If the saddle doesn’t fit, burn it.
Early June was the second time we had Mimi’s equine bodyworker out. As she ran her hands along Mimi and took note of her sore spots we talked about saddle fit.
Mimi has a shorter back than most, and the western saddle I used as a work saddle was just a bit too long for her. Otherwise, I saw no obvious pressure points in the way it fit.
I shopped around for a saddle with a short skirt. I seriously considered a barrel saddle. I couldn’t find a quality saddle for a decent price to ride her in. I did not want to buy a new saddle. Nobody does.
The solution dawned on me one morning while driving to the barn. I have a bareback pad. It has a suede seat, good for gripping. I am a capable rider. If Stacy Westfall can ride one bareback I can.
I rode Mimi bareback for 8 weeks. I added a neck rein so if she ever got fresh I had something to grab onto besides the reins to keep my balance.
It was good. I felt more connected to her. I could feel if her back was tense or relaxed. It also knocked me down a peg. I ride well enough that I can use the saddle to my advantage to muscle a horse around a bit. This definitely leveled the playing field. Mimi refuses to get muscled around anyways. She will put you in the dirt if you try it.
After 8 weeks Mimi was riding well. Her sully tendencies were almost a distant memory. A riding buddy of mine came out to Arizona for a visit, and I invited her to climb on Mimi. Most people prefer riding strange horses in an actual saddle, so I dusted off the saddle I used to ride her in. After I mounted, Mimi took about two steps forward and quit. I urged her on.
Her head flew up in the air. Her tail was swishing. Her attitude was rotten. We were hopping around, tip-toeing, neck-flinging and going sideways. It was definitely the saddle. Princess Mimi could feel this pea from before and she did not want anything to do with it.
I hopped off, removed the saddle, and went to fetch my bareback pad. I compared her experience with what I must feel like if I wear an ill fitting pair of shoes. The first day I would suffer through, but you wouldn’t catch me wearing them again.
A quick switch and the difference was incredible. She had no issues. Her anger melted away, replaced by a relaxed, happy, working mare. It was an awesome ride.
I am grateful for Mimi’s outspoken personality. She is a kind, sweet mare, and does her best to communicate to me when something is wrong. I try my best to pay attention to it and listen to her.
Pain is an emotion. It incites anger from people as well as horses. Just imagine if, wherever you are, someone came up to you and out of nowhere stomped on your foot. Hard. Yes you would feel pain, but at the same time you would be angry with this person. You would say something or do something to show them that what they did hurt you. It was obvious Mimi was telling me that saddle fit like a pair of walmart stilettos.
While driving home I wondered to myself how many horses were going through this same problem. Often, trainers attack horses for expressing themselves the way Mimi did that night. No good horseman intentionally subjects their animals to pain. I can only guess how many people ride every day, and unknowingly put their horses through saddle fit pain.
I was one of them.