Today’s blog is a public service message 🙂
Check your tack.
I’m proactive about keeping my tack in tip top-shape. I don’t wait until it’s literally hanging by a thread. There are reasons for my fastidiousness. First of all, I’m a leather snob. I like my horse gear to be crafted of high quality and supple leather. I keep my tack clean and conditioned. For me, it’s part of the aesthetic of horses, and I like the feel of it.
Quality tack is also a safety thing. I’ve never had a piece of gear fail on me. But that’s because I keep it in good condition and check it obsessively. I don’t simply swipe it over with a cloth. A few times a month it gets taken apart, cleaned, conditioned, and put back together. So, I was surprised to see that my lovely Italian leather stirrup leathers had worn down so severely that the stitching was gone. I could see the webbing on the inside. This had happened quickly, I’d noticed that the leather had flattened, but it went from slightly worn to nearing dangerous in only a couple of weeks.
These were five years old. Time for new ones. I’m not one for gadgets and I don’t succumb to advertising, but I’d been hearing about the Total Saddle Fit Stability Stirrup Leathers on the Horse Radio Network. (Horsey podcasts that I listen to when I’m driving.) These leathers are extra-wide. Supposedly that keeps your leg still.
I think my leg is rather stable already, but it never hurts to have an extra bit of help. I was skeptical, but I also liked how flat they lay on the saddle. I ordered them.
First impressions were positive. They looked good, and the quality of the leather and craftsmanship met my standards.
I tried them out. My leg sits in the right place, and that wide strap is more comfortable under my thigh than the traditional narrow leather.
Do they actually keep my leg quieter? Perhaps a bit in the ring.
This is where they made a noticeable difference.
I’ve been building up Tonka’s hindquarter strength working out in this field. There’s just enough of a slope to challenge him, but not so much as to shake his confidence when we canter. He’s always been wary cantering on uneven ground. The stirrups keep my body still, which helps Tonka to balance his.
So, my worn out stirrups were a good excuse to upgrade my tack. Win-Win!
But… back to the check your tack message.
This strap holds the billets – which the girth attaches to – which keeps the saddle on the horse. Looks fine, doesn’t it?
It’s not. It’s compromised and needs to be replaced. Does anyone know a good saddle repair person in the southern Maine area?
When was the last time you carefully checked your tack?
Also, do you have a piece of tack that makes a difference in your riding, or that is simply beautiful and makes you happy? Let me know in the comments!
Your saddle is positively gleaming! I will admit to having ridden with much more worn tack than that something I should really pay more attention to.
The new leathers look very much like the ones on an aussie saddle; the wider leathers wrap around more of your lower leg providing more stability, kind of half way to a western fender. I ride in several different saddles and after riding western for a while I feel so free when I come back to my dressage saddle! Even my flat hunt saddle feels overly restrictive with the short stirrups.
Each has their purpose and when doing very rough trails with lots of steep terrain I appreciate the extra stability of the western or aussie, plus the ability to strap on bags. The hunt allows speed and ‘in the air’ adjustment over obstacles. My stubben dressage saddle however remains my most comfortable!
These stirrups are wide only a third of their length, so sort of a hybrid of the ones you describe. My experience in western saddles is that they can be oh, so comfy, but that there’s a lot between me and the horse. I know that there are many types of western saddles, so maybe there’s a close contact one out there? One reason I like my dressage saddle is that I can feel every footfall under me, and it puts me plumb and upright over the center of Tonka’s gravity. But I’ve also ridden in dressage saddles which feel quite bulky. Stubbens are beautifully crafted. You should be able to have it for all of your years of riding. Of course, it has to fit the horse, too. So complicated!
There are definitely huge variations and some are much better than others. The one I ride in
Plus less between me and the horse than some of the english saddles. One thing I notice when riding in a western saddle is how much more direct leg contact I have along the horse’s barrel (depending on the fenders) without the long flap. It can really surprise a horse who is used to the flap!
I have the Total Saddle Fit shaped girth (which I don’t keep as meticulously cared-for as you would ) and I think it makes my horse more comfortable!
I’ve wanted to try that. But Tonka is like the Princess and the Pea. So far, he’s tolerated only one girth – the inexpensive fleece with elastic. He even cares about the brand. If I put on the one he doesn’t prefer, he makes faces.