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.


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