Thursday, 17 April 2014

Our Little Hack

Hattie is starting to get better, her walking is becoming more freer and forward and she actually trotted the fence line today in the dirt paddock without any head bobbing or limping. She is going to stay in the dirt paddock until Monday and then I will see if she is ready to go into the summer paddock with the rest of the mares. I don't want to put her in there too early, get excited when she sees the new grass, starts galloping around like a loon and injures herself. Fingers crossed that she is def on the mend.

Meanwhile Possa has been doing some more side saddle work. We went for a little hack down the lane yesterday as it was gorgeous weather, too nice to school really. I've hacked out with her but never hacked her out on my own but apart from a few moments when she saw her shadow and then later on, a coffee cup on the floor, she was fine. We even had a couple of short canters on the grass verges. Towards the end of the hack when we were heading home, Possa starting accepting contact and quietly chomping the bit rather than going around with her head up like polo ponies do. She was using her back and bringing her head down and staying on the bit for short periods at the walk. As long as I have known her, she has never worked on the bit, it's always been "go fast after the ball". We have been doing suppling exercises to help her with polo so it seems that we are on the right track and that she actually likes the side saddle!

I decided to change girths and not use Hattie's combination girth and Possa does not have any problems with saddles sliding around or moving on her. Instead, I used a separate three buckle three fold girth and balance girth and she was fine with it. Although the saddle fits her quite well despite not being fitted to her, I find with the separate girths, it just keeps it that little bit more stable and perfect until the saddler can come out and fit it exclusively to her. It just needs lifting up ever so slightly under my right thigh, maybe one shim, that's it, other than that, it's perfect! Hattie has 3 saddles already, Possa can have the Champion & Wilton.

I have also discovered that I ride better with a Queen on my Champion & Wilton when it is on Possa than when it is on Hattie. I don't know why, maybe because it needs lifting slightly under my right thigh? It will be interesting to see if I still need the Queen on my C&W after the saddler puts a shim on the wykham.

Unfortunately, we couldn't do any side saddle work today as yesterday afternoon, Possa got bit in the field on the back by another horse causing a large welt to come up on her back. It's quite raw at the minute so we'll have to wait now until that heals up!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Side Saddle How To's

We didn't end up going to our show this past Sunday as Hattie got kicked in the field by another horse Saturday afternoon and was lame from it. Luckily, it just seems to be muscular and she is getting a bit better each day but it was VERY disappointing as we had prepared so much for it and won't be able to go to our next show, which would have been this coming Sunday. Sarah from A Bit on the Side Saddle, had come down form Lancashire to ride Hattie in a couple of classes too so it was disappointing for her as well.

In an attempt to find something else to do to salvage our weekend, Sarah suggested taking photos for the "Side Saddle How To" guides she wants to make for her website. Since Hattie is out of action for the time being my friend Paul, let me use his polo pony named Possa as our model.

Although I've schooled Possa astride, it's only been to keep her supple for polo and she has never had a side saddle on her before but Paul thought it was a good idea, so off we went to make Sarah's first instalment of her How To guides....How To Introduce A Horse To Side Saddle.

Possa is pretty much the same height and build as Hattie, but probably a bit more leaner since she is a fit polo pony who is exercised everyday and who plays nearly every weekend. Hattie's tack and saddles fit her really well so the next time the saddler comes out, I'm going to have him look at fitting my Champion & Wilton exactly to Possa since that one seems to fit her that little bit better than my Beck.

I was really surprised how well she took to side saddle since polo riding is completely the polar opposite to side saddle riding! Here is us going for it down the long side of the school. Go Possa!

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Less Than Regal Queen

At the last side saddle show I went to, the judged suggested that I add a queen to my Beck to get my left leg over a bit more over to the nearside. Although I already have a queen on my Beck as it has such a tiny pommel, I never realized still how far over to the off-side my leg was. Over the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with different "queens", ones made from foam, gloves, anything really and then I tried Hattie's eye wiping towel folded up several times.

I have it placed a bit further back from the front of the fixed head so I can still get my left leg around it comfortably yet it still supports my thigh. I don't exactly have the smallest thighs on the planet so it's surprising that I need a queen on the saddle but there you go!

Unfortunately, my new queen doesn't live up to it's regal title as it's rather stained with purple spray stains, Hattie eye gunk and goodness knows what else off that horse! Still, it will make it's appearance underneath my habit at our next show on Sunday.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lil' Miss

The other day Lil' Miss came to live with me. She had been advertised on Ebay by her owner as the family were moving into a smaller house for their retirement and couldn't take her with them. Lil' Miss's home wasn't that far from my work so I went to see her while the auction was live but decided against bidding as she was VERY VERY narrow, too narrow for Hattie and the seat size was child size. I couldn't afford the opening bid for something that I wouldn't be able to ride on and the auction ended without any bids.

Then out of the blue, Lil' Miss's owner rang me up and asked if I would like her as they really couldn't take and and had to downsize soon since they were moving and then she showed up on my doorstep!

Well, I had to bring her down the stable to meet Hattie and she actually how narrow she was. It turns out REALLY narrow. Hattie's astride saddle is a 29 Stubben which equals to a "narrow medium/ medium" in most saddle brands is a bit wide on her, 28 (narrow-medium/ narrow) would fit her better. Lil' Miss looks like she would be even narrower than the Stubben size 27 which is "extra narrow". You can see in the photos how narrow it is in the shoulders which makes it ride uphill as it can't sit down properly on Hattie.


I put Hattie's wither tracing against the saddle to show how narrow it is in the shoulders...

I also had some reservations of her tree condition too as when I first went to see her and test the tree, there was some creaking although, there isn't any now although I originally thought the tree was broken behind the fixed head, I think maybe now it may be the webbing? I'll take her down to the Nationals to get inspected but to be honest, Lil' Miss is going to be a display/education saddle. When they hold the Victorian days at the school where I work, I'll bring her in the for the kids to have a sit on as for most of them, it will be the closest they ever get to a horse!

Lil' Miss is a kid's saddle from the 1860's which was modernized, mostly likely, during the 1920's. The original roller bar fitting and square shaped stirrup skirt were removed and replaced by Champion & Wilton with a safety fitting and the L-shaped stirrup skirt. The ornate quilted safe was stitched down in the middle to accommodate the arm of the L-shaped stirrup skirt so that it would lay flat. Although there are no original 1860's maker's stamps or marks on the saddle, when Champion & Wilton did the work, they stamped the saddle on the flap and under the L-shaped stirrup skirt. The safety fitting and the stirrup leather is also stamped Champion & Wilton.

I wonder what the saddlers at Champion & Wilton thought about modernizing, what would have been considered by that date, a very old fashioned saddle? It doesn't have a hunting bar for jumping so I think it may have been updated for a child to mess about with for fun, riding on "grandma's old saddle".

There was also other remedial work done at the time too. When I first looked at this saddle, I thought the fixed head had been cut down to fit a child but after cleaning and oiling it and inspecting the head, I think the fixed head is probably the original height but was just recovered. The rest of the saddle is proportioned for a child too, it looks absolutely tiny compared to my other 1860's saddle, Long Tall Sally! The panels are in remarkably good shape so they may have been fixed up in the 1920's as well.

She has the old style over girth which fits over the flap and her off-side pocket is still in good supple condition. You can see how small her seat is, it measures 19" from the front of the fixed had to cantle and 13" across the seat. I "volunteered" my skinny 13 year old son to have a sit on it to see what age of child it would have fit as there is no way my bum or legs fit on it (I tried!) and it actually fit him rather nicely. He has skinny kid's legs which fit the pommels well so it looks like it would have fit a girl aged 11- 13 years old depending on height and weight riding a REALLY fine boned pony. Seats on 1860's and 1870's saddles tend to be made really wide too to accommodate the full riding skirts they used to wear, the seat on my adult sized 1860's saddle is 16" wide!

                                  Lil' Miss all scrubbed up and conditioned with Effax!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

All the Empress' Horses

I was googling the Empress Elisabeth and came across the Dorotheum auction house website which featured the Imperial Memorabilia Auction which was held on June 6, 2011, that featured a number of the Empress' personal belongings and memorabilia. Of interest to us side saddle riders, was a pair of unworn riding tights made from fine knitted silk with flat seams which measured 50cm (approximately 20") around the pink silk waistband.

According to Dorotheum, they "were originally made by Joh. P. Winkler, purveyor to the imperial and royal court, and retained by him as a memento. Ordered in 1889, the tights were never delivered following the Empress' assassination."

I think the website may have made a typo with the date as the Empress was assassinated in 1898.

The tights had an estimate of €2,400- €3,400 and sold for €3,500.

(Photocredit: Dorotheum Vienna)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Hattie The Champ!

Why does everything fun always happen on the same day? Yesterday it was the Side Saddle Association AGM as well as the Dianas of the Chase race. The Dianas race was originally supposed to have been held in January but bad weather forced it to be postponed to March 23, the same day as the SSA AGM.

Well, it was a hard choice but the AGM won out as I had always wanted to go to one and Solihull, where it was being held, isn't that far from where I live. I'm glad I went as I caught up with lots of people I knew and browsed the Side Saddles stand that was there in attendance. There were lots of antique whips that I coveted as well as a small seated side saddle (think it was UK 15") that was so cute. There were also some SSA 40th anniversary fleece saddle covers on sale which I loved but no off-side ones but Phyllie, who owns Side Saddles, said that off-side ones could be made for me so I think I will have to wait till I get paid. I also picked up Hattie's new SSA 40th anniversary cooler too which is BEAUTIFUL! It's wine colored fleece with the gold anniversary SSA logo on it. This will be Hattie's travel and show rug.

It was interesting hearing all the SSA news at the AGM and it was also announced, that a side saddle museum in north Nottinghamshire will be opening soon. I can't wait till THAT opens as it's only the next county to me!

The Side Saddles Performance Points awards were also given out and I was so please to receive our 8th place rosette and our Champion Mare awards, both for placing Nationally! Hattie really a champion horse who tries so hard, I am so proud of her.

Hattie's winnings...

The beautiful Penny Preserve Trophy

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Area 5 Show at Pittern Hill!

Well, showing season begun last month with Hattie and I going to the Area 5 Novice Show held at Pittern Hill Stables in the next county, Warwickshire. I have always wanted to go to Pittern Hill so was VERY excited to be able to show there. My friend Sarah Parry, came along too as I said she could take Hattie in a class too so she did the Walk/Trot class as she had only ridden Hattie twice before briefly and isn't an off-side rider! Luckily we are both the same dress size and height so she was able to borrow my habit and fit into my saddles so off we went for a full day of side saddle showing!

Unfortunately, my new Megan saddle was at the saddlers getting the flocked adjusted for Hattie and with my saddler also being a hunt rider with the season still in full force, he wasn't able to get it back to me in time for the show which was disappointing, so I took my Beck for the equitation classes and my Champion & Wilton for the Style & Jump class.

It was a VERY windy day but thankfully, there is an indoor school at Pittern Hill so the show ended up being held in there as it was quite stormy out. Sarah's class was first and she did have some stiff competition although she was the only off-side rider. The judges were intrigued with my offside 1898 Beck saddle! Some horses were spooking at the wind clattering the sides of the area but Hattie was not fazed and Sarah got a very respectable 5th place out of such a large class. She even remembered to keep her LEFT shoulder back too, well done Sarah!!

Sarah getting ready...
(Photo courtesy of Jennie Daniels)

Sarah and Hattie in the Walk/Trot class...

(Photos courtesy of Jennie Daniels)

  Hattie and I in the Novice Equitation class were we came first but unfortunately, were the only entrant in that class! I think we definitely earned our rosette as Hattie did nice rolling transitions, was forward and was working in a nice elastic contact even with the wind banging the metal walls. I don't think we could have done a better job so was pleased how Hattie performed.

(Photos courtesy of Jennie Daniels)

The judge inspecting our turnout, I told her the history of my saddle as well. She suggested I pad up the fixed head a bit more to bring my left leg more over to the nearside. I already have a queen on the fixed head but think I could just add something on top of it and vetrap it on.

(Photo courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery)

Lovely Hattie being her brilliant self...

(Photo courtesy of Jennie Daniels)

Next was the Best Side Saddle Horse & Pony class which the horse is judged on it's suitability as a side saddle mount. You can also compete within this class in different categories as well such as Hunter, Cob, Veteran, Hack, Riding Horse, etc. I wasn't sure whether to compete her as a Hack or Riding Horse as some judges have told me she is a Riding Horse and others have said she is a Show Hack but decided in the end to show as a Riding Horse as she doesn't have as showy paces as a hack does and has a bit more bone than one. We came 4th in this class and the judge said she would have shown her as a Hack as Hattie is fine boned but then I thought that maybe she looked finer boned than usual as all the other horses she was competing against, were big hunter types or cobs. I think this is something I am going to have to investigate further but experimenting at different shows as a Hack and as a Riding Horse and seeing what the judges say but personally, I think she is more Riding Horse.

Waiting before our class. The blue armband shows that we were competing as a Riding Horse, KI also put her ribbon browband bridle on which is appropriate for Riding Horses and Hacks (plus, it suits her too!)...

(Photo courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery)

Hattie performing wonderfully in the Best Side Saddle Horse & Pony class, she did not put a foot wrong...

(Photo courtesy of Jennie Daniels)

Our last class of the day was Style & Jump where your horse's way of going and jumping style are judged. To be honest, I was in two minds about entering this class as I knew Hattie would get revved up over the jumps and I'm not that confident doing it. The good thing about this class at the Novice shows, is that you can ask the judge to alter the heights for you which was good as our warm up was atrocious.

I wish I was braver jumping but panic paralyses me and then Hattie goes nuts and speeds off with me or refuses and runs out. The jumps in the class weren't any higher than what we had been doing at home the previous week- 2ft...

but may as well been 7'6" at the show as blind panic set in. The judge kindly lowered them for me to cross poles and Ginny Oakley gave me some help and advice in the warm-up too. There were 3 jumps in the class and our first two were good but on our approach to the last jump, I cut the corner slightly which caused Hattie to become disengaged and she refused and ran out on the jump. I think we were both to blame, me for cutting the corner and Hattie for being naughty and taking advantage of the situation as she still could have popped over such a tiny jump even with being disengaged. The judge said the same thing too so it wasn't just me, lol! I was shaking when my go was finished and felt like crying as I had panicked so much and was glad that it was over!

We came last (4th out of 4)  but to be honest, I didn't care what placing I got as I had to do that class for my own mental well being and make myself  "man up". At least I did it, ended up in one piece and the fact that we got a rosette was a bonus!!

(Photo courtesy of Jennie Daniels)