Monday, February 27, 2017

Dyeing a Dressage Saddle

While I LOVE my child sized Stubben Juventus dressage saddle because it actually fits my tiny leg (I'm only 5' tall on a good day) and it fits my horse, I do NOT love the way the leather looks.  I found it used seven years ago and have taken great care of it.  But the seat has been fading for a while and last fall was just looking incredibly sad.  I knew I needed to do something to save it, but the thought of dyeing my saddle gave me a bit of pause.  OK, a lot of pause.

So sad.
I found a blog post last November about dyeing saddles and promptly saved it to my Pinterest.  I bought the materials I needed last December and stored them safely in my hallway closet.  Then I sat around and thought about this idea even more, mostly because I was scared to actually attempt to dye it (what if I totally screwed it up?!) and because the horses pretty much had December and January off.  It was too cold to ride or even think about dyeing a saddle anyway!

But this past week was our school vacation and it warmed up enough for me to consider that if I was going to attempt to dye this thing, I might as well give it a shot now.  

Not shown is the Tan Kote and Resolene

I printed off the directions found on the blog above, and I mostly followed the same procedure.  
I went with Fiebing's not just because that is what the original blogger used, but also because I think they are a reputable company and it was easy to find all the needed products on Amazon for only $29.41 (thank you Prime for your free 2-day shipping!)  I ended up not applying the Resolene at the end, though I still could if I wanted to.  

The first day I cleaned the saddle up, removed the finish with the deglazer, and applied three coats of dye.  I ended up doing a fourth coat on the seat because I really wanted to be sure if was covered.  This may have been a bit much, but whatever.  Once I started with the deglazer (which is pretty much just acetone), I knew I was committed and wasn't really nervous any longer LOL!  I used a microfiber towel to apply the deglazer.

I dyed the entire top of the saddle and the top of the "billet panel", plus the billets because they were looking a little sad too.  I did not do the underside of the top flap or the underside of the saddle itself.  I left the saddle to dry overnight.  It looked lovely and black but terribly dull.  I did not take any photos of this step.  But it was fairly easy to apply the dye, and I used a sponge brush and evened it out as needed with the microfiber pad.

The next day, I wiped down the saddle well and barely any dye came off at all.  I applied the tan-kote with another microfiber towel and the saddle started to look magnificent.  I did the first coat and let it dry before doing a second coat.  I didn't glob it on and made sure to buff it well as I went.  

Oh my goodness, the difference was amazing.  I cannot believe I waited this long to dye it!  I looks so much better.  Right now, I have left it like this and have not applied the resolene.  I am a bit worried about how it will look, as I know you have to be super careful with application process.  I don't want it to be streaky and I know it is totally possible I could apply it like the amateur I am haha.  Also, resolene makes an acrylic resistant finish, so while it may assure that the dye won't come off on my breeches, it will make the seat impermeable to leather conditioner.  So, I figure I will give it a shot with a junky pair of my lighter colored breeches and see what I think!

I cannot stop looking at these side by side comparisons!

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Drama of Winning

There is nothing like the feeling of seeing your name listed on the scoreboard as sitting in first after dressage and having clear XC and stadium courses.   It is always a thrill to be called in first place in the lineup after a pleasure or equitation class.  I have been lucky to do well over the many years of showing and there is no denying that once you do well, you want to replicate that feeling again.

I am a true adult amateur, just bumbling along and trying to always do my best.  I don't hide the fact that I am NOT a professional.  I don't resort to big bits or gadgets though either, as I know that riding well and training a horse PROPERLY takes time.  I would rather take ten times longer than someone else (ok, let's be real, more like fifty times longer haha) and ride my horse in a snaffle than rush it along with a pelham bit in the show ring and draw reins for training rides.  I ride for the love of horses and the enjoyment I get out of having horses in my life.  No, not every ride is perfect and no, I do not ride at an upper level.  But that is not the point of horses to me, it is about the journey and my own enjoyment of seeing a horse I started from scratch move correctly and hold her own in competition.  I have always said If it isn't fun, I'm not doing it.  If I am miserable, why bother to continue with such an expensive and time-consuming hobby?

I remember a horse show "friend" years ago who always put herself down at shows, telling everyone within earshot how much she sucked, how bad she and her horse were going to do, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.  Sometimes she would even start days before the show on social media, writing statuses about how her horse deserved a better rider and she shouldn't even bother to show at all.


(Pro tip: Your horse just wants to hang out and eat grass, but yeah go ahead and believe he wants to go to the Olympics and is disappointed that he doesn't win every single blue ribbon in sight.)

I tried to be supportive and to always boost her confidence.  I gave pep-talk after pep-talk, exuding calmness to her at every show.  It was tiresome to say the least to listen to her whine.  After a while, it almost seemed as though she did it just so others would tell her how great she was and how wonderful she was going to be.  It was a strange way to dig for compliments, but hey, we are all different.  I don't need others to stroke my ego like that, but do your thing.  Admittedly, after awhile it became quite frustrating, especially as she began to do well in spite of herself and her poor attitude.  But I thought it was important to remain a good friend.  I even went so far as to help set up a statewide year end points system so she could have a way to feel good about her accomplishments and earn pretty year end ribbons.

She won her first championship ribbon in a breed pleasure class, and afterwards instead of basking in the delight of what she had finally accomplished with her horse, she went on and on about how it didn't really count because "there was only one other horse in the class".  Big deal how many horses were in the class!  To my eyes, she still accomplished a major goal including overcoming her anxiety enough to beat even just one other horse in the ring.  I distinctly remember telling her, "Enjoy it because you never know when the next ribbon or championship will come".  That has ALWAYS been my mantra with horses.  Enjoy every moment, every win, every success but you just don't know.  Even if you are the only horse/rider in the ring, at least you trained beforehand, showed up, and did it.

Of course, in typical head case fashion, instead of taking this as a gentle wake-up call to STFU and enjoy her moment, she took at as me saying that her horse would never win another ribbon or championship.  OMFG..................that is NOT AT ALL what I meant.  But that doesn't matter because even if you try to explain yourself, some types of people will never understand.  They only hear criticism, because that is all they tell themselves anyway.


So needless to say, this person is no longer a friend (because who the heck needs "FRIENDS" like that, anyway??? LOL).  It even went so far as her husband immediately unfriending me on Facebook and all types of silly drama.  Okie dokie, crazy people.  I finally just stopped attending the same shows (honestly because of a two year hiatus from showing anyway, but I did not go back to those shows this year either), and I made a conscious effort to not put effort into that type of person.  I unfriended her in real life and online because I just didn't have it in me to deal with a head case.  Just no.

I get it.  I really do.  I understand we all want to BE THE BEST and WIN ALL THE THINGS.  It makes us feel worthy and accomplished and all that.  And yes, sometimes we do win all the things.  But sometimes we don't.  But in the meantime, WHO CARES?  I only look down on others if they are a head case nut job (or mistreat their horses), not if they win or lose or whatever.  If someone is truly trying, training their horse correctly, and doing their best, GREAT!  This is supposed to be fun, this horse show thing is supposed to be about the relationship and training with our horses, not about the ribbons.  Look, Snappy won a shit ton of ribbons and awards in 2016, but we may never win a first place or championship in 2017...or ever again!  

Who knows!  

Who cares!  

I will just keep trying my best and enjoying every accomplishment, whether that is another win or just surviving our first canter dressage test (gulp...haha...nah, not nervous or anything).  

And truly, I think THAT is why I do well sometimes.  Not because I take shortcuts in training, not because I have a fancy horse, not because I have a trainer who rides my horse for me, not because I am some professional rider (NONE of the above are remotely true actually!).  I think I do well because I have a healthy self esteem and attitude about competing, success, lack of success, and reality.