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Author: Stephani Hren

Watching Paint Dry

Watching Paint Dry

On Friday I finished painting the Miley. After five hours of work, I stepped back and looked at how different my little murder box looked with a fresh coat of white slapped over all of its formerly rusty parts. My hands were coated in enamel, my fingers sticky and wet. There was paint in my hair and my glasses had white flecks across their lenses. I was tired, but the trailer looked so good.

You can’t wash enamel off with soap and water, so I went and watched TrainerM teach while I waited for my hands to dry. Two of the UW Equestrian Team members were jumping Boston and Belle through a vertical-five stride-oxer line. I closed my eyes and listened to the hoof beats while I soaked in TrainerM’s cries of “outside leg” and “anchor through your heels” and “eyes up”.

The day before, I rode Raglan while TrainerM polished up a training horse’s flying changes. While she cooled him down, Raglan and I meandered alongside so that I could whine in her general direction.

“I’m tired of moving his hip around.” Raglan chucked his head up and down while I complained, flopping the reins around wildly with glee. “I’m so bored.”

“Welcome to the next six months of your life,” TrainerM said without looking up from her phone. She scrolled through her schedule while the horse she was on moseyed along on the buckle.

“How long until I can jump things in my lessons? How many more boxes do we have to check?”

One of her eyebrows quirked upwards, subtly. “I mean, being able to move your horse’s butt is kind of a big check box,” she said sardonically. Her thumb paused, then continued to swipe past appointment after appointment. “Put a lesson on my schedule and we’ll see how the hip control’s coming along.”

Sometimes it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and wait for your paint to dry while everybody else is soaring confidently over oxers on the school horses.

When TrainerM finished teaching her lesson and the UW girls started untacking their horses, I shoved my mostly dry hands into my gloves, changed into my riding clothes, and tacked Raglan up. I was hot and tired and dinner was calling my name. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get on, but my veins were still buzzing with the excitement of watching other riders jump things that I wanted to jump but couldn’t.

Just a short ride, I decided. I’d put him through his paces, do a few more haunches in, and then call it a day.

I got on and started wiggling his hip around at the walk, and then at the trot. We picked up the canter and I pushed him forward“More pace,” TrainerM keeps telling me, “go faster. There, I like this canter better.” When I feel like I’m going Mach 10, that’s the canter that she wants.

TrainerM’s next lesson started. I gave Raglan all of the reins and slumped in my saddle, exhausted. Without even thinking about it I moved his hip around again, my legs on auto pilot.

“Go jump that vertical.”

I perked up in my saddle, then peered at the jump from across the arena. “It’s tall.”

TrainerM laughed. “It’s like knee height for your horse.”

Was this a test, I wondered? I wasn’t ready to jump yet, right? RIGHT!? But TrainerM wouldn’t have told me to jump the vertical if she didn’t think we would make it over the vertical… I stewed for a couple more laps, my face screwed up in consideration. We walked over to the vertical. It was on the fifth holewas that two feet? I couldn’t remember, but it looked pretty tiny from up close.

“Just trot it,” TrainerM said. “He’s jumped higher than that, hasn’t he?”

So we trotted it. And it was so easy. Raglan made 2’3″ feel like a cavaletti.

The paint’s still drying… but with any luck we’re only a few more coats away from being roadworthy.

Saddle Hunt Saga #1: 2004 Luc Childéric

Saddle Hunt Saga #1: 2004 Luc Childéric

AND SO IT BEGINS. Buckle yourself in, folks, the saddle hunt is on.

Our first contender is a 2004 Luc Childéric from Redwood Tack for $1,174.99! Here’s the stats:

A little bit about Luc Childéric…

The brand was established in 1991, after Childeric spent 10 years in Normandy working for a French saddle maker and then decided to strike out on his own. His design philosophy is centered around the idea of harmony—according to Luc “each saddle has to have everything in harmony – seat, shape, stirrup bar placement, blocks panels etc, to have the best result”. He focuses on creating a sense of “balance, contact and freedom of horse”. They’re high quality saddles, but they’re not as popular as other French brands (CWD, Devoucoux, etc.) which makes for a lower price point.

My impression of the saddle right out of the box…

It smelled so good. Leah (the owner of Redwood Tack) must have cleaned it right before she took it to the post office. I could tell that the leather was well cared for, but the flaps were thicker and not as grippy as the Devoucoux. It seemed a little stiff, but it was very handsome! It definitely had a more narrow tree, too.

Checking the fit for Raglan…

StevieO came with me to the barn to try the Childéric on Raglan. The first thing we did was slap the saddle up on his back without any other extras to distract us from the fit.

From the side, I liked that his giant shoulders looked like they had space and that he made the saddle look small (which usually means it will fit me). It also looked like it was pretty level!

From the front, I liked how it sat more flush against his shoulder than the Devoucoux’s. The wither clearance seemed fine, but I didn’t like the space that it left right behind his withers.

How I want it to sit versus how it actually sits

We cinched Rags up and the saddle clamped down on that empty space behind his withers like nobody’s business. There was a lot of pressure right under the point of the tree and we lost a lot of the wither clearance. I could tell that this was going to pinch.

At this point I was pretty sure that the saddle was going to end up being a no, but I wanted to sit in it anyways to see how I liked the fit of the saddle for my leg.

Checking the fit for me…

The moment I swung my leg over I noticed A LOT OF THINGS.

First off, the seat was much more shallow than the seat of the Devoucoux. My entire body felt more free! From a jumping standpoint the fact that I could get out of the saddle quicker was super appealing.

Second of all, the twist of the saddle was a little bit too wide. I could feel the tree where I shouldn’t be able to feel the tree, if you know what I mean.

Third, my leg didn’t feel like it was locked in front of the girth like it is with the Devoucoux!!! It was definitely more floppy (oml my lower leg is so out of shape) and I’m 100% certain that I needed to put my irons up another hole, but I could actually move my leg around.

We just did a few circles at the trot because I didn’t want to ride for very long in a saddle I knew was probably uncomfortable for Raglan, but it was definitely enough time for me to get a feeling for the Childéric and which of its features I really loved.


So not the saddle for us, considering that it didn’t fit Raglan. But here’s what I learned:

I like the shallower seat. I need a narrower twist/waist. The 13.5″ flap doesn’t feel too long. The 17″ seat was good. The thicker leather didn’t make a huge difference, though I did want it to be more grippy.

The tree/panels of the Childéric are shaped like an A. I think Raglan needs something with a little more of a curve to fill in that gap behind his withers. The saddle squished down on his withers, which usually means it’s too wide… but the Devoucoux is a wider saddle and it has more clearance? GAH, CONFUSING. Leah from Redwood Tack thinks I should try a 4.5″ or a 4.75″ dot to dot!

The Childéric will get shipped back to Redwood on Monday, and then once the funds are back on my card I might take my new found knowledge back down to Olson’s…

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