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Mission Statement of County Saddlery

This article appeared in the December 2015 edition of Sidelines Magazine:

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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Repressed Women?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in an atmosphere that blurred gender roles enough that we could become who we chose to be.  My brother feels secure enough in his manhood that he can be a stay-at-home dad, which sometimes means he plays with dolls with his daughters, and sometimes means he throws a ball with them.  I feel empowered enough to expect to be treated fairily by other human beings, and to play with toys like chainsaws and tractors.

That being said, I also find it charming when a man opens the car door for me. Why?  Because he’s showing me respect in his own way, not because he thinks I can’t open the silly door myself.

I don’t have to be Annie Oakley or Cinderella to prove a point that I AM WOMAN. You don’t have to like me–dealing with dislikes and cheap insults are simply part of the human experience. And I refuse to empower any remaining prejudices that supposedly don’t allow me to earn as much money as a man or demand as much respect as a man allegedly automatically receives.

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I feel as though it’s important to embrace male and female differences, rather than be afraid to recognize that differences exist.   For example, I admire how men are often able to simplify problems down to bite-size solutions.  Does that mean women can’t simplify problems too? Of course not.   I also admire how women are often able to intuitively understand and so easily empathize with another’s feelings and emotions. Does that mean men cannot intuitively connect with other people? Of course not.   Most of all, I admire individuals who are able to not only play to their natural strengths, but who also continually learn and develop additional strengths over time. These people come in both male and female versions. They make their own destinies without excuses and without succumbing to leftover gender role limitations of past eras.

I’m grateful for the activists who have fought, and continue to fight, for equal rights so I can live in a land of opportunity.  Perhaps I feel it’s my responsibility to pay them back for all their efforts by being a decent human being.  A decent human being who, by the way, happens to be female.

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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Adult Fear Factor

As I pull off my grippy full seat breeches after a hack in the field in my deeper-seat, large-block, grippy-leather saddle and celebrate the fact my horse didn’t do anything silly today that could potentially hurt me, it occurs to me that adult fear factor has gotten a bit of a hold on me.  What the heck?  Once upon a time I was fearless, and also something like 20 years old.  Sigh….

Yet in defiance of those pesky butterflies, earlier this week I forgot all about the adult-onset fear factor when my coach sent me down a long gymnastics line of jumps on my new-to-jumping horse.  He said because my horse didn’t panic as he walked through all the poles in the beginning that we could present him to the grid and challenge him a bit.  Trot in, canter through, eyes up, hold your line….

grid line

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~…and pray!  What about praying?!

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Since I hadn’t jumped anything of substance in close to a decade, I told him I was grateful for such a long relationship with my coach…so that I didn’t panic either!  We flew, I smiled like a schoolgirl, and greeniebopper OTTB Mikey has been proudly strutting his sh*t ever since.

Mikey

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As a rep for County saddles, I deal with a huge number of adult amateurs with various experience levels.  Some are fortunate enough to have muscle memory from childhood riding to aid them as they rediscover their horsey passion.  Some have the “Mom” factor, wondering who will take care of their children if this horse hurts me.  Some take up riding for the first time, in which case everything is new and the ground awfully hard.  Some have arthritic bodies, or angry joints, or damage from past injuries.

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Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

Some have been laid up or unable to ride for a number of months and are skittish getting back into it. Some are blissfully unconcerned they could be maimed or killed in an instant–we’re all jealous of you bold people!  And some are like me, they rely on their bodies to earn a living (no, I don’t work the streets!) and wonder how they’ll pay their bills if they fall down and go boom.

All of which can amount to some fear, which is natural, and also dangerous.  After all, we attract what we visualize…good, bad, or otherwise.

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Kristin Schmolze on Ballylaffin Bracken, Rolex 4*

Kristin Schmolze on Ballylaffin Bracken, Rolex 4*. Photo by Darrell Caudil

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So what can riders do to minimize that fear and instead picture ourselves pirouetting, jumping courses, or enjoying a scenic trail ride?

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Build your team and your tools to help keep you secure and protected:  an instructor you trust for regular guidance and help with your riding program, properly fitted saddle to give you security (aka confidence) and eliminate pain, equine practitioner/farrier/bodyworker/dentist/nutritionist (what did I miss!) to keep your horse pain-free and behaving, the obvious helmet, a vest even….

If knee blocks make you feel more likely to stay in the saddle, order them!  If grippy breeches keep you more secure, use them!  If bright orange gear makes you visible to hunters and to search and rescue teams, wear it!  The upside of aging is the marked decrease in caring what others think of your choices.  The only right answers are the ones that help you be effective and stay in one piece.  You can always take off certain training wheels later.

Rookie Rolex Ride: Bunny Sexton, Rise Against. Photo by Lisa Takado

Rookie Rolex Ride: Bunnie Sexton, Rise Against. Photo by Lisa Takado

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In short, get professional guidance to minimize risk and eliminate pain factors, protect yourself the best you can, and get on with enjoying the ride.

Thumbs up on Monoflap

Diane Smith, Triple S Eventing

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~ Remember, why we climb aboard these creatures–to have fun!

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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A Factual Look at Adjusting Trees and Adjustable Trees

Being able to adjust a saddle tree to use for multiple horses seems like a fabulous, money-saving solution.  A version of one-size-fits-all.  But I don’t envy horse owners, especially new horse owners.  There is so much information “out there,” so much of which sounds brilliant on paper or when explained by someone “in the know” yet in reality it’s often misinformation, counterproductive information, even damaging information.  

If it’s printed it must be true, right?  So let’s put something important in print:

Withers

Here is a normal wither

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Adj Tree Damage_2

In contrast, here is one damaged by a popular brand of adjustable tree saddle

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Adj tree-dark

Don’t believe me?  Here’s another one damaged from adjusted trees.

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So why did this damage happen? Read on:

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 Adjustable Trees and Adjusting Trees, Why It May Not Work

Although an appealing concept, adjustable trees and adjusting trees may not solve your problem, and may actually create some new ones. Here are some things to consider.

Adjustable Trees or Interchangeable Gullet PlatesAdj Tree Hotspot

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Because the shape of a narrow horse’s withers is very different than the shape of a medium, wide, or extra wide withers, simply replacing the head (front) of the tree with a wider version of the same shape does not solve the problem.

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Adj Tree triangle

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For example, if a narrow horse’s withers are shaped somewhat like a triangle and a wider horse’s withers are more rounded, simply widening the triangle shape is no solution. Not only does the shape not conform to the wither’s shape, but the result is often rocking or uneven contact along the points and legs of the tree.

The Problem with Spreading or Narrowing Saddle Tree Points

Adj Tree Fulcrum

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Using a vice-like tool to open or close a tree can result in some of the problems previously described. Other problems that can occur are broken, weakened, or uneven tree points. Spreading or narrowing the angle of the legs/bars of the tree can create a fulcrum at the base of the withers which can cause pressure and rocking. Changing the angles of the points and the legs of the tree after a tree has been finished with webbing and seated may also change the tension of that webbing and alter the feel of the seat.

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While adjustable trees and the practice of altering trees after they are made is an option for any manufacturer,
many choose not to do it for the negative reasons cited here.  Additionally, manufacturers choose not to adjust trees because each and every time a tree is adjusted, including the first time, the adjustment weakens the tree.  Other manufacturers may agree to do it, but the alterations may invalidate the warranty.

Horses change over time for many reasons. Change of season, training techniques and intensity, feed, injury, and age are just a few of the variables. When a horse changes, the width of the tree is only one of many factors to consider when fitting a saddle.

Remember, if your horse changes enough that you need to change saddles, your old saddle still has significant value. Often times, the difference between the value of a new saddle and your current saddle is little more than the cost of trying to adjust the tree and deal with the problems that may result.

©2011 Copyright County Saddlery, Inc.
     

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

What’s in Your Saddle? Wool, Foam, or Air? It Matters!

Wool is the real high-tech option over synthetic materials, reports Mike Easton. And Dr. Joyce Harmon’s research confirms that wool provides the best compression protection, wicking ability, and heat reduction of any material available on the market.

Because of its complex natural cellular structure, wool is unmatched by synthetic materials in its regulation of heat and all around performance. Instead of wicking the horse’s perspiration, foam traps heat and moisture, increasing the chance of creating pressure sores.

Wool’s natural properties, unlike synthetic materials, make it a compression protector. As Easton explains, “Wool fiber contains hundreds of tiny waves, called crimp, creating the millions of air pockets that give it insulating properties and the ability to breathe.  It is this same component that allows wool to stretch up to 50 percent when wet, 30 percent when dry and still bounce back to its original shape.”  Synthetic materials quickly break down when they are stretched or “subjected to heat, sweat salts and pressure.”

And pads can’t fix an inherent synthetic saddle problem.  According to Easton, “Pressure is transferred through the pad to the horse’s back, and is often made worse after adding the pad.  When a pressure point [exists], damage to the underlying skin and muscle occurs.  A new pad may feel great initially, but pads have been known to simply transfer a problem to a new area on your horse’s back, and it takes a while for that new spot to become sore.”

That is why wool is used by top saddle makers and preferred by equine professionals.

For the complete, in depth article titled, “Why Use Wool?  Wool—The High Tech Material” by Mike Easton, view http://www.5starequineproducts.com/research-articles/why-use-wool/

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

My Ethical High Horse

High horseI tried to hand off this blogging “task” to my marketing manager, but he’s making me write my own stuff. The meanie. But he’s my big brother, so chances are he’ll sit on my head if I don’t do as he says.

So, let’s see, um, what to write…?

Well, I’ve been on my ethical high horse again, so I may as well barf ethics on anyone who cares to listen. These are some of mine. You don’t have to agree, though if you do I’d probably like to get to know you better:

1. Do unto others. Yeah, old fashioned, maybe even biblical. I’m a fan though. Hypocrisy is my most hated vice; consequently, I appreciate those who point out my own inconsistencies.

2. Work like you don’t need the money. I do need the money. Clients will pay me for my expertise. However, it’s not my main motivation. Problem solving and problem avoidance is.

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Highlights of the Felicitas von Neumann-Cosal Riding Clinic, December 2013

She came described as, “An effective and articulate clinician, her style is sympathetic to the horse, and her strength lies in making the horses more beautiful by allowing them to express themselves. She trains each horse according to his individual needs and temperament…. Typically, clinic participants and auditors benefit immensely from the creative and subtle strategies Felicitas shares with them; all leave with a better understanding of how to enhance the flow of their horse’s energy from back to front, and front to back again.”  (http://www.enter-at-a.com/trainer/felicitas-von-neumann-cosel)

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Felicitas did not disappoint.

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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in dressage

 

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