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Bucking Rolls

30th October 2012

It was a 3-horse relay race. Nice big arena with a good surface and we could give the horses their head. A prospect that makes your blood fizz. People I would normally team with either weren’t there or were committed to riding with others and so I was happy to run the middle horse with a couple of others we’d never teamed with before. Not a problem, they were both good riders on good horses.

But, because we normally take either the first or last baton and I would need to change it from one hand to the other this time, I tied off my reins (see “Split Reins”) to make sure that if I did drop them in a fumble of the baton from one hand to the other, they wouldn’t drop away to the ground.

It started well. Took the baton cleanly and rounded the first two corners nicely and opened the boy up down the back straight. Sad soul that I am, it’s raising the hairs on my arms as I write this! But it’s what versatility horsemanship is all about – cutting loose after the relative restraint of a Reining Pattern or a Western Riding class – there’s not a feeling like it when your horse is flat out and going for it…

Anyway, the inevitable happened. Halfway down the back straight, I passed the baton from one hand to the other and fumbled the reins. But I hadn’t thought this through. The weight of the knot in the reins automatically dropped them down one side of his neck and, at about 40mph, I had to reach down and get them back. Not a problem but the third corner was coming up fast and I was still getting back in the saddle as we got there. The boy took that OK but was obviously unsettled and on the short run from the third to the fourth corner he jinked first one way and then the next and I flew out the side.

Fortunately, it was a nice soft surface and I’ve had worse falls. But as I was getting my wind back, my good old friend Stuart Powell came up to me and said: “You know, if you’d had bucking rolls on that saddle, that wouldn’t have happened…”

Of course, I can now think of lot of other reasons why it needn’t have happened but as most of them have to do with self - improvement, I straight away took myself off to my favourite online shop: The Out West Saddlery Western Horseman Magazine calls it the “Cowboy Candy Store” (and rightly so) - and got me some Bucking Rolls.

So: what are they? Simple really. They’re two padded pouches that fit on the front of the western saddle seat and supplement the swells which are virtually non-existent on a slick fork saddle (hence the expression “slick fork”). I have a saddle with a Wade tree not only to get the clearance over my boy’s withers (he’s a Part Bred Quarter Horse and it’s the thoroughbred horse in him) but also because I kinda like the look of a Wade and bucking rolls provide thigh support when it’s needed and wouldn’t otherwise be there.

They’re easily fitted and come in different shapes and sizes with either a screw fix at both ends or leather thongs for adjustment on the inner end. And they work. I was bothered that they might cramp me in a bit but they actually give you a better feeling of security and you can really lean into them when things are getting versatile!

So, why have a slick forked saddle in the first place, I hear you ask (or not!). That has to be the subject of another blog. Watch this space…


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