Saturday, 13 February 2010

I Need To "Uncrooked" Me!

I plan to start doing the British Dressage Prelim tests this year on Hattie after having a good last year doing the Intro walk/trot tests both astride and aside. I just did not feel ready to do the Prelims in 2009 as I had only gotten Hattie in December 2008 and spent last year getting to know her and build up her confidence along with us learning side saddle together and doing our first dressage tests!

Doing side saddle has been a real eye opener for me and made me see how crooked I've been riding all these years and how it affects the horse's performance. This is another reason why we didn't attempt the Prelims last year, is that Hattie's left rein canter is her worse lead and I could never get her to canter on that lead astride on purpose and definitely not aside.

Anyways, I had an eye opener a few weeks back when looking through photos and videos of our dressage (aside and astride) and jumping (astride) shows and reading through my dressage judge comments and realized that my position was blocking Hattie from going into a nice outline and from cantering on the left lead.

I could see and even feel now when riding around on hacks astride, that I always want to twist my body to the left and drop my left shoulder down making everything crooked and unbalance. On the other hand, whenever I rode side saddle at the walk, trot and cantering on the right lead, my right shoulder was firmly right back making me nice and square and letting Hattie go in a nice outline and move forward freely.

However, whenever I tried to ask for a left lead canter astride and aside, the same twisting and dropping to the left would occur. It seems that my body naturally wants to twist to the left so I had a "light bulb" moment and thought, why not think "right shoulder back" for astride riding too and retrain my muscles?

With this new way of thinking, we did an Intro A walk/trot test astride at a show last Sunday to see what would happen and the results were like night and day. Although we didn't place in the ribbons, the judges comments were better, a got my highest mark ever (61.7%!) and Hattie was more forward and going in a better outline- just from thinking the old side saddle adage, "right shoulder back"!

I'm really trying hard here to keep my right shoulder back on the circle:


Slipped forward a little here but ALOT better than previous. LOL, my muscles were screaming at me wanting to twist to the left!!


My position is alot more centered:


We schooled this morning and with the same "right shoulder back", we attempted the left rein canter and we did it, ALL THREE TIMES I asked for it!!! Poor Hattie has been having to cart crooked old me around all this time, being confused by my wonky body without me even realizing it.

My muscles were trying to fight me all three times I asked for a canter and as we were cantering but we got there and I realized that I'm going to have to build up my stamina to hold this new correct position that my body is not used to. This means that I'll have to put put my dreams of riding the Prelim tests side saddle this year on hold until next year as this "retraining" of myself is best done astride for the time being so as not to overload my brain and Hattie's brain.

There are still a few walk/trot dressage tests that I would like to try riding side saddle this year and a novice side saddle equitation class (walk and trot) at a Side Saddle Association show in June I would like to enter but I think that our main goal for this year, is to get Hattie's left lead canter solid and uncrooked myself, then everything else should fall into place...hopefully!

Friday, 12 February 2010

A Regency Riding Corset

A few years ago, I went to The Museum of Costume and Textiles in Nottingham, UK (now permanently closed as Nottingham City Council would rather people get drunk by giving out permits for new bars than introducing people to culture) where they were giving a talk on antique corsets and as one of the exhibits, had a early 19th century (Regency era) pair of riding stays (stays are a pre Victorian era word for corset).

I was allowed to take a few photos of this beautiful cotton sateen riding corset and you can see the high cut away hips and the adjustable lacing, which would have allowed the wearer to ride side saddle.



The only boning the stays had was the stiff front whalebone busk (which was removable) and a whalebone at the back at the side of each line of lacing holes. Figure support was mostly acheived by the narrow rows of cording (all done by hand) and the high empire waistline would have given the wearer the fashionable high busted look and a small slender figure.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Ones That Got Away...

Just "side saddle shopping" (well, more like browsing as I don't actually have any money to buy another saddle at the moment) and came across these drool worthy antique saddles on the internet which have sold previously at auctions.

If anyone is lucky enough to get to The Saddlebred Museum, they hold a yearly art auction of Saddlebred memorabilia and related horse items which regularly, seem to include gems of side saddles up for bids!

This comfy looking early 20th century Bach of New York side saddle sold for a reasonable $1000 US in 2009. It is described as having a 17" seat (from cutback head to cantle) and being in excellent usable condition. The pommels and the shape of the seat and safe make the saddle look like it would be super comfortable to ride in.



In 2006, the Saddlebred Art auction sold this beautiful early 20th century side saddle made by Michael J. Knoud for $1500 US. Looks like it would be comfortable hunting weight saddle with it's wide flared pommels and doeskin seat for extra grip. The auction description said that it has a 18" seat from cutback to cantle.



I found this gorgeous western side saddle on the i Collector website which sold in November 2009. It didn't say what the ending bid was but that the bidding started at $200 US and the estimate was $400- $800 US. With restoration, it looks like it would be a wonderful and comfortable saddle to ride and show in. The pommels are also wider than what is normally found on western side saddles. Now, if only they could have turned the leaping head around properly!

Monday, 8 February 2010

My New Find! An Antique Edwardian Habit!

I'm so excited!!! I just bought a c. 1910 Edwardian riding habit!! It is coming from the US but it was originally made in London and has approx. a 34" bust and a 24" waist.

Here are some photos of the habit but I will take some more when it arrives as the skirt has not been displayed correctly on the dress form. I just can't wait to see how it is constructed and to put it on my own c. 1910 Edwardian dress form here at home.



As you can see, the skirt does not appear to be an apron as it has a "knee bulge" (visible in the back view of the habit), this should be placed so that it shows at the front right side of the habit.



This is the original label which has shattered. You can just make out "Habit Makers" and "London" on the label but the maker's name is illegible and I don't recognize it as any of the "big name" maker's of the era either. If anyone can shed some light on who this habit maker is, it would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Now THIS Is What I Call A Western Side Saddle!

I was just googling this evening and came across an old auction house listing for a beautiful Visalia Western side saddle.



Now, most of the antique Western side saddles around now are "catalog" saddles ordered out of the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs- not really functional except for riding to church or to the shops. The more substantial western side saddles found like the Goodnight side saddle, were made for women to ride long distances comfortably or to accompany her husband around on the ranch to do chores.

This rare c. 1911 Visalia side saddle, wasn't just meant for comfortable transportation though but for actual roping as shown by the western horn on the offside.



Now while it is common to find small offside horns or "grab handles" on 19th century Western side saddles, these weren't used for roping but just as added security for the rider. The substantial built up horn on the Visalia saddle is just like the horn on a man's saddle and I can only say that this is a TRUE cowgirl saddle!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A New Girth?

I bought a leather three fold girth the other day from Ebay and it arrived this morning. It's in fair condition as it has lots of wear but just wanted a cheap girth to tide me over until I decide what to do with Hattie's present girth.



The girth I currently have for Hattie, is a lovely soft leather 4" wide three fold girth (size 54") made by Robert Jenkins but I noticed that in December that it started to get a bit big for her as it was right up on the top holes on both sides of the saddle.

Hattie started out at the beginning of winter a bit fat (she is a good doer and gets fat just on air) but has now lost a bit of weight due to winter (she is about her correct size now, 480kg for a 15.3hh Thoroughbred) so I just know that when I get back into side saddling again (hopefully next month when the weather gets better and the days get longer) that the girth is going to be much too big.

The girth I bought on Ebay is 52" so it should fit but it's not really something that I wanted to use over a long period of time as it is quite worn (I'm going to take it to my saddler to have him check it over and sew a balance girth keeper on it). It's also narrow (about 3" wide) and made from sturdy hunting weight leather, not the lovely soft leather that my Robert Jenkins side saddle girth is made from.

Hattie has a tendency to girth galling as her conformation pushes the saddle forward which in turn, causes the girth to move forwards and rub. She has long withers, a wide barrel, built slightly downhill, has a forward girth groove and narrow shoulders so saddle fitting is a nightmare. The soft 4" Robert Jenkins girth helps to spread the pressure over a wider area and the soft leather prevents rubbing. With this narrow, sturdy hunting girth, I'll have to use my sheepskin cover on it as it will rub.

I think I'm going to have to see how her weight fluctuates throughout the year and maybe have a "winter" girth and a "summer" girth or if I can keep her weight stable (which is no easy feat since she gets fat just by looking at grass), I may have to have her Robert Jenkins girth cut down a little bit.