Sunday, 5 December 2010

So Sick of the Snow!

Sorry for the gap in my blog post, the UK came to a halt two weeks ago with sudden cold weather and snow, it never gets to -14C here. Ever. Except this year. I've been having to cycle back and forth in the ice and snow bringing my son to school, going to the stables, then to work, then back home, then to the stables and then to pick my son up from school that I am exhausted by the end of the day! Plus, our water tank froze at the stables so I have to climb under a barb weather fence, schlep across my neighbour's field to the river and get water with buckets. The things we do for our horses! I hate winter!

The dressage show got cancelled on the 28th due to the icy weather so our entries got put forward to the next show on December 12. Everything has started to thaw out this weekend but the forecast is due to be icy again this week. I'm hoping they are wrong as I will be so disappointed if this show gets cancelled too.

I booked the indoor arena yesterday and this morning at the boarding stable down the lane from me to practice our test since we have not been able to ride due to the poor weather. Hattie was alot more forward going so that is good but she is wanting to go on the forehand all the time. I think it may be due to us both now being out of shape. I keep having to do half halts to stop her from getting heavy on the bit and getting strung out. My equitation is starting to get a bit better and I think I'm getting used to the flatness of my saddle more. With trotting, now, I am able to get more of my weight at the front of my thigh, near the knee, onto my saddle and my right hip isn't going so forward as much. The indoor school has mirrors so it was been handy this weekend checking my position! I'm still not there equitation wise yet but at least I'm not regressing!

When the weather thaws out, I'm going to start taking side saddle lessons again. The saddler hasn't been able to come out to reflock my side saddles either due to the weather so that is a job for when things thaw out. They aren't too bad and my Manorgrove side saddle seems to have settled with the flocking packing down so much now. It's not too bad, just needs a bit more tweaking.

I went to the thrift stores near my work last week in an attempt to find things to make for our side saddle costume for the Christmas dressage show on the 19th. It was hard work but I *think* I will be the Snow Queen from the Narnia series. I bought some white curtains that have a creamy gold flocked style design on them to make an "apron" and a off-white linen waist length blazer that is fitted at the waist. I will wear that with my white show shirt and my stock tie. I also found a white fleecy scarf to sew around the lapel of the jacket and need to find some more fleecy material to make some cuffs for the jacket. I'm going to make some sort of crown for my riding helmet and cover that in tin foil.

For Hattie, I will make her a unicorn horn and cover that in tin foil and I found some silver Christmas bows and some silver tinsel stoles that I can put in her plaited mane. I also bought some silver tinsel stoles to wrap around the tops of the reins too and I'll use my pink and velvet diamante browband for that as well.

I need to start working on my costume this week!! When I'll have to time to do it though, is another story...

I wanted to share photos of a beautiful antique side saddle, taken by a fellow side saddle enthusiast and blogger, Lexie, at an auction last month...

It looks to be from the 1860's, maybe even the 1870's and is so unusual as it has stitching all over it! Usually, you just seen ornate stitching on the seat and/or on the safe but this has it all over.

The Victorians though that the fancy raised stitching gave the rider extra security which is why they use to put it on the seat and safe. There wouldn't have been any reason for a saddler to put it all over the saddle, especially on the off-side flap except to show off the saddler's talent and to make the saddle look pretty. The late Victorians and Edwardian got rid of the fancy stitching so as to get a more close contact feel in the saddle.

I love the off-side handkerchief case! The Y-shaped balance girth arrangement is typical of this era. It has a vestigial third pommel left over from earlier eras when saddles only had an upright pommel on each side of the right thigh. By this date, they were on saddles for "extra security" as a grab handle to steady the rider.

With the leaping head (which were not standard on saddles of this era, you had to pay extra to have one put on), and all the fancy stitching, it would have been a costly saddle when new.

Note the roller bar stirrup bar, these were used on side saddles even into the 20th century. My 1920's off-side side saddle has the same stirrup bar.

You can tell from the shape of the panels that it has a forked tree with tree points extending the same length down the side of the horse rather than the short off-side tree point that later saddles tended to have. A forked saddle makes for a more stable saddle but requires a perfect fit. Forked trees were also used into the Edwardian era as my old C&W had a forked tree.

I'm all for fixed heads being more to the left but this is really extreme! The rider must have had a VERY skinny leg to ride in this saddle! Lexie's obliging Other Half put his hand on the seat to show how extreme the position of the fixed head was.

Her horse matched her owner's build as well as the tree gullet looks very narrow, like for a Thoroughbred type. There is no cutback head either so that would have been a problem for a high withered horse, ironically, the type of horse this saddle would have fit! Lexie measure the gullet and it measured 4 1/2" which tends to reflect a narrow fitting.

What I can't get over, s how the saddle doesn't seem to have any wear on the ornate stitching! Especially on the nearside flap where the stirrup leather would normally cause wear from rubbing. It doesn't appear to have been ridden in very much. How strange that such a beautiful saddle has little wear!


  1. I think I saw the auction listing for this, but that only had one picture. How fantastic to see so many more! Did Lexie walk home with it?

    I'd wondered if it may have been a showpiece saddle, the sort of thing that gets entered into competitions and fairs, but never ridden. Oh, and that fixed pommel may well just be smushed, not originally that way.

  2. I'm thinking the same thing Jeannie, looks like that upright head got squashed down at some point in the saddle's life.

    What a gorgeous saddle though! Wouldn't that be something to have in a person's collection.

  3. Gorgeous saddle!!! I finally understand why some people buy sidesaddles just to put them on display.

  4. You both could be right about the fixed head being squished as Lexie did test the tree the way Laura Dempsey showed me, and suspected it was broken.

    She didn't end up buying it because of the suspected broken tree and lack of space to display it.

    Jeannie, I have a photo of an 1860's engraving of a fancy stitched show saddle that I found on ebay. I will post it tomorrow!

  5. I hope you guys thaw out. We are just heading into winter and right now the ground is frozen with not enough snow down to do anything other than walk. I got fullseat snowpants for riding which actually worked great, but I am hoping we get a good base of snow and NO ICE so I can trot again! Oh well, we are starting ground driving in harness for when it is too crappy too ride.