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I could be a Rhinestone Cowboy…

This weekend I’m signed up for a Western Dressage Clinic.  All you non-horsey folks should stop reading right here, this is going to get technical.

I ride English.  To be exact, I Event.  Eventing is the triathlon of Horsedom.  We do a dressage test, then race cross country at breakneck speeds jumping lots of scary, permanent obstacles.  We round out the day with a course of stadium jumping.

I own two mares but the one and my Event partner is an appendix, meaning a Quarter horse/Thoroughbred cross.  She has a fancy pedigreed name but to the world she is known as NightMare.  Night was a barrel racer in a previous life so she is familiar with the western equine world.

In order to prepare for this total departure from  English riding, I made a pact with my good friend Lauren that we would practice in private this week.  Lauren rides Western but wanted to hone her skills before the clinic.

Picking out western tack is a little like asking someone who has lived in flip-flops their whole life to pick out a pair of platform heels.  I stood in the tack room and gazed upon the myriad shapes, colors, textures of leather and synthetic saddles.  They all looked so HUGE!  And the saddle pads – so thick and heavy.  With Lauren’s help, I chose a lovely smaller saddle that still seemed to be enormous.  The bridle was an easier choice as Night has a very low palate and needs a flat bit.

We tacked up in front of the barn, chatting away as the sun came and went, then went  to the indoor arena to give it a try.  My first impression when I mounted was, “Gee, who’s sitting behind me?”  The saddle fit Night just fine and was  small enough that I didn’t feel like I was floating in a bowl, but the high cantle behind made me feel oddly enclosed.  As soon as we walked off along the wall, I relaxed and sank into the seat.  “Oh, yes, this is very nice!” My center of balance was shifted slightly back and my legs found a comfortable spot to wrap around Night.

For her part, Night slowly did a magical transition.  Usually, she is the Energizer Bunny; all wound up, tight as a spring, ready to leap tall building with a single bound.  Today, she started out strong, then gradually stretched and slowed to a true western jog.

I will need to make lots of adjustments before Saturday but the biggest will be in my head.  I think I really like this style of riding.  Do I give up the thousands of dollars of English tack?

Can I really leave this behind?

Photo by Flatlands Foto
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