A pinch o’ this…

Today I left for the barn in enough time for a short ride on Boulder. Uh huh. Sure.

No, really, I did! Jenn was running a little late bringing the herd in, but I had stuff to do in the meanwhile (fetching tack, checking the slow feeders, watching the red-headed woodpeckers, etc.), so it was no problem.

Bob went into his stall very politely today compared with the omigodIhaftagetintherenownownow! behavior of yesterday. He stood when I took his halter off. But as soon as I stepped away, he started freaking out because he couldn’t see his buddy Jamocha who was 20 feet away, just like yesterday. Sheesh…. Still, I guess that’s some progress.

Boulder was, as always, a big sweetie. I shot some video of Jenn bringing in the herd, and he actually trotted up the track. He is such a handsome boy…. Off we went to the crossties. Grooming commenced, and comments were made regarding the delight he takes in rolling in the grass in the pasture (you can’t hide grass stains on a white horse).

I picked his feet, as usual. The first three feet looked and smelled better than yesterday. I think we’re a few days away from ending the gentian violet. His front right, however, was another story. He didn’t want to pick it up again, so we spent some time discussing the matter. Eventually, he picked up his foot, I cleaned it, and put it down. Then I picked it up again and did nothing but look at it for a few minutes, put it down again. Repeat several times, trying to get the message across that it’s not going to hurt every time he gives me that foot.

Be that as it may, today did hurt as I picked out some more dead frog goo out of the central groove on his right front. The most exposed parts of the central groove are starting to dry up a little, but there are still two cavities there that I haven’t quite finished exploring yet. No shortage of thrush here….I decided to wait to treat his feet until after our ride.

That onerous task done, I saddled him up and we headed to the outdoor arena. As usual, he was pretty ouchy on the gravel, relieved to walk on the grass, and blissful when we got to the sand. We did some groundwork, and he was an angel—right at my elbow.

Then we got ready to mount up. And I discovered I had some more work to do on standing for mounting. We worked for about ten minutes on standing when I moved back next to the stirrup and then graduated to standing while I put my left foot in the stirrup. I decided to try standing up in the left stirrup without throwing my right leg over yet.


The moment I had my full weight in the stirrup, he kind of snorted and started off at a brisk walk. Having done this the hard way once before, I hopped down and he immediately stopped. After backing him up about four miles, I decided to re-check the saddle. Everything looked fine, so we started back with me standing at the stirrup again.

We progressed to me putting some weight in the stirrup (but not full weight), and he gave that same sort of snort again and I noticed his head come up. The more I thought about it, this wasn’t feeling like disrespect, although it did feel very much like when he dumped me that first week. I took a closer look at the saddle and finally put two and two together.

I had the saddle too far forward by several inches. This saddle has full quarter horse bars, so it’s a broad tree. But where I had it, just behind his withers, the saddle would pinch the saddle blanket down tight under the horn when I put a fair bit of weight on the stirrup. I’m not sure whether the pain was from the blanket/gullet putting too much pressure on his spine or from his shoulder blades getting pinched. Either way, I realized that it hurt when I put weight on.

I moved the saddle back a few inches and tried again. Much better. I was able to stand in the left stirrup and then lean over on my belly onto the seat to put my weight more evenly on the tree. Other than the tiniest little grunt, this was much better—not so much as a step. We did this a couple of times more, and I decided that was a good place to stop, as I needed to get to work and this was a success.

Back to the crossties we went for untacking, a foot doctoring (I didn’t have time to do Bob’s feet today), some neck stretches and the requisite treats for stretching, and then back to the stall. It was a serious chore to pick up that right front again, but I gave it a good soaking of Blue-Kote.

I was tight for time and realized I hadn’t put Boulder’s fly mask back on, so I grabbed it and went to his stall. Nope. He didn’t want a fly mask and acted as it is was An Evil Thing. After a couple of minutes of various approaches, I haltered him (no problem) and then put the fly mask on without further incident. Criminey….

So, I have pretty much concluded that Boulder’s bolting that first week was a saddle fit issue serious enough that it really hurt him when I tried to mount that first time. After that, when I fussed with the cinch, I probably moved the saddle back just enough to relieve the worst of the pain, so he tolerated a rider for the few remaining minutes that we were in the pasture. I’ll have to pay very close attention to where the saddle hits from now on.

I didn’t get to ride today, but I learned some good stuff and got some bonding time with the Boulder. Not too bad a day.

About Mike

Michael Heggen is a horseman, maker, and thinker who lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Kim, and "three to eight cats". He stays quite busy riding, driving, and caring for their three horses, Boulder, Shasta, and Bob. Among other things, Mike has been a fencing coach, police chaplain, computer consultant, aspirant to the diaconate, computer salesman, box boy, carpenter, computer technician, typesetter, church youth leader, copy machine operator, and network administrator. His other interests include juggling, reading voraciously, and (pretty occasionally these days) cycling.
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