As you know, we have had many challenges in keeping the horses comfortable and able to continue a long trek like this. Many of the issues we have encountered have been solved. For instance, Tiska kept getting a large welt on her side after a day of packing. We were certain that something in her pack was poking her all day and causing this. We rearranged it many times, but it kept happening. So Richard came up with the brilliant idea of putting our ‘crazy creek’ chairs in the bags as padding. So far, this seems to have fixed the problem.
Apache’s back problems have been mostly cured since he has had the Lyme Disease medicine. However, he continues to have a minimal amount of lower back pain, but it has been suggested to us that it may be due to his back feet heals being too low. More about that on the next blog…..
Then there is dear Fiddle. She has endured so much during this trip, and we continue to have problems with her hair rubbing off on part of her back. It is almost down to her skin now. (Read more below)We have tried many, many different things to try to stop this from happening- saddle pad changes, slippery fur conditioner, adding a cinch to her saddle to hold the saddle more evenly, adjusting the way her bags are packed, etc, etc. Many of these have decreased the speed at which her hair wears, but it is still way too fast. I talked to the Outfitter Supply store in Montana a couple months ago about this same problem. They have a lot of experience working with long riders and they know some who have succeeded, and many who have not. Their advice was: “every horse is different, every situation is different, there is no one answer that will work in every situation. If you are to succeed, you will get creative, keep trying things, and figure it out.” I was a little put out at their lack of help at first, but now that we have gone several hundred miles since then and figured out many of our problems simply by being creative and thinking outside the box, I have come to appreciate the absolute truth in their advice.
Out of necessity, our powers of observation have improved and we have decided that Fiddle’s saddle does not fit her correctly on the end away from her head. We are hoping we are correct, because just as we took a deep breath and cut into her saddle pad (which worked by the way), we are now taking a deep breath and sanding down the wood on her saddle tree to mold it to her back. Richard has done a great job creating an upward curve in the wood and removing the straight angle that was jabbing into her back. Cris Ann has also been a great help on this. She has given us another saddle pad to try, as well as saddle shims to help even more. Our theory is that if the saddle is digging into her back instead of sitting nicely on it, then it would move against her rather than with her as her hips sway, thus causing the hair to rub off. Only time will tell if we have finally found the right solution, but nonetheless, the saddle is permanently altered!