Horse Riding in Mongolia Requires Comfortable Saddles
Stone Horse Makes Excellent Saddles for Your Expeditions
Expedition Planning and Preparation in the Winter
At Stone Horse, we take pride in very good equipment and service, and there is not really much of an off-season. Off-season is when our herd is braving the winter and being well looked after on a daily basis by Yadmaa and Davasuren, the Mongolian herders who watch the herd and do the morning and evening feeding of hay, oats and bran. Keeping a steady supply of feed available and seeing that all is well with the facilities and the horses’ wellbeing is an ongoing task which Keith oversees.
Also, as anybody involved in adventure tours knows, planning never stops. And in the age of the internet we need to write and publish and be present online. This would hardly count if it wasn’t for the REAL product, our horseback riding tours in Mongolia, a travel adventure for which we aim at high standards of safety, ecological conduct, and comfort – all with a great wilderness experience and opportunity to learn about local culture and traditions. Our Mongolian staff will no doubt happily help with that.
Outdoor and Expedition Gear Development and Sourcing
I am spending some of the winter months in my saddle shop, making saddles and tack for our next season expeditions. I source equipment, researching the latest developments in outdoor and expedition gear is always interesting, though not every new gadget and innovation is suitable for horse pack trips in Mongolia. While we are always on the lookout for better gear, we chose what is practical, simple and adds value to the experience of camping, enjoying meals outdoors or making the ride better. I like sharing my thoughts and experiences, but what I really like is the hands-on work – like making saddles. Using hand-made saddles for our trips, clearly sets us apart from other tours.
The reason for doing it is manifold. Firstly, among travelers who have visited or researched Mongolia it is already common knowledge that the typical Mongolian saddle is not the most comfortable for a trail ride. In our earlier years we have used factory made saddles for our specific purposes, but these eventually break down and can wear on both horse and rider. We have the comfort, well-being and safety of our guests and horses in mind when we aim at using very good saddles for our riding tours.
The Craft of Saddle Making
Making saddles is a real craft; when you build a saddle, it is something very real that really validates what I am writing about here. I just finished another lightweight saddle on an Association tree that should serve a guest rider well to have a secure seat. It was built on a traditional saddle tree of wood and rawhide and constructed in a strip-down style, reminiscent of an old-time saddle. Yet, it has very modern features as well, like lightweight aluminium stir-ups with a thick padding to help lessen strain and shock on the riders knees and with safety cages. The saddle is already in Mongolia, receiving the final touches and oiling and a test ride by Keith and “Little Brother” as soon as the weather turns warmer. Another saddle is in the making right now. A lightweight model on a “Weatherly” tree that I’ve had for a few years and just getting around to building on it.
Getting fit for Riding Expeditions in Mongolia
It always takes time to complete a nice saddle, its not something to really rush. Blending functionality, strength and reliability, and good looks requires time and as Keith has seen there are always times when I stare for a while at a saddle under construction. Having several saddles in the making is of advantage as there are always times when a leather part has to be dried and shaped overnight or longer. Leather is a beautiful material to work with, high quality leather that is. The swell (or fork), the horn and the seat will be covered with layers of leather to build a good seat. This requires a lot of carving them into shape. People tend to think of stitching when they envision saddle making, but sculpting and carving are quite prominent tasks.. It’s also quite physical to build a saddle, making it good preparation for the pack trip season ahead, for saddling, riding, and running the camp kitchen.
Off-season Dreaming of the Wild
I love the work of saddle making. Like in any craft, there is no alienation from this work. What you make is truly yours. It lasts and it’s true and tangible. It’s an antidote to much of what keeps us stressed, what robs us of our self-confidence in daily “modern” life, an antidote to what makes us forget who we are and what we want to do with our life and about the planet we live on. And the same is true for the experience of riding in the wild feeling the weather, the horses and the scenery of wilderness around you. This is what I never stop dreaming off during the “off-season”.