Sunday, May 29, 2011

Breaking in a new saddle

Just like a pair of leather boots or a baseball glove, a new leather saddle has to get broken in. The more it gets used and conforms to the animal and the rider, the better and more comfortable it feels for all concerned. Lucy and I are having lots of fun putting many miles on our new saddle, but I'm helping the process along by following the tips the saddlemaker gave me when I bought it.

When the saddle is not in use, I twist the stirrups into the position they would be with my boot in them and insert a stick. I had been using my snake pole for this purpose but now that snake season is upon us, I'm using a designated stirrup stick. It would be just like me to forget where I put the snake pole at the time I needed it most.

My new saddle did not come pre-oiled, as do most off-the-rack saddles. The idea here is that unoiled leather more quickly conforms to the shape and position you want it to take, then you oil it once everything is where you like it. You can speed up that process by watering the underside of the leather before every ride.

Ok, so I missed the underside a little bit in this picture. I was looking through the viewfinder and my aim with the squirt bottle was off. Anyway, the squirt bottle is filled with water and a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid, which helps hold the moisture in the leather. You squirt the underside of the jockeys and the fenders and really saturate the stirrup leathers.

Then you go for a nice long ride and by the time you get home, the leather has dried into shape. I'll keep doing this for a few months, then oil it with Lexol once it has conformed to my leg and boot position. The stirrups already are hanging where they need to be, and my knees and ankles aren't sore from getting torqued in the wrong direction. So we're well on our way to the perfect degree of comfortableness.  After all, Lucy is the perfect saddle donkey, she deserves the perfect saddle.

How perfect is Lucy? I will share a little story from yesterday's ride...

We went in a new direction and were about two miles from home. We came upon three horses who came running toward us. There was no fence between us and the horses. I whistled and used the end of my mecate to chase them away – they meant no harm, but I didn't want Lucy to have to defend herself against all three if they got too close. We walked down the road a little ways to a cattle guard that would separate us from the horses –  if we could get through the barbed-wire gate that was next to it. I dismounted and told Lucy to stand while I wrestled with the gate...and while three pesky horses kept harassing us. I finally got the gate open and we walked through, leaving the horses on the other side. Then Lucy patiently stood while I wrestled with the gate to close it. Then we rode off down the road with smiles on our faces. There were any number of ways this encounter could have gone bad, but it didn't because Lucy is so darned calm and sensible, and perfect in every way.

20 comments:

  1. Ahh, the joys of breaking in a new saddle :) Lucy is very calm and sensible, anyone can see that :)
    BTW, is that her brand shown there? That's a beautiful brand!!

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  2. I guess I got it wrong. I always thought that it was your butt that got broken in, not the saddle. ;-}

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  3. Estella from Co.5/29/11, 1:11 PM

    THAT'S YOUR girl......glad to hear you are putting some miles on her. Saddle looks great on her. I'm now looking for a mule saddle, sounds like you are really satisfied with it. Wish he was closer, so I could try one out. I'm so happy for you and Lucy. It seems to be EVEN better than I had wished for. HOORAY Give the girl a hug for me...boys, too.

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  4. Mikey, I knew there was something else I meant to write in this post –

    Yes, that is Lucy's brand you see above her left front leg. I clipped it yesterday to get a better look. Goin' back for another tattoo soon.

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  5. You two were meant to be together !

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  6. I guess the old wives tale of dunking a new saddle in the water tank first (to help break it in) is more truth than I thought! Looks like you are on your way to trail bliss with the perfect donkey saddle combo. Have a great time!

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  7. She's a perfect companion. And she looks great in her new saddle.

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  8. Somebody has got to say it: I LOVE LUCY!

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  9. Lucy is a treasure, isn't she?
    It's so good when you feel as if your animal is your partner.

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  10. Sounds like paradise! GOOD GIRL LUCY!!!

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  11. Ahhh...new saddles. Is there anything better than that smell? Well, maybe new gunbelts. Darn webgear, they have taken the creak out of policework.

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  12. I had never heard about using water first, then oil when the saddle is how you want it. But, it sure makes sense! Thanks for the info!

    Your ride sounds like it was heavenly! Even with the pesky intruders (who were probably just jealous of Lucy and her rider!)

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  13. Enjoyed reading this. Learned new things about breaking in a saddle. I have a twenty something year old saddle and hope to have it another twenty.
    You are right about the 3 horses. It could have gone bad quickly. I have never been crazy about riding through a bunch of horses. Sometimes there is some body language going on saying "this is my pasture".

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  14. At first, when I saw the pic of the saddle at the top, I thought it was an art piece.

    Upon further review, I think it is an art piece.

    :-)

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  15. I may have missed this in a previous blog, but about how tall is Lucy?

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  16. Natalie, Lucy is 13.2 hands tall.

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  17. Lucy is such a gem. Great lookin' saddle...that'll last you for years!

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  18. Please people don't dunk your saddles in water tanks! It IS a wives tale. I have never heard of saddles NOT being oiled. If you want your stirrup leathers to hang in position order them with a Hamley twist!

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