Friday, 26 November 2010

1920's Nardi Riding Habit

I just got my mail and inside one of the envelopes was an advertisement from April 1921 for a Nardi side saddle riding habit...

It was given to me by my friend Pam Fierro, who is a fellow vintage clothing dealer and who owns the fabulous website, Glamoursurf Vintage.
I collect vintage ads for riding habits and side saddles so this will fit nicely into my collection. Thanks Pam!

I like Nardi habits too, but sadly, it was a US maker so I doubt if many made it over to England.

I like the one the model is wearing in the ad. It still has the long jacket reminiscent of the 1910's but has the straight, non curvy lines which characterize the 1920's. It's kind of a transitional habit between the two decades.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tweaking My Saddle

Schooled for a bit today and practised the Intro B test for Sunday and we were absolute rubbish! Hattie was forward but going around with her head in the air and I was bouncing around all stiff with every muscle in my right thigh screaming at me. I had to get off at one point and do some stretches for my leg!! I must remember to stretch BEFORE riding, especially with this bone chilling cold weather that seems to have landed on us. On a positive note, our "free walk across the diagonal on a long rein" was not "lacking in purpose" this time, LOL!

I found out today from the lady who works at the post office, that there will be 44 entries at the show on Sunday and that it will be busy. I don't know how she knows this but she asked if I was doing the dressage on Sunday and I told her yes.

Well, I don't have a chance in hell if there are 44 entries so I thought that I may as well fail miserably looking good with this browband...

I bought it this summer at a horsey carboot sale for £15 and have always wanted to use it so thought may as well this Sunday! It's made from pink velvet with diamante rosttes at the sides. Even if I don't win a rosette, at least Hattie will be wearing some ;-)

I was having a think about the problem with my stirrup leather sliding off the Mayhew safety bar and having it unhook all the time with the least bit of movement and think I've managed to fix the problem!

On original Mayhew safety stirrup bars, the block underneath the little hook stud, extends further out than on modern Mayhew saftey stirrup bars. I've circled it in the photo of a 1930's Mayhew fitting to show what I mean...

The block on my fitting is squared off and does not extend into the space occupied by the stirrup leather. Unfortunately, because metal on metal slides around, when my stirrup leather moves from riding, there is nothing to stop to stop it from sliding forward into the stud, thereby, causing it to unlock. The extended block on the original Mayhew fittings, prevent the stirrup leather from sliding too far forward. It holds the stirrup leather far enough back to stop it from unlocking the bar from the stud.

With this "light bulb" moment, I decided to needed to stop my stirrup leather from sliding around on the bar. I can't weld an extend piece onto the existing block like an orginal Mayhew, so found a little piece of rubber, made two slits in it and slid it over the stirrup bar...

Then I just hook my Mayhew stirrup leather over the bar and rubber bit as usual and so far, my stirrup leather has not slid around and my stirrup bar unlocked! It doesn't interfere with the safety of it either as the everything still unhooks easily if pulled. The rubber just stops stirrup from sliding around too much.

I took photos of my saddle to check fit. Although it needs flocking up at the front, it still sits pretty level.

The sheepskin fleece girth cover is perfect to use under the front of the saddle to stop it from dropping down too much until the saddler can come and flock it up again. When I take off the pad, there are no ruffled or pressure spots so that is good.

It needs a little bit of flocking underneath my right thigh. I found out some interesting information about side saddle flocking and panels from a lady who had an Equxtra Manorgrove side saddle made for her too. She said that, "We are used to old saddles with hard-packed flocking but new side saddles were always known for their 'settling in' time. That is why the panels are covered with just the serge. You are then supposed to allow the flocking to pack down before you adjust the balance and put the linen on."

This is the tilt of my saddle after 30 minutes of riding in it. The tilt is a bit more pronounced before riding but this is normal due to the extra weight placed on the left of the saddle. The tilt to the right, counteracts this.

My saddle doesn't slide around as far forward as my old Champion & Wilton did. I don't have to use the point strap on the near side like I did with my old saddle instead I use the 1st and 2nd girth strap.

And then point and first on the off-side. I think I need a longer girth though as it's REALLY hard to get the girth buckle to meet the straps as this saddle is much higher than my old one. The girth I'm using is 54 1/2" so I reckon I need a 56" one with this saddle. I can't afford to buy another girth at the moment so will have to use an adapted girth extender in the mean time.

I don't think that my side saddle numnah will be here in time for the show so my friend was nice enough to lend me a normal square white dressage pad to use under my side saddle for Sunday. It's in the wash now!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dressage This Sunday!

Well, hopefully if it doesn't snow! Every winter, I get all excited for a show only to have it cancelled due to the weather. This thing is, when I rode in Canada, we had shows in all weather! Here in England, the weather isn't as bad and things get cancelled...

I'm really not ready to do any Prelim tests yet as what little riding I have managed to squeeze in between taking care of my son with a tummy bug, work, running my business, etc etc, is killing me due to my lack of fitness. I don't remember my muscles hurting nearly as much in my right thigh before! Must be getting older, I can't bounce back as quick as I did before but I did find my balance and position was a lot better today than it has been all week and I'm starting to get the suppleness back in my hips again.

I decided to do the Intro B test this Sunday and Hattie and I will be doing it side saddle which will be, um, "interesting" as I've only ever ridden the Intro B test once before (earlier this year) and that was astride. I don't like it as much as the Intro A test as I don't find it rides as smoothly and there are a few boring change of reins across the diagonal in it. There is an interesting move in it where you have to do a 20m circle in working trot at A and do it on a loose rein to allow the horse to stretch while keeping the forward movement and keeping the circle "circle" shaped!!

I have been practising this by really turning my head so Hattie can feel where to go and tapping her with the dressage whip on the inside to keep up her impulsion and not to let her drift inwards. At the same time, I have to use my outside leg to stop her from swinging her hind quarters out. So far, Hattie has been doing this well but I have to make sure our circles stay circle shape while at the same time, trying to make my equitation look easy and elegant when really my body just wants to bounce around, LOL!

Every dressage test we have done (except the one we did at the Side Saddle Association show), said that our free walks on a long rein across the diagonal were "lacking in purpose" and needed to be more forward. We have been practising that as well by me lightly tapping Hattie with the whip with every stride (like what my leg would be doing if I were astride) as it is a easy move that is so easy to mess up by the horse drifting and not being forward enough. If I can pick up a few extra points on a relatively easy move, then all the better!

Next month it's the Intro A test at the show but the Prelim ones on offer, are the hard ones with the RSVP letters in a long arena and too hard for me to cope with at the moment so I may try the Intro A test in my off-side side saddle for a challenge! Need to find an off-side apron to wear with my habit jacket though.

It's also the Christmas dressage show next month and I think that we will go with the Christmas Angel costume. I going to make a unicorn horn for Hattie and get silver tinsel and plait that into her mane. I need to go to the thrifts and see if I can find some white curtains or something to make an apron out of it. White velvet would be lovely but what are the chances of finding white velvet curtains?? There is a cheap fabric shop in town that I may visit to see if maybe I can get some cheap velveteen to fashion myself a apron type garment out of it. I'll need to find myself a white jacket or something for on top too! This is going to take some planning.

After this dressage show, I need to have the saddler come out and reflock both my nearside and my off-side saddles before I do anything else as they are desperate for flocking. I have a sheepskin girth cover with no seams on it that I've put underneath the front of my nearside saddle to lift it up a bit and that seems to work nicely for a temporary fix until the saddler is able to come out. My off-side saddle needs the right thigh building up A LOT as the flocking is squishy.

When I went to the Your Horse live show the other weekend, I came across these mounting blocks and I thought they would be excellent for getting on a side saddle as they come up higher than normal mounting blocks...

I stood on one at the show and I was much higher than my normal little Rubbermaid folding mounting steps. I'm finding with my current mounting steps, that I struggle to get on my new side saddle (especially with my body protector on) as it's higher than what my old saddle was or even my off-side is. Unfortunately, these plastic mounting steps priced ridiculously for a hunk of plastic and out of my budget for the time being but I think it's something that I will save up for in the New Year to save wear and tear on my saddle (and on my back!).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Side Saddle Christmas Costume Ideas?

Next month, my local riding club is having a Christmas dressage show where you can dress up and do your test that way. Hattie and I won it last year with me being dressed up as Mrs. Santa Claus and Hattie being a reindeer.

I don't know what to be this year, any suggestions?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Victorian Equestrian: Louise-Léontine Massin

I collect antique side saddle related photographs and often I come across ones of 19th century celebrities (actresses, opera singers, famous courtesans) wearing riding habits. Actresses, even though many of them became rich and famous, were not considered part of "proper" society due to how they acquired their money and their profession. Since riding was considered a proper sport for women with wealth to engage in, actresses often donned riding habits (whether they ride or not) to give them an air of respectability in their photos.

Usually they are identified but a few years ago, I came across this very late 1860's- early 1870's colorized CDV photo of a woman wearing a habit which was not. I had a feeling she may have been a famous person as the photographer, Charles Reutlinger of Paris, was mostly only frequented by actresses/actors, etc.

Then not long after finding this photo, I happened across the non colorized verison of the photo and thought, yes, this MUST be someone famous, but who? Yes, normal people sometimes had doubles made of their photos to give to family and friends but what are the odds of finding an identical photo of the same person in two completely different places taken by a photographer whose clientèle were celebtrities?

Well, this lady remained a mystery until the other day when I came across an Ebay auction for yet ANOTHER identical photo of the same lady! I can now identify her as Louise-Léontine Massin and she was an actress.

Here is her mini bio from the Ebay auction:

Born in Paris in 1847, Massin worked first as a seamstress. At the age of sixteen, she joined the Folies-Marigny, and then in 1865, the Palais-Royal, where she became a great favourite of the public due to her beauty. She next joined the Gymnase before being engaged by the Vaudeville in 1872. After a tour of Russia, she returned to Paris, where in 1881 she created the role of Nana. A year later she triumphed in La Marchande des Quatres Saisons. She died in 1901 during an attack of delirium in the asylum of Saint-Maurice.

There doesn't seem to be much information around on her, especially if she rode or not. On an interesting note, I found this French website that disputes her birth date as being 1853 as her father seems to have given three various birth dates (1847, 1848 and 1853). It also states that later in life, she became destitute and was found dying in the street from hunger and the cold. It was then that she was placed in the asylum where she died a few days later.

An edit to this post, this is a photo for Lexi to show where to measure the gullet in a side saddle!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Side Saddles at Your Horse Live!

I was lucky enough to get to go to Your Horse Live yesterday which was held not too far away at the great agricultural event center, Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire.

I had been two years ago and hadn't been prepared for all the shopping and exhibits on offer so came prepared this year with spending money I had saved up by Ebaying tack and stuff that I didn't need anymore, bringing my own sandwich (food there is very expensive) and bringing my pink shopping trolley for me to carry all the stuff I bought in!

The good thing about Your Horse Live is that there are all kinds of equine stands there from tack to feed, insurance, to stands selling riding boot polish or offering information on equestrian university courses. There are LOTS of feed stands giving out free samples and I got three good size shopping bags full of various feed samples including a pot of Biotin which was handy as I needed some too. It's the feed samples that weigh you down so I was glad I brought my shopping trolley with me. I entered loads of competitions to win a years supply of feed, a Jeffries saddle and bridle, an Equitrek horse box worth £27 000 and an Ifor Williams horse trailer. I wouldn't mind winning the horse box or trailer as I REALLY could do with some transport to get to shows!!! I won a bag of Top Spec Leisure Time horse feed on Friday so I'm hoping my luck extended to Saturday as well.

When I had gone in 2008 to Your Horse Live, there wasn't anything side saddle there but I was pleasantly surprised by the few aside perks that were there!

When we first arrived, we came across a tack stand which had a small concession of vintage and antiquarian horse books. I just had a quick look through the selection and found To Whom The Goddess, Hunting and Riding for Women written in 1932 by Lady D. Snedden and Lady Apsley.

I had wanted this book for ages as it has a photo of a lady named Mrs. A H Straker as in 2005, I bought several of her 1930's Roberts & Carroll riding habits from a lady in Rutland that knew her.

This is Mrs. Straker, note her saddle with the short off-side flap and long billets...

and this was one of her habits that I bought. It was too small for me, it fit about a 36" bust and all of her habits were made from navy blue cavalry twill. I wonder if it was the same one that she was wearing in the photo?

We wandered around a bit and came across a stand selling some 2nd hand tack and lo and behold, there was a side saddle for sale!

The price was £1000 so out of my budget now after paying for my Manorgrove saddle but it seemed to be in pretty good condition. I didn't see a maker's label but it had an Owen fitting on it.

The seat from cutback to cantle was 18" and a comfy 15" across the seat. The length from front of fixed head to cantle was 22". The lady, who looked about 5'11" or 6' (I'm 5'9" and she was taller than me) who was selling it, said it was one of four that she had owned and ridden in but now was the last one she had. I really liked it but the gullet only measured 5" so was a solid medium fit but Hattie needs a medium/wide 5 1/2".

We came across some riding simulators which used mechanical horses and to my delight, one had a side saddle so signed myself up to have my riding analysed. It was being done by Sue Carr at Equine Extra, and was a bargain at £5.00 for 10 minutes.

I explained to Sue that I had ridden side saddle before and about my accident and how my riding has now gone to crap since then and could she please help me!

First Sue made me get on and sit astride to center myself. The saddle as a 16" Mayhew with a slightly dipped seat but very comfortable. To my surprise, I felt so wobbly up there on my robot horse, Bob. It made me realize how much our real horses compensate for us!

Then she made me hitch my legs up so that I could feel both my seat bones. I have nasty habit of just relying on my right seat bone and leaving my left one floating around. That felt weird too.

when I could feel both seat bones, she made me sit astride again and turned Bob on at a walking pace to get the feel of him. Although bob felt very similar to a real horse, it was a more sway- front and back movement if that makes sense? I suppose how a smooth gaited Paso Fino horses or similar feels. We also did a bit of trotting and cantering astride.

Sue noticed that I carry my left shoulder higher than the other and that my left leg was creeping up. She said that all my left side was stiff and tense and that this was normal due to the nature of my accident as it was the way my body carried itself while I was injured to hold everything together and a way now to protect itself. She made me sit square again so that I could feel both seat bones and pulled my left leg back to show me where my leg should be when sitting side saddle.

She also told me to BREATHE as I'm tensing up from nerves due to my body being tense from the accident- to breath in through the nose and out through the mouth as that helps to relax the muscles. I must say that it does work as I hacked Hattie out on a fast hack today and she was off her head today (I decided to ride astride) and did my breathing as Sue told me and it help to calm me and Hattie down and enable me to ride her positively despite her cantering on the spot and going sideways!

Then Sue let me sit side saddle and told me to keep my diaphram up and to BREATHE (LOL, who would ever think that it would be so hard to breathe!). She told me not to keep my right shoulder back so much and to lean slightly to the left as my left shoulder was up and my left seat bone floating around. I felt weird doing this, it felt foreign but immediately when I did it, Sue and her assistant assured me that I was now sitting perfectly level!! I'm naturally wonky anyways but it's strange to think how much of a degree that I'm crooked and how it must affect Hattie.

She had me so some shoulder exercises while I was riding at the walk and canter to help loosen up my tense muscles but we didn't do much trotting aside as I need to work on loosening up my muscles first and it was causing my left leg to creep up into it's fetal position to grip the leaping head in a death grip!

When I hacked out today, I did some stretches before getting on Hattie and tried to lean slightly to my left as even in my astride saddle (a flat close contact saddle), my left seat bone floats around. When I did this, I felt both in contact with the saddle. I also did my shoulder exercises too when I rode and this did help to "de-tensify" me.

After my mini side saddle lesson, Sue told me to just start back and square one with side saddle and to do walking only for the time being, preferably without the leaping horn to learn to keep my leg down. This is a bit of a bugger really as the Manorgrove leaping horns are hard to get back in so I may just length my stirrup leather a hole or two to encourage a longer leg. She wrote a list of things to work on while walking:

2) BREATHE, in through nose, out through mouth.
3) To use my core (this is the part of keeping my diaphragm up) but don't hold breath!
4) Keep my shoulders square and do my left shoulder exercise which are backward shoulder rolls.
5) Make sure I am sitting center (I will have to remember to lean slightly to the left and get someone to check that I am straight).
6) Keep my right knee forward and down (I was tensing and gripping too tightly around the fixed head).
7) Don't do a death grip on the pommels with my legs so this is where the non-leaping head work (or in my case, longer stirrup length) will be beneficial to stop my left leg from creeping up into the vice grip.

My overall comments were "Quite alot of tension" and to "spend time working slowly". She also recommended to start with my lessons again which I will once my finances recover.

I think this £5.00 that I spent on my mini lesson was the best £5.00 that I have ever spent as it answered my questions of why I have been riding so badly and how I start to fix it again. I knew I had to do things slowly but at least I know the area that needs to be fixed which will help my aside and astride riding.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Yippee! I Found the Impossible!

I was googling last night and came across a Christie's (South Kensington, London) auction catalog for their upcoming sale on November 23, 2010 and found this wonderful Edwardian bronze horse model wearing a side saddle!

It is described as "AN AUSTRIAN COLD-PAINTED BRONZE MODEL OF A HORSE BERGMAN FOUNDRY, VIENNA, EARLY 20TH CENTURY. With a side saddle, the underside stamped 'B' within an urn, 'GESCHUTZT/3260' 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm) high."

I would so love to own it but with an estimate of £5000 to £8000, it's a "bit" out of my budget that I use to occasionally treat myself to a Breyer horse! LOL!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

In Search of the Impossible..

Two things I am looking for and are impossible to find...

A fleece saddle cover for my off-side side saddle and a numnah for it too.

I emailed a seller on Ebay that sells fleece side saddle covers to ask if they would be able to make me one and received no response. How annoying, and it's not as if I have never bought from them before too! How hard would it to say "Sorry, we don't do 'em!".

The numnah is more trickier to find though.

I REALLY like Mattes numnahs as they are hard wearing and just look nice. It's cheaper to order them straight from Mattes as well and you can choose any color. They are thin too so don't get in the way of a properly flocked saddle. I wanted to order a few for my Manorgrove, a white one for dressage, a brown one for showing/schooling and a pink one just for fun. I don't think they do an off-side one though but I wonder if I emailed them and asked, if they would be able to make a custom one? I'd just order a pink one as I wouldn't be showing or doing anything fancy in my off-side saddle.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Going Backwards?

Sorry for the gap in my posting but I have been so busy with work and just "stuff"! I didn't get to ride much last week and won't be able to ride this week as my son is poorly with a BAD stomach bug. We had to go to the hospital on Monday as he got dehydrated and only got discharged last night! He's slowly on the mend now but I hope no one else gets it as it's a NASTY bug.

I did go on a hack on Saturday and that was, um, "interesting"! I do not know what has gotten into Hattie's head but she was STRONG! We had a little canter on one of the grass verges and she wanted to GO! Then on Sunday we hacked to a local show to watch my friends jump and Hattie was good there, even when one of my friend's horses decided that he didn't want anything to do with the show and high tailed it out of there back home! After the show we decided to go on a hack and just got to the lane when Hattie started doing her prancey-dancey-bucking thing on the spot. Usually I can ride it out but decided to go back home.

I feel like such a wimp now since my accident and feel that my riding has gone WAY downhill. I feel a bit disheartened with my lack of fitness and lack of riding skill at the moment. It also doesn't help that my new saddle desperately needs more flocking added as it has a decided tilt to the right and has gone right down at the front causing it to slide up onto her shoulders (which may have caused the prancey-dancey-bucking thing). I know side saddles are supposed to tilt slightly to the right to compensate for the additional weight caused by both legs on the near side but this is ridiculous. So I'm going to need more flocking under my right thigh.

I keep wanting to corkscrew towards the nearside in my saddle (probably caused by the extreme tilt) so I made myself a new thick queen for the fixed head to help keep myself central until I have the saddler come out to do the flocking.

I'm finding though, that I like a more "over to right" fixed head anyways. I find that alot of side saddles (with the exception of my old Champion and Wilton), have the fixed heads too far over to the left and too much of a curve to them for my liking. I always feel like I have to reach for the pommels which then makes my right hip and right shoulder go too far forward and corkscrews me to the nearside which is NOT what you want!

I could do with a bit more padding at the middle (I'll wrap it some more this weekend) but it's ALOT more comfortable that it was before and helped my position a bit more too.

The extra padding also kind of gives it a quasi "blocked head" shape that the old Champion & Wiltons had at the turn of the century which is also more comfortable for my arthritic knee.

I found some photos on the NEA Side Saddle Association's "Measuring Saddle & Rider" page, showing the different types of fixed pommel sets.

Comparing them to the pommel set photos shown on the NEA Side Saddle Association website, my Manorgrove side saddle has a "wide set" pommel, my off-side side saddle is kind of middling between the "medium" and the "wide" set pommels. My old Champion and Wilton had a position similar upright pommel shown in the last photo (but without the curved top edge jutting out over the thigh) which I found very comfortable. I have to use loads of padding on the Manorgrove and my off-side saddle to get the pommel to the comfy uprightness shown in the last photo. The NEA Side Saddle Association says that the uprightness of this style of pommel "impairs rider's position and comfort" but I don't find so.

Although I'm considered "overweight" by weight charts, my legs fairly toned from riding and riding my bike everyday so I guess I've found out the hard way, that the curve that most fixed pommels have, is not right for me. If I ever get to have another side saddle made, I'm going to have it made with a very upright pommel.

Anyways, back to my rubbish riding skills... I think that once I get my saddle flocked properly, I'm going to have to do baby steps and go back to the basics. When we went back home after the prancey-dancey-bucking episode, we went up to use my friend's outdoor arena to school in so I could get some of Hattie's energy out and would you believe she WOULD NOT canter? Sigh...

It's going to be lots of basic schooling for Hattie AND me like walk/trot transitions so I can work on getting my position back properly and my fitness back and getting Hattie used to side saddle again. For hacking at the moment, until my side saddle is reflocked properly and my position is starting to improve in the school, I'm going to just hack out astride in case Hattie has another episode while out.

When my finances recover, I want to start having side saddle lessons again too to fix any bad habits that I've acquired. It's mind boggling how much my injury knocked me back from winning 1st in equitation to learning how to ride again!! Our baby steps goal, is to do the Intro A dressage test at the end of the month. If the saddles or us are not ready, then I'll do it next month. I'm not going to rush things, riding is supposed to be fun.

Anyways, I'm going to have my local saddle come out to reflock my Manorgrove as he knows side saddles and he always does an excellent job (and he's only 10 minutes away). While he's here, I'm going to have my off-side side saddle done as well as that desperately needs reflocking as well. It's ok at the front but I'm having to use a riser pad at the back but the only problem is, I have to use a normal nearside side saddle pad which of course, doesn't fit an off-side one properly! I'm going to see if he can't do something about the sensitive Mayhew fitting that my Manorgrove has as it took me three attempts to get on with a mounting block without having that darn stirrup leather fly off the bar!! Give me a nice Champion & Wilton fitting any day.