Dear Friend and Horseman,
Welcome to another Horse Training Tips Insider.
In this issue, I want to talk about a topic that I feel is very important when it comes to having success in riding or training a performance horse.
There is a good chance you are NOT going to accept what I say in this newsletter. You will probably say to yourself, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to me”.
However, put this information to the acid test. You just might find your riding and training ability greatly improved.
Okay, lets get started with the newsletter
Not long ago, I was giving a riding lesson to a would-be client. This lady wanted to get started in reining so she bought a not-too-expensive reining horse and brought him over to learn how to ride him.
Well to make a long story short, the lesson didn’t go too well. Basically, the lady had a lot of trouble sitting the stops and turns. Actually, she couldn’t sit down in the saddle at all.
Most of the time, she was arching her back and riding on her pelvic bones or thighs instead of the cheeks of her butt (jean pockets).
Consequently, her horse wouldn’t stop right, he wouldn’t turn on his hocks and he wouldn’t lope slow either. It’s just a fact that if the rider doesn’t sit right, the horse won’t work right.
Now, I spotted this “riding problem” right away. I see people riding like this all the time. I mean, at least 90% of the folks who ride horses, ride just like this lady.
Oh yes, I can just hear you screaming, “HEY LARRY, YOU JERK, I DON’T RIDE LIKE THAT”.
Well, I hate to be the one to break the news to you but unless you’ve been successfully riding cutting, reining or working cow horses for quite a while, YES YOU DO. You’re just not AWARE of it. I promise there are very few exceptions.
And yes, I know I’m going to get a ton of email from people arguing that they don’t. All I can say is “show me the proof”. Email a photo of yourself sitting a stop.
And be warned, if I see you are full of B.S., I’m going to publish the photo (with your name below it) in a future newsletter and use it as an example of how NOT to ride.
Okay, I’m only kidding about sending the photo. But, I am totally serious about the way most people ride. They have just never experienced any other way.
Let’s get back to the lady who was taking the lesson because there is an important point I need to illustrate.
So anyway, after a half hour of me working with this lady, she got a little better but still no real success. I assured her that with more practice she would get better and it would just take more time.
She was fine with that and asked me if I’d ride her horse and tune him up so she could watch him work. I said sure.
I got on her horse and as soon as my butt settled in the saddle I knew exactly why this poor lady was having so much trouble.
Her saddle was absolutely TERRIBLE. I’ll tell you, I couldn’t even begin to sit the stop.
I could barely stay in balance enough to lope the horse. I mean this saddle made riding well almost impossible.
I told the lady that her saddle was the major cause of her problems.
Of course, she didn’t want to hear that because she had just bought this one a few weeks prior. And here I am telling her she needs to spend a few thousand dollars more and buy another one.
The bottom line is, either you have a saddle that helps you ride well or you don’t.
Unfortunately, most saddles don’t. Some of the most popular brands actually HINDER you.
Every other week, I receive an email from somebody asking if a particular brand of saddle is good. And 9 out of 10 times, my answer is NO.
If you haven’t watched the videos on my website about choosing the right saddle, you should. It explains what you need to look for concerning design and fit for you and your horse.
And like I said before, if you don’t sit the stops and turns, your horse will not do them correctly.
Bottom line… you need to have a saddle that HELPS YOU RIDE IN BALANCE AND SIT THE STOP.
I recall the day, I received a phone call from the marketing executive of a major saddle company. This company manufactures about six very popular name-brand saddles.
The marketing guy called to see if I’d endorse their new line of performance saddles.
While on the phone, he had me go online and take a look at the photos of their new saddles. Enthusiastically, he asked, “what do you think? Pretty nice huh?
In my usual un-tactful way, I replied, “these saddles are exactly the type I tell my clients NOT to buy”.
For a full 5 seconds there was dead silence on the other end of the phone.
He finally asked, “why”?
I thoroughly explained my reasons. I also told him that it wouldn’t cost any more money for his company to manufacture a well designed saddle instead of the crummy ones they were making now. I also offered to help with the design.
He asked if I would endorse their saddles if they made these simple changes. I said that I certainly would consider it.
Six months went by and I haven’t heard a word from them since… and probably never will.
I’m sure this corporation’s board of directors sees no good reason to make the design changes. After all, they have always sold plenty of saddles and continue to have a large market share.
Unfortunately, the key ingredient that is missing in this company is the same ingredient that is missing in almost all companies that produce saddles.
What is this missing ingredient?… A knowledgeable horseman!
The people who make up these companies know almost nothing about performance horses or how to ride them.
The companies are run by business people who know how to operate a business. And the saddles are made by craftsmen who’s job is simply assembling pieces of leather. Most of these people have never, ever ridden a performance horse.
When these companies “design” a saddle and offer it for sale to the public, it truly is the blind leading the blind.
Brands of Saddles
Okay, after reading this newsletter, I know many people will ask me this critical question… “Does “such and such” brand of saddle have these design flaws that you are talking about”? And what brand of saddle do you recommend?
Alright, I’m going to list a few of the more popular saddles that I DO NOT recommend for cutting, reining or working cow horse.
To avoid getting sued, I’m only going to hint at the brand name.
Here is a partial list:
B—y C–k, T–Tan, S–co, Big H–n, Something Y, C–tes.
Actually, I can’t think of a single production-line saddle that doesn’t belong on this list. And there are very few hand-made saddles that don’t belong on it too.
Right now, about your only chance of getting a saddle that is designed right, is to buy a custom hand-made saddle. The brand name saddles you see being ridden at the money shows is usually the way to go.
They are not cheap. Prices start at around $4,500 for the stripped down models.
A lot of folks aren’t willing to spend that kind of money for a saddle. And forget about finding a good used one at a bargain price. It seldom happens.
As a matter of fact, most good used saddles sell for just a couple hundred dollars less than a brand new one. You’re better off getting the new one.
Currently, I’m looking into solving this problem. I’m always searching to find a saddle shop that can produce a saddle with the right kind of seat and stirrup leathers that could be retailed at a price that’s under $3000.
And of course, the saddle would have to be good enough quality that I would want to own it myself. I just couldn’t recommend a saddle that I didn’t like well enough to use personally.
ADDITIONAL SADDLE TIPS
If you’ve been riding for awhile and are still having problems with your balance, there is a possibility your saddle simply isn’t designed right.
The usual symptoms include:
1. Falling forward when your horse slows down or stops.
2. Feeling out of balance when your horse turns sharp.
3. Hard time getting in a comfortable rhythm with your horse when he lopes.
4. Trouble timing your horse for hindquarter stops, spins and flying lead changes.
5. Your balance not feeling “stable” or “secure” when riding.
Also, if your thighs are touching the swells of the saddle or your butt is touching the cantle, THE SEAT IS TOO SMALL or not shaped right.
If you are constantly stiffening your legs or pushing your feet down, reaching for the stirrups, then your STIRRUPS ARE ADJUSTED TOO LONG or they are not HUNG in the RIGHT POSITION.
Just because a saddle is “custom” or “hand made” doesn’t mean it is well “designed“. A saddle maker can be a brilliant craftsman but not understand horsemanship well enough to incorporate it into the design of the saddle.
Same goes for the popular production line saddles.
Just because the manufacturer calls their saddle a reining saddle or cutting saddle, does NOT mean the saddle was DESIGNED WELL for those events.
Too often, the people who are designing and producing these saddles are NOT horsemen. Most don’t ride or own a horse.
They are simply craftsman or “skilled labor” hired by the company to put pieces of leather together.
A FINAL NOTE
Let me emphasize, not all saddle makers are like what I described above. There are some who are really, really good. It’s just that the good ones are few and far between. And if you do find one, he’s usually booked up for a year.
I know a lot of people who read this are hoping to get a good saddle for LESS than $2400. I gotta be honest… it isn’t going to happen.
The cost of materials and labor is too expensive.
Even a good USED saddle will cost at least $1800… if you’re lucky enough to find one that’s for sale.
Well, this wraps it up for this newsletter. I hope you liked it.
Until next time, have fun training your horse.