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!


  1. Thank you for writing about the problems that you have and not just the highlights. I am getting a real insight into sidesaddle riding.

  2. I am considering a Manorgrove saddle. I am trying to contact the maker. I am a pretty serious dressage rider (second level) with an Andalusian and we compete in teh US. Can you comment in more depth on the quality of your saddle?

    The only thing that comes up on the internet is your blog! It is a very nice blog and I enjoy it!

    Jane Marie Law
    Ithaca, NY

  3. Hi guys,

    Thanks for your comments! Sorry for the delay in replying, I'm always just so darn busy and it's hard to fit everything in the day. My blog is my "relaxation" activity so you can see I never get to relax! LOL!

    Jane, I think my saddle was worth every penny of the £1500 I paid for it. Yes, there are some things I would change had I known then what I know now but they have nothing to do with the quality or workmanship of the saddle- just things to suit my own preferences.

    It's not of £2600+ quality of a say, Laura Dempsey saddle with fine finishing touches, but it's just as safe. It's kind of like comparing a Hermes saddle with an Albion saddle, both are beautiful, safe and well made but the Hermes is just that little bit nicer finished.

    The leather and doeskin, is English leather and all made in Walsall, nothing is made in India. I spoke to Laura Dempsey at the National show and she said that they use the same trees as her so they are proper side saddle trees.

    The things I would change if I buy another saddle from them (which I would do and the saddler is looking into seeing if an off-side tree can be made for me)..

    -Pad up my fixed head a bit more as I find it's curved too much for larger leg than mine.

    -Put slightly longer billet straps (I find them short) as I struggle to get the girth to meet them but again, this is personal as I suffer from arthritis in my hands and it would make it easier for me (and I'm too cheap to buy a longer girth).

    -I *think* I would have an Owen fitting put on instead of a Mayhew as I find the Mayhew too sensitive for me. I know others have preferred having a Mayhew put on.

    -Get a REMOVABLE leaping head cover put on. The ones he puts on cannot be taken off except by a saddler. I know he would be able to change it for me but I'm too lazy to contact him as then I would be out of action without a saddle for a little while.

    My saddle isn't made with a two position leaping head for some reason although in the Ebay auction, it says they are (and others I know have them on their saddles).
    I'm not too fussed as I don't like too low a leaping head and would keep it on the top hole anyways even if I had it BUT because the leaping head cover doesn't come off, if I need to remove the leaping horn for any reason, it's a bugger to screw back onto the saddle as the cover doesn't come off.

    My husband has to screw it back on with brute strength as the immovable padding prevents you from lining up the screw thread properly.

    -My balance girth strap is attached to my saddle by a D ring but I've seen photos of other people's Manorgroves and theirs are attached onto their saddles without D-rings (just attached as normal underneath the off-side saddle flap) which makes it look much neater. I'm not too fussed about it as I've seen antique saddles with a similar arrangements but it's my own personal aethetics.


  4. The stitching on the saddle looks to be machine and hand sewing and everything is tight. The flocking is wool (he showed me what the flocking was when he came to fit it) but it does pack down quickly so you will need to keep an eye on it and get it re-adjusted fairly soon after by your saddler in the US.

    The billet straps aren't sewn onto a piece of linen like classic side saddles but are attached onto the saddle by D-rings (like how new Wintecs or Thorowgood saddles have) which makes them easy to change if you need new billets. It doesn't affect the safety of the saddle or even affect the girthing of it but just makes the difference between a £2600 saddle and a £1500 one.

    I really like the off-side tab feature of them as because of Hattie's conformation, the overgirths rub her badly but I can't have a saddle with outside girthing as I need a point strap so the tab feature is perfect for us! Hattie has not had one rub with this saddle and it has not gone onto her shoulders like my old C&W did.

    I cannot fault the leather or any of the workmanship. I think it looks modern looking "Owen" saddle kind of like how Owen saddels would look today if ther were still in existence. If you want something that looks like a classic antique, you will be disappointed. Laura Dempsey's look like antique saddles but with a £1100+ difference, I REALLY don't care if mine looks antique or not.

    John Lilley, the saddle is REALLY nice to work with and he's the first saddler that actually fit a saddle to Hattie that did not shoot forward onto her withers. I gave him a £500 deposit in cash when he came to measure Hattie and 9 weeks later, he came back with a beautiful saddle (the leather smells nice, I keep sniffing it, LOL!).

    I'm of two minds whether I like a dipped seat like what my C&W had or a perfectly flat one like the Manorgrove has (it rides like an Owen) but after getting used to it, I think I'm starting to prefer the seat of it. I've been practising for my dressage test next Sunday and I find that I can sit the trot better in it and put weight more forward onto my right thigh.

    I hope this helps and if you have anymore questions, please ask away! :)

  5. Well, time got away from me and I am just now sitting down to read your post. (New Year's Eve!) Thank you ever so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response. I am now getting kind of serious about this, and have been posting some messages to lists here in the US. One woman wrote me off list and she rides upper level dressage and said that she really likes the Manorgrove best of all because in lateral movements it does not bridge and is very balanced. So, I think I am going to go with this recommendation. I think it is nice to have a list of all of your options that I can do. I am going to contact the saddler and see what he can do from this distance, as he can't come and measure my horse!

    You are very kind and I am really grateful to you.

    Incidentally, my husband is British and we come to the UK from time to time. Maybe I could come and meet you and Hattie one day!

    best wishes,

    Jane MArie (and her horse Lucio who is going along with all of this)
    in Ithaca, NY

  6. PS I spent my New Year's eve watching your videos! Nice!

    Jane Marie in Ithaca, NY

  7. Thank you Jane Marie!

    Yes, my Manorgrove fits Hattie well (although it needs reflocking now but this is normal for new side saddles) but I think that if I ever have another made (if I get another horse or I end up getting an off-side one made), then I think I'm going to have the fixed pommel padded up a bit more.

    It's fine if you have very large thighs but if you have average (I'm 5'9" and a US size 14) or slim thighs, I find the curve of the fixed pommel TOO curved for my average sized leg.

    I have to pad out the fixed head to make the pommel straighter or else it feels like I'm reaching for the pommel and then it makes my right hip go forward.

    These are just personal preferences though as it is a proper side saddle tree (the same as what Laura Dempsey uses) but I think Manorgrove just tend to make a "one size fits all" fixed pommel as standard so that it fits everyone, even the largest of riders and then anyone smaller, can pad it up.

  8. And yes, you would be more than welcome to visit Hattie and I!