The first time I saw the little Mustang was at Tall Pines Endurance ride. He and his rider beat us by so many hours that I barely caught a glimpse of them. Reports had it that his front leg really swelled, but since he was not lame, he had not been pulled. His owner had turned him loose to find his own way home. He simply hung out by the road until some compassionate folks caught him and iced his leg.
About a month later, the young owner died in a drowning accident. Cisco ended up with his friends, and they did not get along. When they put him up for sale, they said that he needed an experienced rider. The previous owner had put him with a trainer for a short time because of problems with running away.
I am not brave, but I am determined. One look at his big feet, good bone, strong hip and long trot and I was sold.
The young woman who sold him to me said he liked to bolt for home, do leaps and paw with both front feet when tied. She was right. He tried to lose me in many creative and calculated ways. He succeeded twice.
The first time I tried to saddle him, he tried to bite the saddle. I noticed that he had some white hair on his back, so knew saddle fit would be an issue.
We spent many hours in the round pen and his behavior did improve. What bothered me the most was his unpredictability (sound familiar, Mustang owners?). He seemed to be the most troublesome when ridden hard on the previous day. I tried at least a dozen saddles on him, watching for sweat patterns and experimenting with pads. My western show saddle seemed to be the best, but the skirts are square and rubbed his hip.
I picked the brains of many patient soles and invaded tack stores with a tape measure and chart. A western style endurance saddle seemed to be the right one and I bought some expensive saddle pads for extra insurance.
Things seemed to go better and his behavior was getting quite good, but I could never get completely in sync with him. Then last year at Fort Stanton, he acquired some edema on his back. I had been noticing, also that the muscle along his spine looked different.
Many endurance riders were using Specialized Saddles, and I had been too cheap to consider one, but I had run out of options and I could not continue to hurt this valiant little horse. David agreed to look at his back and kindly told me that his back was very hard to fit being asymmetrical and long and that the muscle on his back had atrophied from the poorly distributed weight. The sick feeling that overcame me then visits me still.
Needless to say, I bought a Western Specialized saddle, wanting the extra security. I cannot believe the difference in the horse and in myself. We are so comfortable! He moves freely and his back muscle has actually filled back in!
In 2008, we completed 495 miles without pulls and won a jacket for the SW region (5th) for my weight division. No big deal for some, but a BIG deal for us. Best money I ever spent….no kidding…and this is coming from a notorious cheapskate.
We finally found that missing intangible…..harmony.