Thursday, 30 December 2010

Making Progress!

I think we have finally figured out how to ride a 10 metre circle! Hattie and I had a short schooling session yesterday and we did end up making some progress. The extra padding I put between the panels helped to keep it balanced so I was able to feel both seat bones better thereby enabling me to sit properly and balanced. With this improvement to my position, Hattie started to work in a nice outline and was more forward which is what I want for dressage!

For our 10 metre circles, I've been struggling with either over shooting them or making them too small or weird shaped but riding yesterday, I kind of gridded up the arena in my brain and got a light bulb moment. If I think of the arena in terms of a grid and imaginary lines going across from one letter to the other, it helps me to plan on where to turn, my bends, etc. We just did 10 metre circles yesterday and was going to practice 20 metre ones today but Hattie decided to go and pull her shoe off in the stable last night!!!

I just called the farrier but he suffers from slipped discs and had another flare up this month. He said he would try to get out sometime next week to shoe Hattie so in the meantime, there will be no hacking for us although we may still get practice our test at a walk in the arena as the footing is super soft in it (as long as it is not frozen!). It's a shame too as we were going to go on a New Years Eve hack to the pub tomorrow and I was going to wear my Hohlwein inspired riding habit!

I also contacted the saddler today to see if they would be able to come out sometime this month to reflock my side saddle as I can't go on forever with grip foam between the panels. I will see if they can reflock my off-side saddle while they are here as well since I'll have to pay the same call out charge for 1 or 10 saddles.

While surfing the internet, I happened across the Christie's auction house website. I LOVE looking at antiques and Sotherby's and Christie's always have the nicest things and sometimes have side saddles!

Two side saddles were sold in one lot in the July 2010 sale, An Owen and an ornate Victorian one made by Oldham of London.

Here is the auction description:

The first with leather seat and panel with decorative stitching, pommels, applied pouch and safety stirrup iron by Latchford of London, and indistinct paper label; the second with buckskin seat, pommels and stirrup, serge and cotton full panel lining, stamped on safety fittings, saddle and stirrup 'BY APPOINTMENT TO HER LATE MAJESTY OWEN & CO. SADDLE & HARNESS MAKERS LONDON' and with paper labels. The Owen saddle: 27 in. (68.5 cm.) long."

The original estimate on this lot of saddles was £400- £600 but in the end, the lot went for £2250!!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Saddle Balance

We went for a little ride in my friend's arena yesterday but couldn't do too much as it was still frozen and snowy so we just walked around so I could practise my position and my shoulder roll exercises on my left shoulder that Sue Carr gave to me when I had the mini side saddle lesson on the horse simulator last month.

My right leg is getting stronger against the saddle and it's really helping us with the bends and stopping Hattie from drifting so much.

One thing I did notice during the past few days when I've ridden, is that it's getting harder to feel my right seat bone on the saddle. I can only feel the left one mostly which is not good as you don't want all your weight dumping to the left. It feels as if I kept having to reach with my butt cheek to keep it to the saddle which doesn't help much with your position!

I took some before and after photos of the saddle on Hattie to check how it's sitting before I ride and after about 30 minutes of riding.

Before, the saddle is sitting pretty level front to back from the nearside:

After, the flacking has packed down so it's not sitting as high off of her back but still looks level front to back:

Before, the saddle clears her withers but I have to use the sheepskin under her withers as it needs reflocking at the front to keep it up:

After, the saddle has settled but the sheepskin keeps it from dropping onto her withers:

Before, saddle is pretty level on the off-side from front to back:

After, the saddle has slid forwards slightly which is due to Hattie's conformation and due to the fact the flocking has packed down at the front (and the sheepskin is a bit slippery). Once I get the front flocked up, it will stay put. Even so, it's not nearly as bad as my old saddle was at sliding forward!

Before, the saddle isn't so tilted due to the weight of me riding in it but it's now shifted towards the right slightly onto her spine due to the flocking being packed down under my right thigh:

After, the saddle isn't as tilted due to the weight of me riding in it but it has shifted over slightly to the right. It is resting ever so slightly onto the left side of her spine due to the flocking being too packed down on the right side underneath my right thigh. Because there is nothing supporting the saddle on the left side, it is causing my loss of contact with my right seat bone and causing the saddle to drop down to the right and shift over Hattie's spine:

When I got home, as a temporary fix until I can get a side saddler out to re-balance my saddle, I put some of that foam mesh grip stuff between the saddle and the right panel to pad it out a bit. I can feel where it needs the flocking when I ride in it so I put some underneath the middle of my right thigh.

My saddle needs ALOT of flocking added to it and needs complete re-balancing. I think that I'm going to need someone like Laura Dempsey come out and do it as I want to make sure it's done right. It rained last night and melted all the snow and judging from the weather forecast, it's starting to get a bit mild so I may have to bite the bullet and get Laura to come out and do my saddle while the outdoor arena is thawed out.

Hattie won't do something unless it's 100% perfect and if my saddle is shifting over onto her spine, that can't be comfy which may explain her begrudging shuffle canters.

I rode today for 30 minutes in the arena as the rain thawed it out and the saddle did feel better with the extra padding I added under the right side last night. I could feel my right seat bone again and Hattie's 10 metre circles were better so saddle balance does make a difference!

Sunday, 26 December 2010


I hope everyone had a good Christmas and Santa spoiled you rotten!

The horses certainly were as they were treated to lots of carrots and apples in their feeds and then again today, with a nice carrot bran mash.

I was a lucky girl this year and got a lovely black velvet apron for riding on my off-side side saddle! Hopefully one of these days when things thaw out (and my bank account recovers), I can get my off-side saddler is reflocked, and try a dressage test in it. I'll be able to use this apron with my cutaway jacket from my habit. I also got a sweater with horse shoes embroidered all over it, the new Jilly Cooper book, Jump, lots of chocolate, and The Ultimate Horse Barns book! I have wanted this book for awhile and a post by Julie from Riding Aside, reminded me how much I wanted to read it. It's a FABULOUS book and spent all evening reading about (and drooling over) the barns in it.

I didn't get to ride yesterday and was feeling bloated from all the excess eating I did on Christmas day, so went for a plod around my friend's outdoor area. We practised 10m circles as Hattie seems to like doing these as it helps her limber up and gets her thinking. I also worked on my position with keeping my right shoulder back, keeping my seat bones even, sitting up straight, and keeping my right leg against the saddle (this also helps when doing circles, turning and corners as if I press against the saddle onto Hattie's shoulders, it helps her with her bends).

The center of the arena wasn't so bad so we did a few short bursts of trot across the diagonal as well.

We also walked through our Intro B test which we will be doing on January 16 but I need to practise our half 10m circle and our half 20m circles, both of which are in the test!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Well, even though I am not a fan of winter, it was too nice a day not to ride so we went up to my friend's house to use her outdoor school just to be able to have a quick plod around before our Christmas tack room party (it made up for not going on our annual Christmas Eve hack).

The sand was frozen underneath the snow so we could only walk around but we did a walk through of the Intro B test for our next dressage show and I worked on my position and keeping my RIGHT SHOULDER BACK!! My re-worked queen was a lot more comfortable.

Everything was so white and pretty and the horses are cute and furry that I had to take a photo..

It was a good day today and I am very thankful for my wonderful family and friends and the fact that I am lucky enough to have a horse and ride side saddle. I remember as a horseless kid, wishing so much I could ride side saddle and that I could go to the stables on Christmas day! Now I get to have Christmas every day :-)

I hope all my friends and readers here are lucky enough to have "Christmas everyday" too and have a safe and happy holiday!!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Short Off-Side Flap

Had a so-so schooling session yesterday and today on Hattie...she is very ploddy and does not want to go forward at all. She HATES schooling but unfortunately, the lane is all snowed over with hidden ice underneath so it's not safe to hack out and I don't jump any more so can't break up our flat work sessions with a bit of jumping. I may try putting down some trotting poles on the ground just to make Hattie think she is jumping to get her interested a bit more! We had a shuffling bit of a canter on both reins yesterday..blah..I need lessons again as my riding is ATROCIOUS!!

I took some padding off of the Vetrap queen I made and re-wrapped my fixed head to make it a bit more comfortable. I think it's making my right leg a bit more solid and I was practising keeping my right leg against the saddle which is useful for circles and stopping her from drifting as she can feel the pressure on her left shoulder.

Our next dressage test is on January 16 (all being well with the weather!) so it's the Intro B test that we have been practising. Just to make a bit of a chance, we'll be using my friend's outdoor school tomorrow to practise our test. It's all snowed over and frozen so won't be trotting but we'll walk it instead. It will be good practise to work on the walking elements of the test and work on my position, then afterwards, we are having our Christmas Eve tack room party!

I came across this lovely and unusual side saddle on Ebay yesterday...

The Ebay seller, describes it as being from the early 20th century and made by Whippy & Stegall (which were based at North Audley Street in London and were later bought out by Champion & Wilton in the 1940's).

What is unusual about it, is it's very short off-side flap! You don't see too many side saddles with such a short off-side flap but they seem to have been popular during the 1920's and early 1930's from the few examples I have seen in period photos.

I have a photo showing Mrs. Straker taken in the early 1930's riding in a near identical short flapped side saddle...

They seem to have been made that way to show off a horses' shoulder and had extra long billet straps on the off-side but what would be the point of having such a short off-side flap when the horses shoulder would have been cluttered up with buckles anyways? Strange!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

It's Official..I Hate Winter!

Grrr, our pre-Christmas hack and tack room party got cancelled on Sunday due to all the ice and snow we got over the weekend. I was so disappointed as I was going to wear my Hohlwein inspired riding habit and ride Hattie in a Pelham!

This winter has been a let down due to the extreme weather with shows and all the fun stuff being cancelled! Plus I think I cracked my rib again :(

I was laying on the floor on my left side (the side I broke my ribs) trying to plug the Christmas lights into the only plug in the living room (and it happens to be in the most inaccessible place) and when I got up, I had such terrible pain. Ever since then my rib has been hurting all over again. I suppose it's just as well it's happened now as I won't be doing much riding any time soon as the arctic conditions are set to stay. Very unusual for England! We usually still have some green grass left this time of year!

Despite my broken body and rubbish weather, I managed to get in a ride on the weekend. I booked the indoor school at a stable down the lane from me to school for half an hour. My right hip has been acting up from the weather aggravating my arthritis (gosh, I sound like such an old woman!) so decided to ride in my off-side side saddle to rest it.

Oh man, does that saddle need flocking up! BADLY!! It's so unbalanced from the flocking being so soft and the panels flat from 80+ years of being ridden in. I tried putting that grip pad stuff between the panels and saddle that I used to temporarily flock up my near-side saddle but my off-side saddle is desperately in need of stuffing that it wasn't enough. Needless to say, we couldn't do much more than I walk as I kept wanting to drop to the right.

It looks like the next big chunk of money to go out of my poor battered bank account is getting my two side saddles reflocked but this will have to wait until it thaws out a bit so that I can borrow friend's outdoor school as the saddler has to see the saddles ridden in. The indoor school at the stable down the lane from me, has to be paid by the hour so the less I have to spend, the better!

SO, despite having inclement weather, a broken rib (AGAIN!), a bad hip and a unbalanced saddle, we DID manage to walk the Intro B dressage test AND try Hattie out in our new Pelham bit! I tell you what, my mare is such a saint to put up with everything and not bat an eye.

I found the Pelham bit at a second hand tack sale I went to the other week for £3.50! It came with it's curb chain so all I needed to get was a lip strap which my local tack shop had. I already have two sets of extra long reins for side saddle riding (a laced pair for the snaffle and a plain pair for the curb) and a Pelham bit just goes on a normal snaffle bridle headstall so I was all set!

It wasn't difficult to fit, I just had to raise the cheek pieces a little higher and that was it. The curb chain I had on the 2nd link on each side and the tack shop said that the lip strap just has to be fitted loose. I practised picking up and holding double reins at home before doing it on Hattie. Since I would be mostly riding off the snaffle rein, I put that rein on the outside of my little finger while the curb rein, I held between my little and ring finger where it could stay quiet and put. There are several ways of holding double reins but I think this way out of all I have seen, is the best for Hattie and I.

Hattie didn't seem to mind the Pelham at all and went about her business as usual. I can't use it for the level of dressage I do but it is considered proper in the UK for equitation and showing classes so we may as well get used to it!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Aside Rider in Red

Since I first saw it as a horse crazy teenager, I have always loved this advert of the side saddle rider in a red jacket created by German artist, Ludwig Hohlwein, in the Edwardian era for a sporting and ladies tailor, Hermann Shererr:

I also found another ladies riding habit ad by Hohlwein from the Edwardian era, showing a similar attired rider:

We go on a pre-Christmas hack every year with a little party in my neighbour's tack room before we set off. Hopefully if the weather is ok, we will do it again this year. Most of the riders get "tinseled" up and since I'll be riding side saddle, I thought about going as a Hohlwein rider and wearing my top hat and veil.

I have a red show jumping jacket that I got for free at a tack sale we went to in September. The tack shop was clearing them out and giving them away for free to loyalty card holders. For once they only had large sizes left (sizes 16 to 24!) so I was in luck! It's a nice show jacket by Dublin too and I thought if I wear it with my black apron, it would be perfect as Hohlwein-esque habit!

I don't know about the double bridle though. I have a pelham snaffle bit that we could use. I've never ridden Hattie in it but we'd only be walking and I'd just ride her off of the snaffle rein anyways!

Now just need to decide whether to ride on the near or off-side? :)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Right Shoulder BACK!!!!

Bad Sunday's Christmas dressage show has been cancelled due to lack of entries. They only got 7 entries for the whole show! I'm so disappointed as I bought all the things to make my Snow Queen costume and was going to start making it today as well.

Oh with a heavy heart we schooled this afternoon and practised keeping my right shoulder back and doing 20 metre circles. Today I discovered that my right shoulder does not like staying back but rather my left shoulder does..grrr.. this is fine for riding in my off-side side saddle but not for my normal one! There are mirrors in the arena so I was able to check my position and wouldn't you know it that when my right shoulder went back, my left one popped upwards! That's not supposed to happen! I wish I could strap my left shoulder down to the saddle and strap my right shoulder back to the cantle, LOL!

Towards the end of our 30 minute schooling session, our 20m circles were a bit more "circular". It's definitely that lack of "right shoulder back" that causes Hattie to drift as when my shoulder did manage to stay put, Hattie did a better circle.

Since I was mostly practising my position today, I didn't really work on getting Hattie more "forward" and with a "purpose" but I did take a cane with me instead of a dressage whip and what a mistake that was. I remember Jeannie saying last year when we went to the SSA Nationals that some horses work better with a cane and some others with a whip (sorry Jeannie if I have mis-quoted you, I can't remember your exact words but just put the "jist" of what you said!). I only use a cane when hacking as I don't need her to go fast as she already does on hacks, but just use it to keep her well over on the side of the road away from cars.

I thought by using a cane today, it would help our circles by having a sturdier "leg" to keep her from dropping to the inside but instead she just ignored me, went along at a donkey plod trot and then stopped and fell asleep at C. Gee Hattie, could you make it a little more obvious what you think of schooling?

I think we'll stock with a dressage whip for schooling and shows as she respects it a bit more than a dud cane.

Yesterday, Alice, a fellow aside enthusiast and Side Saddle Blog reader, sent me a link to episode twelve of a VERY interesting BBC documentary series called "Time to Remember". The episode is called In Times of Need and features a segment showing "well-to-do" ladies riding side saddle in a protest against the General Strike which happened in 1926 here in England.

If you like history like I do, you'll love the series as they use only original period clips which makes it even more interesting!

I do not know if those outside of the UK will be able to watch the series on the BBC website but if not, I managed to save the side saddle clips so at least you can see them!

You can just see the fixed head of the side saddle sticking up on the horse on the right. The lady on the grey in the middle is wearing a cloche hat instead of the typical bowler!

Two more ladies wearing fashionable cloche hats instead of a traditional bowler or top hat.

A parade if cloche hatted equestriennes riding in protest in London!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Our Dressage Test Today!

After a rubbish schooling session yesterday (and with me ready to chuck it all in!), we got third in our dressage test today!

Yesterday, Hattie was all over the place, rushing, etc, I was all over the place with the saddle tipping me forward and to the left that I felt so disheartened. I can't ride Hattie properly if my saddle is making me sit bizarrely so took drastic action while I was cleaning my tack yesterday night for the show.

I have a big pack of this non slip foam rubber grip stuff (like what is on expensive Barnsby Grip saddle pads and what you use underneath your carpets to stop them sliding on the floor!) that I bought last year to use under my old side saddle. It's good stuff as even if you fold it, it doesn't get lumpy or have any pressure seams. I started cutting off and proceeded to "reflock" my side saddle as I couldn't face another day of being tipped here, there and everywhere!

I couldn't reflock the front, so I used a sheepskin girth cover today under the front of the saddle to lift it up. I added lots of grip stuff under my left thigh all along between the saddle and the panel as the flocking had gone soft and was making me roll to the left thereby making me sit crooked to the right to counteract. I also put a little bit underneath my right thigh about mid-panel to balance things out. Then I pounded the panels with my rolling pin to unlump it and make everything smooth and VOILA! Problem fixed until the saddler is able to come out! I do love that grip stuff, it's a heaven send.

Riding today was ALOT easier not having to battle an unbalanced saddle and Hattie was more co-operative today too!

We even got one of our best ever scores too! 62.1%! Hattie did get our usual "lacking in purpose" comment as she always goes into "donkey mode" when we have a show. She hates doing any kind of work and would rather just go on hacks and eat all day. Our comments were basically that our circles were odd shaped (I knew this, circles are hard!!), we lacked in "straightness" going across the diagonals and down the center lines (it's hard missing a right leg!) and that Hattie needs to go in a more "forward manner" (yup, I know- I have a donkey for a horse!). So these are things we need to work on, maybe I should give Hattie some oats before a show? LOL!

Equitation wise, I think my position has gotten better and I kept my elbows under control! I don't lean back anymore like I used to do in earlier tests and I'm riding with a longer stirrup leather than I used to with my leg jammed up under the leaping head. I did notice though, in the video, that my right shoulder had crept forward a few times during my test which I think contributes to Hattie drifting on our lines. I REALLY need to concentrate on my right shoulder back and I think then that will help us to be less crooked on our lines and maybe scrape us some more marks at our show next Sunday!

Here is the video of our show today:

The show gave out some really posh ribbons today as well! Our 3rd place one was peach and yellow with "Merry Christmas" printed on the tail in gold!

I'm not really please with how my riding habit is fitting these days though and I think I need to lose a bit of weight. It was was rather tight on the bust and hips today!! I also wish the sleeves were a bit longer on my jacket too as I get fed up with having the cuffs of my show shirt show. I bought longer cuffed riding gloves this summer but even gloves can't make up for the lack of length in the sleeve!

I'm schooling tomorrow afternoon so I'll be armed with my judges comments of what to work on!!

I also added more photos of the mechanical side saddle horse to my Why I REALLY NEED To Play the Lotto blog post so check them out!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Why I REALLY NEED To Play the Lotto....

so I can buy this....

You may remember how a couple of months back how I wrote the Horse in the House blog post about wanting an antique mechanical horse, well yesterday an Ebay seller named Graham Hood, who deals in antiques under the Ebay user ID, Hicapblue, contacted me regarding an antique mechanical horse complete with a side saddle that he rescued from an old Victorian lunatic asylum!

Here is the auction description saved for posterity:

A Mechanical Exercise Machine in the form of a horse.Manufactured by Spencer Heath & George LTD Ponders End Middlesex.

It is of excellent quality and of a simillar type fitted in Titanic's gymnasium. US president Calvin Coolidge had one now in the Forbes Museum. The horse on offer was rescued from the vaults of a Victorian Lunatic Asylum where it was used by patients. It has a side saddle that can be converted to a conventional saddle by unscrewing the pommels. It has a massive electric motor. I have not dared to switch it on but do not see any reason why it would not crank up. It is in totally original untouched condition and weighs an absolute ton (half a ton really).

This is the one of the Titanic that he mentions:

Unfortunately, I'm poor now after forking out for a side saddle for Hattie and will be for the next few years, LOL but maybe it's a sign I should play the lotto tonight! Graham did invite me to come up to York to be a guinea pig and test it out so I shall have to see if I can get my ever obliging husband to drive the near 100 miles "up north" so that I can have a once in a lifetime ride on a antique mechanical horse.

Graham is going to email me some more photos of it this weekend so I will post them here but meanwhile, here are some from the auction...

A close up of the saddle which looks to be on a Wykham:

Front view of the "horse":

Another close up of the saddle. Graham said both pommels unscrew which means that a man could ride on it as well without the pommels or perhaps it is a reversible side saddle as well! Since it was in an old asylum, some of the female patients may have had physical disabilities as well that prevented them from riding on a conventional nearside sidesaddle so a reversible side saddle would have been useful for hospital use. I've asked him to send me more photos of the saddle so we can see if it is a reversible one or not. It could also just be an astride saddle with pommels screwed into the tree so it would be interesting to see the construction:

The "horse" even has bit loops for adding reins! Note the speed settings as well. I wonder if the "fast" setting felt like a canter or just a really fast trot?

Edited Sunday, December 12, 2010, MORE photos!!

Some more photos of the off-side of the saddle...

The more I look at this saddle, the more I think it was an astride saddle adapted for side saddle use by the mechanical horse manufactuers. I cannot see any screw holes on the off-side for off-side riding.

It definitely has a wide tree though!

Close up of the near-side...

Many thanks to Graham for allowing me to use his photos in my blog!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Wide Horse Problem

I managed to book the indoor school down the lane from me after I finished work for half an hour to work on my equitation and practise my dressage test for Sunday. My nerves were frazzled after work today as the kids at school were nuts with running around, screaming, throwing Lego that the sound of Hattie's hoof beats on the arena surface calmed me.

We even managed a canter on both reins! I'm slowly getting back to where I was before my accident and think I'm sitting more square now as if I wasn't, Hattie WOULD NOT even think of cantering! We are taking baby steps in the right direction...

I tell you what though, the more I ride in my Manorgrove side saddle, the more I like it! My right leg stays put and because it has a flat seat, I can feel even more when Hattie is on the wrong canter lead (feels horrible!). I thought I preferred the slightly dished seat of my old C&W but I think I'm swaying to the flat seat "dark side"!

Fellow side saddle enthusiast and blogger, Kippen64, asked me to do a blog post on the "joys" of fitting the very wide horse! These are my thoughts and scant experiences on the subject but if other readers have any thoughts and suggestions, please pipe in!

I don't have very much experience with fitting very wide horses as I tend to gravitate to narrower breeds like fine Arabs or Thoroughbreds (I always seem to end up with a TB!) but Hattie is one of the rarer chunky Thoroughbreds who, ever since I got her, has been a nightmare to find a saddle to fit her!

The one REALLY wide horse I did have briefly on loan, was a "lightweight" Irish show cob named Juicy Lucy (Lucy for short!). Lucy's owner (my friend Gill), had to have an astride saddle custom made for her as she was so wide (about an XXXW!) and when I used to ride her, my legs felt like they were being torn from their sockets! She also didn't have much in the way of withers and was quite round so the saddle often used to shift to the sides due to the lack of withers to hold it in place.

While it's not too bad with an astride saddle if a saddle shifts to the side on a round horse (you can just shift it back by weighing in the stirrup on the opposite side), you don't really want that in a side saddle as the rider's legs are on one side! This is why a side saddle needs to be a perfect fitting as possible (this goes for any size of horse!) and why when fitting a very wide horse, you need to check that the gullet size and shape is appropriate.

Most antique saddles were made for Thoroughbred types as that is what people rode who could afford side saddles. You didn't really ride a big cob or draft type horse unless you lived on a farm, etc. Yes, some ladies did have large hunters and you do sometimes find very wide side saddles but finding one is like finding a needle in a haystack. I did find a VERY large fitting Champion & Wilton (both for horse AND rider) at the Nationals this summer so they are around but you have to look.

Most of the gullets tend to be shaped like this on antique saddles. This is a medium gullet on my old Champion & Wilton side saddle. While the points of the tree were flared wide enough for Hattie, the actual gullet was 1/2" too small. My old saddle would have been made for a slightly narrower Thoroughbred than Hattie.

When fitting a very wide horse, especially one with no withers, you need a wide spread gullet such as the one on this Elan side saddle which are sold by Hundred Oaks...

If you compare both gullets, aside from the obvious width difference, you can see the actual shape of the front of the saddle is different to accommodate the two different shapes of horses. The old C&W has a pommel front that kind of flares in and upwards to fit a decent withered horse while the Elan has no flare whatsoever, it's just spread out to wrap around a wide, round horse.

The problem is when you have a wide horse WITH withers, sort of like what Hattie is like. A wide fitting, fit her in the shoulders but sat too low on her withers while a medium tree fit at the top of her withers but pinched everywhere else! This is why we went with a heavily flocked up medium/wide tree for my Manorgorve.

The large Champion & Wilton saddle that I mentioned seeing at the National show, was made for very wide horse with decent withers to hold it in place. The tree points looked like the Elan but had the upwards flared pommel and gullet shape resembling my old C&W.

If you find a saddle that you think may work but just need it to be a fractionally wider, then as long as the tree size and tree shape suits your horse, you can always put it on a Wykham pad to squeeze out some extra width.

My old side saddle was originally flocked up as a narrow fit but with a Wykham pad on, it became a "generous" medium fit which work well for Hattie until she put on more muscle from all the work we started doing. I was surpised with how much width the pad gave my saddle though and you can see how well it fit her before she put on extra muscle.

I mentioned earlier about saddles rolling around on round horses so if your saddle is a good fit but still tends to roll around or slide forward due to lack of a front to hold it back, then a point strap put on the off-side (or on the near side if you are riding in an off-side side saddle), can also help to anchor a saddle. Hattie's saddles slide forward for a number of reasons but a point strap helps it to stay put. Thorowgood also puts point straps on their specially designed Cob saddles for round no withered horses.

This is a point strap I had added to my old saddle which did help as well as using a anti-slip pad underneath the saddle as well.

If anyone has any tips, ideas or experience with fitting a side saddle for the wider horse, then please feel free to add them!

Monday, 6 December 2010

An Opulent 1860's Side Saddle

Despite the return to freezing temperatures today, Hattie and I managed to do a bit of schooling for our dressage test in my friend's outdoor school. The sand was frozen so we couldn't do anything more than a walk but we managed to get some good work done.

We practised 10m circles at A, E, C and B on both reins which helped to stretch Hattie and soften her (she seems to like doing them as she always goes a lot better after we do them) and then worked on the walking aspects of our test. I figure since we can't do much trotting at the minute due to the weather, we may as well practise the "easy" walking bits of our test to make them as perfect as we can, so we can scrape as many marks out of the judge as possible! Hattie was going in a nice soft outline and wasn't getting all strung out and heavy on the bit (I must remember to include some 10m circles in our warm-up on test day) so I was able to concentrate on my equitation.

Since my side saddle lesson on the simulator at Your Horse Live, I've been more aware of what my left shoulder is doing and now can catch it when it creeps up. It even does this when I'm riding my bike too!! I'm also trying to use my core muscle (my diaphragm muscle) to keep myself sitting upright and this is helping Hattie's way of going and also helping my right hip to stay back strangely enough. I just need to be able to do this at a trot but if I can get it down pat at a walk, then it will help me be more aware of my position when the weather thaws out and we can start doing some real work again.

Who ever thought side saddle riding would make you have to think of so many things!

Before I went to pick my son up from school, I popped into the tack shop which is conveniently located nearby to his school! I love this tack shop as it's a treasure trove of all obscure things. The owner buys all the oddments, end of lines, factory seconds, cancelled orders from the large British tack manufacturers as well as stocking LOTS of second hand items so you never know what you are going to come across when you go there.

I've found a number of side saddle things in there in the past (the owner tends to save them for me!) like three fold girths, sandwich boxes, ladies hunting whips but today I found a new canary wool ladies waistcoat for my riding habit by the riding outfit manufacturer, Matlock & Brown! It's a proper hunting one and will look perfect with my habit. I needed a new one too as the waistcoat I currently have, is a "bit" small for me having bought it when I was 30lbs lighter! I hate the feeling of knowing my buttons are straining open when I ride in it and my new one will be warmer in the winter as it's wool instead of satin like my old one.

I also found a new Mears County cutaway side saddle jacket (in my size!!) in lightweight navy blue polyester which would be good for summer shows for a CHEAP price. It's missing it's apron but the owner has saved it for me and is going to inquire at Mears to see how much it would be to have a matching apron made for it for me. I just about collapsed in the heat wearing my black heavy winter weight habit at the June side saddle show so it will be wonderful if I can get a lightweight habit at an affordable price for summer shows!

Following on from Lexie's photos of the ornately stitched 1860's side saddle she found at a local auction, and Jeannie's comment that it may have been an exhibition saddle, I pulled this saved photo from my side saddle archives on my computer of a saddle which was exhibited at The International Exhibition in London in 1863.

It looks near identical in shape and style to the saddle Lexie found at the auction house...

Here is the original 1863 description of the side saddle...


This embroidered saddle of which an illustration is given in this Number, and which is shown in class 26 at the International Exhibition, is produced by Mr. A Davis, of 33, Strand, and 72, Piccadilly, from a design supplied by Phillip H. De La Motte. It is a sidesaddle, made in the orthodox form, and of the material ordinarily used for the purpose, but enriched with scroll ornaments of about the fourteenth century, and worked in various coloured silks, which, we believe, were obtained expressly form Paris.

The ornamentation is graceful and judiciously distributed, and its adaptation to forms, which would seem unfavourable, is very ingenious. The colours, unlike those of many Oriental works of similar kind, are comparatively unobtrusive, being arranged in curved lines and spots rather than in masses. The lines of scrollwork are of yellow silk, leading the eye up to flowers of pink and white or blue, which whilst they are quiet and keep their proper place, gave been sufficient colour to relieve the monotony.

The large central pendant flower is enriched with various colours upon a maroon ground, and forms the principal point of this ornamentation. The flap of the safe of either side is covered in a manner agreeing with the general scheme, and, besides the scrolls, contains conventional flower blooms and a shield, which might be made to bear with heraldic devices or ornament.

The border round the sides consists of a chain of quatrefoils with pink flowers upon a dark green ground, and the whole is admirably set off by a braiding worked in chainstitch. The pommels are likewise done in a style corresponding with the other parts, and the seat is quilted with scrolls well adapted to the form they fill, and more elaborate than those usually enjoyed.

In our engraving, the side shown is that which in the exhibition is turned towards the spectator, but which when the saddle is in use is hidden by the rider: the other side which is far the more beautiful both in general shape and in ornamentation, is only seen as reflected in the looking glass which backs the case: nevertheless, owing to the way in which it receives the light, it looks exceedingly well, and claims the greater share of admiration.

Efforts to beautify articles of ordinary use are legitimate and praiseworthy, and we think that great credit to due both to the designer and the manufacturer.

Can you imagine how the off-side looked like and all the colors this saddle had!!! If only there were color cameras around so that this saddle could have been photographed. I wonder what happened to it?

I had a chuckle at the comment, "Efforts to beautify articles of ordinary use..." as it seems strange to use now in 2010 when side saddles are anything but the norm (and are just starting to make a comeback), that side saddles were thought of back then as normal every day items!

The saddler, A. Davis, was in business for many years after the exhibition saddle was made as I have seen Edwardian examples of Davis side saddles up for sale in the past and my own example of a 1901 A. Davis side saddle ad...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

So Sick of the Snow!

Sorry for the gap in my blog post, the UK came to a halt two weeks ago with sudden cold weather and snow, it never gets to -14C here. Ever. Except this year. I've been having to cycle back and forth in the ice and snow bringing my son to school, going to the stables, then to work, then back home, then to the stables and then to pick my son up from school that I am exhausted by the end of the day! Plus, our water tank froze at the stables so I have to climb under a barb weather fence, schlep across my neighbour's field to the river and get water with buckets. The things we do for our horses! I hate winter!

The dressage show got cancelled on the 28th due to the icy weather so our entries got put forward to the next show on December 12. Everything has started to thaw out this weekend but the forecast is due to be icy again this week. I'm hoping they are wrong as I will be so disappointed if this show gets cancelled too.

I booked the indoor arena yesterday and this morning at the boarding stable down the lane from me to practice our test since we have not been able to ride due to the poor weather. Hattie was alot more forward going so that is good but she is wanting to go on the forehand all the time. I think it may be due to us both now being out of shape. I keep having to do half halts to stop her from getting heavy on the bit and getting strung out. My equitation is starting to get a bit better and I think I'm getting used to the flatness of my saddle more. With trotting, now, I am able to get more of my weight at the front of my thigh, near the knee, onto my saddle and my right hip isn't going so forward as much. The indoor school has mirrors so it was been handy this weekend checking my position! I'm still not there equitation wise yet but at least I'm not regressing!

When the weather thaws out, I'm going to start taking side saddle lessons again. The saddler hasn't been able to come out to reflock my side saddles either due to the weather so that is a job for when things thaw out. They aren't too bad and my Manorgrove side saddle seems to have settled with the flocking packing down so much now. It's not too bad, just needs a bit more tweaking.

I went to the thrift stores near my work last week in an attempt to find things to make for our side saddle costume for the Christmas dressage show on the 19th. It was hard work but I *think* I will be the Snow Queen from the Narnia series. I bought some white curtains that have a creamy gold flocked style design on them to make an "apron" and a off-white linen waist length blazer that is fitted at the waist. I will wear that with my white show shirt and my stock tie. I also found a white fleecy scarf to sew around the lapel of the jacket and need to find some more fleecy material to make some cuffs for the jacket. I'm going to make some sort of crown for my riding helmet and cover that in tin foil.

For Hattie, I will make her a unicorn horn and cover that in tin foil and I found some silver Christmas bows and some silver tinsel stoles that I can put in her plaited mane. I also bought some silver tinsel stoles to wrap around the tops of the reins too and I'll use my pink and velvet diamante browband for that as well.

I need to start working on my costume this week!! When I'll have to time to do it though, is another story...

I wanted to share photos of a beautiful antique side saddle, taken by a fellow side saddle enthusiast and blogger, Lexie, at an auction last month...

It looks to be from the 1860's, maybe even the 1870's and is so unusual as it has stitching all over it! Usually, you just seen ornate stitching on the seat and/or on the safe but this has it all over.

The Victorians though that the fancy raised stitching gave the rider extra security which is why they use to put it on the seat and safe. There wouldn't have been any reason for a saddler to put it all over the saddle, especially on the off-side flap except to show off the saddler's talent and to make the saddle look pretty. The late Victorians and Edwardian got rid of the fancy stitching so as to get a more close contact feel in the saddle.

I love the off-side handkerchief case! The Y-shaped balance girth arrangement is typical of this era. It has a vestigial third pommel left over from earlier eras when saddles only had an upright pommel on each side of the right thigh. By this date, they were on saddles for "extra security" as a grab handle to steady the rider.

With the leaping head (which were not standard on saddles of this era, you had to pay extra to have one put on), and all the fancy stitching, it would have been a costly saddle when new.

Note the roller bar stirrup bar, these were used on side saddles even into the 20th century. My 1920's off-side side saddle has the same stirrup bar.

You can tell from the shape of the panels that it has a forked tree with tree points extending the same length down the side of the horse rather than the short off-side tree point that later saddles tended to have. A forked saddle makes for a more stable saddle but requires a perfect fit. Forked trees were also used into the Edwardian era as my old C&W had a forked tree.

I'm all for fixed heads being more to the left but this is really extreme! The rider must have had a VERY skinny leg to ride in this saddle! Lexie's obliging Other Half put his hand on the seat to show how extreme the position of the fixed head was.

Her horse matched her owner's build as well as the tree gullet looks very narrow, like for a Thoroughbred type. There is no cutback head either so that would have been a problem for a high withered horse, ironically, the type of horse this saddle would have fit! Lexie measure the gullet and it measured 4 1/2" which tends to reflect a narrow fitting.

What I can't get over, s how the saddle doesn't seem to have any wear on the ornate stitching! Especially on the nearside flap where the stirrup leather would normally cause wear from rubbing. It doesn't appear to have been ridden in very much. How strange that such a beautiful saddle has little wear!