Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not Sunny!

Not Thunder, either.
Buddy & Caspar
 J and his wife went to KS this weekend for a visit with C and some K-state football.  Before they left he asked me for a "really big favor" - I was thinking he wanted me to check the cows' waterer or maybe feed the cats.   Nope, ride the horses.  He's going West River for hunting season again with both of these two, and he doesn't want them losing condition.  Since he worked late much of the week, he'd only gotten in a couple of rides, and he didn't want them missing any more miles. 

Twist my arm... lol!  Especially since the pheasant place next door is crawling with hunters this weekend, and I knew I wasn't going to get a substantial ride in with Sunny.

I figured rather than dragging all my stuff out, I'd just use his saddle, since I'd ridden in it before and we ride the same length.  Saturday afternoon was grey, but not windy with temps in the mid 50's.  I caught both horses, intending to saddle them both and just pony Caspar.  At least part of the plan went according to schedule!

I neglected to factor in two very important things: the height of Buddy and the weight of J's saddle.  I'm 5'10".  Buddy... let's put it this way, when I stand facing Buddy's hind end, I can't see anything but butt unless I'm looking up.  Then I see sky.  And J rides a roping saddle that has to weigh at 50 lbs stripped.  (At least as much, if not more than the 50 lb bag of cat litter I hauled to the basement this morning!)  Add the cinches, heavy-duty breastcollar, and the - full - saddlebags he'd left attached, and whoa, Nelly!  I felt like the proverbial 90lb weakling at the beach getting sand kicked in my face by a big hunk of leather.

I heaved, huffed... finally paused to consider... maybe if I just took the saddlebags off? After all, I wasn't going to use them, right?  That would have to help.  Lighter by about 10 lbs, I tried again with slightly more success.  Only slightly, because the saddle pad fell off the other side the first two times I managed to hoist the saddle all the way up.

Thank goodness for patient horses - Buddy stood like a dream and eventually I managed to him dressed - by which point I needed to shed a layer.  My arms were tired.  Caspar lucked out - he's shorter, but the his saddle looked just as heavy.  He could go naked, because if we didn't get moving soon, it was going to be dark before we got back.  Besides, I needed to conserve energy for getting that sucker back down off Buddy once we got back!

Off we went, and it only took moments for me to realize why when J ponies Thunder it always looks as if he's giving him a half-mile of lead - he is.  Buddy's huge.  His neck alone has to be as long as Sunny's back from mane to tail.  Caspar's not short, but looked at from my new height he was down there a ways. 

I've joked before that riding Buddy is like driving a Cadillac - not only is he insanely smooth, but he's incredibly responsive.  He doesn't lift into a lope, he sort of glides into one.  J rides him in a low port copper-mouth curb which is basically there for show, he works so well off leg cues and weight shifts.  It's kind of scary. 

The only fly in my ointment?  Caspar is not nearly as pleasant to pony as Thunder.  He walks a bit faster than Buddy, which wasn't too bad, because my plan was to hold a fairly steady jog - J's instructions were to make them sweat some.  And jogging worked pretty well.  Loping?  Not so much.  Caspar wanted his nose in front.  I think my arm is about an inch longer than it was on Friday.  But eventually we sorted ourselves out and had a nice ride.  They both broke a light sweat, just as ordered.

Today was a repeat of Saturday with the addition of a strong NW wind.  I needed my extra layer, neck gaiter and gloves, even with the bright fall sunshine.  And settling into the saddle I could feel every inch of my thighs from spanning Buddy yesterday, not to mention my shoulders and arms from hoisting J's saddle. 

Speaking of saddles, I wasn't doing that song & dance again.  I took mine along.  And realized yet again the size difference.  Sunny's fat.  The cinch was still a snug fit, but the latigo is long and the back cinch on the last hole was just loose enough to pass muster.  Sunny's breastcollar is normally set on the fifth hole on both sides.  At full extension it wouldn't reach around Buddy's chest.  I swapped out for J's, and decided that wasn't going to work, either - too snug.  The D-rings on my saddle sit back further, apparently..  Oh well, no hills to speak of on our route, so I was willing to risk it.

After an hour or so of tack experimentation, we  were finally under way.  The horses weren't exactly frisky, but the wind noise had them looking at things, and I could definitely tell they'd rather have been headed homewards.  I was stiff enough, I can't say I wouldn't have felt just fine at home on the couch, too.  But after the first mile, all the kinks were out and except for it being a brisk, enjoyed the rest of our ride.

Can't say I'll be unhappy to back to my usual ride, though.  Comfy as Buddy is, I like Sunny's faster trot and brighter action.  And the fact that the ground is MUCH closer - lol!

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