Well, I took a good hiatus there for a while! I focused myself more on horses and family around the end of the year – being in action and living my joy rather than worrying about writing and posting about it.
Part of me then felt compelled to write a bunch of posts to catch up – then I realized, I could save myself time and align with the intention of the blog, finding joy and self expression with horses, by spending more time with the herd and Winston and less time writing individual posts and just write a year end summary of the last month!
So…here we go!
The Saddle Switcheroo
So, after Barb and Jenny took a look at the saddle I purchased for Winston over the course of a couple weekends, I decided that with this investment, I had best get an official saddle fitter out to check it, just to be extra sure. We all thought it fit well through the front, the gullet was certainly wide enough, but we weren’t as confident of the room through the back on this wide guy.
At a Fall Fair in October, I walked past a trailer emblazoned with the name “Britt’s Corner Tack.” I was interested, but at the time I wasn’t in need of any tack, I had a halter and a lead rope and didn’t need anything else yet, nor know what I would need. So, I just took a business card, followed the brand on Instagram, and went on my way.
Well, when it came time to find a saddle fitter, I wasn’t having much luck, no one knew of anyone locally—then it happened, I saw an Instagram post by Britt’s Corner Tack about saddle fitting! I messaged her (Brittney) right away, told her about the situation, and we made arrangements to meet at the farm the following week, right before Christmas. Well—that was probably the most fun Barb or I have had in a while! Brittney was fabulous, not only did she walk us through saddle fit with her expertise, but she was funny and easy going too. Barb and I both tried out saddles, I walked Winston around the barn like a runway, or the way one might walk around to try out new shoes in a store. He was a good sport about it all, his demeanour really is something I love about him. Easy going and patient.
The most important thing I discovered, was that the saddle I purchased was in fact too tight through the back. This was really important because Winston is cold backed, and has had a hard time with saddles in the past. I knew right away if must have something to do with pain/fit, and figured that ensuring a good fit for his saddle would be the best thing to do for our riding relationship.
After trying out some other saddles, I found one that fit him like a glove, allowing for space, not too long for this short backed horse, and designed and hand made by a vet who believes all those things matter too. It is a versatile saddle, good for roping, cutting and barrel racing, or just trail riding which is my plan. And…it’s really quite beautiful too!
I highly recommend Britt’s Corner Tack (link) for all of the reasons above, if you’re in South Western Ontario—and in need of a saddle or other tack, check out her website!
The Path to the First Ride
So, or course, after purchasing the proper fitting saddle, I began making plans for the first ride! I was super excited, but also knew that I wasn’t just going to hop right on. I knew it would take a bit of time getting used to being in the saddle again for both Winston and I.
The following time I went out to the farm, I saddled him up, cinch, breast collar and all, and we just walked around the yard. No pressure, just walking around.
The next time I went out, I saddled him up again, and this time we did focused on some Liberty skills and clicker training. We practiced coming up to the mounting block, so that we could both practice each little step before riding.
Then, it was time to lunge. I put the saddle and bit-less bridle on, along with the lunge rope, and off we went. Lunging to the right was easy for both of us, we just walked and trotted, the footing isn’t great at this time of year. Then, the left. Lots of issues, but mostly mine! There was something about lunging to the left that I just couldn’t do. I couldn’t get him started, he just kept backing away from me, or coming in close. Something in my communication was off.
Both Barb and Jenny were around that day, and so they offered to step in with their tips. I watched closely and tried again. Again, I could not get him to move out to the circle. I was more embarrassed than frustrated. Having an audience when things aren’t working isn’t very comfortable.
I probably tried on and off for about 30 minutes, then finally, I got that it was my confusing energy – that I wasn’t in my body, directing Winston with my energy, I was in my head, trying to figure out how I was going to do this, why couldn’t I, etc etc. Once I got that, I went all in, body, mind and intention, and actually felt the difference in myself physically – and so did he. Winston went out on the circle, and began lunching to the left, and I felt this wave of gratitude, roundedness and renewed confidence in my body.
After this, I got the message from him that we were ready to try out the saddle. Before I got on, I tightened the cinch up a bit, to make sure the saddle wouldn’t shift once there was a person in it. We brought out the mounting block, and I first leaned over the saddle. All good. I wasn’t planning to get on that day, so I had on my huge farm boots – not great for stirrups, so I decided to just sit in the saddle and not attempt getting my feet in. All good. Then, he let me know he was ready to take a walk, and off we went – Barb held on at first to make sure I was comfortable and confident, and then when I said ‘go’ she let go, and I held the reins and walked him around the front yard on my own!
This was a first for Winston & I, walking around on our own, just the two of us, and he was such a gentleman–at the end of our walk he went right up close to the mounting block so that I could dismount easily, rather than just jumping off his back – way easier on these middle-age ankles 😉
So, that was the first ride, and I can’t wait to spend more time in the saddle, increasing both of our capacities, confidence and having fun together – this is really what our relationship is about.
And…the other Horse Stuff!
In the other realms of horse related things, I began my Equine Business 101 course over the Winter Break – it’s a course that the University of Guelph via the Horse Portal offered for free of charge to anyone who wanted to register, as part of a credit toward a three part certificate in Equine Business Management. I already completed the two other course requirements, so once this course is complete (goal – by the end of January!) I will apply for the certificate.
Additionally, I have been participating in an online group between programs with Healing Hooves, and have decided to register for the next part in their series of courses, called “Foundations.” As I have shared before, the work of Sue MacIntosh at Healing Hooves aligns with my years of study, learning and experience with Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s Developmental Paradigm, and so I am really looking forward to learn more about how Sue marries the work of Dr. Neufeld with Equine Facilitated Learning and Wellness. The course begins in March, with an in-person session scheduled for the end of May in Alberta! I’ve never been to Alberta, but it is somewhere I have wanted to go visit for a very long time. I have family and one of my oldest best friends who live there – and hope to make a visit possible.
I am also now on day 3 of taking care of the Freedom Herd of Liberty Lane independently while my mentor, Mena, is away for three weeks. It’s been very cold in Ontario (-20 with the windchill yesterday!) and I am already getting lots of great experience in terms of running a horse farm and caring for these beautiful partners during some of the most uncomfortable conditions so far. Yesterday I had 3 work related meetings and knew I would need to be very efficient with my time at the farm, however, things did not go to plan, and I ended up taking 2 out of the three meetings at the farm, including completing a job interview for a new teacher while cutting the netting off of a roundtable with members of the herd eating next to me. I spend all day dealing with hay, and frozen water, and a frozen hose…then a flood due to the frozen hose unfreezing while I was in the barn on a zoom call. Yep, I’ve got some learning do do – and these lessons were important.
I’ll provide a Freedom Herd update next time – for now, back to work, and then to the barn(s)!