I am the very, very proud owner of this beautiful saddle:
This, dear readers, is a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle. Bob Marshalls are one of the nicest, western style treeless saddles out there. I have coveted one for a very long time — ever since I put my butt in one riding with friends who have Paso Finos down on the south shore of Massachusetts. It’s hard to explain the feeling of riding in one. There is no tree in this saddle, so the only rigid parts are the cantle and the pommel. The rest of the saddle is pliable and soft, which means you’re able to feel your horse’s back through the saddle and pad. Your horse tenses up their back, and you know the second it happens. I’ve been able to redirect spooks and bucks even before the horse truly thinks about spooking or bucking. They offer a nice, deep seat with a “riding bareback” feel. I LOVE them. They have their drawbacks, but they pros outweigh the cons in my book, provided the correct padding is used to avoid bridging over the spine and ensure correct weight disbursement.
Anyway, I had been idly surfing the Bob Marshall websites for months. I was slowly putting away money to purchase one, because my old Wintec stock saddle really did not fit GP. I spent a lot of time riding bareback when I could, and tried to keep rides shorter because of the saddle fit issues. Shortly before I reached my monetary goal, I lost GP. My entire world crashed down, and a saddle purchase was the last thing on my mind.
During all of this, I turned to my friends. I have really awesome friends that I spend time with in the “real world”, but I also have a group of friends that are scattered all over the country. We met on a large, public horse forum called HorseCity.com. For many years, we laughed and chatted together on this board, and not just about horses. Unfortunately, shortly after I became truly active on the boards (after five years of lurking!), the entire board went to hell in a hand basket. New management royally pissed off a lot of us, and we picked up our toys and moved to a new playground. The Banned Wagon was formed, and all of a sudden, I had a very large, very vocal new “family”. I went out to Oregon that year to meet a bunch of them. We probably confused people wherever we went, because for the most part, we referred to each other by our online names: “Hey, PacaPaca! Where’s Remy and MyDakota?”
These wonderful ladies (and a few very, very brave men) rallied around me when GP died, and they held me up when I felt like I wasn’t able to keep going. Slowly, things returned to normal.
A month or so later, one of the other members posted that she was looking to sell her very nice Bob Marshall saddle. I ooh’ed and ahh’ed and sighed with jealousy, but didn’t feel like it was wise to make such a purchase. I proceeded to forget about the saddle and went about my business.
Another few months passed. The owner of the saddle (a spicy, intelligent woman who lives in Malaysia) posted a sly thread titled “I have a secret!” I was not privy to this secret, and wasn’t allowed in on the fun after several attempts at pestering it out of the (many!) posters who seemed to know what was going on. A small warning bell went off in the back of my head (“Pay attention! This is weird!”), but I sighed and figured I was too close to whomever was at the receiving end of the secret to be trusted with the info.
Soon enough, I had completely forgotten about said secret. It was a cold, gross day in early June. I had stayed home from work due to car troubles, and was holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and an endless supply of movies. I remember hearing the mail truck pull up in the background, but not paying any attention to it…until I watched our short, round postman struggling up the driveway with a box about as big as he was. I felt bad, so I shuffled out from under my covers and went outside to help.
I was pretty shocked when the postman gratefully unloaded the box into my arms. It was definitely heavy! My eyebrows rose further when I realize the name on the box was mine…and it had come from overseas. Malaysia, to be exact. I blinked a few times, and suddenly, everything made sense.
And she hadn’t…but THEY had! I opened the box with the grace of a five year old opening Christmas presents, and burst into tears. There, nestled amongst lots of cushiony things, was that beautiful Bob Marshall saddle I had sighed over many months ago, a gorgeous headstall, a breastcollar, a girth, and an incredibly sweet card from all of the people who had been there for me when GP passed. It was a gift from all of them, sent from Malaysia, to bolster my spirits and give me something to smile about.
I sat on the floor in a crumpled mess of newspaper and foam, the saddle in my lap, as I went over every detail. I had a hard time believing that this had actually happened. It was the prettiest piece of tack I owned at that point (and is still the prettiest piece of tack I own…and may ever own!). I cried. A lot. I got up, ran upstairs, posted a flabbergasted and slightly incoherent post on the boards, ran back downstairs, and stared at the saddle some more. It took every bit of self control I had to not run out to the barn, throw it on the first horse I saw, and take it for a ride. Instead, I cleaned it and took some pictures, which I shared out on Facebook so I could gush some more.
Just a few months later, Image would become mine. This saddle had been on quite a few horses at that point, but it was a very special day when I put it on Image. I only rode him in it once, because it was just a smidge too long for his shorter back, but it was an incredible feeling: I was sitting on my pretty horse in my pretty saddle and life was good. Image was worked in that saddle quite a few times after that, even if I never rode him in it again. Today, it’s sitting in my bedroom, where it gets cleaned a few times a month and is being used by quite a few of my stuffed animals.
I have many very special possessions, given to me by very special people. This, however, is one of the most precious. The combined effort of so many wonderful people did my heart so much good. Sometimes, I forget that I’m not as alone as I feel — there are many people out there who care. This saddle is an excellent reminder to reach out when I need to most.
I miss riding in it. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll be able to tack up my very own horse and ride down the trails in my beautiful saddle again!