After getting shod on Tuesday Starbuck was slightly lame and shortstrided for a couple of days - she had some muscle cramps in her left croup probably from either overcompensating for being tenderfooted from the shoeing or possibly thanks to the "airs above the ground" she likes to practice in her paddock (which always remind me of the time I was "dancing" along to the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade on TV as a child and threw my neck out so bad it got stuck there and my parents had to take me to the emergency room). Anyhow she had Tuesday off because of her new shoes and then Wednesday when I realized she was lame I put her away without trotting or cantering and Thursday all I did was longe her for five minutes - yep, still lame - and then give her a long massage.
But by Friday I really was jonesing for some Starbuck, so I decided that if she was at all better, I'd try René's western saddle on her and just ride her at a walk. On the longe she was really much better - hardly any lameness and tracking up much better than earlier in the week. And when I mentioned my plan to my friend Toñi (short for Antonia), she said she'd been wanting to do the same thing! So we hauled out René's big old cowboy saddles - boy are they heavy! - and after much puzzling over how to do things like fasten and tighten cinches, shorten stirrups, remove saddlebags and whatnot we finally felt confident enough in our saddling skills to mount up.
Starbuck was a little worried about it for the first 5 minutes but after me getting on and off about 5 times to adjust the cinch and stirrups and then walking around for a while she figured out that in fact the thing on her back wasn't a ravenous puma but basically just me with about 25 extra pounds. Toñi's horse Twister also had no issues with the saddle, so instead of joining in the lesson, we just practiced "neck reining" around cones and whatnot in the dressage arena - one-handed riding is something we really need to work on. But since we were only working at a walk, I had put her hackamore on her, and after a while she started catching on. This is something I need to work on bit by bit when I'm warming up and cooling down, and on trail rides, being able to steer with a bottle of water (or ice cold beer, or wineskin) in your hand is really useful.