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Australian Stock / Poley Saddles

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A few words about riding Aussie-style.

Aussie saddles are not designed for serious jumping in! (The odd hop here or there is OK. To put this in perspective: you could pop over one five-bar gate, but not jump round Badminton!) They were designed to keep the Australian cattle workers securely on the horse over all kinds of terrain (including some scarily steep mountains), and had to be comfortable for long days in the saddle.

The Aussie riding style is long-legged and relaxed, with the leg position being further forward than in English or Western styles. The rider's thigh should run parallel to the rear side of the poley, and around one inch away from it. If you have the correct size seat saddle for your height and weight, you have your stirrups adjusted to the correct length, and your leg in the correct position, the only time your thigh will come into contact with the poley is when it is supposed to - i.e. when descending steep slopes or if the horse puts in an emergency stop or a buck! If your thigh is rubbing uncomfortably on a properly-set poley, it means you are doing something wrongly!

Cattle drovers' horses were not 'ridden from the leg to the hand', and drovers weren't interested in the horse being 'on the bit'. The horse was supposed to look after his own balance while the rider got on with the job in hand - so the reins were in general kept loose, and the horse responded to neck-reining. (An 'in Aussie style' bit would be, for example, the Australian long-cheeked loose-ring snaffle. This was adopted by the Fulmer School of Equitation in England decades ago as being a bit that the majority of horses work kindly in - and as a result it's now almost universally known as the "Fulmer Snaffle".)

In general, the trot was 'sat' rather than risen / posted. If you do choose to rise to the trot in an Aussie saddle, remember that it wasn't really designed for it - so the 'rise' should be kept to a minimum - just enough to get your bum-bones clear of the bounce. An inch off the saddle is quite sufficient - anything more than this becomes, in any event, very tiring over long distances.

Thanks for your interest!

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