Saturday, September 6, 2014

Guess What I Got For My Birthday?

This is the saddle I use to ride Caspian:

It's the best kind of saddle:

 It's a loaner from my mom until I can save up for a saddle I really want.  After that I'll sell it for what she paid for it:  $200.  Cordura saddles are kind of magical - they're lightweight, never seem to get scuffed, or age, or anything.  Even better, the saddle mostly fits Caspian, and it doesn't hurt me, and it's not too small.  Win, win, win.

Unfortunately, it's also the worst kind of saddle - something about the flat way it sits on his back makes me feel completely unbalanced, like I am about to fall off at any moment.  I've never ridden in a saddle that made me feel more unstable - I mean, even when you're bareback, you can at least sink down into their back a little bit.  Not this saddle!  This saddle makes me feel like I'm balancing on top of a comfortable piece of plywood on top of his back.  It doesn't hurt, but I feel off balance.

But.... but.... but

So, I use it, even though my very first "let's see how fast he can stop" at the Mugwump Clinic resulted in me somersaulting over Caspian's head.  The saddle keeps me honest - I always feel a little bit like I am about to fall off, so I don't push things.  In other words, I don't pick fights with Caspian I don't feel like I can win.

On the one hand, it makes me feel like a wimp.

On the other hand, it has forced me to work on my basics.  And I need to be honest - after so many years of borrowing horses, I have a lot of basics that need to be worked on.

Here's the thing I'm proud of:  after a year of riding in it... I finally feel steady and secure.  In fact, the other day when Caspian spooked at some invisible critter and tried to squirrel out from underneath me... I stayed on.  Easily.  It felt a little bit like the cheesy finale to a Hallmark movie - by golly, I finally had my seat back, and I had my crappy saddle to thank for it.

Still... that didn't keep me from drooling over saddles every chance I got.  I mean, let's all face it:  We all have a saddle or two (or three?) we'd love to own one day.

And then I turned 33.... and my favorite birthday gift this year was very boring in the grand scheme of things.  There was nothing to open.  There was nothing to touch.  My boys were not very impressed at the idea of a concept gift.  I think they thought I'd been duped.

And what was the gift?

My parents' gift to me was to offer me an interest-free loan so I could pick out the saddle of my dreams.  I'll be paying them back monthly.

I have to admit, when they offered me this gift, it felt a little bit like when I discovered I was going to own Caspian - wait.. What? Now?  This dream's coming true now?  But... but I'm not ready yet!

I'm not very good with making big decisions like this - I tend to daydream about things forever, without actually taking any steps to achieve them.

And now I live in Oregon, with a nice vehicle, and a nice  house, and a sexy, sexy beast of a horse:

When some Craigslist guy throws a "nice horse you can trust" at the last minute into a deal with a horse trader, and that horse trader then dumps the barely-gelded horse on your 60 year old parents, 
you aren't supposed to get a horse this nice.  I used up all my horse karma on this deal. 
I acknowledge it, Horse Karma.  You owe me nothing.

And now I'll be getting the saddle I've always wanted.

You know, I just realized I need to come up with new aspirations, because I'm pretty sure I've achieved all of them.

Anyways, enough backstory.  Here are the details:

I'm ordering a Specialized Saddle - a 17 inch Eurolight.

 My saddle will look almost exactly like this, only it will have cages on the stirrups so I can ride with tennis shoes, and the main saddle color will be dark oil, instead of brown.

Why Specialized?

I'm going with a Specialized because I hate saddle shopping.  The underside of Specialized saddles have removable shims which you can add or remove to adjust the saddle fit.  I figure I have the best chance of this saddle fitting Caspian, and eventually another horse if/when that time comes.
If you're confused because you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't owrry - I'm going to take tons of photographs and do a very boring "look at my saddle" blog post when I get it, so I'll just show it to you then.

Anyways, Specialized has several different types of saddles, but as far as why I chose the Eurolight option, well....If all the cool people ride a Eurolight, then I want also!

I'm being serious.   I have quite a few internet friends who are riding in a Eurolight, and they do way more miles than I ever will, and if the saddle is holding up for them and they're still happy....

And, well, if Funder and Aarene and Ruth and Llytha are gonna jump off a bridge, I wanna jump off that bridge, too.  After all - they've probably put a lot of thought and effort and hours of research into choosing the best bridge to jump off of.  I'm not following them out of a desire to be cool - I'm following them out of laziness.

I wish I wasn't investing in a new saddle.  What I really wanted was a used 17 inch Eurolight... but either they don't exist and I just gave a fake company a whole bunch of money, or nobody ever sells one. I know there are no used 17 inch Eurolights because I've been looking for one for two years - I've been searching Craigslist nationwide, and been stalking endurance sites, and looking on Facebook tack pages, and nope.  Nobody sells them.  EVER. I almost considered squeezing into a 16 inch.  It would almost fit at the weight I'm at right now, and who knows?  I  might get all trim and fit and one day wish my saddle was a 16 inch.  I used to ride in a 15, after all.....

But between you and me, if there's anything more depressing than out-fatting your saddle, I don't know what it is. Believe me.  I know.  I'd much rather get a 17 inch and have to use sheepskin and bucking rolls to make it smaller than get a 16 inch than to have it be too small on a day when I'm feeling fat and depressed.

So, I'm happy to tell you that after weeks of waiting, the saddle finally arrived in the mail the other day:

Yaaay.  A "saddle".

Why is there only a weird saddle tree with only some unfinished leather stapled on it, instead of a saddle?  Well, the first answer is that Specialized really ought to consider going back to something other than staples cuz staples are kind of chintzy,  but that's not really what we're talking about,

The real answer is that I've decided to go a little crazy. 

You know how they tell you not to count your chickens before they hatch?

Well, I've counted my unhatched chickens.  In fact, I haven't just counted them... I've named them, and sewed them little outfits, and built them little houses, and....

And you get the point.

Here's where I decided to be very, very unwise.  Before I say how I've been unwise, and before you guys start rolling your eyes at how dumb I am to customize a saddle I've never even tried on my horse....

You need to look at these pictures:

1890s saddle that had been burned in a fire.

 "Burned" 1890s saddle, fully restored.

I have no idea what you can use a leather box for.  All I know is that I want one now.

Are spiky arm bracers "in" yet?  No?  Can someone let me know when they are?  
I feel like every trip to the grocery store would be made 200x more awesome if I could wear spiky arm bracers as I go up and down the aisles. 

I love that they can make the metal parts to match the scrollwork - the idea of getting custom conchos is a bit appealing.  

 (This is saddle is, I kid you not, 7 inches.  IT'S A LITTLE BITTY SEVEN INCH SADDLE.)

 Aarene - these are normal boots that had attachments sewn onto them to morph them into
 Kraaken pirate boots. I'm not even into pirate paraphernalia, and I wanted a pair.  What a cool concept - get the boots you find comfortable, and then just add an attachment to make them neat.

" 'I love you Sorsha?' I don't love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her... Don't I?'" 
Okay, I know it's not REALLY Madmartigan's helmet... but I love it all the same.  
For the record if you don't love Willow, then you're not a friend of mine.

There's two pictures of this leather bracer because it's the item that's responsible for this whole foolish idea.  

 Now do you see?  Do you SEEEEE why I decided to be foolish and pay someone to tool a saddle that I've never even sat in, let alone placed on my horse?  I mean, when you're dropping more money on a saddle than you've ever spent on a horse, what's a couple more bucks, right?

  Leather Art and Design.  It's a company based out of St. Helens, Oregon, and when I saw that picture of the bracer on my Facebook feed one day, something in my heart kind of went THUMP THUMP, and I realized... huh.  It's not that I don't like leather and leather tooling... it's that I don't really care for the traditional western florette stuff. 

So... I asked Specialized Saddle to ship me undyed, untreated leather, and they did.  Last week I dropped the box off at Leather Art and Design and asked them to come up with some kind of design to put on the saddle.

Well, I take that back - when I first approached them about the idea, they asked me to bring them some ideas of things I liked, so they could get a feel for what I was looking for.

I balked at first - it's not that I have no taste.  It's that I have too much taste.  If you took a Punky  Brewster outfit and then vomited a bunch of gypsy scarves and leather bracers and carhartt vests on it, I'd probably squeal like a schoolgirl and buy three, but only if it came with teal-colored leather high tops.  Planning the minutiae of a leather design is SO not my forte.  Still, both Laura and Erik from Leather Art and Design insisted, so like the dutiful woman that I am, I immediately created a Pinterest page and began pinning. 

And Pinning. 


I was so proud of myself when I came in with my board full of colorful, swirly designs.  "Look!  I really like the look of this gypsy stuff - it's so cool.  And there's this steampunk stuff over here that's totally awesome.  And then there was this kind of, I dunno... medieval looking stuff? I've got a bunch of pictures of that, and OH!  LOOK!  I loved this celtic type stuff..."

I looked up at Erik, who was looking a little horrified.  "Those are all very different designs."

"Yeah, I know, but they're all REALLY COOL, aren't they?" 

"Well... I think you should pass on steampunk for a saddle, although it's up to you....  How do you feel about baroque, or--"

"Yeah, but LOOK!  It's got all these little gear shift thingies, and the swirly designs, and OH, look at this - it's got a little "V" thingie that you could maybe put on the back of the saddle, the, uh, cantle?  Pommel?  I dunno.  And I love the swirly knots and the squiggles over here, and that border thingie with the lines over there?   Or whatever.  Oh!  Look at this elvish archer costume.  It's so cool!  I love how it looks....AND LOOK AT THIS, IT'S A LITTLE BITTY STEAMPUNK R2D2.  If you get bored, you could always stamp one of those in somewhere, I don't really care where.  He'd be my saddle friend.  And I could be all, 'Hey R2D2... wanna canter?  Beeep beeep boop?  Yeah?  You do?  Well..."

I trailed off and looked at Erik, who by that point was no longer even looking at the screen.  In fact, he looked almost green as he stared down at the innocent little leather pieces he had in front of him, probably trying to avoid imagining the desecration I was describing.. 

I took one last look at the mismatch of disjointed items on my magical Pinterest board of ideas.

And then I looked at the classy, gorgeous items around the store, and the way the designs on everything just flowed together so nicely.

"Hey, Erik?  Why don't we just go with our original plan?  Where you do whatever you think is cool, and I'm sure I'll love it, no matter what it is."

I swear, I've never seen anyone so relieved to not have to put a tiny little steampunk R2D2 on a saddle.

But guys, between you and me, it would have looked awesome.

Anyways, now I'm in a holding pattern - after they create a design, I will give them the "okay".  They'll stamp it into the saddle, at which point I will mail the saddle back with 400 types of insurance on the package, just in case... and then Specialized will finish the leather, assemble everything, and mail it back to me. 

It's gonna look so awesome.  Of course, between the extra tooling and the shipping and the wait times, I probably won't get the saddle until I'm 47, but I'm hoping it's totally worth it.  And I swear, if the saddle doesn't fit Caspian, I'm gonna have to sell him.

I think we all know I'm totally lying about selling him.  Also, yeeeees, no helmet, but... 
but John Norling Photography was there, and his daughter had a cape, and... 
and now I have a picture of me on a unicorn, and it was so worth it.


Blogger Figure said...

Dude! I think that is the best idea ever. I am going to be impatiently waiting for pictures for ages now!

I've never actually seen a used 17". I bought a 16" Eurolight slightly used and waffled between 15 and 16 prior to that. I mean, I used to ride in 17" English saddles and that correlates to 15" Western, right? Except no, even the 16" is comfortably snug and I would likely have done fine in a 17". But I would never have found one.

So happy for you!

September 6, 2014 at 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I going to have to make you a corset and one of those pointy hat things with the veils?

September 6, 2014 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger AareneX said...

The boot thingies are cool, but can we talk about how AWESOME that bridle would look on the Dragon?

I can hardly wait to see your when it finally arrives, you're going to have to bring it-and Caspian up here for a nice long visit!

September 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger EvenSong said...

Those way cool custom conchos (Jeremiah Watt) are what I collected and installed on my Tucker trail saddle, and caps, and headstalls, and spur straps, and...
Can't wait to see this specialized Specialized!

September 6, 2014 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

OOOOOOHHHHH my gosh so much about this post turns my crank where do I even start????

You know that whole meditation I did on my blog about deserving? Yeah I've got my first brand new saddle in my barn and I'm working on having a good attitude about it. (It's complicated.)

But this. THIS. Is awesome. You are going for this with imagination and your own uniqueness and it's so worth it!!!

Please tell me that unicorn picture is on a wall in your house.

September 8, 2014 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Oh - also - the Abetta. I KNOW. I'm trying to sell a 15' right now to put towards my new Circle Y and I can't get a bite on it. I love it and hate it for all the reasons you listed! Only I paid $350 for it four years ago and I'll be lucky to get $150 for it. Synthetic saddles are great for some things, I guess, probably, in theory, but I've decided I'm not a fan. Just hoping somebody else is so I can sell mine!

Seriously… I am loving the works of art these people are making. Love love love. I'm such a tack nerd to start with and this is overload!

September 8, 2014 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

ALSO! Willow reference! Yessss!

(also also, I meant 15" saddle not 15' geez.)

(Spinal Tap reference.)

September 9, 2014 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Liz Stout said...

You slay me. This is all so fantabulous.

September 10, 2014 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Fyyahchild said...

I love you. And I love Willow, but that's not the point. This may be the absolute best thing I've ever read.

September 10, 2014 at 1:11 PM  

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