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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

JJ: Saddle Up!

Eventually Dani and I worked through all the phases leading up to actual saddling. She was used to being handled, didn't panic when something was laid gently on her back, and was staying cool even when I made things a little rough or hectic for her. The next step was getting her used to the saddle, a process that started with placing it gently on her back with the stirrups fastened up and then lifting it off again, over and over. When she was used to that, the stirrups were allowed to hang down. The training progressed to where she allowed the cinch to be tightened, and eventually I was able to lead her around the round pen with the saddle cinched tight and the stirrups flopping. Weight in the saddle was next on her agenda, and I started by leaning on the saddle, each time putting a little more pressure on her back. That worked pretty well and we finally reached the point where I was putting my foot and full weight in the stirrup like I was going to mount up. This reads like it was all a calm and peaceful process. Well, it was, mostly, but Dani did express her opinion of saddles and burdens and put on her own little mini-rodeo a few times. Anyway, we reached a point of training and courage where I felt safe enough to try riding her, but had enough doubts that I waited till I was alone with her -- no witnesses! I saddled her up, rigged the lead rope as reins, led her around enough for her to relax, and then tried mounting up. I put my foot in the stirrup, grabbed the saddle horn, and swung into the saddle. Sorta. Just as I swung up, she hopped forward. I missed the saddle and landed behind it, and the next time I touched the saddle it was with my face on the way down. Dani did NOT approve of my seat. I lost my dignity, my breath and my glasses somewhere between the saddle and my second or third bounce in the dirt. Dani dissipated her indignity by trying to lose the saddle the way she disposed of me, but it didn't work. I staggered up, finally caught her, unsaddled her, and turned her out into the corral so I could go panning for my glasses. I couldn't find them, so I finally had to swallow my pride and go get Bec to help me. I dissed her suggestion that I go look in the grass outside the pen and made her rake the pen while I crept around in the duff sifting for my glasses or pieces thereof. No luck, and when she mentioned looking elsewhere for the umpteenth time I got mad (madder!) and told her to go ahead. Two minutes later, of course, she found them in the grass a few feet outside the round pen we'd just searched. Then, adding the insult to the injury, she told everyone what had happened. Crow and corral dust makes for a lousy meal, but I had to eat both for a while. TBC (Me)         (Blacktail Books)