[Click here to read Part I of the Becky Hart Saddle Saga]

After swapping out the cute pink saddle, Carmi Weininger suggested I try the endurance model. What a concept! Back in 2013, in England, I had ridden in Valerie Kanavy’s Reactor Panel® saddle, and had found it to be very comfortable. But, I had been riding Pete, aka Mr. Steady Eddie, not Max, the wild child. Carmi wanted to know if I liked the thigh blocks and if the seat was wide enough.

Digression – “seat wide enough”. Anyone who has taken riding lessons for any length of time will most likely hear their instructor say, “widen your seat bones.” Over time, I think I have been, perhaps, too successful in that endeavor, not to mention the natural progression of “widening” that goes on in one’s life. Many of the clinics I teach, I have to tell participants that their saddle is too small. “But it’s the same saddle I’ve ridden in for the past 20 years,” they wail. Yes, well, sometimes we all have to confront not so pleasant truths. I am trying to face up to mine.

So home I came with the endurance model, and tried it for two weeks. It had that “new leather smell”. It made the truck smell great. We decided to go to our old stomping grounds in Los Gatos and ride Mt. Umunhum, the trail we trained Rio on most of his life. It is one tough trail and we wanted to give Mia a good ride before Virginia City and I wanted to see how Max would handle it. I put the saddle on Max and discovered that the yellow jackets also like that “new leather smell”. They were buzzing under the flaps, around the stirrup leathers. Getting on might be disastrous. What to do? We had some fly spray in the trailer so I sprayed the saddle pad all around the saddle, soaking it in, but avoiding the nice new leather. That seemed to work, and Max and I started without incident.

The endurance model was comfortable, both my horses loved it and moved out well. My only objection was I wanted a bit more of a pommel and cantle – the thigh blocks were great, but I still felt that I wanted more security. The other issue I discovered was my left seat bone was not supported on Max, but I felt right in the middle on Sarge.

So back to the drawing board. I talked with both Carmi and Lynne Glazer, to see what they advised. Lynne suggested I do a test to see if I am in the middle of the saddle. Have someone watch and/or video to see if the emblem on the back of the saddle was moving evenly from side to side or was it was going more to the right. Max likes to travel ribs right, so I am suspecting he was dumping me off to the left. A half panel can be inserted to even the saddle for the rider, however, it means that I have more work to do to get Max straight.

Carmi suggested a dressage saddle, the Avantgarde – with a deep seat and cantle. We met again in Watsonville for a saddle tryst. I tried a Heraldic while I was there – I think I would have loved it when I was 20, not so much now. I tried the Reactor Panel Avantgarde Dressage Saddle, ah yes, deep seat, nice, but no thigh blocks. Carmi sent me home with both saddles to alternate back and forth to see how they compare. If I like the Avantgarde seat on the trail we could put the endurance flaps on the Avantgarde seat. Perhaps we will come up with the Becky Hart model, or, the old ladies safety saddle – for those who still like to compete, go fast and ride less than perfect horses, but who really don’t want to fall off.

So the search for the perfect saddle goes on. As soon as the rain stops (yes rain! Here in drought country), I’ll get out and give them a try.

Looking for a new saddle, after years of riding in the same saddle, gives one the feeling of being, well, just a bit unfaithful. After all, what was so wrong with my saddle of the past 20 years? Why now, after all this time together, am I thinking about something different to cradle my rear end? I had come to pretty good agreement with my old saddle – no pinching or rubbing, just keep my feet and seat comfortable, and it had done a good job. For my part, I kept the saddle fairly clean and oiled as needed and it traveled all over the world with me.

So what caused the split? Well, I got a new horse. I was doing more training for the flat and needed a saddle that did not pitch me forward. The tiny hiney, well, not so tiny as it used to be.

When I first started endurance the choice was English or Western. Steubben or Passier? The choices were few. Today we have so many endurance saddles it is hard to know where to start. But I had an idea of what I wanted. My friend Heather Reynolds had a horse in training that seemed to have hind end “issues” that no one could put a finger on. Finally she tried a ReactorPanel saddle and all the issues went away. Based on this information, my partner Judith, who was having similar problem, got a ReactorPanel saddle. Her horse Mia loved it and they finished Tevis in great shape this year.

Now it’s my turn. I have been working with Carmi Weininger to find just the right saddle. Since my new horse has been known to buck a bit, I crave security. Since I have a tendency to ride too far forward, I want a dressage seat that sits me flat and allows me to stay vertical, but has enough pommel and cantle to keep me feeling safe. Carmi has been tackling this problem like a true detective.

Working with ReactorPanel is great because you have the option to try out a saddle for a couple of weeks to see if it fits. Since I really wanted a dressage saddle (in case I decided to “dabble” a bit in dressage), we started with the Tribute. I loved it the minute I sat in it. It felt like coming home. Take it and try it, Carmi said. So I did. What I discovered, while riding from the Overlook to No Hands Bridge and back, in Auburn CA, was the seat was too narrow for my seat bones and it pressed on the sciatic nerve. Normally, if I am experiencing some sciatic pain, riding makes it go away. This was an interesting finding and reinforced the value of trying out the saddle, no matter how good it feels on the saddle stand! Reluctantly, I traded in the Tribute. I so wanted it to work.

Judith rides in a Baker Alexsandra dressage saddle. I have ridden in it and it is OK, although if the buck came I might be hard pressed to stay in the seat. Carmi had a used saddle that was similar for me to try. Much better on the seat bones, nicely broken in (I think they should charge extra for saddles that have been broken in). Basically comfortable, not quite as secure as I would like.

Carmi and I met again in Watsonville for another saddle tryst. Carmi has the patience of a saint. She just laughs and says, don’t worry, we’ll get it figured out. She had a brand new model, custom ordered, and the lady who ordered it was willing to let me try it first (free breaking in of the saddle – smart lady). It had pink leather piping (eat your heart out, Heather Reynolds). I am so NOT a pink girl, but figured a magic marker would solve the problem, should I decide to take the saddle.

This saddle had thigh blocks, I loved them. Felt nice and safe. Upon reflection, I realized that both my other saddles – flat and hill have thigh blocks and it is really hard to be unseated. Carmi warned me I might not like the seat. It is a trail saddle designed for hills so the seat did pitch me forward. It was plenty wide however. Nothing to do but try it out.

My horse obliged by giving a couple of minor bucks while cantering uphill. No problem. Rather than coming unseated or off balance, I was able to communicate to him that bucking was unacceptable behavior. Sweet. The seat was too forward for me, however. I had to compensate by taking my leg further forward and when I tried to maintain a vertical position, my lower back began to hurt.

So we have the saddle flap figured out. Now we need the seat. I will be swapping with Carmi this weekend to try an endurance model. At least there will be no desecration of the lovely pink piping. In the meantime, my horse has liked every saddle we have put on him. He is moving freely, sweat pattern even, no ruffled hair.

The saga continues, hopefully, so will Carmi’s patience with me!

Travel Log, October 23 2013 – Early this morning we began our road trip to Desert Classic.  Judith and I took turns driving the trailer with Mia and Sarge in tow. We made good progress throughout the day, and a few hours after sundown we reached Quartz, Arizona, where we would rest for the night. [...]
Judith and I have been busy getting our horses ready for the ride in New Mexico. Sarge needs his 3* and CoC and Judith and Mia need a 2*. The horses are working well and seem very fit. All systems seem to be a go, except the the small problem of a crew. I think [...]
Lucky for me, my riding coach is Becky Hart. A three-time World Champion in Endurance Riding, Becky competes, holds clinics and shares her knowledge with horse lovers worldwide. She also conducts riding lessons for children and adults at a ranch in San Jose. Like the conductor of an orchestra, Becky helps riders and horses find [...]
See Pete Run By Judith Ogus Edited by B. Hart In my last article about SJB resident, Becky Hart and her horse, No Repeat (Pete) I wrote that Becky had sold Pete at the 2012 World Championship in England to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. At the beginning of January, she was [...]