Thursday, 30 September 2010

Near or Off-side? You Decide!

A very rare near and OFF-SIDE Martin and Martin side saddle from the early 1900's has just been listed on the Side Saddlery.

At $7500, the price of it is WAY, WAY, WAY beyond my budget for a saddle which is too bad as I measured myself and I would have fit into it perfectly and judging from the gullet size and tree shape, it would have fit Hattie too. Maybe I should start playing the lottery again.

I wonder how it rides as the tree would be symmetrical? Usually the saddle panels are built up on the nearside to support the left thigh (and then vice versa for an off-side side saddle) but how would it work with a reversible side saddle as neither could be flocked up more than one side at once?! I suppose you would have it flocked up more on the side that you rode the most on and just put a riser pad underneath the side you rose least on, on the days you decided to ride on that side. Although not really ideal if you swapped sides everyday. Hmmmm, I REALLY want to ride in it to see how it feels!

Here is the description of it on the Side Saddlery website which I have saved for posterity..

This is a later Martin & Martin saddle in nearly pristine condition. This saddle would be perfect for the handicapped rider or lady who must alternate which side she rides to on different days.

The seat measures 21" in length from the front of either of the upright pommels to the rear of the seat. The seat measures a generoud 13" in width. This is an unusual tree measuring 7.5" in the gullet and 17" from point to point. The tree has a wide gullet with two long points to stabilize the saddle, so a back tracing or personal fitting is required. The seat and pommels are pigskin and in perfect shape. There are D rings present to attach a breast plate.

The space between the two fixed head (top pommels) will not accomodate an extremely large thigh. To see if you would fit, at 9" above the knee, the thigh circumference must be less than 23".

There are two leaping heads. The one on the nearside screws in on reverse threads like all old name side saddles. The pommel on the off side screws in on standard threads, which is correct to keep the pommel in the proper position when riding on the off side. The balance strap is easily moved from one side of the saddle to the other. The safe is padded on both sides and is in excellent condition.

The panels are the original serge with occasional flea bites - the only condition issue with this saddle! The stirrup assembly is a bar on either side which uses a standard stirrup leather. The saddle comes with the original Cope's breakaway stirrup with the doeskin covering over the metal arch still intact! The balance strap and billets are in good condition. The saddle comes with a vintage balance girth.

The leather has been professionally cleaned and reconditioned. It is supple and in good condition throughout.

Of course if anyone would like to buy the side saddle for me, I would be more than happy to accept it! ;-)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Old Side Saddle

Rebecca, a fellow blogger and horse lover, sent me a link to a Craiglist ad for an antique side saddle. I saved the photo (as Craiglist listings tend to come and go quickly) because it's an interesting example of a mid 19th century side saddle.

The wide flap would have protected the very full skirts of mid 19th century riding habits, but the deep dipped narrow seat and little skinny upright pommel doesn't look very comfortable. Look how far the safe extends towards the front too. It's hard to tell from the grainy photo, but there looks like there is embroidery or embossing on the safe as well.

At first I thought maybe the sheepskin was added on at a later date to the seat but upon closer inspection, it looks like that is moth eaten as well. I wonder if it is a period addition in an attempt to make the dipped, narrow seat a bit more comfortable.

You can just see a small off-side pommel which were often used as a "hand rest" if you needed some extra security riding these slick saddles with no leaping horns. Ladies wouldn't have done anything adventurous in these types of saddles due to the lack of leaping horn and dipped seats. They are often referred to now as "catalog saddles" as they were sold fairly cheap and ready to go from the mail order catalogs of the time. If you wanted a leaping head on them, you had to pay extra so these saddles are often found without them. This is why catalog saddles seem to survive in great numbers as they were pretty much unrideable except perhaps for walking to church on a Sunday and back again!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Mount Royal Riding Academy and Club

I love history so much and along with my love of antique and vintage clothing, have an interest in old buildings, ESPECIALLY ones which have had a horsey history.

There is one such building in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where I am from which has always caught my eye as I glanced at it fleetingly down a side street as the bus passed it by. It is the old premises of the The Mount Royal Riding Academy and Club which was built in 1910 in an area which was originally mostly fields and had a well-to-do population.

This promotional article from the June 25, 1010 edition of the Montreal Standard newspaper, describes how it was going to be like. Annoyingly, although the human creature comforts are described in some detail, no mention of the horse accommodation like stall size, what the standard of horse care would be like or even if there was turnout for the horses and where the said turnout would be located! I guess though, that this was an era were horses were still thought of as transportation and horse welfare wasn't top most of most people's list of priorities when people used to die from getting the flu or drinking tap water!

The promoters of this enterprise have acquired property in Westmount, fronting on Hillside Avenue, and propose to erect a first-class and up-to-date Riding Academy and Boarding Stable. The company is incorporated with a capitalization of $100,000 made up with 1,000 shares of the value of $100 each, which stock is rapidly subscribed by some of Montreal's most prominent citizens, the creation of such an academy being realized as a necessity especially at this period in the history of the horse, and will be a distinct acquisition to the city.

In design, superb, in appointment and furnishings, elegant, exteriorly beautiful and arranged throughout up on plans infinitely practical, incorporating every modern and novel feature that can possibly add to the comfort and convenience of its patrons, such are the plans prepared.

Mr. R. Montgomery Rodden is the architect, and to his credit be it said that the plans, which have been submitted and approved by the directors, provide for conveniences and interior arrangements heretofore deemed impossible of attainment in a building of this nature. The exterior of the building will be brick, and the interior steel and reinforced concrete throughout on scientific principles, and will be fitted with the most perfect ventilating, lighting, heating and sanitary systems that can be procured.

The front portion will be four stories in height; the structure affords stabling accommodation for nearly a hundred horses, on the ground floor, this having driveways for entrance and exit of horses and vehicles, as well as stalls, show runway and space for hitching the numerous fashionable equipages boarded within the building. The executive and general offices will also occupy a portion of this floor, while ladies' and gentlemen's dressing and waiting - room, shower baths, etc., will be conveniently disposed of on the mezzanine floor.

The exercising arena, which is 150 feet in length by 60 feet in width, will be locate don the second floor, and overlooking this will be a large observation and lounging room, with plate glass front, also social and tea-rooms, all of which are to be elegantly furnished and decorated. Above this, and on the third floor, will be the visitors' gallery, also store- rooms, and attendants' apartments.

The contract has been awarded to F.M. Hartman of the Roebling Construction Co. of New York, and the building is expected to be completed by the 15th of October.

Interestingly, the field shown in the top photo of the drawing showing the man riding and the lady riding side saddle is now the sports field of Westmount High School which opened at the site in 1961. It is good to see that nothing was ever built on that old field!

Google Map image showing the Westmount High School sports field and the building of the The Mount Royal Riding Academy and Club at the corner where the "A" is:

It must of have been an impressive site in it's day with all the grooms in attendance and all the gleaming saddles in the tack room! I bet there were quite a few side saddles in there, oh to go back in time and have a look and a ride!

These two photos were taken after it was built in November 1911. That jump looks scary even by 2010 standards but the arena footing looks lovely and soft to ride on! Note the difference from the artists conception in the previous photo to what it actually looked like when it was built.

And imagine relaxing in this room overlooking the arena after a hard schooling session..

Unfortunately, time does not stand still and I have never been able to find out how long the stables remained in business for. I have a feeling that it probably did not survive the First World War though as many of the grooms/ male staff would have had to go and fight, maybe even some of the horses requisitioned for war use.

Eventually in 1949, the 3rd Field Engineer Regiment of the Canadian Army moved into the premises and it has been a military building ever since. Whether it had been derelict before the army moved in or requisitioned for military use straight after it had been a stable, is unknown.

The building still looks very similar to when it was originally built although over the years, windows and doors have been bricked up and entrances moved like what can be seen on these two front views of the stables compared to the original drawing shown earlier.

But it's nice to see that they kept the large windows at the side which originally were the arena windows! You can see the smaller windows of the horse's stalls also remain under the large arena windows so the horses must have been stabled on a lower level under the area floor.

That is all the information I have at the moment on the The Mount Royal Riding Academy and Club but if I ever find out anymore, then I shall post it! If I go back to Montreal again next year, I'll try and do some digging, maybe make an appointment with the Canadian Army regiment there and see if they will let me in to take photos of any of the original features that may be left.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Weekend Bits and Bobs

Didn't do much this weekend, I lunged Hattie Saturday morning then after, everyone I know seemed to go out on a hack. Of course I have to get left behind so decided to do a bit of retail therapy on Saturday.

I needed a new riding helmet as both my riding helmets have given up the ghost and a new pair of wellies as mine always fall apart after a few wearings and I'm fed up with having wet feet!

We went to Townfields Saddlers in Coventry as I had never been there and seemd to have good prices on things.

Charles Owen had come out with a new slimmer riding helmet this year called Fiona's Hat and I thought it looked quite pretty. Luckily they had them at Townfields and I tried one one. I always buy Charles Owen helmets anyways as they fit my head shape really well and they tend to take a lot of abuse and keep on going. They aren't the cheapest of helmets but I trust my head in them.

Fiona's Hat:

The lady at the tack shop said that with the Fiona, they have to fit snug and I fit into a 7 1/8 rather than the 7 1/4 I usually take in helmets. It's very lightweight and comfy and THIN! It reminds me of the helmets I used to wear during the 80's and 90's when I was younger before they came out with the thick lined hats. The Fiona hat is just as safe as the thick lined hat but it's modern technology that allows for the foam to absorb just as much shock as the thicker foam.

I think it's really pretty and will look nice with my riding habit. I did like the blue velvet but since my habit is black, decided on the black velvet.

As my luck would have it, they had Ariat Mudbuster wellies on a clearance sale with my size left in stock!

I had always wanted a pair but they were always out of my budget so was quite pleased when I saw they were on sale. I got the blue ones and they are SO COMFY!! All my riding and paddock boots are Ariat as the soles help my back and bad hip not to hurt and now I'll have wellies that ease my poorly bits too! I never had a pair of rubber boots that were so comfortable.

Then this morning, I wore them to free school Hattie. I had never free schooled her before and my friend Gill, had mentioned it yesterday when I was lunging Hattie so decided to give it a go today. Hattie did REALLY well although she went a bit crazy at the canter and bucked like a bronco as she was so excited with being off the lunge line. It was amazing though how much she knew what I was saying and trusted me as I was able to bring her back to a calm canter and a trot with just my voice commands. She halted when I told her so, I walked up to her and told her to walk on and she followed me to the gate where I went to get the lead rope to lead her back to the stable.

It just goes to show how voice aids are just important and hand, leg and artifical aids, especially with riding side saddle when we have our legs on one side!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Jumping Aside

While rummaging through folders on my computer, I found some photos take in May during the two days Hattie and I attempted jumping side saddle before deciding to do it that weekend at the South Kilworth Show.

These two photos were taken on the first day of our training,

It was weird jumping side saddle as you don't fold forward as you do when you jump astride but slightly to the off-side as it helps to keep your left shoulder back. You also can't get as forward jumping side saddle as you can astride due to the pommels. This is why during the 1920's and 30's, dual position leaping heads become popular on side saddles as the forward seat became the norm for jumping instead of the backwards seat seen during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

With the dual position leaping horns, you could screw the horn into the higher hole for jumping to allow you to get more forward or put it on the lower hole for riding on the flat.

My 1920's off-side side saddle had a dual position setting but this later got filled in to keep it as a jumping saddle by a previous owner.

Here is Hattie and me the next day...

Getting a little braver and jumping a little higher!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Horse in the House?

Yes, I DID bring my old Arab mare, Senara, home once a few years ago and she did come in into the house! Just walked right in, had a look around and walked back outside. Even rode her bareback in my nightgown that evening in my back yard but that is a story for another day!

I'm so out of shape at the moment that I could do with one of these so at least I could get fit and ride with my broken rib in the safety of my own home!

It's an early Edwardian version of a mechanical horse so you can ride in the comfort of your own home! This is an old Edwardian advert that I have in my collection and from the looks of it, it seems that you could even ride near side or on the off side as well.

The Titanic also had a better version of the mechanical horse on board, complete with a real side saddle!

Due to the nature of my business, I go to many antique sales and auctions and have NEVER EVER seen an antique mechanical horse for sale which goes to show that perhaps not many people bought them, preferring to ride the real thing.

One thing is certain though, if I ever see one for sale, it's coming home with me!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Feeling Restless.....

It's been a bit of a rubbish past few days as my cracked rib has been achy and now my back muscles and bones have been acting up due to lack of exercise. Poo picking the field and pushing the wheelbarrow is doing my back in as I'm losing "condition" yet at the same time, I can't do any too strenuous (even low impact exercises like swimming) due to my stupid rib. It's a vicious circle, I'm in constant pain, gaining weight and losing fitness and can't do anything about it!! Plus, there is a stupid fly that keeps buzzing 'round my eye as I'm typing that is getting on my nerves!!

Not riding for another month is doing my head in, everyone went on a hack this past weekend as we are having glorious weather and I had to ride my bike and tag along behind.

I just feel so restless!!

I can't wait to the end of next month when I can at least start riding a little bit (the doctor said to take it easy at first) and hopefully my new side saddle will be ready. My original plan for October was to start doing the Prelim dressage tests but that will have to go on hold till my fitness and my rib is 100% better so hopefully we can attempt an Intro A and B test in November in our new saddle.

I started getting Hattie back into work yesterday by lunging her so at least there won't be two of us fat and unfit when I start riding again. She is getting so fat due to not being ridden, even WITH a grazing muzzle on and not being on any feed or hay due to the lush grass. I've devised a lunging program of 30 minutes 4 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) as if I do too much with her in the school, she gets in a bad mood and bored.

Here is her "before" photo in which she doesn't look too impressed with having it taken!

In case you are wondering about the two antique photos, they are from my own collection and date from about 1910. I find the one of the horse rearing so neat as you rarely see antique "action" photos like this due to the longer exposure time old cameras had. The horse looks as about restless as I am at the moment!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Dickins & Jones Specialite Riding Corset

Along with riding side saddle, I also collect antique and vintage clothing and sometimes come across old items of riding costume such as this Dickins & Jones Specialite side saddle riding corset from 1901...

I know longer have the corset in my collection having sold it to pay for the Wykham pad on my old side saddle but please feel free to read the history of such a rare item from our sport.

C.1901. An early Edwardian white coutil riding corset made in Bruxelles expressly for the London firm Dickins & Jones Ltd. of Regent street. The firm is still trading in London and during the Edwardian era, they were the sole retailers of the Specialite corset in England although sole agents for the Specialite corset were found in places as far away as Calcutta!

A 1901 advertisement from The Queen magazine states that the "Specialite corset is made of the best materials, best sewing and perfect finish" and fitted throughout with REAL WHALEBONE (busks and side steels excepted). All this quality and workmanship came at a price and Specialite corsets were on the pricey side ranging in price from 16 shillings and 6 pence (about £47.00 in 2010) to 29 shillings and 6 pence. The price of one corset was most often more than what most working class people earned in one week but is remarkably cheap to to our 2010 eyes!

The top of the corset is decorated with a 3" band of cotton lace with two rows of creme silk baby ribbon inserts. Although the corset has the required diagonal seaming for Edwardian S-bend corsets, the corset utilizes a curved busk rather than a straight busk. A curved busk would have made side saddle riding most comfortable as the bottom curve of the busk allows the displaced flesh from the stomach, somewhere to go. The hips of the corset are cut high to allow for the correct leg position while riding.

"Dickins & Jones" is stamped on each busk loop. Each bone casing is flossed with creme silk thread. The inside of the corset has "Dickins & Jones LTD", "The Specialite Corset Regd. Made in Bruxelles" along with "Real Whalebone" and "Riding" all stamped in blue ink on the bone casings.

Measurements: Bust 29", Waist 19", Hips 25", Busk length 11".

Friday, 17 September 2010

Off-Side rider: Harriet Wadsworth Harper

I came across the website of The Long Riders' Guild, they describe themselves "Part museum, book store, tack room and Guild Hall, this website contains the world's largest collection of equestrian travel information".

It's a very interesting website which chronicles people from all over the world (past and present) and their journey's on horseback.

There are a few side saddle riders from the past chronicled on there but one stands out the most as she rode only on the off-side!

Her name was Harriet Wadsworth Harper...

"Unlike other women of her time, Harriet was unusual in that her side-saddle placed her legs on the right-hand side of the horse, not the left-hand side. "The family woke up one day to the fact that I had begun to look like a crooked little gnome. Something was wrong, so off I was sent to a surgeon, who ordered a steel and leather brace for me and suggested that a saddle to go on the right side of the horse should be made. This was to help correct my crooked back. No girls rode astride in those days - it was unthinkable.... I never changed back to riding on the near [left] side," Harriet wrote.

But what sets Harriet apart from other Historical Long Riders was not her saddle. It was the fact that she and her cousin, Martha Wadsworth, are the only Long Riders in history to have undertaken an equestrian journey together during which both riders used a side-saddle. In May 1907 they made a 1200-mile journey "down through Virginia to West Virginia, up the Ohio River, across Pennsylvania, and home to Genesee, New York. We stayed at farmhouses, in mining camps, any place that had spare beds."

In an interesting historical aside, one of the "pleasant companions" who joined the intrepid side-saddle Long Riders for a brief period was Gutzon Borglum "the sculptor who carved the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt into Mount Rushmore, South Dakota."

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Side saddle at The Queen's Year

Buckingham Palace put on a new exhibit this summer about Queen Elizabeth II and two side saddle artefacts of hers are in it!

According to the Telegraph newspaper, "Significant objects, artefacts, clothes and even hats from the "Queen's Year" will feature in a new exhibition marking the summer opening of Buckingham Palace. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were given a private viewing of the attraction, which opens to the public next week and traces a typical year in the monarch's life through all the paraphernalia and items associated with the events she attends."

Her Trooping of the Colour side saddle habit that she wore from 1953- 1986 is displayed,

As is her Mayhew type side saddle made by Turner & Bridger in 1969. The Queen rode Burmese with this saddle until 1986.

The Queen viewing her side saddle at the exhibit:

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Off-side Side Saddles

I just love riding on the off-side, it's so neat and different! I just wish there were more off-side saddles about as it's frustrating to love doing something but the equipment is hard to find!

These are are photos I've collected from various websites while Googling over the past couple of years showing various models of such a rare form of saddle.

An early 1920's off-side side saddle from the Czech republic found on the Czech Side Saddle website in an article on What and What NOT to buy.

A beautiful hardly used off-side Owen from the 1930's. This was a pony sized side saddle with a 15 1/2" seat (UK measurements).

A very rare Victorian Goodnight Style Off-Side Western side saddle from the mid 1890's. This was restored by the Side Saddlery, the story of it can be seen on the ISSO website.

A stunning Victorian era off-side side saddle from South America with a side hoop and slipped stirrup.

A beautiful modern off-side side saddle which was custom made by Tattersalls Side Saddles. So rare to see a new custom made one!

An old c. 1904 Edwardian Champion & Wilton off-side side saddle with a blocked head and which looks to be on a Wykeham pad.

Nick Creaton also has a beautiful and rare restored off-side Mayhew from the Edwardian era shown on his website.

This 1950's postcard is from my own collection and is of Princess Beatrix. Her off-side side saddle appears to be much older than the 1950's and looks to be Edwardian or early 1920's at the latest.

Just for a slight change of pace, an autumn photo! I had to take this photo this morning while I was poo-picking the paddock. the leaves are starting to change colors on the trees and Hattie and her stablemate, Chance (a 13hh Welsh Section C), were resting under a tree which was shedding it's leaves.