horse stuff. Weird but awesome! With the saddle planning on the back burner, I decided to take Erica to Charlottes in Tomball just to spend the card.
This is where fate shows up.
Naturally I was going to check out the saddles. Imagine my shock when they had a Toulouse Marielle +4 18" seat (my butt is kinda big if you can't tell :P ) for $100 less than the cheapest price I'd found online. o.O <--me
Marielle feeling fiiiinnneee! They talked me into trying it despite my immense protests. Armed with the knowledge of how to wrap stirrup leathers and protect billets, I took the thing home. Immediately I threw it on Katy with my old dressage girth (which was 6" too big and hung off her with room for a hand under it fully tightened oops) and got on. Katy is still working on her balance at this point and so walking, trotting, and cantering the circles with basically no girth was harrowing. She kept diving in and I kept having to balance to keep the saddle centered. It was not fun. The saddle is also WAY cushier than I'm ever used to and it felt weird. Not bad, just weird. Then I had a "why not?" moment and jumped a small cross rail. Again, no girth effectively. THAT FELT GREAT! It was the easiest jump I could ever recall doing without a saddle to fight against me. I really liked that at this point and got off feeling ok.
Later that week I was at a dog show near a Dover and I bought a much smaller girth. While there I tried out their saddles too of course, just in case. The girth barely worked when I got home but I decided to keep the saddle at that point.
So yeah, new saddle (y) Less money in the bank :D
My work has allowed me to come into contact with some amazing (and not so amazing) people. Yes, undergrads and professional students primarily on up through varying staff and faculty people. This is about undergrads and especially student workers.
I'm always on the fence when I get amazing people in my lab to work for me. I am a rule abider - its why I still have a job. There is no way I'll sacrifice that. Having four horses has given me a reason to bend this slightly. When I had a 2 year old AQHA horse that I was retraining, he got to that dreaded "needs riding miles" stage before I could move on with him. I HATE that stage and find it horribly boring so I had a student friend go ride him when she could for her relaxation and I offered her a percentage of the sale when he sold. It was a great arrangement and we were both thrilled.
At this point in my life, the horses (save Arthur) could benefit from someone else riding them and so I've kept my ears open. A person came into my life recently that had tons of REAL riding experience. There is no shortage of "I'll give riding a try!" type of people around but I don't have that much spare time to train someone from ground zero. Come to me with walk, trot, canter and I can work with that. Before this time, I didn't have that. So it was a bit odd when someone came to me through a winding pathway that had extensive horse (jumping!) experience. It was in the hunter/jumper world but I was thankful. Erica came out for a trial on Piper (she's also shorter than me!) and they hit it off. I was thrilled.
After a few rides, we went out to the Ranch and decided to give it a ride. I was on Katy (I know, I know, but I needed miles of confidence building and well, she's easier for me to ride at my height). It all started out nicely and I only had to tack my own horse up! Yes! So awesome. The goal was to maybe find some logs to jump Piper over to see how she was to jump. I didn't have anything at my house for jump material so this seemed the most logical. Luckily Erica is super gutsy so we found a fallen tree that was a bit questionable and she pointed Piper at it. Piper being Piper sorted out the game and flew over it. Then the search was on for jumps!
I trotted and cantered along, taking my job of checking the take off and landing spots very seriously. After sorting out some pretty nice looking jumps and watching Piper rock them, I was beginning to think I should get in on the action with Katy. Remember, I'm in my old flat, slightly off center Stuebben from the 1970s. It doesn't seem like a good idea, but my leg is secure and well, I'd gone to Pine Hill and not died. I wouldn't die today. I was 80% sure of that.
A few goes through the woods and we came upon a clearing FULL of downed logs. It was go time. I found a nice log that was perfect in every way except... it had a gap between it and the ground. Would Katy be bothered by it? Would she pay attention and actually jump the thing? If she refused what would I be able to do? SO MANY FEELS. There was a nice tiny log next to it so we trotted that. No overjumping, nothing so I was like hmm. Maybe Erica will get bored and take the first log.
I got impatient and started a pre-flight checklist. Heels down? Eyes forward? Committed to the jump? so on and so forth. And I headed for it. The log was probably 2'6" off the ground - in my mind "tiny" from my past. For someone that's not jumped in a while, it was big really fast. I swallowed the panic and kept my legs on. Katy easily cleared it, I landed, took a breath, and smiled. OMG I CAN JUMP STILL AND SO CAN MY HORSE.
So then we proceeded to search the property for reasonable things to jump, water to go through (it ended up chest deep oops), and other eventy types of things while I yammered on about how epic going cross country is to a girl that had been in the hunter/jumper world exclusively.
Also my Stubben needs to be retired from my bum :(