Monday, April 18, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

Practising saddling a horse

I am here at the ranch to learn more about horses and discover the wilderness by horseback riding. But first step first, if I want to ride I first need to practice saddling. Knowing how to do it right will avoid sores and injuries and allow a safe ride. So I better invest myself in learning it well.

In the beginning it seems really like a lot of information to catch. There are a few new strange words such as latigo or cinch and complicated knots to learn. You have to find the right saddle for you and that also fits the horse. And in the meantime, it is great, you are in contact with the horse and you begin to establish a relationship with it.

First step: catching your horse. That might seem simple but horses like to play and are not always willing to leave their hay to come work with you. Most of them test you and if you can be firm enough at the first contact you might not encounter difficulties to put an halter on them and bring them to the barn. When you practice saddling you can actually feel the difference of character between the horses: you have the gentle one, the patient one, the more anxious one, the lazy or sleepy one,... but most of them are impatient and scrape their hoof on the ground to claim oats and high fat pallets they know they will receive when working with us. That is pretty amusing to watch. And at least while they are eating they do not care at all of what you are doing! No worries as long as they have their snack.

Then if you have found a saddle your size, the fun parts begin: trying to find the right adjustment of the saddle for the horse you have! Believe me that could take some time! Practically you put the saddle on your horse and test if your fist fits under the horn at the level of the withers. If not, you will need a cheater. You also check if your horse have a sway back because than you will need a rocker to level your saddle. This step of adjusting the saddle with the right equipment is for me the longest and most complicated one. The blanket must be over the highest point of the back of the horse and to place it right you always have to make it slide from head to butt otherwise it would be like somebody was rubbing your hair in the wrong direction. You would not like it and the horse neither! The saddle needs to be placed just after the shoulder so that it does not restrain its movement during the ride.

And after that there is the cinch! You attach it to the latigo and make it surround the horse's belly. Believe me they do not like it! First time it tried I was busy tying it when I realized that the horse's head was just next to my face, trying to bite me I thought... Actually they do not really want to bite, they are gentle but just want you to realize that they do not like the cinch. There also you notice that some are more sensitive than others, just like  humans!

At that point  the most complicated part is done. I usually feel relief because I struggle less with the last steps. Basically you will add a breast collar (in front) and a crouper (at the butt) to avoid the saddle to move forward or backward on the steep mountain trails. The breast collar is easy to place, you just have to make sure it is centred and placed above the breast without constraining the movements of the legs. I find it quite funny though to squat next to this big horse to attach the collar to the cinch on the belly. You feel so little next to this powerful animal! For the crouper there is still a tricky part: the bowline knot! It needs a lot of practice to be able to do it on yourself but the story that goes with it is funny: “There is a rabbit and a tree. In the tree there is a hole. The Rabbit goes in the loop of the saddle, goes out of the hole, turns around the tree and goes back in the hole”. Then with the free end you go under the tail and come back to make the same story.

When an experience guide has checked your saddle you can put on the bridle. You do it after having untied the horse from the post, which means it is more free of its movements. They hate the bridle because the metal is cold and uncomfortable. So they will fight to avoid it by pulling their head up or moving further... It is quite interesting to practice your “bossy” skills at that moment to make the horse stay quiet. Most of the time you will have to tickle their tongue with your thumb at the place where there is no teeth, you do not want to offer your thumb to be bitten ! And you can see they struggle to resist to the tickling and try to keep their mouth shut. When they open their mouth, you better use the chance to place the bridle. I only once have met a horse that was actually trying to eat the bridle which was really funny and amazingly easy!

And now there is time that you practice your riding skills: have fun with your carefully saddled horse!

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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