Friendly blog advice from fellow horse blogger and professional author Anna Blake
Anna Blake is a blogger that I really enjoy reading. There's just something about her style that makes seem like that horse crazy aunt you can't get enough of. In her blog Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog, she describes herself by saying,
"I’m a horse advocate, equine professional, award-winning author, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. I train horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and I write parables about horses and life."
Clearly, she is someone to with life-lessons to give. A few days ago she wrote a post titled, How to Relieve Your Horse’s Anxiety. I was hooked from the title considering this past weekend had been one of the worst for Jean-Luc and me. He actually had a mini-bucking fit in the round pen! I was hoping I would find some sort of solace in the time I'd spent with my exceptionally rude equine.
Jean-Luc has his temper, but he has never gone full-on bronco in the pen like that. I was confused and also hurt that my horse wanted to be away from me that bad. Is spending time with me really so awful that rodeo shenanigans are called for? Perhaps.
It is no secret Jean-Luc desperately wants his horsey friends with him at all times. After reading Anne Blake's post though, I felt much better. While do believe Jean-Luc has some things he is working through, I am also painfully aware that I need to take a look in the mirror occasionally.
In her post, Anna sets up something for the reader to try and find, “Tell me why my horse is a spazz bucket!?” The answer isn't always your horse, though. She lays it out there, pretty harshly, that the problem is often times your understanding of their discomfort.
Jean-Luc my escape from the real world. In many ways, this means he could actually take on more than some riders who have their mental issues locked and loaded. That said, the reason I believe we work so well is that he honestly doesn’t care diddly about what happened to me, “out there.” I know our best days are the days when I can unload everything at the barn gate, and as guru/yogi as it sounds, “just be”.
That said, this past weekend showed me the importance of the "collected" mindset. Up until this point, we always worked in places that I knew he could see his horsey friends. While under some stress, so long as he can see them Jean-Luc usually remains calm.
This weekend our work out did not accommodate for his need to see the rest of his herd because they were on the top of a hill grazing far away. Also, I felt it was time to start tilting his head back towards me with the lunge line when he would look away. I was determined to get more focus on me. I am quite sure this is what lead to his stress and he just needed to let it out. He dropped his head low, and sped up around the pen. I was so in shock that he was actually going to buck, the first time I let it happen just to ensure I wasn't crazy and that was the action he was going for. To be honest it was intimidating.
I chose to accept his outburst, though, and like a parent working through any child who throws a temper tantrum, I let it happen. Afterwards, I carried on with the rest of our work mostly ignoring the fuss bucket. To the best of my ability, I tried to remember that he was upset. Something in his world was getting rocked, and he was not presently capable of dealing with it.
Let me back up for just a second . . .to be clear, I was not this self-aware while in the pen working with him. The level headed thinking I feel that I have now has only come after days of retrospect.
The only thoughts I had at the time were, "This is scary!", "I know why your last owner sold your pouty butt," and "It looks like we're going to be here a while."
I’m not entirely sure I handled it as well as I could have, but two solid hours of work later I had gained enough confidence to hop on and see what else we could accomplish. While under saddle I worked on leg cues. Turns out Jean-Luc picked up circling with leg pressure really quick. He honestly does have a great brain!
I believe one of the reasons we found success that day was because, like Anna Blake's post suggests, I began the day with only one expectation or goal, “Pay more attention to me than where your horse-buddies are.” I wasn't trying to bite off more than I could chew, just enough that we were able to end on good, progressive notes.
I truly feel that while the day started a little rocky it ended well because I kept a cool head despite the tantrum. Throwing a fit back would have ended in disaster, for sure.
Yesterday I repeated the same lesson almost exactly. This time - no bucks! Though I'm not sure we're finished with these little outbursts, I believe we are at a tipping point in our journey.
Today, I saw that I received a little shout out and vote of confidence from Anna B. Here's to hoping her reassurance carries us into our time together this afternoon while on our regular Tuesday trail ride!
Tuesday was a nice girls day ride with Liz. I truly needed and enjoyed it. After some unexpectedly amazing news, I met her and our farrier at the barn. She was extremely kind and caught Jean-Luc ahead of time so that we could go on a brief trail ride together after the shoeing.
Liz and my BM informed me that Jean-Luc was an easy catch and stood like a proper gentleman. Our farrier had not trouble shoeing, which is normal, and things went off without a hitch. After getting new shoes, Liz and I saddled up, just barely missing a rain storm, and headed out.
Her lovable husky, Keni, came with us, and we both relaxed making the idle girly chat. Jean-Luc acted a little hot, but I didn't think much of it. He tried to nip once or twice at Keni and quickly corrected him to let him know that biting pups was not acceptable behavior.
As we were coming up out of a small wooded area and into a little grassy meadow, though, Jean-Luc uncharacteristically heaved both back legs in the air, bucking one strong buck and then just standing there. I was in shock, and extra surprised I didn't come off. Anyone that has ever ridden with me, especially growing up, knows I used to live in the dirt. But not this time. This time I was able to sit that buck, I believe in large part thanks to my King Series Classic Distance Rider Saddle.
I have owned this saddle for just around two months and there are plenty of reasons to love it, and a few that might make someone else consider purchasing something different.
WHY DID I BUY THIS SADDLE: I wanted something comfortable. I was looking for something I could sit in for hours and not have my knees, butt, or back screaming in pain. I wanted an easy 8 hours in the saddle before I had to even think about getting off.
HOW OFTEN DO I RIDE IT: 3 - 4 times per week
WHAT FEATURES MET MY NEEDS: The fact that this saddle did not have wide fenders that would hurt your knees and ankles when torqued to the side was important. I also liked that the saddle did not have a horn I could get skewed on. I also liked that the saddle is light - 22 lbs total.
UNEXPECTED DELIGHTS: This saddle is not made of the best quality leather, but it holds its own for sure. I really like that there are so many places to hook things.
WHAT DID I CHANGE: The saddle came with some stirrups that were super heavy. I traded them out for some ratty aluminum ones that I plan on fixing up soon. I also added some para chord strings to the back and extra carabiners for latching things on. First and foremost though, I will let anyone that plans on ordering this saddle that they will likely need to punch new holes for the stirrup length (Unless they have the legs of someone like Micheal Jordan?) The stock length of the stirrups was comically long.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER: I knew what I was getting into when I purchased this whole set up for around $350. Don't use it. Be sure to purchase a proper girth at the same time you purchase the saddle. I honestly can't think of anything I would use the girth that came with this saddle for. It's beyond questionable.
Make no mistake, for the price point this is a good saddle, but I wonder how long the leather will hold up. It already looks like there are years of use and few spots absolutely have some extra love already. That said, the first time I used this thing was on a 3 day trail ride where I spent no less than 8 hours each day in it. I rode it through rain, sun, and wind. The thing was pretty abused but rides like the day I got it.
I have also had some trouble finding the ride pad for this saddle. It is a little too big to use just an English Pad, and while Western pads work fine I am a minimalist. The pad pictured is also an endurance pad that is ever so slightly too small because of the saddle's skirt.
CONSUMER SATISFACTION RATING: 7/10
All in all, I give this saddle a 7/10 rating. I can't tell you how many people ask me if it's a Tucker. While it clearly is not, I even fooled myself once when looking at someone's real Tucker and thought they had the same saddle I have - go figure.
The saddle saved me from being dumped but isn't as secure as an Australian or Western. It is easy to put on and off, and great if you need something to sit in for hours. I liked the Classic Distance Rider because its design reflects the historic McClellan saddle of the 1800s. If you don't already know, George B. McClellan, a career Army officer in the U.S. Army, was in charge of designing a saddle by studying the latest developments in engineer and cavalry forces including field equipment. (or so Wikipedia Says) Based on his observations, McClellan proposed a design that was adopted by the Army in 1859. The McClellan saddle was a success and continued in use in various forms until the US Army's last horse cavalry and horse artillery were dismounted in World War II.
Today, the McClellan saddle is used by ceremonial mounted units in the US Army. The saddle was used by several other nations, including Rhodesia and Mexico, and to a degree by the British in the Boer War. The saddle came in various seat sizes that predominantly ranged from approximately 11 to 12 ½ inches. (It looks like many of the Pandora Saddles used by today's endurance racers).
I am pleased that I have something one might consider "classic" and look forward to adjusting this bad boy so that she fits my needs. Like my believe in cars, I believe every saddle needs a good name, what shall I call her?
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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