Friday, 10 September 2010

Riding On The Off-Side

It's ever so weird, you have to reverse everything you know and the hardest part is thinking "left shoulder back"! Getting on is hard too as it feels so weird getting on the off side as your left leg isn't used to boosting yourself up.

I think if someone had never ridden side saddle before, they would have an easier time adjusting to the off-side just because they would have never ridden on the nearside before.

It had rained a lot here in Leicestershire during August and we had many cold, damp days even when it wasn't raining so my arthritic right hip had been feeling a bit ouchy. The off-side side saddle gave it an opportunity to rest while I still got to ride.

And ride I did!

First off was making sure that it fit Hattie...

These photos of Hattie were taken after we had schooled and cantered around so the saddle had slipped up a little bit but not nearly as badly as my old saddle did before I had the point strap put on it.

My off-side saddle doesn't have a point strap on the other side and stayed pretty much put, which goes to show that a forward billet strap placement works for Hattie.

On the plus side too, she didn't buck even though the saddle slide a little forward like she did with my old saddle so it must be more comfortable for her.

The saddle was a ok fit for me too although I wish I just had at least a 1/2" to a 1" extra length as with the seat being a tiny bit short on me, it's hard to ride off your seat bones to give aids for cantering.

Now, let us agree that beige breeches are NOT my friend (these breeches will be going on Ebay!) and my butt really isn't this big in real life but you can see how the seat is coming up a little bit short on me.

I solved the length problem a little bit by adding a queen onto the fixed head and building it up more forward towards the front of the saddle creating a wider pommel. This enables you to sit more forward on the saddle and still allow your knee to bend around the fixed head properly as it has that new extra bit of length at the front of the pommel. This tip was given to me a few years back by Marti Friddle from Hundred Oaks Saddlery when I was looking for a short saddle to ride a 14.1 Arab but still fit me at 5'9".

I made the queen using a sponge and some sheepskin fleece that I had cut from an old girth cover. I put the sponge against the pommel for my left thigh to rest on as the original owner had thicker thighs than me and her fixed head placement was further over to the right than what I'd prefer. Then I rolled up the sheepskin fleece and lined that up at the front edge of the fixed head to give me an extra 1" of seat length. Then I rolled everything up around the fixed head with Vetrap to secure it all.

My new 5" pommel cover to go over a 4" pommel...

With my saddle being a bit more comfier with the 1" extra of seat I'd created, we had lots of hacks on the off-side throughout August- lots of canters, we rode through the ford river and then one day, we tried jumping on the off-side for a laugh..

I hadn't jumped side saddle since the South Kilworth show in May and had forgotten how much I loved jumping aside.

We had practised jumping astride since May as I had been working on getting Hattie to use her hind end as she gets heavy on the forehand when jumping as she gets excited, which causes her to take off long before a jump. We had been doing well with this schooling all through summer as she was lightening up on her cantering, riding into the fence and using her back and hind quarters to get a nice round jump.

Sigh, then on August 31, it I made a BIG mistake..

We were practising jumping aside in the field as we were going to jump aside at a show the following Sunday and all was going well. We started off on the trotting poles with a little 1" jump after the poles, that was perfect, then asked for a right lead canter to approach the second jump and while I was busy trying to keep her in canter, keep my LEFT shoulder back and LEFT toe down, my mind drifted for 1 second from the task at hand. Hattie sensed my "mental relaxation" and thought, "ok, Leila says it's ok for me to jump now as she's not doing anything to stop me, yippee!!" and took off long before the jump, catching me off guard causing me to lose my balance.

Hattie and I parted company over the jump and I went flying and hit the ground hard on my left side ribs, hip and then flipped over onto my back where the back of my head head the ground hard. I was winded for a second and all I could do was lie there with Hattie waiting there beside me, not moving from me until my friend ran over to see if we were ok.

Man that hurt!! I'm glad I was wearing a helmet too as my head hurt form the impact. I got back on and jumped that jump again (this time at a trot) and it was fine but once the adrenaline wore off, that is when the pain began!

My helmet was broken form the impact (it started squeaking whereas before, it didn't squeak)and it turns out when I went to the doctor two days later as my ribs were in so much pain that I couldn't sleep, that I had also fractured a rib!!! No riding for a MINIMUM of 4- 6 weeks!!!!

Sigh, my stupidly at rushing things and not concentrating, had cost me the fun of entering the show, 6 weeks of not riding, missed dressage competitions in October, a broken helmet and a broken rib!

Lesson learned, do it slowly and wear a helmet!


  1. Seriously ouchy!!! A broken rib is a painful thing to have.

  2. I know! I've never broken anything before but am surprised how painful a little rib can be. The doc gave me some strong painkillers (the kind they give to hip replacement patients!) but it's still ouchy even with them.
    Seriously annoyed with myself though!!