Monday, January 30, 2012

More Barefoot Riding

I've been oiling the heck out of my new saddle, and I got the conchos all cleaned up the other day. I also had to replace the Blevins buckles (what a nightmare that was), but I think once my stirrups and pad come, I'll be "done" with the saddle, except for oiling and cleaning it quite frequently. It's still pretty thirsty, but we're making progress, and I love it very much! :)

JenJ asked about cleaning the saddle in a previous post so I wanted to mention what I used. I started out cleaning it with Lexol Leather Cleaner because that's the only cleaner I can seem to get sudsy for some reason. After I cleaned it really well, I oiled it with Pessoa brand oil, which isn't supposed to darken the leather at all. The fenders are so dark, though, that I decided to switch over to regular old neatsfoot oil for the rest of the saddle. I figure if the leather gets a bit darker, that's ok. Plus, I want the leather on my new bridle to get darker so it matches the saddle a bit better.

As far as cleaning the suede seat, mine doesn't have much suede left, but the best way I've found is just with a really mild soap and water. Use a stiff bristle brush to go over the suede with the soapy water and then pat it dry with a clean towel. To rinse it, do the same with clean water and a clean towel. It usually does a pretty good job. Supposedly a pencil eraser works well on small stains, but I've never tried it.

When I was saddle shopping, I purchased a bit just like the one Alex let me borrow and I've been riding Lilly in that each time I ride in the western saddle. I'm thinking I might need to switch her over to a snaffle for a while, though, or maybe alternate bits, because she is just SO sensitive in this bit that it's driving me crazy. I'm having a difficult time communicating certain things to her because the second I touch the reins, she overreacts.

She's such an overachiever...

I pretty much steer with my legs and rate her speed with my seat, but every now and then I have to communicate to her using the reins. I can't even ask for the desired command because she reacts so quickly, usually by turning one way or the other. Because, you know, I couldn't possibly want anything other than a turn... Also, she seems to really like this whole loose rein concept because she can drag her nose in the dirt and look all over the place. Despite the new challenges, we had another great ride in our "new" western saddle today. I rode her for the second time in the arena without boots and she did really well. The arena is really sandy, and quite soft, but she felt the same as she does when she wears her boots, if not better. I think the boots get in her way sometimes when we ride, so I'm very pleased that we've made it to this point!!

Does she look ready to star in the Paint Horse Journal?
 I might just be making excuses for my mare again, but she acts like she can't feel me quite as well as she can in the english saddle. There's a bit more leather between me and my horse, and it takes her a bit longer to react to my cue. I'm sure it feels a bit different in this saddle, but the cue is the same. Like stopping from a walk... sounds easy enough, but even when I exaggerate my cue, she just keeps on walking. I've really been working on that a lot these past couple days and she finally did really well with it today. I only had to grab her a couple times.

Steering takes a bit more effort too and I really have to make sure I'm specific, and I have to squeeze a bit with my bum to keep her from going faster as she's turning. Bless her little heart, though, she's trying. :)

I set up some ground poles for her to walk over and they're quite colorful. She snorted at them at first and then decided everything was okay. It took a while to get the spacing right and I'm surprised at how closely I had to put them together! I think some of the TBs at the barn could walk over them two at a time.

We did our usual trotting exercises and she's doing much better with my leg steering at the trot. Normally she has a tendency to speed up, especially in the circles because it requires a lot of leg, but she's getting the hang of it. We alternate between jogging and long trotting so she can feel the difference in the cues. One means turn and the other means move out!

We also worked on canter circles. One of the boarders has set up jumps in the arena so I had to adjust my circle, but we made it work. It's a bit bigger than usual, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing as this point in her training. I started her to the right, her bad way, and she did pretty darn well. She wasn't slow and collected, but she wasn't running away with me either. She did switch her lead behind a couple times, but she's getting better at staying in the canter and switching back to the correct lead. I was surprised that she did that twice... the other times we just did a simple change back to the correct lead and kept going with our circles. I worked her on a bunch of circles, then worked on trotting exercises, and then went back and cantered her to the right again. The second time I also asked for a couple canter stops and she struggled to pick up the right lead. I think she was mostly just tired, but she got it.

The canter circles to the left were amazing. I had to help her out a couple times because she really wanted to drop her shoulder, but she cantered at a wonderful pace on a lovely loose rein. She had moments where she sped up a bit, but she came back down and was really with me. It felt amazing. She switched leads in the back going to the left today, which is a first, but I did work her pretty hard today.

Have you seen a sweeter face?
I did have a small moment of panic when I was walking her back to the barn. I was closing the arena gate and when Lilly stepped onto the concrete, she took a really short step and started limping. I thought she might have stepped on a stone, but why was she still limping?! When I checked her hoof, she had a tiny little stone wedged in right near the bar of her hoof and once evicted, she was good to go. So she's still quite sensitive, but she's sound in her pasture and sound enough to ride in the arena, so we're definitely making progress.

I worked her way too hard today!
I have four of the old SmartPaks left, so Saturday she'll switch over to the supplement with the Cosequin ASU. I'm hoping to see a difference once it starts!


  1. She looks like a proper little stock horse now :)

    Thanks for the tip on cleaning suede, somehow I never got the hang of that...

  2. She looks so lovely in the saddle! And sounds like a fun, progress making ride, my fave!

  3. One think I noticed about Neatsfoot oil: when I got the mold in my tack box the stuff I had used neatsfoot on got it much worse than items I had not used it on. I used to Neatsfoot EVERYTHING and I loved it, but I've almost totally switched over to the Bick 4.

    I've also heard sandpaper can re-rough suede. I tried it a little on my old training saddle and it worked in the areas that weren't totally smoothed.

    She looks adorable and I LOVE pictures of horses yawning. It's my favorite thing!

  4. Thanks Smaz and Britnie!! :)

    SillyPony, you know, I've noticed since using the neatfoot oil that my saddle seems almost "damp". It's been rubbing off on my jeans and even on my horse, which it didn't do when I was using the Pessoa oil, so I think I might soap it up again really well and get a different kind of oil to use. Perhaps I'll try out the Bick 4 you suggested. :)