Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oops! I Did It Again!

I bought another saddle.

I didn't really *need* to, but I needed to.  My lovely County Conquest (which was actually up here for a little while) is just far too wide for the horses I've been riding - so much that I was beginning to doubt that I even liked my saddle!  I just felt like I could not get my leg on the horse.  It turns out that I'm okay with a wide twist only if it is on a wide horse.

There was a Butet I was riding in, and it was okay for a while.  It certainly worked better on the narrower creatures than my County.  Over time, however, it became less okay, and I really felt like I was fighting to keep my leg under me.  The flap was not a good fit at all, either.  But I made do.
Eventually, I was looking one day at the used saddle selection at Beval.  They didn't have what I thought I wanted (a narrower County), but the lady working there had me sit in some different things.  One was and18" Premium Butet with a 2.25 flap (compared to the 17" 2 flap I'd been riding in) for the bargain price of $5700.  Not happening.  She then asked me if I'd ever sat in a CWD, and I replied that I hadn't.

So she sat me in a CWD.  Let me tell you, that saddle was the most comfortable, cloud-like thing I've ever had the privilege of planting my butt in.  It wasn't what I "wanted," though, so I wasn't willing to pull the trigger.

Three days later, I couldn't get the darn thing out of my head.  So I went back to Beval, sat in a few more things, and ended up taking a different CWD (we'll call this on CWD #2) on trial.  I will admit, the original CWD did not feel quite as cloud-like when I sat in it that time, but I still felt I had to just "get it out of my system," so to speak.

I've been anti-French-saddle for so long that I had zero intention of actually liking the saddle or thinking the saddle fit the horses I ride.  But dammit, when I was riding in it, my leg (my right leg in particular) just went where it was supposed to go.  And I don't mean just in the right place, but also turned correctly from the hip down.  I've always had a problem with my toes wanting to super-point out, but riding in that saddle, the problem just disappeared.  It was in no way that the saddle was forcing my leg into any particular position; my leg just "fell" into place.

Well, crap.  All that was basically the opposite of my planning to hate it.

So I rode in it a few days more.  And then Trainer L said she much preferred that saddle for me than the Butet I'd been using.

Well, crap.

And THEN Husband pointed out that I was complaining much less about back pain riding in that saddle - even compared to when I've ridden in a County.

Well, crap again.

So then the only question was whether I wanted a more forward flap.  If I was seriously considering spending that much money on a saddle, I owed it to myself to try a more forward flap.  I returned CWD #2 to find something else to try.  As luck would have it, I did find the same model and seat size in a different flap immediately.

So I took it on trial (let's call this one CWD #3).  Between the more forward flap and a different panel configuration, CWD #3 rode a bit differently than CWD #2, but it also fit the horses better.  After talking with a rep from CWD, I learned that the panel configuration of CWD #3 is considered their "Pro Panel" - a configuration which works relatively well for many horses.  (CWD #2 was more built up in the rear of the panel - probably to accommodate for a very uphill build or some similar conformation).  The more forward flap was a better fit for my leg.  And Trainer L said she much preferred CWD #3 over CWD #2.

So I made an offer on CWD #3 and the seller met me near the middle (I was willing to pay the asking price, so any amount less was just a bonus).

And I have a new (to me) saddle sitting on the saddle rack.

POSTSCRIPT - I had my (serious) doubts about how well this saddle would work for a wider horse, especially when I saw the perfect sweat pattern on the one the TBs.  Amazingly, however, CWD #3 was not nearly as much too narrow for one the horses I sometimes ride (an Appendix QH who is nearly as wide as Sparky) as I expected it to be.  It looks as though a simple change of panel configuration would result in a saddle which would fit the Appendix.  The same has held true for the other wider horses I ride - the saddle fits them much better than I was prepared for it to fit.  So much for my preconceived notions about French saddles (well, CWD, anyway).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clothes Do Not Make the Man... er, Woman

I've joked before about how even if I try to look like a Hunter Princess, I completely fail.  And it's true.  You can put me in the exact same Tailored Sportsmans, EIS, and Charles Owen as anyone else who excels at the Hunter Princess Look (Lovely Rider, for instance... who just graduated college this weekend!  Props to her!!!) and I just do. not. look like a Hunter Princess.  So clearly, the clothes do not make the man.  I would say woman here, as I did in my title, but I actually kind of hate that "changing the words to express gender equality" thing.  Not that I don't support the idea of women and men being equal and being paid equally for equal work, yada, yada... it's just that I think merely changing man to woman (or person) doesn't actually promote equality between the sexes.  And also, I don't like change, generally speaking.

Alright, so, I digressed a bit.  Back to the idea of "the clothes don't make the man."  Yesterday is a great example.  I was wearing The Trendy Breeches (TS Trophy Hunters), one of The Trendy Shirts (TS IceFil... I have an EIS, but I really don't love the fit), The Trendy Helmet (Charles Owen AYR8), The Trendy Brand of Half Chaps (Tredstep) and A Trendy Brand of Paddock Boots (Ariat Devon Pro VX).  And a hairnet.  Can't forget the hairnet.  (Honorary Big Sister Jen, what has happened to me?)  So that basically reads like a "Who's Who of Correct (and Expensive) Hunter Princess Apparel", right?  And I should totally look the part, right?  I mean, hell, even my spurs and spur straps came from Beval.  BUT I DON'T.

Now, I will always joke that I am completely incapable of looking like a Hunter Princess.  And in reality, that's totally fine.  I don't spend the money on these things because I'm trying to look the part; I spend the money on these things because I absolutely believe that quality doesn't cost, it pays.  I've gotten far more use of yesterday's particular pair of TS than I have from any other pair of breeches.  A few weeks ago, Husband (have I used his real name here before?  I don't remember, it's been so long) actually asked if they were new.  Yup, three years ago they were new.  But yesterday, I looked at some pictures that Husband took while he was at the barn with me.  And the fact of the matter is this:

Right now, part of the reason I do not look like a Hunter Princess is because I am too heavy.

There.  I said it to the world.

Now, don't take this to mean that I think one needs to be model-thin to be a rider.  You don't need a thigh gap, or a cute booty, or impossibly long legs.  You just don't.  But you DO need to be fit.  And you DO need to be strong (not weight-lifter strong... but strong in your core).  And right now, I am not either of those.

My weight went up and down a bit when I was living in Atlanta (depending on what job I had at the time), but before I was married, I was at a pretty good "fighting weight" for me.  But after moving to New York, I didn't ride for a while, I didn't really work out, and I quit paying attention to what I was eating.  Consequently, I gained weight (big surprise) and ended up at basically the heaviest I've ever been and coming dangerously close to an "overweight" BMI.

I've been unhappy with my weight for a while now and had started taking steps towards making improvements.  I've been much better lately about watching what I eat and had lost a little weight - I'm starting to see a bit of a difference - but I hadn't realized what I looked like when I'm on a horse.  Seeing the pictures from yesterday strengthened my resolve to stay on track food-wise, but more importantly, to really make it a point to work out, get fitter, and get stronger.  It's not fair to me and it's not fair to the horses to have to lug around more weight than is really necessary.  And if I am serious about wanting to improve as a rider, then I need to really think of myself as an athlete.  And no serious athlete is okay with carrying around twenty extra pounds.  It's harder on the joints.  It's harder on the body.  And it's much harder to be effective when you're lugging around dead weight.

So today it starts.  I need better endurance so I'm not so dead after riding four horses (which I did yesterday).  I need better core strength to be able to support my position so I don't fall off during a spin and a buck (which I did on Saturday).  I need better leg strength so I don't get left behind on a horse with a big jump over an oxer (which I did last week).  I'm going to work out over my lunch break today (beginning a MWF schedule), alternating through cardio (for better endurance), core, and weight training.  And tomorrow (altering my usual T-Th schedule) I come into work early so I can leave early and ride two horses in the evening instead of my usual one.  I will go rock climbing with Husband at least one evening per week.  And I will continue to spend at least one entire day at the barn on the weekend, riding as many horses as possible.

I need to be an athlete so the horses I ride can be athletes.

And so my show coat fits.