Monday, April 2, 2018

Opening and Closing a Gate and Possible New Saddle

The new obstacles are really coming in handy.  For example, the mailbox--I showed Bee how to open it one time, and she immediately wanted to do it herself.  I love her curiosity.

Leah lacks that for some reason, but I did use the mailbox to work on getting her to side-pass to objects--in preparation for the gate work. She was, of course, resistant, but eventually she got me close enough to open and close it a few times.

And then it was time for the new gate obstacle.

For the record, Leah is great at letting me open gates.  It's the closing where she loses her mind.  The day she fell down--about 1 1/2 years ago, we had opened the gate and walked out of the arena toward the barn.  Then, I asked her to turn around and walk back into the arena and close the gate.  She would have NONE of it and she tried to bolt away, but I held her, she braced and started to fall, I bailed off and hit the ground, she recovered herself and stood in the gate opening looking (I thought) devastated. In retrospect, I'm not so sure.  But she did stand there and let me get back on.

Anyway, I wanted the new gate to open to the pasture so that we could removed the variable of the barn.  She will always want to go back to the barn to eat, and that is a fight I don't need to introduce right now.

We worked on closing the gate for about 30 minutes before we got success.  I had to drop it many, many times when she would side-pass away or go too far forward or backward.  I could feel her heart really beating, too, like she was stressed.  So, I would ride her away, and then come back, hoping it would deescalate it.

In the end, the thing that brought us success was staying put at the gate, asking for one step at a time, and letting her rest until I could feel her heart rate return to normal, before asking her to take another step. It was meticulous work that took every ounce of patience I could muster.  And, there were moments I thought it was a big waste and at the end she'd just bolt anyway.

But she didn't.  She took that gate, step by step, to its closing position and allowed me to latch it.

I began to praise her to high heaven and she turned her head and looked at the closed gate like

That's all you wanted???

I decided to dismount there and give her rest as her reward.  I jumped to the ground and grabbed her face and kissed her and kissed her.  Then I took her picture to commemorate the moment.

I need suggestions.  Leah has lost a lot of weight, which is a good thing, it's what we've been working on, but I would like to give her a supplement that she can enjoy eating and won't cause her to get fat.  I give my elder geldings equine senior every morning and night, and I would like to give her something substantive, too.  Right now I give her a small scoop of Farrier's Formula.

Also, I'm trying to get away from my heavy saddle--not completely away--but when I'm riding three horses a day, I need a lighter saddle to move between horses, but one that has all the safety features of a real saddle.  I've been going through all of mine and here is what I've found:

1. I love the feel of my heavy western saddle.  You sit deep in it.  The fenders stay in one place if I need to get on and off, and it's easy to get on and off without a mounting block.

2. My endurance saddle with english leathers and stirrups is very comfortable, but not as easy to bail off fast or get back on without a mounting block.  I can certainly do it, but it's not nearly as easy as the western.  The stirrups want to get stuck on my boots.

3. The horses love the feel of the english style girth on my endurance saddle.  The elastic isn't as confining.

4. I'm trying out an endurance saddle with western style fenders, but the seat feels flat and I'm having a hard time getting used to it. Is that common?

5. I've only tried the new saddle on Cowboy, so far, but he seemed to really like.  The rigging is different and sets the cinch back more than on western saddles, but he seems to like that placement.

Any thoughts on endurance saddles?

Here it is. It's an RR Gulley, handmade saddle.  This wouldn't replace my western saddle, but it would give me a lighter option to use at home when I'm switching between horses.  Thoughts?  I'm going to ride in it again this morning and see if I can get used to the seat.


  1. I don't know much about endurance saddles. When my friend wanted to buy one, I recommended that she get one of those hybrids with a horn, because horns come in so handy. She didn't listen and sorely missed that horn. She'd go to tie her lead rope on the horn and it wouldn't be there, so she had to ride without a lead rope and lead with the reins. She couldn't loop the reins over the horn, so they slipped over the horse's head every time the horse lowered its head when she wasn't riding. She couldn't take a horn bag on her trail rides. She couldn't grab the horn in an "Oh shit" moment. She couldn't hang the bridle over the horn while leading the horse after the ride.

    The reality is that if you don't find the seat to be comfortable, you won't use the saddle. So, if the flatness is awkward, definitely do as you are planning and ride in it a few more times and see if you change your mind. If it's still awkward, don't get the saddle. I remember trying out an unpadded custom saddle once. It was beautiful and everyone in the blog world told me to buy it. However, the seat was so hard and slippery that I didn't think I could ever get used to it. I knew it would just end up being a tack room ornament. To this day I remember how sitting in that saddle felt, because it was so uncomfortable.

    Your boots getting stuck in your English stirrups worries me. I'd definitely replace those to fix whatever the problem is. Too narrow, get wider ones. Too gummy, get smoother ones. There are so many options when it comes to stirrups: English, endurance, western... Metal, wood, leather... Shapes, sizes, breakaways, swivel...

    1. Smart idea with switching out stirrups. I just might do that! I rode in the trial saddle this morning, but realized it wasn’t comfortable. I gave it back. I agree with you about a horn. They really come in handy to carry tack. I’m spoiled with mine. My endurance saddle doesn’t have one and it’s always a pain. So, my back appears to be back to 100% and I’m going to start using my western again, but I may use my endurance a lot of the time. It’s confirrable and light. I’ll look for new stirrups. I’m also doing crunches to strengthen my abs. Apparently, a lot of back injuries are due to weak abs, rather than weak backs. 😱

  2. Nice work with the mailbox and the gate!

    I can't help with any ideas or advice on a western saddle. I know nothing about them. The only thing I can say is only get the one that feels comfortable and safe and its exactly what you want. If you get something you only kinda like you probably won't use it and you'll have wasted your money. Good luck.

    1. Thanks! Leah closed the gate even faster today!! 🎉🎉🎉 She started to walk away and then a memory seemed to click, oh yeah, I close gates now! I gave the saddle back. It wasn’t going to work. That was good advice.

  3. I've never ridden in an endurance saddle, but those that do love them. Definitely replace your stirrups. Getting hung up at the wrong time can be disastrous. Bee's mailbox video was too cute! I wonder if you could teach her to close it? Much harder then opening, which I'm guessing she did on her own. Maybe if a treat was held under the lid after opening, she would push it up to get it? Koda is fairly curious, but it's at free will. I am hoping to do more ground things with him once he lives at home. It will keep his mind busy & I would benefit too. I think horses enjoy having us at ground level. If your back is healed & don't already do them, check out planks (aka core work). It's the "best bang for your buck" and overall back supporting ab workout IMHO. Just make sure positioning is correct & start out *slow* to build up. Just my retired fitness industry two cents :)


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