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Stepping Over To The Dark Side

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  • Stepping Over To The Dark Side

    Hello all!

    After 16 years of being an english-disciplines-only rider, I'm going to take the plunge into the "dark side" of the western world. I have a 14 year old German Riding Pony that I currently do dressage and jumpers with, but lately I think he's been telling me that he wants to be a western pony! He's got a fabulous jog and LOVES to go long and low like a pleasure horse, and has the super-chill 'whatever' mindset of a good western horse, so we're going to give the western thing a whirl.

    There is just SO MUCH NEW INFORMATION to take in! I'm starting with looking at saddles and trying to learn what I need, what to avoid, how they should fit, etc. and it's a little overwhelming. I do have a friend who shows western pleasure and horsemanship on the APHA circuit whose brain I will be picking to death, but do any of you have advice for someone just starting out with riding western? If all goes well our eventual goal would be pleasure and/or horsemanship classes at VERY local shows, just for fun.

    So... what should I be looking for in a saddle? My pony is 14.1 with a somewhat narrow shoulder, and I ride in a 17" close contact saddle, so I'm thinking we need a 15" pleasure-type saddle with semi-QH bars, would that be appropriate? Then of course there are all the variations in rigging positions, stirrup bar placement, tree shapes, padding, AHH! Any brands to avoid like the plague? Things to look for in a good western saddle? I'm a good judge of quality and fit as far as english saddles go, but I want to make sure I cover all the bases with what I should be looking for in a western one.

    The local shows by me abide by AQHA rules, so I can't ride him in a snaffle since he's over 6, and he goes in a plain D-ring for flatwork and jumping now. What type of curb bit would be a good "starter" bit to try? He tends to get heavy in front once in a while anyway, so I'm not worried about leverage being "too much" for him!

    Thank you for reading that novel! Whew! I'm very excited to try something new.
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE

  • #2
    Welcome to the dark side. I grew up showing hunters and jumpers and now I ride reiners and cow horses. Such fun.

    Saddles -- do you like narrow twist or wide on your english saddle? Western saddles can vary widely. Personally, I hate the wide twist western saddles. My hips kill me if I ride too long in a wide. There is a reason there are "ladies" reining saddles.

    I would avoid barrel saddles (trap you in position), roping saddles (pitch you forward), and bling (costly). I have too many saddles -- barrel, roping, cow horse, reining, and pleasure, but I really like my reining saddles best. Decent pocket to keep your seat where it should be, fenders that swing to allow your leg forward or under you. When I ride a large fast circle, I am in two point, so a reining saddle does not mean a chair seat. Also, most reining horses are short, 15 hands is a big horse in that world, so finding a saddle appropriate for a 14.1 horse may be easier.

    I would also recommend a double rigging (to allow for a back cinch). Most people show pleasure and equitation without a back cinch, but if you start working with cattle or trail riding, you will want a back cinch. Just make sure that you can take the back cinch off until needed.

    Saddle fit can be difficult. The width is only one piece of the puzzle. I have semi bars and full quarter bars that work on the same horse because of the rest of the tree shape.

    A lot of the reining type tack shops will let you test ride the saddles at shows, others have demo saddles they send out with a deposit. A lot may depend on if you are looking at used or new. In Colorado, some of the tack shops that carry used saddles will let you test ride or at least see if the tree fits the horse.

    Padding is not really an issue, just make sure you have a good saddle pad. Pad choice is overwhelming. you can get wool felt, neoprene, synthetic felt, and all sorts of other options. A simple 3/4 or 1" inch thick contour back wool pad can be a good place to start.

    Brands -- check out the thread on favorite saddles. Quality is quality. If you know a good english saddle, you should be able to gauge western saddles. I have shown at high levels in a "cheap" but well made RS Training saddle because it fit me and it fit my horse. I did as well in that saddle as the custom Bobs I had the next year.

    Bits -- borrow and try bits until you find what your horse likes. How soft your hands are will make a difference in what works as does what mouth piece your pony likes in a snaffle. You may be able to find the same mouth in a shank bit.

    Have fun!

    Karin

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Thank you so much for all of the information! I'm picking my APHA friend's brain as well, everything you said was super helpful.
      Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

      PONY'TUDE

      Comment


      • #4
        Ditto Appyreiners comments.

        Comment


        • #5
          You are generally correct on seat size- 17" English would generally mean 15" western- but double check, proper fit for 'you' means you should be able to get a couple of fingers between your thigh and the base of the pommel at closest point. I also prefer a narrower twist- I have a McCall that is wider, I do use it on one horse as it's the best fit for him- on the other hand my custom narrower saddle fits both that big 16h fellow and my 14h mare as a function of tree construction and angle (very spooky that the withers clearance is identical on both). And speaking of withers clearance, you need to be able to get two fingers between pommel and withers when rider is in saddle.

          I also prefer a reining saddle generally, or a cutting saddle.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hey! I thought that "Eventing" was "The Dark Side". Western can be "The Cool Side", because "The Dark Side" is already taken.
            When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thank you SO MUCH for the input everyone! I have also been picking my APHA friend's brain like CRAZY! We're headed out to the PA Horse Expo this weekend and I'm psyched to get to sit in some saddles and soak up some western knowledge.
              Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

              PONY'TUDE

              Comment


              • #8
                let us know what you decide on!!!! have you decided for sure what discipline within the western world you want to do??
                Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Update from the expo, with a couple more questions for y'all! I was able to check out a TON of equipment, sit in some saddles, watch the most gorgeous, soft palomino reiner and his rider, and I bought a headstall & reins.

                  I sat in quite a few saddles and had a Crates rep give me the low-down on fit, what to look for, appropriate types of saddles for what I want to do, etc. He was awesome! The saddle I liked best just from sitting in it was a Crates reining saddle, it just felt effortlessly balanced and secure without making me feel trapped, so now I know what to look for when I start combing through used saddles in my area.

                  So... question on saddle pads! I see that there are thick "work" pads, and then there are show "blankets", which are SO thin, it seems to me that you can't just switch back and forth between the two for schooling and show without drastically altering fit?! How does this system work?

                  equinekingdom, I'm going to do some pleasure and horsemanship type riding. My pony has that "low & slow" way of going naturally, so I think he'll enjoy it.
                  Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                  PONY'TUDE

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The pretty show blankets go on over your work pad, or another pad just for when you show that's still thick like a work pad. Provides ample cushion plus protects that pricey show pad.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I very much like the Crates reiner, sadly, it didn't fit my gelding (not enough withers clearance). As to thickness of pad, thicker does not always equal better. You need to check your basic saddle fit without a pad and go from there. Too thick of a pad can cause too much pressure in some areas, particularly base of withers, depending of course on the saddle and the shape of the horse. I've used the full gamut from a single layer Navajo to a Navajo over a one inch thick wool pad. I'm currently using this type on both horses (First one on top of page): http://www.bigbendsaddlery.com/saddlepads.html

                      It's just a basic ranch pad but I don't show a lot these days, could throw a Navajo over the top for such a need. For use with my round-skirted McCall I use the round pad shown at bottom of page.

                      In general, I much prefer wool, whether the wool felt pad or a wool blanket.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The western world has a version of the 'baby pad", which is a 3/8" to 5/8" pressed felt pad, that goes under the navajos or show pads, and is totally machine washable. They are usually 30" X 30" and can be found in Schneiders and other tack supply catalogs online. Price is right.

                        I am always intrigued by the pricey tech-age work pads, but when I see them in trainer's tack rooms, the underside always has a hard layer of sweat/dirt caked on. Exactly how does that absorb sweat?? I would rather have something I can wash and keep cleaner.
                        Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design
                        www.lynnlongplanninganddesign.com

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks for the information on pads, very helpful. We had our first ride in his new western bridle yesterday and the switch from a snaffle to a leverage bit was a non-event. Love my pony! Plus he looks ADORABLE in it.
                          Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                          PONY'TUDE

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I had a similar question a year or so ago and got great advice on this thread:

                            http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...date-w-pics-30!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Just had to share a pic of my sweet boy in his western bridle... we've been working in it bareback & in my english saddle until I can save up enough to get a western one, and he gave me the most AWESOME jog the other day! Plus he looks so cute.

                              https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...55058535_n.jpg
                              Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                              PONY'TUDE

                              Comment

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