Thursday, August 26, 2010

Salem Update!!!


Yes. That is me doing my dolphin/pig Squeel of Delight. I've been dying to hear an update about Salem and see what's going on with the big goofball. Well, about two posts ago, I got a comment from a girl named Ami, telling me that Salem was doing well, jumping courses, and getting ready for a Frank Madden clinic in a little over a month. Of course, I immediately responded and pretty much shamelessly begged for more info.

Ami was kind enough to respond, and she even sent me a few pictures:

I'm trying to convince Ami to start her own blog so we can all see lots of pics and videos and hear what's going on in The World of Salem. She has been riding him and working with him for his owner and it seems like she's enjoying him (how could you not?!). I'm happy to see that he's working because, as Ami noted, he's really a horse who needs a job. He spent most of his life in a pasture, so he absolutely craves attention; he thrives on it.

So, another big "thank you" to Ami!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What The Flock?!

Saddle shopping: almost as much fun as throwing Drain-o into one's own eyes. Integrated or non-integrated panels? Medium, medium/wide, or wide tree? Jumping flap? Standard flap? Forward jumping flap? Monoflap? Foam or wool-flocked panels? Grain leather, calf skin, or buffalo? There are seemingly more options and combinations to choose from than there are stars in the galaxy. It is enough to make one's head spin! Add to that the fact that I do not currently own a horse, and it's even more of a crap shoot. But will that dissuade me? Surely not!

At the moment, I have two saddles; unfortunately both have such narrow gullets that there is no way I could use them on any horse that's wider than a wooden sawhorse. I spent over twenty years blissfully unaware of saddle fit, as I was raised in the school of "buy a saddle that fits you, throw a bunch of various and sundry foam/sheepskin/gel pads on the horse's back, slap the saddle on, and ride off into the sunset." Currently, I'm riding a Thoroughbred gelding and using the saddle that was custom-fitted to him; the fit for me is horrible, however, as the horse's owner is the size of an 8-year-old Asian gymnast. Seriously, I think I had the same sized saddle when I was a skinny little 5th-grader and, uh, let's just say that there is a whole lot more of me these days. So. Saddle Search on.

Issue #1: Integrated vs. Non-integrated panels. According to Patricia of Fine Used Saddles,"integrated panels are sewn directly into the sweat flap for close contact and a smooth transition between panel and flap." This supposedly puts the rider closer to the horse and gives you more of a "feel" for the horse's back. However, it also makes panel adjustments extremely difficult (maybe even impossible).

Issue #2: wool-flocked vs. foam panels. This one is a big debate! Both have advantages and disadvantages, of course, so it's a matter of taking your individual situation into account. Let's examine the evidence.

Wool Flocking

- Can be adjusted to create a custom fit for the horse's back. As your horse gains/loses muscle in the topline, your saddle can be adjusted accordingly

- Panels with wool flocking have rounded edges, which are easier on the horse's back

- Wool (especially lower-quality wool) can bunch up into balls, which is why some saddle makers either use a combination of pure wool & synthetic, or line the panels with canvas

- Wool flocked saddles gradually "pack down" and conform to the shape of the horse's back

- The wool will eventually harden, so you will have to periodically have your saddle completely re-flocked. How often you need to have this done varies greatly according to how often you ride, the climate you live in, etc. Of course, you might need minor flocking adjustments along the way to accommodate your horse's changing back. But most saddlers recommend having the saddle completely re-flocked at least every 8 to 10 years, sometimes more often

- It is getting hard to find wool-flocked saddles! Here are the brands that I know of that offer wool-flocked options: Stubben, Amerigo, Arc de Triomphe, Collegiate, Henri de Rivel, Stackhouse, possibly Frank Baines (?), County, Black Country, & Wintec

Wool Flocking

I have to admit, I am a bit of a purist about certain things; in my opinion, sports cars should be stick-shift, wine should be corked, and saddles should be wool-flocked. But that's just me. :-)


- Can not be adjusted the way that wool can

- Some foam panels can be cut thinner, so they offer more of a close contact feel than wool panels

- Can somewhat mold to match the shape of the horse's back. For this reason, some people believe that foam is superior for those who ride multiple horses, as the foam can self-adjust (up to a point, of course) to fit each horse's back. Patricia says, "The benefit to foam is that it holds its shape rather than molding to a particular horse and hardening up the way wool does. It is softer and molds temporarily when in use and bounces back to its original shape. This helps them fit more horses."

- Foam can last a lot longer than wool; however, replacing foam panels is much more expensive than having a saddle reflocked. "Devoucoux and Antares regularly do refit the foam panels on their own saddles, but it is not a cheap thing. It's about $500." (Patricia)

- Foam panels tend to have "square-ish" edges, which can cause discomfort to the horse

- Most of today's high-end saddles have foam panels, including Devoucoux, Beval/Butet, Delgrange, Antares, CWD, Tad Coffin, Hermes, Arc de Triomphe (although they also have the option of wool), Prestige, Lauriche, Luc Childeric (I believe), etc. There are a lot of saddles that do not specifically state whether or not they have foam or wool panels, but I'm guessing that most of them are foam

- Foam does eventually break down and get lumpy, especially under pressure points, just like wool-flocked saddles

Lumpy foam panels

Issue #3: Leather type. Most saddles have "grain" cow leather, while some saddles are covered in calfskin. The more expensive brands usually offer you the choice of which you prefer, and many of them also offer the option of buffalo hide. Personally, I'm morally opposed to calfskin, so that isn't even a consideration for me; plus, while it's soft, it's also much less durable. Out of the three choices, buffalo is supposed to be the toughest and longest-wearing, which of course makes it more expensive. This one is easy for me: grain leather it is!

Issue # 4: Flaps. Some saddles have only two flap options: Medium or Long. However, most of the more expensive saddles have myriad choices. There are multiple lengths, choice of forward or regular, jumping or standard, etc. I'm still figuring out exactly which option is best for me.

Issue #5: Tree width. Usually, you only have the option of Medium or Wide. Some manufacturers are offering the in-between choice of Medium-Wide, while other companies offer interchangeable gullets so you can create more of a custom fit for your horse (not sure if this is specifically gullet or also tree-related -- ??). I'm still a bit up in the air about which tree width to choose, although I tend to be more drawn towards wide/bulky horses...

So, now that I've rambled on, I'm sure that you are all on the edge of your seats to find out which saddle I plan to buy. ;-) The winner is a wool-flocked Arc de Triomphe (well...I'm fairly sure, still not 100%). I've ridden in Heather's and really loved it, plus the brand has a lot of different options. For now, I'll try some demos, plus keep an eye on e-bay for a used one (although I doubt the exact saddle I need will magically pop up for sale!).

Arc de Triomphe Classique

I'm sure many of you have been on this same quest. What advice can you offer? Thoughts, opinions, and additional info are all appreciated!

Used saddle resources:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In what world...

is this:

(3 year old 16.2 hand OTTB gelding named Omega Cipher)

$1,389.000 cheaper than this:

(17.5" two-year-old used CWD saddle)

Inquiring minds want to know! Part of me thinks I should just skip the saddle and buy the horse (although at least the saddle would not require several hundred dollars a month in upkeep...).

And, yes, I am currently used-saddle-shopping...and am getting a bit frustrated, as you can see. ;-)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Helmet Funk No More

You all know the feeling -- you grab your helmet and slip it on only to find it wet and clammy from your previous ride. It's definitely discouraging for those of us who are safety-obsessed, and it's one of the excuses of the anti-helmet set. Not only did I have this problem with my previous helmet, but I also broke out in a big angry rash every time I wore it; in fact, I am ashamed to admit that I used to occasionally ride Mac sans helmet because I was sick of walking around with a huge red rash smack in the middle of my forehead. So, lately it has been my mission to banish Icky Wet Funky Helmet once and for all. My plan of attack is as follows:

#1: I bought a new helmet. My previous helmet was a Charles Owen Hampton and was a nice helmet, but it had zero ventilation. I also acted very unwisely when I first purchased it -- after riding, I would put my still-damp helmet in my lovely monogrammed nylon helmet bag and store it in my tack trunk in the completely unventilated tack room. Definitely not a wise idea (especially down here in the swamp!). The new helmet that I purchased is the Charles Owen AYR8, which has 12 ventilation slits plus a silver ion-infused interior which is naturally antimicrobial. If the CO isn't for you, there are plenty of other ventilated helmets out there: International, Tipperary, GPA, and Troxel all make nice options.

#2: I let my helmet air-dry. As much as I love my monogrammed helmet bag, it is only suitable for storing a dry helmet. Now, in addition to hanging my helmet in the breezy barn aisle while I'm grooming and cleaning tack, I store it on a bridle hook in the tack room (in this barn, the tack room has a window & the door is always open, so it's much less funk-friendly).

#3: I actually bought helmet cleaner. Yes, this is kind of a no-brainer. With my last helmet, I tried every product but helmet cleaner (alcohol, Lysol, etc.) and yet nothing ever killed whatever microscopic creature was inducing my rash. This time, I'm not taking any chances! I purchased the Charles Owen foaming helmet cleaner, which does a very nice job. I plan on using it every so often just to make sure my helmet always stays fresh and clean.

#4: I bought a Fresh Helmet Sack. I saved the best for last because this is such a good idea! The Fresh Helmet Sack contains activated carbon to neutralize odors, plus a desiccant that helps your helmet dry faster. You just place it in your helmet after your ride, and you'll never be greeted by a musty, sweaty helmet ever again! And if it ever needs to be reactivated, you can either pop it in the microwave or set it out in the sun for a few hours. So simple! I saw this on Smartpak, where it received glowing reviews from the Smartpak staff, and pretty much immediately clicked "Add to cart."

It also comes in a blue bandanna print

Finally, I am free of the funk! I hope these tips help those of you currently suffering from the funk. And if I can convince an anti-helmet person that there are steps you can take to make helmet-wearing comfortable, so much the better!