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January 20, 2013: Trip Preparations: Saddle Fit

Generally in the mornings, I come in the house after doing animal chores, sit at the kitchen table, and ask Pete “What are your plans for the day?” We then discuss them. This is a holdover from back in the day, when together, we were working on the Alaska Bicycle Touring Guide. We remain joined at the hip, so our days still (even the one’s when he’s at work) revolve around one another.

Today, after throwing a few ideas around, we simultaneously decided that it would be a good day to again attempt to fit the Equi-measure mold to Raudi’s back. The temperature was in the low 20s and it wasn’t snowing or raining. Pete figured that we could easily get the trailer out of the driveway. And I didn’t have anything pressing to do.

Our oven is small. We needed a larger one. The last time we used our friend Karen’s. She wasn’t home this time, so I called our friend Vicki, and asked her husband Mike if we could use their oven. He immediately said yes. It helped that last night they came over to our place, and we showed them the mold that we made the last time, and also shared our saddle fit literature with them.

We wasted no time in shoveling out the trailer, getting our stuff together, and loading up Raudi. The ride to the Talbot’s took twenty minutes. Once there, we took the Equi-Measure kit up to Mike and Vicki’s house, unloaded Raudi and then walked her up the hill, to their garage. Raudi being Raudi, she barreled uphill, pulling Pete along on the ice-covered walkway. I followed with the hay bucket, brushes, bridle, and camera.

We got to the garage, which is adjacent to the house. Vickie pushed the garage door button, and the garage doors, with a bang and clatter, slowly rose upward. Raudi, wide eyed, was clearly beside herself about this. Pete then led her into the garage. Hunar, who was down in his enclosure, whinnied loudly. Clip clop went Raudi’s hooves on the concrete. I went to get the camera which was in the truck. Pete turned her around, and Raudi prepared to bolt. Vicki, Pete, and I then decided to put her in with Hunar for a bit, so that she might run off some of her excess energy. My thinking was that of course, she had wanted to say hello to him, and we had not availed her of this opportunity.

Downhill we went, Raudi barreling along, Pete being pulled along like he was ski-jouring. More horse and human Ice-Capades. We put Raudi in with Hunar – the two long lost buddies immediately greeted one another, by putting their noses together and conferring. Amazingly, they did not take off and race around, but for some time remained deep in conversation.

We humans went inside and ate cookies, drank tea, and read and re-read the Equi-measure instructions. As Pete and I discovered two weeks ago, you have to do this just right, or else the mold comes out crooked. And if you have a crooked mold, you’ll get a crooked tree. And if you get a crooked tree, you end up with a crooked saddle. And if you end up with a crooked saddle, you end up with a horse with a sore back.

We finally went back outside, and Pete and Vicki went to separate Raudi and Hunar. Neither of them wanted this, so Vicki chased them around a bit with the lunge whip. I took some photos. After running around a bit, Pete went and got Raudi, led her into the barn, and tied her to a post. This was by the door, near Hunar. Vicki tied a hay bag to the topmost post, and then threw Hunar some hay.

Pete and Vicki then went uphill in order to get the mold ready. I was left Raudi. It was then that some idiot began shooting off his gun. Boom, boom, boom, Raudi flinched with each shot, growing increasingly more agitated.

I sang to her, and stroked her with the wand. Raudi was very much on edge, but not so much so that she was (for lack of better words) freaking out. Vicki returned and together we put black tape (for measurements) on the sides of her scapula and back. Raudi continued to jump around. Vicki then (and perhaps rightfully so) told me that I should use the crop, and reprimand Raudi when she jumped around. “It’s all about timing,” she said.

Pete appeared with the mold and put it on Raudi. I had Vicki stand at Raudi’s head and, with crop in hand, I got her rear legs square. Pete then slipped the mold on her back. The minute that mold went on her back, Raudi relaxed. It was near instantaneous. Most likely it was that the heat felt really good. We all remained in place for 2-3 minutes, and Pete continued to smooth out the mold.
The end result was a hardened, perfect fit.

We then put Raudi back out with Hunar, and went inside to eat more cookies and drink more tea. Then Pete and I went back outside to load up Raudi and go home. Vicki went to find her dog, who freaked out when earlier, she cracked her whip and the neighbor shot off his gun.

I told Pete I’d go and get Raudi. You see, I had heard what Vicki had told me, about disciplining Raudi – and by this point in time I had put it through a filter of sorts. What emerged was this – Raudi needs for me to be in charge.

So I went into Hunar’s pen. And I looked over at Raudi and said “Raudi, come. Raudi then stood momentarily and considered her two options. She could either stay with Hunar. Or she could go home with me. Raudi slowly turned in my direction, and walked over to me. She then stood still as I snapped the lead in place. I then lead her through the barn, and back to the trailer, where Pete then grabbed her, loaded her, and tied her in place.

No, Raudi didn’t walk over to the trailer in a calm and deliberate fashion, for she was still feeling pretty energized. But she did not attempt to get away from me. Lesson learned: Raudi is my horse, and she wants me to take charge. At some point in our relationship, we became connected. This did not happen overnight.

Now, because we are connected, it will be easier for me to work with her. Yes, I can do as Vicki suggested, and insist she stand still when I want her to stand still, but I must do this in such a way as to keep us connected. In an odd way, a tough call, and in another, an easy one.

Now, looking forward to this summer, and the adventures that lie ahead. And this summer will be different than previous summers because our new saddle is going to fit us both.

Next: 21. 1/21/13: Trip Preparations: Switching Gears