Switched saddles, and off I went. Rode in his front pasture, w/t/c. He kept picking up the right lead going left, so I figured might as well ride him in a figure-8, get the right lead with the right circle, and just see how good my balance really is. After some solid canter right and left (head tipped out to get that left lead), I glanced at my watch. I'd been on him about 15 minutes. I asked for a solid "whoa", he stopped on his rear, licking & chewing. I walked him back to the house, loosened my cinch, & crawled off. Pretty darn satisfied with myself. Changed into my cute little white show-shirt. I had pulled out my show pad & show shirt, and even my nifty Justin cowgirl roper boots. Figured I haven't shown Western in over a year, no sense in the tack sitting in the house collecting dust, might as well use it.
When we arrived at the school stadium field, Mr R was there, two very novice riders alongside. I was glad I loped at Les' house, because there wouldn't be much space, and I've been that "inexperienced rider trying to ride amongst all the good ones, scared outta my breeches", so I chose not to lope there. We walked & trotted, weaved in & out of the trees. I gave Romeo plenty of time to "look at the parade events", the marching band, the loud cars, wild floats, even the other horses. One fellow showed up with his mule, Maxwell. It was the funniest thing I've seen - those HUGE ears. Max was a charmer - didn't hee-haw even once, though I wanted him to. His rider had complete control. Romeo sniffed Max, realized he wasn't a threat, and didn't think much of it after. As the parade line assembled, we were set up last, seven horses total. Les ponied another horse with his grandson aboard, happy as a pig in mud. Little C had a blast! You'll see in the picture how happy that little kid was...
This picture sums up the ride, completely. There was a fire truck in front of us, and, as you see, a cop behind us. Sirens wailed, a few horns honked, kids screaming, babies crying, old people hollering "Look at that cute little boy on that horse!" I even heard a Hispanic family hollering "Caballo, Caballo! Look Momma! Caballos!!" Romeo didn't even flinch. You see his head level & relaxed - he went the whole route like that. Les's mare, Sugar, got a little flinchy, and Les used Romeo's calmness to feed Sugar & keep her calm. One horse spooked at the double yellow line on the road, another at a manhole cover... Romeo didn't even look at a single thing. At one part of the route, there were storefronts on both sides of the street. Raucus & echos, Romeo still didn't have a care in the world. Happy as the toy in a Happy Meal, Romeo & I walked the route, about an hour's ride, and as I dismounted at the ride's end, I was glowing. I could feel it.
Les and I grabbed lunch, and hauled Romeo home. We unloaded him at my house, and jumped back in his truck for a field trip. "FIELD TRIP FIELD TRIP!" We went to D&D Farm & Ranch, Seguin TX. Intent was to find a western saddle, 14.5 or 15", Semi QH bars, solid seat, suede bottom. Here's what I got. A Dakota Flex Lite Barrel saddle. I sat in probably 6 or 7 saddles, a bunch of ropers, even a Billy Cook Barrel saddle (comfy, but high dollar).
It looks about like this, the tooling on the edges is a bit less. When I sat in it, there was absolutely no question where my balance was to be. Seat went right to the spot, legs & heels the same. I immediately felt secure, and no amount of wiggling, jiggling, leaning, or twisting moved my "center". That's what I want & need - a Western saddle I can pack on trails with, that has absolutely no wiggle room except for in the center. I also picked up a girth, turned out to be too big (34"), but I think Les has a use for it. Came home, put it on Romeo, and took him for a short ride in the pasture. Even loping, with the stirrups too long (need some holes drilled to bring them up, lots of space to do it), I still felt secure.
It was the right choice saddle, for where I'm at in my riding. It's also really pretty, which might matter in a showpen or two. I won't be running barrels, but it should chase a good steer and ride a good canter circle in the pasture.