There is a saddle specifically fitted to each and every horse at Cypress Trails. Yes, that means that Darolyn has 50+ saddles in her enormous tack room, each was tagged with the horse’s name. As Jill and I wandered around exploring and taking in everything that we could we noticed that the majority of the saddles were Sharon Saare Endurance Saddles. The seats had no to very little padding, there were about 11 different types and they were between 14 to 22 pounds each. I found Comrade’s saddle, the leggy grey I was riding for the day, and headed out to saddle him up. The saddle was quickly picked from my arms as one of Darolyn’s stable hands insisted that they were going to saddle and bridle my steed today. After he was saddled, Comrade was held beside the mounting block waiting for me to gather my stuff and start my journey. My stirrup length was adjusted just to my likely, every buckle and strap was adjusted and checked to ensure my satisfaction and I was on my way. (I could really get used to this type of service).

We walked for about five minutes and proceeding to trot for a minute and walk for another two minutes. Darolyn advised us that before each endurance race that after your horse has received his morning feed that he should be hand-walked with a rug on his back to warm up his muscles for the saddle. After saddling and mounting, he should then be walked and trotted to get warmed up and then the rider should stretch his legs and give them a little shake to ensure the blood was flowing and that there was no tightness felt. If anything felt unusual then he should be hand-walked another five minutes and then checked again.

After we crossed a rather busy freeway of traffic, without much of a sidestep by the Arabians after a semi-truck used his air brakes, we cantered on the trails beside the freeway. It was at this time that I realized how big Comrade’s saddle really was. I could not sit still as I swished this way and that way in the huge seat. I tried gripping with my knees a little more, but discovered that my knees were pointing in complete opposite directions. This saddle was extremely wide and no matter what, I could not get them to both face forwards unless I stood quite high in the stirrups. I was really beginning to hate this saddle. I turned around to catch Jill’s eye and noticed she had a rather perplexed look as she struggled with the same issues.

When we finished our 12 mile ride, I could not have been happier. My seat bones felt bruised from the abuse of the hard, wide saddle. I cannot say that saddle was an enjoyable ride at all. When we arrived at camp, sponge buckets were set up and Darolyn took us through a very efficient set up should we have been in an actual race. I sponged down Comrade and used a toilet scrubber (Darolyn calls this the over 40s brush) to clean the clay off his legs.

An eruption of laughter caused me to turn around just in time to see Jill being helped off her saddle. She also had a wide saddle that caused her legs to swell and cramp (please note that the last time Jill had been riding was her recent trip to Spain in December to ride the beautiful and smooth Andalusians on regular tourist rides through the countryside) and to be pulled from the horse and set upon the ground gently, more gently than she actually was. We both cannot express how important it is to get a saddle that fits both you and your horse.