That’s it. I’m done. I know I said it once before, but I’m serious this time. No more western riding for me. My knees are raw and black and blue. Shaggy has scurfed skin and whelps. For him, the whelps and chaffing was caused by drop down d-rings that fell below the saddle pad. For me, the chaffing and bruising was caused by those same d-rings and the fact that, for two long ten hour days, I was trying to ride this bulky behemoth of a saddle the same way I would my streamlined English saddle. Despite the fact that it is just about as close contact as you can get in a western saddle, it’s still too bulky to “properly” use my legs. Why I even decided to use it is a mystery to me. It’s a royal pain in the ass to lug around, my shins get bruised from the stirrups banging into them as I carry it, and it takes an enormous effort to heft it onto my poor horse’s back.
Well, I do remember thinking that it could be easier to mount up into from the ground. So, did I ever mount up from the ground during those two days? Hell no!! I looked at that stirrup hanging way up there and thought “nuh-uh, I’m not throwing my hips out of alignment after all the trips to the chiropractor I’ve made to get straightened out!” Not when there’s a much easier solution only two steps away in the form of a bucket, a fence, or a tail-gate.
Anyhow, the first day wasn’t too hard on the horses. We caught up fewer cows that day, though some were difficult and one was just slap crazy, so it was a short day. We were also working the west end, by the house, so the horses were right at home, got to rest plenty and probably only put in about half a day. We all stopped early so Jeff could weld some gates that the bulls had broken. Also, we had all earlier gone to town for lunch, as is the usual tradition, so it was a short day indeed. So, we were all still feeling pretty darned good when the morning of the second day dawned. Well, Jeff wasn’t feeling too spiffy. His back was sore from falling off at a horse show two days before. Oh, and Mr. Tommy was hurting, too. His feet and knee were bruised up pretty bad from being stepped on and kicked by calves all day. Aaaaaannnd, Papa was bruised, bloodied and pretty much bed-ridden. His new knee had suffered all the abuse it could stand.
So. Me and the horses were still feeling pretty good, and we called in some fresh recruitments to help us work cows on the Socagee Ranch.
That first day I was real proud of my Shaggy boy as he held his ground pushing bulls around and forcing them to keep moving as they tried to turn back on us. And there were a few times that I thought “yeh, this western saddle can be handy at times” as I flailed about like a wild woman, screaming like a banshee at those “bloody cheeky” bulls to keep them moving in the right direction. But boy howdy, on that second day, my inner knees hurt so bad I could hardly bare to trot, and there were a couple of times Shaggy said to me, “you’re out of your effin mind” as we tried to catch up the most stubborn of all bulls. I really don’t blame him. There was no turning that one. He put his head into Snickers’ chest and shoved right past her. (She’s ok, by the way. No harm done to our pretty Snickerdoodles.)
Aside from the troubles Spook gave us, the day was actually pretty easy. Long. But easy. The cows and calves were easy to catch, easy to work. The second half of the day was mostly spent on the west end of the ranch in the “Lake House” working pens, surrounded by pine trees, covered in shade. As Jeff and the others hauled the last load of calves to the home pens, I rode off into the sunset, ponying Snickers. By the time I got there, they were nearly done with the last of the work, so I unsaddled our good ponies and bathed them.
That’s when I noticed the whelps. My poor boy. He’s so very good. I mean, really, how many horses can clear land, pull up trees, calf rope, team rope, barrel race, jump, fox hunt, work cows alongside dirt bikes and four-wheelers as a helicopter lands 100 yards away (that happened the second day), and is okay with ostriches and llamas? Shaggy IS the ultimate all-around horse, and he’s worth his weight in gold. And he deserves better than some damn saddle that puts whelps on him. So that’s it! No more western riding for me. That day, April 12, 2011, is being officially declared as my last day in a western saddle. I’m writing it down so I don’t forget. And if I ever have a lapse in judgement and do it again… please, SOMEBODY, just shoot me!