The Problem with Saddles

Have you ever looked at a saddle from a philosophical perspective? There’s more there than meets the eye. Maybe the horse isn’t the problem? It might be the saddle, but not necessarily the way it fits the horse.

A saddle is this: the mediator between equine and equestrian. It is the piece that’s bottomside fits the steed, top side fits the rider, and makes them a working unit. It connects the foundation (horse) and the mind (rider).

The side that connects to the horse is fairly simple, I guess because a horse is a horse, with little need for variation, except the obvious for high withers and shorter backs. Overall, they’re all the same. Rounded shape, covered in fleece.

The human side is far more complicated. Although a human is a human, and every saddle has a seat, the topside contains the personality. It says who you are and what you do.

They say you’ll know a horse by its rider, which is true in some senses, but let’s get to the connection.

It is the visible half that shows just how much a person is capable of overthinking, especially where western saddles are brought into the light.

There is a saddle horn for every rider. Ropers need a strong base, cutters need a thin shaft, barrel racers need a top that has a good fit for holding during turns. Vaqueros and buckaroos have ‘dinner plate’ horns and I don’t know why. Then, there’s the show saddle that has a horn that’s not to be touched while showing, so why is it there at all? Plenty of choices for horns, which aren’t all listed, but you get the idea.

Then, there’s that seat. Every saddle has one and every man, woman and child has a tush to sit in it with. We the people also added touches to that as well, adding to the basics. Deep seat, high back, trail, calf roping, team roping, reining, ranch, barrel racing, narrow, wide, and inch sizes ranging from 12 to 20. Little butt, big butt and everything in between butts. A size for all, literally and figuratively.

Then, we come to the appearance. Standard or roughout leather, floral or basketweave pattern, silver, bling or plain, no leather but nylon. Black, brown, natural, pink, green or purple zebra print. On and on and on go the options in this section. If you can think it, there’s someone to make it happen for you. Some even have media holders built in.

Stirrups, skirts, cantles, fenders, etc. There’s something for everyone. That list and the costs are endless. It comes down to this, “What’s in your imagination and your wallet?”

But, flip a saddle over and they’re all basically the same. A horse is a horse. Their wants and needs are few. They need a comfortable fit and for the human atop to be competent. That’s really not much to ask for. A horse is versatile, yet essentially they all think alike. Easy.

Every saddle has two things. A foundation or the commonly unseen, and a personality or the visible. Think about that for awhile. It is inanimate, but very distinct in its connection to human desire.

The next time things aren’t going quite right, take a break from what you want, and focus on what is going to get you there. Remember, the saddle is nothing more than the mediator. If it isn’t working, remove it and connect with the base. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable and ride bareback, you will suddenly discover that the horse is still a horse, with or without a saddle. The human on the other hand, must suddenly be very clear on whether all that visible personality really proved any sort of skill. You can’t overthink when you ride without a saddle. Either you are balanced, or you’re not, although it can be learned by putting the saddle to the side for awhile.

Without good balance, nobody is a true horseman or woman. And that thought can be taken into every facet of life. Balance before destiny. Money can’t buy skill, although it can pay for a good teacher. The problem may not be the horse at all. It may very well be the saddle.

Welcome 2017!

Last night was a rough stock event at Crossroads Arena in Penrose, CO. I met some intimidation when I got there; a veteran rodeo photographer. Fortunately, he was friendly. A man named Tim Brown. And, he was kind enough to share some insight, plus his story.

We chatted for awhile, mostly discussing the lighting. Mechanics discuss torque and big blocks, photographers discuss lighting and ISO’s. It’s a thing, seriously. None the less, for a rodeo contestant that arena is a dream, but for a photographer, the lighting is a test of skill, patience and mostly luck. 

I don’t really believe in luck, so I took my humble self to the corner and prayed. “God, help me. Please.” I had one hour to set my camera as best as I could for what I was facing. High speed action in a low light setting. 

It dawned on me while I was pushing buttons and doing test shots, that as I’ve pressed into new territory during 2016, ive spoken those words over and over, “God, help me. Please.” And, He has. 

By nature, I’m an introvert and am by no means the person you will find zip-lining for a thrill. It took hours of pep talk, for my family to get me on a tube in the river this past summer. I like the familiar. Period. This job I do has meant I have learned something; if I want to work, I have to step into every scenario alone. Scared or not, saying, “God help me. Please.”

Today, is a new day and the beginning of a new year. There will be many of those prayers coming up, because I have no intention of letting go of my dreams. Every ounce of me is uncomfortable. But, a plan is in front of me, and all I can do is, go do it. 

I’ve now met enough photographers in my field to realize, I can only learn more from them, because they are so very skilled. They have more experience than I do, so I listen to every word they say. A free education is the best one. It’s through me walking past my fears and taking advice from these wonderful people, that stepping into 2017 means I’m going in a little better than I was yesterday.

If I can do it, anyone can. All you have to do is let go a little bit and take one step, even if that step is saying, “God help me. Please.” 

Blessings to all and welcome to 2017. Let’s make it a good one!