Diana Goes Western

 Posted by on 29 September 2012 at 10:40 am  Animals, Personal, Sports
Sep 292012
 

I’ve always ridden English — and determinedly so. Still, I’ve long been interested in the “natural horsemanship” methods used mostly by Western trainers, and I’ve even been training with a Western rider since this spring. In that time, I’ve learned quite a bit about Western technique — and I’ve come to see just how fabulously fine-tuned it can be.

Given Elsie’s age and history, I don’t think I could ever transition her to an English style of riding: the best that I can do with her is to make her into a quiet little Western horse. With the help of my trainer, I’ve made huge progress on that score. In the process, I’ve found that Elsie does much better in a Western-style shank bit than in a snaffle, so I’ve been learning to ride in her that, which requires teaching her to hold her own frame (Western-style), as opposed to actively holding her together (English-style). That’s been a fun challenge for me, but it’s so gratifying to see her progress.

Just these past few weeks, I decided to take the next step: I want to seriously train Lila to ride in a Western style of riding. I’m going to enjoy the fun challenge of it, and I expect that Lila will enjoy the change of pace too. I’ve already been teaching her how to neck rein, and she’s doing well.

However, to really ride Western, I need the proper equipment — saddle, bridle, saddlepad, breastplate, cinch, etc. On Friday, I took the first step. I found an awfully nice Western saddle at a local used tack shop at a decent price. It’s wide, which Lila needs, but it’s workable for Elsie too. It feels good to me: just the right size and comfortable. I have it on trial now, but if my trainer gives it the thumbs up at Tuesday’s lesson, I’ll buy it. See for yourself:

I felt like such a beginner tacking up Lila in this saddle, because I had no real clue how to secure the cinch. Thankfully, I had my phone with me, so the internet came to my rescue.

I’ll buy Lila and Elsie proper Western bridles next week too, plus some other goodies. (The style of rein really makes a difference in the bridle.) I had a terrible time trying to find a suitable shank bit for Lila: I wanted a Tom Thumb, but with a three-piece mouth (e.g., a French link) so as to avoid the “nutcracker effect” of a two-piece mouth. I found exactly that, but only in a 5.0″ mouthpiece, not the 5.5″ that Lila needs. Ultimately, I ordered this bit, which I hope will be okay. (I ride Lila in a full cheek French snaffle normally, which I really like.)

After I get the horses properly equipped, I’ll need to buy myself some proper Western boots and spurs. That will be fun! I always ride with a protective helmet, so don’t expect to see me in a Western hat anytime soon!

  • William E. Perry

    Get the breastplate pretty quickly if you are doing any up and down trail riding. (Where you live that is very likely.) It definitely comes in handy. Otherwise you have to tighten the cinch too much.

    Bill Perry

    • http://www.philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

      Thanks for the advice! That’s been on my list of stuff to acquire when I return to the used tack shop, but since I don’t need one in an English saddle with either horse, I’ve wondered whether that’s really a necessity.

   
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