Once she started wanting to ride longer, though, I decided that a saddle that was sized for her (and somehow still fit Nimo) was a good idea. I already had a pony-sized western saddle that I'd bought probably 2-3 years ago. It seemed like a reasonable fit for Nimo, but the couple of times I put it on him, he definitely indicated he did not like it.
So, I had been thinking about how I would handle a saddle for my daughter that would also fit him. The barn where I board has a lesson program that includes younger kids and the instructor offered to let me try the little kid-sized saddle they used. It was one of the Wintec Children's Saddles, and I really had high hopes for it, mostly because of how inexpensive it was. Unfortunately, it was not even close to wide enough.
I also thought about getting one of the regular Wintec all-purpose saddles in the smallest adult size available because I knew from past experience that the adjustable gullet system for those saddles works well for Nimo. But with the smallest size being 16 1/2, I felt like Gemma might be swimming in the saddle. Plus, the price of the least expensive model was still close to $600. That isn't bad for an adult saddle, but for a child whose commitment to riding is unknown, it seemed a little much. I could also have looked for a used one, I suppose, but first I decided to check out the Barefoot saddles.
At the time, I had been riding Nimo in a Barefoot Madrid, which is a treeless, sort of baroque-style saddle, for over a year. And I knew that Barefoot did have a couple of kids' models, which were designed to work with full-size horses instead of ponies. Plus, the price was right if I ordered directly from Germany instead of going through the American distributor (there was seriously about $150 price difference!).
So I ended up deciding to go with the Barefoot Cheyenne Barry model for Gemma.
Ordering it turned out to be a bit of a pickle, though. I guess because I was ordering from a website based in Germany, our credit card companies were convinced the order was fraud, and I managed to get two of our cards shut down before I figured out what was going on. Between my husband and I, we did manage to convince the companies that we really did want to order a saddle from Germany, but even with pre-authorization, the transaction would not go through. What we ended up doing was getting on the phone with customer service and ordering the saddle while the customer service rep monitored our account and did some sort of fancy typing to convince the system to allow the transaction. I have to give a shout out to Chase customer service, because they really were awesome about helping us out when another company was decidedly difficult to deal with.
Because I knew the saddle would take a few weeks to get to us, I ordered it well in advance of Gemma's birthday, but I admit to sweating a bit when it was 5 days before her birthday and no saddle. It did eventually arrive before her birthday, though, and I'm not sure if I was more excited or Gemma was (she had kind of figured out that she was getting a saddle because she's quite a good detective and pretty smart).
The morning of her birthday, she opened the box immediately and I had to set up my saddle tree for her in the living room so she could immediately start "riding." Then we headed to Dover Saddlery for a small shopping spree to get her riding boots and an outfit (which she later declared to be too good for the barn...).
Finally, she got to go out to the barn to try out her saddle on Nimo.
First, she brushed him:
Then, she opened a present from a friend of mine, who got her an awesome saddle pad. And then we put the saddle on - and I breathed a sign of relief because it seemed to fit and Nimo did not have any negative reaction to it.
|Purple was a top contender for Gemma's favorite color at the time. And it has the added benefit of looking great on Nimo:)|
|My husband was taking pictures, and his focus was clearly on his daughter and not the horse!|
As it turned out, we didn't do too much lunging because Gemma had a little trick she was desperate to try out. She'd been watching a Netflix show called Spirit, which is a spin-off of the movie about a wild stallion. In the show, Spirit bonds with a young girl named Lucky, and in one of the episodes, Lucky wants to learn some trick riding to be like her deceased mother. One of the tricks is standing on the horse. Of course that is the one Gemma is dying to do...
So to the surprise of my husband and a friend who was watching, Gemma asked me to stop Nimo so she could try her trick. I knew she'd be asking, so I was mentally prepared, and up she went.
|Checking her balance|
|I'm not sure where she got the thumbs up from, but it was pretty funny:)|
|This is Gemma repelling down the wall with my husband.|
So far the saddle has been working well. It has a good pommel for Gemma to grip when she needs extra security and it fits her well enough so she's not sliding around. And it seems to be working for Nimo too!