As much as I love my off-side side saddle, it isn't really the most practical of items for me as the seat is a tad small for me to any serious, everyday riding in and I can't afford to get off-side aprons made for showing anyways(there are very few vintage ones about- especially ones to fit someone who is 5'9" and a size 14/16!).
When I went to the Nationals and spoke to the side saddlers there, prices for a custom saddle seem to start at £2600 and go upwards from there which is WAY WAY above what I could afford. With Hattie's awkward conformation, finding another antique one to fit her, would be like looking for a needle in a haystack so needed to find another solution.
Over the past year, I had seen the Equxtra Manorgrove side saddle for sale on Ebay and always thought it looked like a nice saddle for a reasonable price. I did a bit of research on the saddle as I had never actually seen one in person and was worried that it was a saddle made in India out of Indian leather. A couple of the side saddlers at the National show said that it was an English leather saddle made in Walsall (which is only about 45 minutes away from me) on a proper Alton & Butler side saddle tree NOT a cheap Indian made saddle on an astride tree and that it looked well made but that was just about all they knew about it.
Also thanks to the power of the internet, I managed to track down several people who had experience with the saddle (in the UK and the US!) and all but one was very happy with it. One lady in the USA had one made for her broad Morgan and uses it for USEF hunter classes (including jumping to 3'6"), Prix St George dressage, and for eventing. The one person who wasn't happy, said that it wasn't wide enough for her extra wide horse but that the quality was excellent.
So with that info, I booked the Equxtra saddler to come out and fit Hattie! I had explained on the phone about Hattie's conformation and how saddles slide forward on her and he said that there were several things he could do.
Then the fateful day in late August arrived and the saddler came out to measure Hattie up!
The saddler took tracings of her and I showed him how the off-side side saddle fit on her as well. He agreed that she was definitely a medium/wide fit as she is quite chunky at the withers.
So, what he is going to do, is put a point strap on the off side of my new saddle and put the 1st and 2nd billet straps as close to the tree points as he can get (just like on my off-side side saddle). He is also going to put the 3rd billet strap a little further back just to stabilize the back of the saddle so it doesn't tip forward and drive down into her withers when it's girthed up.
He liked the style of my antique three buckle Owen girth as because it forks out, it helps to stabilize the saddle and spread the weight evenly so he's going to make me a new one for my new saddle as well.
Since my thigh measures 21", he said that the size 17" seat (UK measurement) would fit me and would not come past Hattie's last rib. The saddle is going to be brown with doeskin seat and pommels and serge panels. He's going to make my fixed pommel a bit wider than normal so that it gives me a bit more comfort and support when my arthritis is acting up in my knee. I also opted for the Mayhew stirrup fitting instead of the Owen one as the Owen one can bit a bit fiddly.
The saddler won't be putting an overgirth on Hattie's saddle as the buckle tends to rub her behind the elbow. The off-side flap with have a tab fastening which will be comfy for Hattie and convenient for me!
He's currently making another side saddle so mine should be ready toward the end of October!!