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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crutches or stepping stones?

Every now and then I change up my gear to see what will help me ride better. Ultimately my money is better spent on lessons than what might be a quick fix. But some things do just work better. I don't always know when I pull the trigger on my Dover Saddlery cart or my Smartpak cart and click "complete purchase." Usually I'm humbled when I get the item and realize I just need to straight-up ride better. I have some things that didn't help me. There are tack swaps for that kind of thing.

After doing some slinking around online, I got the idea to try lightweight (composite) stirrups. I have a bad habit of letting my weight come out of my heels occasionally, and this plus a bouncy horse = feet are all the way home in the stirrups. Not attractive, functional, or safe. Especially not safe. Duly creeped out by the possibility of a bad accident, I bought safety stirrups. Cool. But my feet were still doing their thing and not behaving. Could lightweight stirrups be an improvement?

So far, so good. Now, I know George Morris wants me in a classic fillis iron. I want to meet him and have him sign my book and offer to tip my flask into his coffee at an epic clinic. But the lighter weight stirrups are just easier. My feet stay in the same spot, where they should be, the entire ride. The lighter weight causes them to, er, I'm trying to think of a way to describe it using physics....I don't know, they just don't swing the fuck all over the place like my other irons. Now, I am continuing to improve myself by pushing weight into my heels and keeping my legs long. The stirrups meet me halfway. My trainer has me riding in the fillis stirrups occasionally, so I keep a feel for both.

So tell me, what equipment has helped you and your horse? You don't have to register or anything to leave a comment (what a pain), so don't be shy. What did you buy that didn't help (help me save some money here!)


  1. I ride bareback. Trust me, it will improve your posture, balance, and force you into a better rider.

  2. The "sticky" saddle pad did nothing for Princess Mutton Withers, but the breast collar helps. Still no withers, but slippage doesn't feel quite so disastrous. Going to try a crupper next.

    Also, much to my surprise, the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle made my Peruvian into a much happier little horse. He was ridden with a leverage bit and doesn't neck rein, so, suffice to say, he was used to having someone hanging on his face ALL THE TIME. He's a lot more relaxed in it, and I've had no problems with either control or collection.

  3. I found how I needed to be sitting the trot by riding bareback. I know a lot of people like riding bareback in the cold weather, but to me there's nothing like bareback on a super hot day. Because it's too hot out for me to be arsed with saddling up.

    Are a lof of gaiteds ridden in leverage bits with contact?

  4. Witty,
    In response to your question: Yes, they sure are, from what I've seen. Talk about head set! Check out a few photos of big-lick TN Walkers and your hair will curl. 8" shanks... Saddlebreds also often wear full bridles with some pretty serious curb/shank action. They at least have a naturally high head carriage. I was ring-side not long ago for a World Championship Saddlebred Western class and those horses had curb bits with not too severe shanks - but let me tell you, those curb chains were TIGHT. Cranked down as far as they could get 'em, wrapped in tape so they didn't actually gouge the horses. There is suck everywhere in the horse world but the poor gaited beasties seem to get the worst of it.