Previously, JR has only ever ridden with me on the random occasion when I'd be riding and he'd ask to hop up. I have never forced or encourage an interest in horses with him. Despite the fact that the first thought I had once I got pregnant was to buy a pony, I have never wanted to push horses on him. I figured that was just a sure fire way to grantee he'd have no interest in horses at all. Also, I figured it would be just fine if he never developed an interest in horses, both from a financial and safety standpoint. However, he does seem to be genuinely interested, at least a little bit. So yay, maybe a pony in the somewhat near future?
|JR's first time "riding", on Rose, right before I sold her.|
First things first though. JR hopped up in the saddle with me a few months ago and shrieked about the pommel hurting him (ya know, boy stuff). I decided it was finally time to invest in a leadline saddle, since he wasn't comfortable alone in my saddle or bareback. His birthday was coming up, so I used that as my justification and got him his own saddle for his 4th birthday.
If you have never looked into it before, there are a wide variety of leadline saddles out there. I have also spent nearly five years researching the options. There are some western ones, some all purpose ones, and some rather fancy huntery leather ones that would be nice if your kid showed leadline on the circuit. While JR might do a leadline class at some point at a show I'm riding in, it is doubtful, and in addition there really isn't the leadline pomp and circumstance in this area that you see on the East coast. So, I resisted the urge to buy the fanciest leather leadline saddle I could find. This was actually really hard for me to do, but I did it. Gold star for me for adulting.
|image credit: http://www.chicksaddlery.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/LS2013.jpg|
What I GotI went with the Shires Bambino First Leadline Saddle, which I got for a screaming deal on Chick's discount saddlery here: http://www.chicksaddlery.com/page/CDS/PROD/LS2013. If you have a little one that you are thinking about getting a leadline saddle for, I recommend it at the sales price. I don't think I'd pay the full price for it though. One thing I like is that the "gullet" is velcro so you can take it off and adjust it to fit your horse's spine however you like. Granted I doubt that a 35lb kid really makes a difference in terms of saddle fit, but it is still nice. Otherwise, it's basically a treeless saddle with a super deep seat and awesome handle on the pommel. I also like that it sort of looks like a dressage saddle. Especially given that I only show dressage these days, if JR did do a leadline class it would be at a dressage show anyway.
Putting it All TogetherTo finish off the leadline saddle birthday present, I bought a couple of children's size black stirrup leathers (they were still too long and needed more holes punched), found some peacock stirrups and a random brown (cringe) fuzzy girth that I've been hoarding in my tack room for years. I also manage to find a tiny sized C4 saddle pad laying around that is too small for my dressage saddle, but plenty big for the leadline saddle.
|JR's first solo ride on Gentry|
JR was very enthusiastic about riding all alone, and refused to let us hold onto him. Gasp! Mommy anxiety went through the roof. However, he obviously was nice and secure in the saddle and with the stirrups. He rode all the way down the driveway and back with me leading. Gentry was a bit confused by his lightweight passenger, but was a saint about it. JR now knows how to ask the horse to walk and stop. He definitely got a kick out of being able to "control" the horse. Nothing like a pre-schooler on a power trip! I'm looking forward to more leadline rides with my kiddo. It's exciting to think where it might lead.