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Advice for Choosing a Horse and Saddle
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Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
posted
I don't know how many of the folks on this forum are horsemen, but in the historic period that interests most of us, horses were essential to almost everyone, even the folks back east.

I can say that opinions concerning breed and conformation, riding style, type of tack, and especially proper management of the animals tend to run pretty strong among horse folk, even now. Here is an opinion from 1847:

"In horses, your great object should be to combine the greatest hardiness with highest courage. A thorough-bred horse you can train to rush at anything; his being timid at first or apt to shy, has nothing to do with any absence of courage. By patience and perseverance, you will teach him to charge any animal, not excepting a grisly bear: while a common, badly bred brute, will not even pursue a bison. Mules, for packing, are, in some respects, superior to horses; but they cannot support intense cold nearly so well. I strongly advise especial and constant attention to saddles. Go where you will, and all over the world, you will find nothing to equal the English saddle. Provide yourselves with them at any cost, and transport them at any inconvenience. When on the prairie, travel with a blanket saddle-cloth. You will find it a comfortable addition to your bed; but be careful before putting it on the horse, that there is no crease in its folds; for a sore on your horse's back is a serious inconvenience to a long journey. It is a good plan, before fastening the girths, to pass your forefinger under the saddle-cloth, and lift it slightly off the horse's withers."

From Solitary Rambles and Adventures of a Hunter in the Prairies, by John Palliser. Sounds like good advice.

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Are you contemplating getting a horse?

Horses are a lot of work! Manure. More manure. Vet bills. Feed bills. Farrier bills. Tack bills. Boarding bills. Plus they are very large animals that can be dangerous, even if only by accident. Human feet can be broken when a horse steps on your toes. Human ribs snap easily when kicked by a horse. They can be very stupid at times and shy away from and buck you off over common things such as a rusted barrel beside the trail. They can lean against you and pin you against a fence. Etcetera, on and on.

With that said, horses are great! I love horses. I don't have any now, but I used to have a really large Appaloosa, 17 hands tall, big bones, muscular, but gentle as a kitten. He bucked me off only once. My fault. It was raining and I was wearing a flapping poncho that scared him when I climbed into the saddle.

Study the breeds and try to get one that fits your personal needs and your size. Look them up on the Internet. But don't worry about pure breeds - "grade horses" (mixed breeds) often make great saddle and pack horses.
Don't get a stallion. Mares or geldings are calmer. An older horse is also usually more calm and steady.
I've been told that white hooves are more prone to splitting than dark hooves. My Appaloosa had stripped hooves and they seemed to be quite tough. At that time I lived in a sandy area and so I never bothered to shoe my horses. Never had a problem. But if you plan to take your horse on hard, rocky trails, you had best have it shod.
Hooves require a lot of care. Even if unshod, they must be trimmed from time to time. Also basted with a concoction of neatsfoot oil and something else that I forget, in order to prevent the hoof from drying out and cracking if you keep the horse in a dry environment.

Not enough room here to say all that I would like to say about them.
Give it a lot of thought before you buy.


Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
 
Posts: 898 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
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quote:
Originally posted by Rancocas:
Are you contemplating getting a horse?


Not at this time. We already have five of them.

They do in fact consume a lot of your time and treasure. They can be dangerous, but so can driving to work among fast-moving vehicles piloted by cellphone zombies. I still do that most days, although I'm taking a few days of "staycation" right now.

Horses can also be a lot of fun, and they are unfailingly interesting. Call me weird, but I also like the way they smell. We keep ours on the property, so we are interacting with them a lot.

Hoof care is a major concern, but a "dry environment" is the least of my worries right now. We have had rain almost every day for the past month. Our horses are on pasture full time, and only come in for feeding, grooming, or care, or to get in the way while I'm out there doing chores. We clean their feet and apply a thrush treatment/preventive every time they are ridden, and on days we don't ride we sometimes pick and treat their feet anyway. We have never used neatsfoot... I should think it would soften the hoof. I know it is made from cattle hooves ("neat" is an old Anglo Saxon term for cattle), but we don't put it on hooves where I live. The dressing we use is a commercial concoction containing raw linseed oil, turpentine, menhaden oil, beeswax, and oil of vitriol. It toughens the hoof.

I thought Palliser's comments were interesting, and I hope you enjoyed reading them, too. He was Irish, and was probably very familiar with thoroughbreds and English tack. He was the real deal, too... He hunted all over the world, and was tapped by the Crown to lead an exploratory and scientific expedition across Canada, a good many years after his "Solitary Ramblings."

So, thanks for your comments! I can't find anything in them to disagree with, except maybe the neatsfoot oil, but that illustrates my original point about horse people and their opinions.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Get a mule!!!
 
Posts: 1736 | Registered: 11 February 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Sage Rider
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I agree with Walking Crow....."get a mule"!!!!


"Don't Retreat, just reload"
 
Posts: 411 | Location: Oregon Territory | Registered: 26 February 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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I think you are correct about the neatsfoot oil. It has been a long time and my memory is not so good. I put nearsfoot on my leather tack. Whatever it was that I put on my horse's hooves was a rather sticky concoction that protected and toughened the hooves.

Although I no longer keep any horses, I am an honorary member of the Appalachian Back Country Horsemen. They are mainly a trail riding group. I have volunteered 2 or 3 days each month to help maintain the local riding trails. These are rugged, rocky trails, and all their horses are shod.
A good friend had an incident a few years ago when riding a mountain trail. They surprised a bear in a huckleberry patch. His horse shied and fell off the narrow trail, rolling down the steep mountainside and right over my friend. Luckily, although both horse and rider were badly bruised, no broken bones or more serious damage was done.


Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
 
Posts: 898 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Hivernant
Picture of Willis Creek
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I currently own a Saddlebred gelding, a john mule, and a Mustang gelding. All three are characters and demand different handling. But without question the mule is the smartest and best mount of the three. The thing about the mule is you don't demand, you explain and negotiate. A mule will never place himself at risk. You can make a horse do stupid stuff, but not a mule.


"touch not the cat without a glove"
"Much of the social history of the western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. . ." Thomas Sowell
 
Posts: 143 | Location: South of the Arkansas, on the slopes of St. Charles Peak, Colorado territory | Registered: 25 January 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Sage Rider
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You are spot on Willis Creek. I grew up with horses and over the years had some good ones. In 1995 I started trying mules and never looked back. We now own, ride pack and drive 5 mules and. I haven't had a horse in almost 20 years....! Mustangs are good also!


"Don't Retreat, just reload"
 
Posts: 411 | Location: Oregon Territory | Registered: 26 February 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of MountainRanger
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I had a throwaway saddlebred mare (she flunked out of saddlebred school because she was too calm. She had incredible bone and had hooves you could drive nails with. Only thing that kept her from being a top trail horse was that she wouldn't drink away from the barn. She almost tied up once and that was it for long trips in the mountains. She also had about a 7 mile an hour trot so she could flat cover some ground. We had a pony mule too, 14 hands and she was just like you say... if it came to one of you going over a cliff, it'd be you! Calypso became a baby sitter and a pasture ornament and over the years killed several dogs who came to have sport with the herd. my best trail horse was a polish bred arabian. 15.1 hands and more common sense than half the humans I know. He'd tail, was a good pony horse and worked perfectly with me up and down the mountains.


Sua Sponte
 
Posts: 460 | Location: SW Virginia (New River Valley) | Registered: 13 August 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
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quote:
my best trail horse was a polish bred arabian. 15.1 hands and more common sense than half the humans I know.


I can appreciate that. One of ours is a Polish Arab. This animal is a Gran Prix dressage horse. My wife got him because he was getting old and the original owner thought he would need to retire soon. He can still to all of the tricks for the lady of the household, but we also started trail riding with this old Arab last year, probably for the first time in his life. Not only does he love it, he's probably the most solid trail horse we have. While maturity might have something to do with it, the bottom line is he's just smart.

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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To me,it seems odd to refer to a horse as smart...hehe......I've known,and ridden,many horses.Liked most of 'em.Been dumped by a few.The only horse-type critter I've ever considered "smart" however,was a mule...


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1488 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
Picture of Dick
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quote:
Originally posted by Boartooth:
To me,it seems odd to refer to a horse as smart...hehe......I've known,and ridden,many horses.Liked most of 'em.Been dumped by a few.The only horse-type critter I've ever considered "smart" however,was a mule...


I'm not a horse owner, but have ridden a few, always with Western tack. What opinions do you all have about saddles? It does seem to me that, since I'm not roping or working stock otherwise, an English saddle would do just fine for most occasions. Opinions?


"Est Deus in Nobis"
 
Posts: 2886 | Location: Helena, Montana | Registered: 10 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of MountainRanger
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I have a lot of miles trail riding and riding English. I had a Polish Bred Arabian also. Kapital was 15.1H and we rode endurance; both 50 and 100 mile races. I had a specially built endurance saddle for those rides which fit him perfectly. We started out with a McClellan saddle (the cavalry saddle) but I wasn't satisfied with how it fit. Look for dry spots after a ride... that's an indication of a poorly fitted saddle and can lead to deep bruising on the horse's back. PROBLEM!!

A buena vista saddle is usually a good fitting saddle, provided the tree is the proper size. All saddles come in narrow or wide trees and you fit the tree to the horse. Wide back (typical of a quarter horse or some morgans or the draft type horse) requires a wide tree, regardless of the saddle style.

In my english riding, I had a throwaway Saddlebred (she flunked out of saddlbred school because she was too calm and wouldn't do the wide eyed pose that gaited horse show folks and their judges like). She was a superb jumper and we rode to the foxes with the Rockbridge Hunt where I was staff (field master). I rode a Crosby Cross Country saddle which is a great jumping saddle, comfortable for rider and horse with a higher cantle and little pads at the thighs to hold you in when jumping.

Just fit the tree to the horse, use a decent pad not too thick or thin, watch for sore back and ride with your feet, not your butt.


Sua Sponte
 
Posts: 460 | Location: SW Virginia (New River Valley) | Registered: 13 August 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Wolfwoman and I have three horses. Her horse is Stormy, a Rocky Mountain/Kentucky Mountain Horse, gaited, about 15.2hh, 17yrs old. She is a great trail horse and can cover a lot of ground when gaiting.

Nikawa is my 16yr old, 15.2hh paint horse, is very laid back, nothing fazes her, exceptionally trailwise, trustworthy, and takes good care of me. Legere is my Cheval Canadien, she is 15hh, 14yrs old, stout as the proverbial brick outhouse, sure footed, fast walker, very fast trotter.

The saddles we use are slickfork Wade 58's. I plan to build an 1820's style bare skeleton tree mountain saddle this year.

It is MUCH cheaper for us to have horses here in Montana than it was in Alaska. Plus the wx is much more conducive to year round riding. We rode over two hundred miles this past year in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Regards, xfox


The forest is a wilderness only to those that fear it, silent only to those that hear nothing. The forest is a friend to those that dwell within its' nature and it is filled with the sounds of life to those that listen.
 
Posts: 427 | Location: Bitterroot Valley | Registered: 23 October 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of Notchy Bob
posted Hide Post
quote:
What opinions do you all have about saddles? It does seem to me that, since I'm not roping or working stock otherwise, an English saddle would do just fine for most occasions. Opinions?


Palliser (see the original post, above) recommended English style tack.

I don't have experience with a wide range of saddles. In general terms, I started out with a western style saddle, which was admittedly a cheap one. My wife talked me into trying one of her English style jump saddles, and I never looked back. I believe that jump saddle was a Stübben. For me, it was more comfortable and provided better contact with the horse than the western style saddle. Since then, I have transitioned to a dressage saddle by Cardanel. And no, I do not jump or ride dressage... I just like these saddles.

I believe the English saddles are generally lighter. One lady at a group ride we attended a while back said her western rig weighed 65 pounds, which is probably an extreme. I think maybe the actual poundage is less important than how the weight is distributed. While I think western saddles in general tend to be heavier, I've seen some riders that are rather chunky, too. My guess is that for a heavier rider, western style saddles may distribute the weight better on the horse's back. Just a thought... In any event, it should not be too heavy for you to lift onto the animal's back!

I'm not putting western tack or riding down at all. I admire good horsemanship and appreciate good tack regardless of style. These are just my personal preferences, based on my limited experience. In truth, the western saddle I started with was an El Cheapo brand, and the English saddles my wife has acquired are pretty good quality, so the comparison might not be fair. Also, I have never ridden in a McClellan or an Aussie saddle, nor have I tried any of the various endurance saddles. I know all of these have their devotees, but I can't comment on these styles.

I have ridden bareback a little, but have never tried a traditional native-style saddle, either. However, I recently read The Canoe and the Saddle, by Theodore Winthrop. This was the story of his trip across southwestern Washington state in 1853. He negotiated the purchase of three horses from the Klickitat people and, in looking the animals over, noted that, "Their backs were in shocking condition. Pads and packsaddles had galled them so that it was painful for a humane being to mount; but I felt that any one of them, however maltreated, would better in my service." Earlier in the book, Winthrop said he had arranged to borrow a "California saddle" for the trip, but the individual who was supposed to have this rig denied its existence, "... and substituted for it an incoherent dragoon saddle." I don't know which saddle Winthrop actually ended up riding on his trip, but he mentioned several times that it was "non galling," and his horse's condition did in fact improve.

Lots to learn here. I have enjoyed reading this thread.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob


"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us. Should have rode horses. Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife
 
Posts: 313 | Location: Florida | Registered: 24 May 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Hivernant
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I agree with walking crow and sage rider. Mule it.


"I don't know where we're goin', but there's no sense bein' late." Quigley
 
Posts: 104 | Location: The Beehive State | Registered: 12 April 2015Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
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quote:
Get a mule!!!


This is sound advice. In fact I am looking into buying property and getting a horse for my daughter, BUT that horse will need a companion, and that will probably be a mule (for me).

Now some folks don't like mules for historic trekking since they pretty much weren't in the English colonies until after the AWI...don't know about French holdings (which include locations on The Gulf, nor Spanish holdings).

Some folks like to go to horse rescues, and get a rescued horse, not for the riding saddle but for a couple of pack saddle trips. One of my local horse trekkers raves about a couple of older horses that he's gotten in the past for just such a purpose, and the horses seem to like to get into the woods a couple times a year too, PLUS it gave the local "rescue" some "success stories" to bolster their being kept around. Wink

But, Yeah, mules are very cool, durable, great platforms in rough country, and very hardy. The Hittites preferred (from what we seen in evidence) mules for chariots in war over horses. Big Grin

LD


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
 
Posts: 3664 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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