Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who Wins?

I am continuing to ponder what is good for the horse versus what is easier for the human.

Sometimes they are the same, and that’s good.  Automatic waterers come to mind.  They are easy for the human and they supply horses with clean, fresh water, without the algae and schmutz build-up of a trough.

But sometimes, we do things because they have always been done that way, without taking a step back and saying, “Is this necessary and is it good for the horse?”
The Light Rider Bridle

And then, there’s the normal, follow-up question:  “When something is necessary but not good for the horse, can we do this in a way that IS good for the horse?" 

Of course, some things are not good for the horse and there is no way they can ever be good for the horse.  Cruel training methods pop to mind, but that is not where I’m going with this post.  I’m talking about very common tools that might not be good for the horse, but are so universal that their use is rarely questioned.  Improving on them is always being considered, but it is unusual to hear anyone question whether we should use them at all, in the first place.

OK, so what am I talking about?  I know it will sound a little, uh, mad, but I’m talking about saddles, bits and shoes.

I already went on my bit rave in a previous post, and since then, I have ridden Starlight only in a bitless bridle.  She has gone absolutely perfectly in it, so that’s good.  It seems to be good for the horse and good for the rider.  It’s an old Dr. Cook’s I had lying around in my vast array of tack, but I will be ordering one of these nosebands as soon as they are back in stock for both Hudson and Starlight, because the Dr. Cook’s sits too close to her eye.

Shoes are actually already a topic of hot debate, and I’m not going there, either.  I won’t put metal shoes on my horses, opting instead for removable boots when needed (just ordered some purple ones for Starlight!  She’s been a little ouchy on gravel).  But I’m not critical at all of people who use metal shoes.   Or bits.  I'm just trying to make the best choices for my horses.

White hair shows where saddles have pinched over time.
So that brings us to saddles.  I have been having a heck of a time with saddles, as my mares are built in such a way that saddles end up too far forward after just a little work.  Throw a steep hill into the mix, and I’m riding their necks.  This is true, at least, with Hudson and Starlight, both of whom have big bellies and no withers, so saddles just slip on forward.  I haven’t ridden Dee enough to know what will happen to her saddle, but she does have a tad more withers than the other two.

As I learn more about saddles and how they are made, I, of course, being in this bent lately, started wondering if we should even use them on a horse.  The trees seem to cause pain and pinch, in many cases, but since few horses complain about this, just accepting it, people just blithely go on using them.   Some people are aware that not all saddles work on all horses, and some of them, like me, start becoming obsessed with finding one that fits perfectly.

But maybe there is no such thing.   Maybe they all hurt, shift, pinch, even in the best of cases. 

Yesterday, after riding Starlight in two saddles (not at the same time), I decided to experiment, and rode her without a saddle.  I was super-conscious of where her spine was in relation to my seat and tail bones. 

Maybe a couple years ago this would have felt OK to Starlight, but since I took off 40 pounds, my bones, down there, are very easy to feel.  I put my hand under them, and it did not feel good.  They felt like hard, well, bones, and they were right over her spine, or just to either side. 

That could not have felt comfortable, having those things jamming into her back constantly, with no padding.  So now, I’m pondering treeless saddles and bareback pads. 

I don’t know where this will end up, or if I’ll just continue to obsess on this for the rest of my and my horses’ lives.   Never content, you know.  Well, I guess human discontent is what has created all these amazing inventions that make our lives easier, things like cars and central heating and laptop computers.    

But, in this case, it’s not the person’s life I’m trying to make easier. 

No comments:

Post a Comment