Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Looking back at all the side saddle things Hattie and I have accomplished over 2011, I must say we haven't done too badly despite me breaking my rib and Hattie getting that darn bump on her withers from an ill fitting saddle! We finally got to go to some shows where we did very well, did some jumping, FINALLY managed to do a couple of Prelim tests AND despite countless unsuitable saddles, we managed to find our beloved Whippy- without with, we wouldn't have been able to do all this fun side saddle stuff this past year.

So I take this opportunity to thank my saddle...thank you Whippy!

What plans do I have for 2012?

First thing is first, I have the side saddler coming out in January to DE-flock my side saddle. Then this coming year, plan to continue doing the Prelim tests, work on our jumping and attend the clear round jumping show which is held every month- maybe work up the nerve to jump higher than 1' but we'll have to see!! Hopefully we will be able to attend more shows as well if I am lucky enough to get lifts if not, then we'll just stick to the shows we normally do in the summer. Hopefully, I will be able to find another off-side side saddle as well to do some competing on too.

I would also like to join the International Side Saddle Organization and enter their points program too so I need to get my membership sent off to them.

So quite a few things to do this coming year!!

Now, time to get off the computer and pull some left over Christmas crackers but would like to wish all my side saddle friends here and their families, a VERY HAPPY AND SAFE 2012!


Friday, 30 December 2011


My friend Gill and I booked the indoor school at Blaby Mill Stables to practice some jumping as the Christmas show that was cancelled on the 18th, has been postponed to a later date so that means we will have two jumping shows in January. Whoo hoo!!

Hattie quite happy to jump today and we had fun! We'll never be international show jumpers but we are quite happy popping our little fences. Keeps Hattie happy as she loves jumping and keeps me feeling alive!

Did some flatwork which was nice and forward (it has really made a difference with my saddle fit and Hattie's way of going with me scooting as far forward as I can get on my saddle), then it was jumping time which Gill graciously filmed (she asked if she could have a go on my saddle next time!). I'm pleased to see how rock solid my right leg has become.

Our first attempt with a straight on the left rein, Hattie was good with this one but she was staring to get hyper so we put the fences down to a cross rail after...

After we put it down, Hattie was still a little frazzled so it is our "blooper" video. I think Gill was being sarcastic at the end, LOL.

Jumping on the right rein, Hattie was starting to calm down...

Our blooper video, I didn't ride her forward enough (and our line was wonky) and she got lazy with her feet.

One more time on the right rein to end on a good note...

And once more on the left rein to end our schooling on a good note!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

If I Could Turn Back Time..

My first side saddle lesson was a complete disaster. It was a clinic with Roger Philpot in May 2009 at Witham Villa Riding Centre and was going to be my first ever proper side saddle lesson as up until then, my aside instruction had consisted of reading books, looking at You Tube Videos and trial and error! Hattie had only been ridden TWICE aside before as well and that was only walking around in my field with my old C&W with it's narrow panels!!

I was so looking forward to the clinic and it was a bargain at only £25. The side saddler had also come out in February to make a Wykham pad for my old C&W and had promised that it would be ready in time for the clinic in May so I was looking forward to using my newly renovated saddle at the clinic as well.

Well, nothing ever happens like it's supposed to and it all went to pot. It ended up being a BAKING HOT day and the saddler didn't have my saddle ready for the clinic so Roger Philpot had to loan me a saddle on the day (a Mayhew). It fit me nicely and seemed to fit Hattie nicely BUT if you have been reading my blog long enough, you will know how awkward a horse Hattie is to fit, even if you have the correct tree width and everything.

All was well walking around the school at the beginning of the lesson, that is, until the midges came out. It was then, for the first time, that I discovered that Hattie is a head shaker during the midge season in the summer and needs a nose net to be ridden in when it's bad day. I had only had Hattie since December 2008 so had not encountered the hot midge season with her and was not informed of this! That hot day out of all the days, was the worst and eventually near the end of the clinic, one of Roger's assistants managed to find and borrow a nose net from one of the private boarders at Witham Villa as Hattie was unrideable.

Not only did the midges ruin our lesson, but as soon as we started trotting, that darn Mayhew did nothing else but to shoot straight onto Hattie's shoulders which caused her to have a bucking fit. So I had a head shaking bucking bronco to deal with as a beginner aside rider.

The assistant came to my rescue, tried to adjust the saddle again, led me around at a walk and gave me pointers on my position. I was pretty disappointed with the day as I was looking forward to riding and having a canter as everyone else got to canter, even those who had never ridden side saddle before. At the end of the lesson, Roger also told people what saddles they should get, if they were ready for County standard showing, tips for their riding, etc but I was just kind of left out which made me feel even more like useless crap as I needed some guidance. That Mayhew saddle shooting forward, was a hint of things to come!

I made sure to invest in two nose nets when I got home which I still use when it's midge high season.

My husband had video'ed the day but he deleted it as it was crap so I never got to see the little bit of riding that we did. Surfing on You Tube tonight however, I stumbled across a video taken by the friend of one of the other riders in the clinic! You can see the kind of stuff we or shall I say, they, did that day and see Hattie and I just standing there like bumps on a log (everyone else had greys) along with when the assistant finally managed to track down a nose net and tie it to Hattie's noseband.

Roger Philpot hasn't come back to Witham Villa since but if he ever does, Hattie and I will be prepared with nose nets and a Whippy with a point strap on it!!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Telluride Historical Museum: Saddle Up!

Found this while Googling "side saddle" as you do, a nice image of a Western side saddle although the author is slightly misinformed that you need two men to "hoist" a woman in a side saddle! A mounting block will do just fine :)

Telluride Historical Museum: Saddle Up!: First invented in the 1380's as a means to protect the virginity of aristocratic girls while riding, the primitive sidesaddle was chair like...

YAY! No Snow!

After the show got cancelled last Sunday due to the light dusting of snow, it's been very spring like out. Hopefully it will stay that way for the rest of winter as I REALLY HATE snow.

Last year our annual Christmas Eve pub hack got cancelled due to bad weather (ice and snow) but this year, it was very green!!

Got my top hat and veil out, decided to wear my wool habit as although it was spring out, it would have been too cold for my lightweight Mears habit and put Hattie's pelham bit on her bridle since it was a special occasion. It's a lozenge pelham (like a KK bit but stainless steel instead of Herm Sprenger's Aurigan metal) and Hattie went really well in it. It was the first time I rode her in this particular bit too so I think I may use it as her showing bit in the summer.

I also experimented with double rein placement after reading several ways of holding double reins and decided afterwards that the snaffle rein held under my little finger and the curb between my little and 4th finger was the most comfiest and easiest for my hands.

The pub we go to, called the Glen Parva Manor, was built in the mid 15th century so it has a nice atmosphere about it especially on Christmas Eve. It was a fun day and here are some photos of the festivities!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

An Edwardian Sportswoman's Riding Corset

Bah humbug, I HATE snow!!! Here in England, if it snows a few flakes, everything shuts down and gets cancelled.

It was supposed to be the Christmas clear round jumping show today run by my local riding club but instead it got cancelled at the last minute this morning due to the light sprinkling if snow we had this morning just as we were about to get ready.

I was so disappointed as the show got cancelled last Christmas but that was understandable due to the amount of ice and snow we had. This year, it was going to be a bit special as we were going to jump side saddle and my 10-going-on-11 year old son was going to enter the kid's fancy dress class on my friend's Connemara, Smokey.

I had started the costume last year but never finished it as the 2010 Christmas show got cancelled a few days beforehand so I ended up finishing it this week in preparation for today's show. Now he will never get to wear it after all my hard work, as it probably won't fit him next December and he will be nearly 12 for the next show and more than likely, won't want to do the class (it took much coercing to get him to do it this year). All ruined due to a light dusting of snow that was gone before I got back home before 10:30 the morning (the show was supposed to start at 10:30).

I was too annoyed to ride today so instead, here is a look at a lovely turn of the century riding corset which was once part of my antique corset collection...

1900- 1905. A sporting corset made from creme colored silk and lined in white jean.

Although there are no maker's marks present, it was most likely made by Symington(Market Harborough, Leicestershire). The Symington corset collection describes the corset as being "an avant-garde design for the sportswoman, this corset includes many features and adaptations to make it suitable for riding, cycling, tennis and golf."

The corset is cut under the bust to allow the body to move with ease and cut high in the hip to allow for the correct position during side saddle riding.

The top and bottom edges of the corset are trimmed with a narrow band of Broderie Anglaise. Extremely narrow rows of cording run parallel with the top and bottom edges of the corset. The boning is whalebone and runs the full length of the corset at the sides and alongside the grommets while shorter whalebones are seen on the stomach and back side panels. These short bones along with the cording, would have given the figure the required support yet still allowed for ease of movement during sports. Stocking suspenders on this corset were kept to a bare minimum of two so that stockings could still be worn but without the constraint of additional suspenders.

The busk is perfectly straight as was fashionable during the Edwardian era. Measurements: Waist 22 1/2", Busk length 11".

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What Are The Odds?

We did some schooling today for the clear round jumping show on Sunday despite the freezing cold and it went good! I remembered to scoot myself MUCH more forward that I was used to and the saddle didn't feel too bad in doing so. The panels will still need bringing down all over due to being so overstuffed but sitting more at the front of the saddle, caused it not to tilt to the left so much and opened up more room behind for my big bum. Hattie seemed happier and our jumping was quite good. She took off on the correct spot and got her correct leads afterwards. Hattie will do auto-changes BUT, and a big BUT, only if I'm sitting balanced and secure. I think she was happier with my sitting more at the front of the saddle.

It felt weird as I'm not used to it but it did feel secure. I kept having to check that I could get two fingers width between the back of my knee and the fixed head to make sure I hadn't slipped back. In the 20- 25 minutes we were schooling, I pretty much stayed put and only once had to "reset" myself to sit more at the front of the saddle so that was good!

I've got the rest of the week to adjust to my new position so hopefully by Sunday, we will be ready! If this cold weather keeps up however, I'm going to have to wear my vintage 1930's wool habit despite it being a teeny bit short for me and my wool waistcoat as my summer weight Mears habit is going to be FREEZING!

On the subject of vintage things...

For over 10 years now, I have collected old photographs of side saddle riders. The earliest image I have is from the 1850's with most stretching over the entire Victorian period with the latest image dating from the early 1930's. Most of my photos have been bought on Ebay but some have been bought from antique fairs.

One such image was one that I bought probably about 2004-ish. It was before I got back into riding and horses due to life stuff and pregnancy any ways but at least collecting side saddle images kept me connected to horses in a way. An antique dealer that I used to see at fairs, kept it aside for me as he knew I collected side saddle photos and thought I would be interested in it. I think he was asking some silly price like £5 for it so I bought it. I always wondered who it was in the photo and thought it was just a photo taken of some regular unknown woman on her horse as all it had to identify her was, Di on "Be Truthful" 1923, hand written in old ink on the photograph. The plain frame and old mount that it's shown in, are original to the photo.

Fast forward 7 years to 2011 and I'm sitting yesterday evening flicking through my To Whom The Goddess book written in 1932 by Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Apsley, when I came across the SAME photo on the frontispiece and identified as Lady Diana Shedden herself!

This is the frontispiece photo scanned from my book...

I have owned this book since last November when I bought it from Your Horse Live but never put two and two together, I may not have even realized their was a frontispiece as I was busy looking for the information on Mrs. Straker, whose several side saddle habits I had owned in 2005.

Mrs. Straker probably knew Lady Shedden as all the hunting ladies knew each other back then as they were all of the same social standing. This is probably why Mrs. Straker's photo is in the book but what are the odds of me owning items from both ladies all these years in the future without realizing it AND buying them even before I started riding side saddle??!! I think this realization is confirmation that I'm meant to ride side saddle! :)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

It's Not You, It's Me....

We have a Christmas clear round jumping show next so my friend and I had the indoor school booked at Blaby Mill Stables for today to practice some jumping! This is the same ring where we had our disastrous warm-up last Sunday but today Hattie was a different horse with the grippy gel pad underneath the saddle. I had decided to school side saddle today instead of astride to see what was going on with the saddle and if the gel pad does indeed make a difference as I know for a fact that Hattie likes the ring surface at this venue.

We did some good jumping today and Hattie was happy so I think we will stick with the gel pad until I can get my saddle flocking sorted out.

Afterwards, we headed home as we were having a visitor bring their Champion & Wilton side saddle for us to try. Louise arrived mid-day with a beautiful tan C&W in tow and I was in love with it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I ABSOLUTELY ADORE tan tack- all my astride tack is tan and I wish my side saddle stuff was too. Louise also judges side saddle classes and has ridden in side saddle showing classes to a high level so I was lucky to get a few hours of her expertise!

Louise said that ideally, Hattie could do with a slightly smaller saddle but because I'm very tall, that it was a case of making do with the best fit saddle I can get. She said the length of my 17 1/2" Whippy and her C&W (which looked about 17 1/2") were ok though but I wouldn't want to go longer than them so 18" saddles are out for me.

She put her C&W saddle on Hattie's back and it seemed a good fit gullet wise and was away from her withers however riding it in, soon showed that it seemed to be the wrong tree shape and fit for Hattie. It went forward onto her shoulder bone like my old C&W did and pinched very badly. I told Louise this is what my old C&W did and that it seemed to confirm my suspicions that Hattie is not a C&W horse! I think C&W trees curve TOO inwards just below the gullet for her.

However, the short time I rode in it, it was VERY comfortable and the wide seat fit my butt perfectly. It was like sitting on a heavenly saddle and I felt very secure even though the seat and pommels were pigskin. I always wear full suede seat breeches but I felt that seat was very comfortable and secure. If it would have suited Hattie I would have bought it in an instant as Louise said that I sat well in it and it suited my height.

This is the saddle that Louise is selling and is still available if anyone is interested in it. The seat is a generous 17 1/2" (approx. 21 1/2"- 22" US measurements) and the tree width is a medium to medium/wide fit. She is asking £1200 ono and is based in Newark, Nottinghamshire. She said that I could forward her email address onto any interested parties so email me at crinolinegirl @ (remove the space before and after the @ sign) so I can forward her contact details on.

One thing Louise did say was that I sit too far back and I need two fingers clearance between the front of the fixed head and the inside of my knee so she scooted me forward..A LOT forward than I'm used to sitting and it opened up MUCH more seat for my fat butt to sit on. She did this with me on both her C&W and my Whippy. In fact, she REALLY got me forward on my Whippy due to the high placement I have the leaping head set on.

I then did walk, trot and canter riding on my Whippy with this new position and my saddle felt secure. It did not feel like it was tipping, did not feel like I was riding uphill and did not shoot right onto her shoulders. Louise said to try to work on my position with sitting more forward than I have been and see if that helps my saddle but that I should keep using my gel pad in the meantime. I knew that my butt had something to do with the saddle shifting...

Generally, she said that my Whippy seemed to fit Hattie quite well, that it sat quite nice and level on her back and that the shape of the tree followed her nicely BUT that the panels were too bloated and needed an overall "de-flocking" to bring the whole saddle down a bit more on her. So basically, my saddle needs to lose some weight!

That is good news as that means I don't have to sell my beloved Whippy and have to fork out ££££'s for a new saddle but instead probably a couple of £££'s for a complete reflock which is more doable for me.

Louise also gave me some tips on turnout and said that I don't have to do my 21 tiny North American Hunter Braids but that 9 British Showing Plaits are more correct. I'm gutted as I take pride in my even row of tiny braids as I think it looks much polished so that is going to be a MUCH harder habit to break than trying to sit more forward on my saddle!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Dressage!

My side saddle has been depressing me and annoying Hattie so I haven't been in the mood to blog lately as I'm so fed up with dealing with saddles that don't fit, forking out ££££'s, side-saddlers that don't call you back, a horse that changes shape constantly, etc, etc, etc. I'm seriously fed up and tempted to sell all my side saddle stuff and give up but hopefully it won't come to that just yet.

A lady who happens to be a side saddle judge and that has done all sorts of side saddle stuff to a high level, is coming out tomorrow with a c. 1938- 1939 Champion & Wilton for me to try. It's a beautiful saddle, within my price range and still is the lovely tan color that I love as it was hardly used. The saddle she is bringing is the spitting image of the one in the 1938-1939 Champion & Wilton catalog...

She is going to help me with fit and I asked if she could give her opinion on my Whippy and why it's doing the things it's doing despite being fine all spring and summer and being flocked up. I also feel it's a bit small for my butt. Lengthwise it's fine but widthwise, it's a scant 12 1/2" wide and I have big child bearing hips so sometimes I wonder if it's my arse pulling the saddle over as it's too wide for it. The C&W the lady is bringing, has a wider seat like my Beck Morrow does.

Will let you know how we get on!

Going back in time now, we went to the last Hinckley Dressage show of the year on Sunday and it was a special Christmas show where you had the option of doing your test in fancy dress so I went as the Snow Queen from the Chronicles of Narnia. We won for best costume two years ago when I was Mrs. Santa Claus (it was cancelled last year due to bad weather) but this year, went to a cute little girl dressed as Santa on an equally cute shetland pony dressed as Rudolph. You can't really argue with cuteness!!

We only did the Intro A test this time, no prelim tests because I've been battling my saddle and I'm still not 100% healthwise so decided to take it easy and just go to get dressed up and have fun. Our warmup was not so good as Hattie was really not happy with the saddle as I had stupidly decided not to put her grip gel pad underneath it thinking it would be ok since we weren't cantering. The saddle was rolling to the left and pinching her off-side wither so much that she bit my husband when he put his hand there to see what the saddle was doing. I could have kicked myself for not using that darn pad!!! We had been using the grip pad all week without any problem, Hattie was happy, I was happy and then stupid me decides to leave it off that day.

It's a mystery as when I'm off the saddle, it appears that it's sitting correctly with a slight tilt to the right like it's supposed to. It doesn't even press on her wither when I'm off. It's when I sit my fat arse in it that it all goes to pot which makes me think that I'm the problem.

Anyways, I stopped trying to warm up, got off, ungirthed my saddle pushed it back and more over to the right and did not get back on until I was called for my test. The steward let the judge know I was having problems just in case.

Us as we got called in to do our test...

Well, bugger me if we didn't end up winning the class!!!!

As soon as we went in the ring to do our test, Hattie was forward and although not 100%, she was a lot happier than what she had been in the warmup ring. I decided just to let her go forward and not try to bring her on the bit on anything, just let her do her thing. I could sense a slight head nod on the right rein like something was blocking and annoying her, if you look carefully, you can probably just slightly see it in the video. And bugger me again, if she didn't end the test with a perfectly SQUARE halt!!!! You got to love that horse!!!

We got all 6's (which mean "satisfactory") and 7's (which mean "fairly good") for all the movements and our collective comments were "A lovely partnership!", "A very consistent test, well done.", "Just lacking suppleness and balance at times."- which is hardly surprising how the saddle was annoying her and I was trying my darnest not to hang off her left side, lol!

Here is the video of our test:

Hattie falling promptly asleep after our test and with her 1st place rosette. I have never met such a chilled out horse, so chilled out that she is horizontal...

Along with the rosette, we also won free entry into the next show and Hattie got a well deserved stocking of horse treats. I gave her one whole pack of treats when we got back home as a thank you for gritting her teeth and putting up with an annoying saddle and getting us through the test without mishap. I think she was pleased with her prize...

Despite tack failure, I think we did ok and it's not as if we were the only ones in the class either. We definitely earned our 63.91% as there were quite a few in our class too. Hopefully once I sort out the fit of my Whippy or if this C&W ends up working better for us, we will start doing the prelims again. Until then, our grippy gel pad remains!!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Jessica of Tacky Tack of the Day, This One's for You...

Someone sent me a link to this abomination for sale on Ebay, I thought it was Tacky Tack of the Day worthy so Jessica, this one is for you....

I had to do a double take when I saw this, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This is probably the worst Asian made side saddle I have ever seen. A poster child of what NOT to buy when buying a side saddle. How the heck would you even ride in this???!!

To be fair, the seller probably doesn't know much about side saddles and probably only bought this to "have a go" but if you managed to jam your right leg into the extreme curl of the fixed head, you would be fighting riding uphill while trying to balance on a narrow seated astride tree! Your left leg would be at an impossible angle as the leaping head is so far over to the middle side of the seat that your left leg would have to hang nearly straight down due to being blocked by the horn...and what the hell is going on with the "forward cut" flap???!!!!

Sigh, it looks like the manufacturers copied this monstrosity from an ancient relic side saddle with it's cutback-less head and it's vestigial off-side horn.

Don't get me started on the fact the seller advertises that they had "their saddler out to see if we could get it to fit and he told me it's a fairly rare combination saddle. The leg loop unscrews and you can ride as astride."

He got the astride part right!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Surcingle Is Back Home!

When my saddler came out in August, I gave him my side saddle surcingle to fix as the cinch loop had ripped off over the years and also the stirrup D-ring needed replacing as well.

Well today it came back and looks lovely! Don't know how much riding I'll do in it but at least it's back home in my collection. My saddler wasn't able to replace the stirrup leather D-ring as the surcingle leather is fragile and couldn't take any more bulk put inside without tearing when being sewn back. It don't matter as I can always hang the stirrup leather off of the cinch ring. It's not as if I'm going to be trotting or cantering around in it and I have my big thick felt Western pad to go under it too.

Roger also looked at my saddle and he saw that it was tipping to the left a bit. He also said that there was a void underneath the nearside panel near the withers where the flocking had packed down so he took it away and is going to fix that for Hattie! Yay, we are getting somewhere!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Another one for the collection...

For the past few months, I have not been feeling very well. I've been feeling very drained and tired like I've been running on empty. In fact some days, I haven't even felt like riding and even picking out Hattie's feet has been an ordeal. The last two shows I have been to this month (the dressage and the clear round), were ridden through sheer determination as I felt like a zombie.

Fed up with feeling this way, I went to the doctor's and had a blood test done the other week. Today I went to get my result and it turns out that I have low white blood cells. The normal range is about 4000 to 11 000 cells per microlitres and mine is 3000 (this is the info my doc told me and what I saw on the computer there) so a bit low to say the least!

Basically in a nut shell, I have to change my diet and eat more healthily- eat more like Hattie and less like Homer Simpson so hopefully I will start to reap the benefits of this new healthy diet I'm embarking on. I'm giving myself this week off from riding to rest but I'll have to ride tomorrow as my saddler is coming out to reflock my Whippy.

Back to horses now...

Still feeling like crap on Saturday, I managed to schlep my death-warmed-over self around Your Horse Live, which was held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. As you will remember from my Your Horse Live blog post from last year, it's a mega horse event with demos, LOTS of shopping and horse stuff to do.

Sadly, the horse simulator with the side saddle wasn't there this year- well, the "horse" was but they brought a western and a jumping saddle to try so I didn't bother as I've already ridden Western in Canada and I already have a jumping saddle for when I need to ride astride. there were no side saddles for sale this year like there was last year either.

It was fun shopping but I didn't actually buy very much except for a pair of mucker boots, a pair of long winter riding boots (field boots at that!), a pair of posh navy full suede seat breeches in that trendy Schoeller technical fabric you see nowadays (should have bought two pairs really as they were stupidly cheap), an ear warmer for me and a new lycra hood and neck cover for Hattie.

I also got measured up for these RUBY RED PATENT CROCODILE SKIN riding boots (the ones in the middle of the page)!!! Price wise, they aren't actually that much more than what Ariat riding boots retail here in the UK for and those are non custom and made in China! I told the lady that I couldn't actually buy them yet but she said that it was ok as she would take my measurements for the day I save up enough :) I will get them eventually.

I tried on another pair at their stand and their boots made my big ole feet look like tiny Cinderella feet but without the pain. The leather was so soft, the quality so beautiful...Oh for heaven's sake, I'm dribbling down my top!

Although there wasn't much side saddle at this year's Your Horse Live, I DID manage to find a book that I have been looking for AGES for sale at a second hand equestrian book retailer there. It's the Saddle of Queens by Lida Fleitmann Bloodgood and when I spotted it, I HAD to buy it as I never could manage to win one on Ebay. I have quite a few original copies of books on side saddle riding from the Victorian and early 19th century but this one from 1959 managed to elude me until Saturday.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Tack Change

Apart from adding the non slip grip gel pad, I've also gone back to using my Cope safety iron.

Betty Skelton mentioned in her book, Side Saddle Riding, that her father always made her ride with a safety iron even though her side saddles had safety stirrup bars on them as it would be unlikely that both safety devices would fail if she came off. I used to use this iron on my Champion & Wilton saddle for that very reason and when ever I came off, I always felt the iron release before the safety catch did on the saddle (it was kept well oiled and opened easily).

I'm glad I had this iron on my off-side side saddle when I fell of jumping last August as the saddle had a roller bar on it and once again, the iron opened up before I even hit the ground.

My Whippy came with a normal side saddle egg- eyed Prussian stirrup iron which I do like as it's a nice trim iron but better to be safe than sorry! The only problem with the safety iron, is that it's long and I had to punch extra holes in the stirrup leather to get the correct length for me. It's an OK length for me now although I would prefer it a little shorter but there isn't enough room left to punch any more holes. Maybe when I get some extra cash, I will buy a slightly shorter leather but it's ok for now.

I was really pleased with my three buckle three fold girth made by Owen on Sunday as well. This is another piece of tack that I used to use with my C&W saddle.

I had wanted to use it when I first got my Whippy but because it was newly and heavily flocked up, it was too short. It fits now as the flocking has settled in and Hattie has become fitter and trimmer due to all the schooling and riding we have been doing since actually having a saddle that fits. Hopefully it will still fit after my saddler adjusts the flocking.

This is a really handy girth due to the triple fork in it as it stablizes the saddle. It's also handy for Hattie as the forked ends can spread out to each billet and not cause the girth to drag the saddle forward (you can see how they spread out on her in the photos). The saddle stayed put while jumping on Sunday and it stayed put while schooling today too. I have a normal atherstone elastic ended girth for my close contact saddle (astride) and that has a split end as well so that I can buckle it to the point and 4th billet with ease as the elastic end will spread as does the split side. I think split/forked girths are a Hattie necessity.

It's a shame they don't make three fold girths like this any more as the forked ends do seem to be kinder to the horse and also as an extra safety precaution too. If one billet goes, at least you have two more. The Manorgrove saddler did make me a three buckle girth but it didn't have forked ends so it was always a hassle girthing it up due to the last billet being far back and so fork to reach it.

There you go, to all you saddlers out there, a nifty idea for you to make, start making the Owen three buckle forked three fold girths again!

Monday, 7 November 2011

FOR SALE: 16" Elan Side Saddle

Lieke has emailed me some photos and information about her lovely Elan side saddle which she would like to sell. She can be contacted by emailing Lieke Brandt at: linschotenbabe_abel @ (remove the space before and after the @ symbol).

For sale, beautiful light leather Elan side saddle imported from America.
It's a 16" (UK measuring), 20" in USA measuring seat and a medium tree.

It has a beautiful suede seat and the pommels are lined with the same beige suede.
It comes with a stirrup leather in the same color light leather and a messing safety stirrup, also a balance girth in the same light leather color.

I'm selling it because it's too narrow for my round ribbed Arabian, though I've ridden in it three times on a normal sized TB/warmblood mix and it fitted that horse perfectly. The saddle was very comfortable to ride in. I even tried a tiny jump in it and it stayed on perfectly.
I've only ridden it those three times so the saddle is nearly unused and still in perfect condition. It even smells new!

For sale for £800, I'll ship anywhere.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yay!!! We Did It!

It was the clear round jumping show held by my local riding club,BRRA at Blaby Mill Stables today and we jumped!!!!

I have done these shows before on Hattie but only jumping astride and the last time I did one, was last April on a friend's horse when Hattie had that bump on her withers.

The last clear round jumping I did side saddle, was May 2010 at the South Kilworth show and we mostly trotted around the course so I was absolutely kakking myself today as I wasn't sure how Hattie was going to be after being Speedy Gonzales yesterday.

I put the gel anti-slip pad under the side saddle and tried my 51" vintage Owen three buckle-three fold girth and it fit a treat. I was happy about that as it saves me having to fork out ££'s for a new Robert Jenkins girth which I can ill afford this month. I'll save her 52 1/2" girth as her "fat" girth. The saddle stayed put today too and Hattie was back to her old self today as you will see in the video with her ears forward.

Hattie was spooking all the way to the show so I wasn't hopeful about our performance so when I got to the show, I took her in the indoor ring to warm up and get her listening by practising some walk/trot/canter transitions, no jumping to wind her up.

We only did the 1' course and I am pleased with how Hattie went. We did not get any rosettes unfortunately as we had some fences down but our goal today, was to have nice calm ride with no bombing off or jumping WAAAAAAAAAY before the fence. I think next time we'll try a slightly higher height as Hattie was a bit lazy going over these but she seems to respect the higher jumps more. I remembered to keep my right shoulder back, my ribcage up and my right toe down and this helped Hattie with her striding and stopped her from taking off too early.

Here's our video!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Flippin' Heck, What A Difference!

My friend Gill and I, went back to Blaby Mill Stables today to use the outside arena (this is where the dressage show was held last Sunday) so we could practice our jumping for the show tomorrow since Gill does not have access to an arena to practice.

We set up two little jumps (only 1' high) and b*gger me, if Hattie wasn't a little speed demon! For the past month, I've been having to boot her along to get her to canter and jump and today, I was having to sit back and slow her down! It was crazy! Her ears were forward and she was enjoying herself just like before.

I definitely think now that there are several contributing factors as to why Hattie has been sluggish and unhappy over the past month...

1)Saddle flocking needs tweaking after having it nearly a year.
2)Hattie prefers the footing at Blaby Mill Stables.
3)I've been a moron and been riding around with a loose girth.

Roger, my saddler is coming out on the 15th so after experimenting with pads this morning before heading off to jump, I decided just to use the thin gel grip pad until he can adjust the flocking. It's so thin that it won't alter the fit of the saddle but is tacky to prevent the saddle from sliding all over the place.

These photos were taken after we returned home after jump schooling. You can see by the scurf mark left by the balance girth, that the saddle has slide forward to rest in it's "normal" (well, normal for Hattie's conformation) position like it normally does but has not gone straight onto her shoulders like it was been doing for the past few weeks.

The gel grip pad really did it's job today as the saddle is correctly positioned at Hattie's withers and did not try to go "up and over" them like it's been trying to do recently.

I had a feel underneath the panel on the nearside and it has flattened out quite a bit from when Roger took out some flocking in May to prevent anything from pressing on that wither bump she had. I guess it's time to pad it back up there now.

After I got on and tightened my girth to where I usually tighten it, I looked down and saw that it still was a little slacker than I remembered it. Usually I just tighten it without looking when mounted but this time, I happen to look down. I could slide my hand easily between Hattie and the girth. I wonder how long I'd been riding like this? It also probably did not help the saddle to stop shifting around too much if the girth was always loose! I suppose it shows I have good balance, lol. There was only one hole left to tighten it and when I did, the girth felt it's normal tightness like before.

I will try my three buckle three fold girth tomorrow. if that is TOO short, then I'll have to order another one from Robert Jenkins again. It looks like I'm going to have a whole collection of beautiful three fold girths in various sizes!

For arena footing, it's tough, as wood chippings is what we have at our stable. Maybe for jumping, I will book the arena at Blaby Mill Stables occasionally but I'm not made of money especially after forking out for new three fold girths so Hattie will just have to deal with it at least for schooling dressage.

I don't know what to think about jumping side saddle tomorrow especially after how speedy and keen Hattie was today but we shall see!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Dressage report!

I should be walking the dog but it's cold and rainy outside so instead I'm sitting here blogging (don't worry, said wimpy dog does not want to go out in the rain either so I'll take her out when this is done).

We did our Intro A and Prelim 1 tests last Sunday after a month of struggling with schooling. Hattie has not been right all month- not lame but in a bad mood. At first, I put it down to her being in season (which she is) but then I began to notice a reluctance to go forward when schooling. Hattie loves cantering and jumping and usually when she gets in her bad moods with dressaging, if I add a jump in to a test, she's happy and revved up. Even jumping and cantering weren't helping now with her just hollowing during canter transitions with hear head up in the air, ears back and really angry tail swishing, especially on the right rein. Usually I have to sit back and SLOW her down for jumping but this time, I am having to boot her on.

Last Saturday, when we were doing last minute schooling, I noticed the saddle slipping forward more than usual. I got off and looked at the saddle pad which had slipped back causing the thick binding to pinch in between the panel and her shoulder where the saddle had slide forward.

My Whippy has always slide forward a little but then stays put, this time was quite a bit forward so removed the saddle pad and pushed the saddle back into place. Hattie is not a fan of pads any ways so I gave up using it and will have to accept the fact that I will always have to scrub my panels to keep them clean.

Without the pad, the saddle stayed put a bit better and the next day we did our dressage show.

Considering the trouble we'd been having schooling, we actually did not do too badly at the show. For the intro A test, we scored 64% with quite a few marks of 7's (which mean "fairly good") and 6's ("satisfactory). The only low mark we got a 4 on one movement as Hattie broke into a canter when we were supposed to be trotting (now THAT was a surprise considering how NON forward she had been).

The camera was not working properly for the Intro test so my husband/groom was not able to film but he frantically snapped away and got some good shots of us performing.

20m circle at E (we got a 6 for this, note my calm expression)...

The start of our "change rein on a free walk on a long rein"...

Free walk on a long rein, we got a 7 for this. I like how shiny Hattie's butt was...

Our 20 circle which is done at a medium walk at C to X, then working trot from X to C (we got a 7 for this)...

Changing the rein at MXK in working trot (we got a 6 for this as Hattie got a bit strong on the forhand and lost her outline a little)...

Halt, immobility, salute (we got a 6 for this has Hattie drifted a bit to the right but our halt was fairly square)...

One thing I did notice while doing our test on the shredded rubber surface and warming up on the coated sand in the indoor arena, is that Hattie seemed a lot happier and forward. The surface which is down in the arena at my stable is soft wood chippings which I have been finding a bit slippery to walk on myself. It did come into my mind that maybe Hattie does not like it either due to being slippery, maybe she feels unsafe at faster speeds like cantering or jumping (she is fine at the trot)? I have a feeling that this may be a contributing factor with Hattie's moods lately.

Any ways 20 minutes later, we did our Prelim 1 test which started out good and forward until the judge accidently beeped her horn at us during our test. When the judge beeps you, it means you did something wrong in the test. In the Prelim 1 test, you do a half 20m circle at A to the right, a half 20m circle at X to the left, a half 20m circle at C to the left and finish it off with a half 20m circle at X to the right (simply put, a figure 8 across the whole ring). Just as I finished my figure 8, the judge beeped me so I went into walk and just looked around confused as I knew I had done nothing wrong.

After you finish the figure 8, you are supposed to change rein at KXM and then at M, ask for a working canter on the left rein. I just kept walking and just passed the turn at K when the judge finally decided to tell me that it was ok and to keep going...sigh...

Good thing we had practised this test many a time so although we overshot the turn at K, we still made it across the arena on the diagonal to M and got our left rein canter. Hattie was such a good horse for that. We got a 6 for that movement due to Hattie being "long in the outline". When we had practised this at home, we always made a good turn with Hattie working forward in a nice outline but because we had to rush it and compensate for the overshot turn, we lacked impulsion.

We got a mix of 5's, 6's and 7's (mostly 6's though), with a 5 for our right rein canter due to Hattie opening her mouth and being a bit stiff and another 5 for our halt as Hattie drifted AGAIN!

Gary managed to video out test...

There were quite a few competitors in both classes so I'm pleased with the 4th we got for the Intro test and the 5th for the Prelim 1 test.

Schooling this week has been the same with Hattie being in a bad mood so I got off yesterday and had a look to see what my saddle was doing besides sliding too far forward on her.

Standing her square and looking from the back, I could see that my saddle was dropping to the left a bit. Looking at the off side panel at the front, I could see the tilt to the left with the left panel coming very close to being "up and over" her withers!!! If it wasn't for Hattie's high withers, the saddle would be totally rolling over. The right side off her poor withers was taking the brunt of the saddle and me, no wonder she didn't want to go forward cantering and jumping. If you look at my photos and video too, you can see me tilting to the right, I've unconsciously leaning to the right to counteract the saddle falling to the left. I think too, that the saddle pad was also helping to cause the saddle to slip more which is why Hattie was happier when I took it off as the saddle was able to grip to her back better and stay put.

I still think as well, that Hattie prefers the non wood chipping footing of the show but it's tough luck really as I can't fork out ££££'s to get the surface changed at our arena at home!

With this new observation, I called my saddler so he'll be coming out to us. He said that it's probably due for a reflocking any ways as it has been fine all summer up until now.

Until then though, we have still have two shows and a side saddle lesson with Lili so I will experiment with temporary measures tomorrow to see what helps to keep my saddle level until my saddler comes out. I have the non slip grippy gel pad that I can try along with my special side saddle riser pad. If I pad up the left side of it, that should help keep the saddle from dropping too much until Roger can come out and adjust it.

Hopefully, as we have a clear round jumping show on Sunday on the arena surface that Hattie likes!!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Senara the Arabian

After nearly a month long hiatus, I promise an update this week (hopefully tomorrow!) on our "interesting" dressage show we attended on Sunday! Reading Robin's blog post today though, about her horse Foxy, got me thinking about horses that I've had the pleasure of knowing and riding in the past.

One in particular is Senara who is owned by my friend, Bev. When my son was born, Bev promised me that when I lost the baby weight, that I could ride her Arabian, Senara (or Sen for short). Well, I lost the weight and ended up helping Bev take care of Sen and her other horses.

Sen was 17 when I started riding and taking care of her and when I got my old Champion & Wilton side saddle, well, she took to that with ease! The first time I rode her in the side saddle, I hadn't expected it to fit so only brought it down to the stables to see how it fit. As soon as I plopped it on her back and saw what a good fit it was, I thought "hey, let's go riding!". Unfortunately, Bev does not leave tack down at her stable due to thefts in the area and my own bridle was at home so I put two lead ropes on her halter and rode her down the lane like that!

The next day, I brought my bridle and we went out for a little hack down the lane and back again, this was us on Sen's 2nd attempt at side saddle...

Over the year, we went from a hairy Arab lacking topline and condition to a slick beast.

We hacked everywhere side saddle and eventually did the Miss Blaby Procession.

After a while, I noticed the saddle started to roll and ride uphill. Because of all the work and the conditioning feed I had been giving her, my C&W became too narrow...

I had planned on buying her a wider saddle but that fell through when another friend offered me her cob on loan.

Bev still owns Senara and although I don't ride her any more, she is stabled near to Hattie's stable so I still get to see her everyday.

This is her doing her head twirling thing whenever she REALLY wanted something whether it was food, to be turned out or going for a gallop. I had to ride her with a martingale as she would do this while galloping and nearly broke my nose once! LOL!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Boys Can Ride Side Saddle Too

I think most little boys whose mothers ride side saddle have probably at least once, had a sit on their mum's side saddles. My son, who loves anything about the military and history, has had a try on my side saddle especially after I told him about the soldiers from both World Wars (and even some men today), that lost their legs and who still wanted to ride and go hunting, rode in side saddles. He wanted to see how those brave soldiers rode afterwards.

I have two photos in my collection showing boys on side saddles and thought that I would share these unusual photos with you all. Both date from the early part of the 20th century, probably about 1910's.

I love this first one as the expression on the boy is priceless, he looks like he would rather be doing anything else but sitting on a horse. Look at the stirrup iron, it's a jointed "Groom's Stirrup"!

The second photo was taken at the seaside somewhere here in England and shows a toddler aged boy sitting in an even-by-this-date, old fashioned side saddle without a leaping head. I've always noticed in photo postcards and photos from the early 1900's and 1920's that that show seaside donkeys, that they are always laden with these REALLY old fashioned side saddles. I guess by the Edwardian era and the 1920's, there were tons of these relic side saddles around that no one wanted so the seaside donkey ride people picked them up cheap for the kids and ladies to ride in. There are still donkey rides at the beaches over here but adults aren't allowed to ride them any more.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A Date!

Don't you just love it when you find out more about something you have always wanted to know about?

Well, I was having a quick browse of Ebay before heading off to work this morning and a thumbnail photo of a newly listed auction caught my was another side saddle surcingle! An identical one to mine!!

The only difference is the one on Ebay has doeskin pommels whereas mine has leather covered pommels. The Ebay one still has it's original Victorian foot plate stirrup as well but other than that, it's identical right down to the tooling on it and the grab handle (the Ebay one has broken off however). Even the pommel placement is the same. The Ebay surgingle looks like it was used a lot more than mine though.

The neat thing about the one on Ebay, however, is the fact that the date stamp still remains on it. I knew my one was from the late 19th century but now I know that it was most likely made in 1893 as the one on ebay has a date of March 27, 1893!

I have written to the seller asking if there are any maker's marks stamped anywhere as it would be interesting to see who actually made our surcingles. Hopefully she will write back with some more information.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Crazy Week!

This blog took a back seat for the past two weeks as I just had too much stuff and stress going on that I was absolutely zonked in the evening. So if you emailed me and haven't heard back from me, chances are I missed your email in the thousands of spam I had to delete so please do email me again! :)

We had our dressage show on Sunday, September 25th and we did the Intro B and our first ever Prelim test, Prelim 4! The week leading up to the show, we were schooling daily and Hattie was an absolute nightmare. She was busy concentrating on everything else going on around her, going around with her head in the air looking at things, picking up the wrong canter leads, resisting on the right rein and just generally being awkward. I didn't even have my jumps to spice up things while schooling dressage as they were at our new digs and we were still at our old stables so I didn't expect much on the Sunday of our test.

The morning of our show came and Hattie still wasn't 100% with me but she was a lot better in the warm up arena than she had been during the week. Her trot was nice and forward and she only missed her left canter lead once. I checked the order of go and saw that there was quite a few people entered for both my tests so the pressure was on!

Well, we did both tests and I felt that I have never ridden so poorly in my life. Hattie went OK in the Intro test but I don't feel that we did our best. We came 4th with a score of 60.43% which I guess is good but I didn't feel right riding and Hattie didn't feel right. Not lame but just mentally not with it, I guess we were both mentally not with it that day. I suppose we would have probably been better off doing something else that day like going for a good gallop.

For our intro test, we got 4 for our "free walk on a long rein across the diagonal" as Hattie broke out into a trot, which is bizarre as usually I have to kick her along, a 5 as we lacked suppleness when we had to turn at E (to be fair, I kind of forgot that I had to turn there so it was a bit last minute!) and then 6's and 7's for everything else. One of our overall comments that we need to work on our suppleness on the right rein which is what had been giving us problems all week.

The Intro B test:

For our Prelim test, that was to me, atrocious.

We came 6th with a score of 59.09% which is ok, I guess, but I felt I rode poorly and by that point, Hattie had just tuned out. We got one 4 which is "insufficient" for striking off on the wrong canter lead between K and A. We had practised and practised this and she still struck off on the right lead instead of the left one! I brought her back to trot and we got our left lead and continued on. All our other marks were all 6's for "satisfactory". Our nice downward transitions from canter to trot went out the window that day as you will see in the video. It was just pure crap to put it bluntly.

The Prelim 4 test:

After Sunday, I gave Hattie the whole week off to chill out and also, I needed to move the rest of our stuff to our new stable. I wonder if the stress of looking for a new barn and moving stuff contributed to our poor performance? Hattie is very good with picking up on my moods so I reckon it affected her too.

Any ways, we got everything moved, Hattie moved into her new stable last Friday and has settled in nicely! she even has three new boy friends, Munchie, Charlie and the ever devoted little grey pony gelding, Jiggy, who refuses to leave her side in the field.

We schooled yesterday for 20 minutes and then again today for 20 minutes, just practising going nice and forward, doing some transitions and 20m circles, a bit of cantering and that's that1 Hattie was nice and relaxed and did it all! I'm also having to remind myself to SIT BACK as I've been noticing in photos that I'm tending to lean forward. I find when I sit back, Hattie relaxes, I can get her using her hind quarters and she gets the correct canter lead each time.

Her is Hattie outside of her stall after we finished schooling yesterday...

I've also decided that we're only going to do one dressage show a month instead of two. It's just to much stress, money and hassle to do two shows so our next show will be October 30. We'll do the Intro A as a warm up and Prelim 1 which is a nice simple test so as not to blow both our minds!!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Last Diamond Horse Show of the Year!

Showing season has sadly ended for me now as yesterday's Diamond Horse Show was the last one of the year and I can't get to any other shows due to lack of transport- it's dressage and clear round jumping shows at the stable down the lane from me now for the rest of winter. It's too bad as I really like showing too, just dressage and clear round jumping can get a bit boring but at least I can do them all side saddle!

Hattie was a STAR yesterday during our 14 mile round trip hack to and from the show, especially coming back as we had heavy traffic. She didn't bat an eye despite cars beside her, big rumbling trucks, having to go over motorway bridges...

All that and spending all day at the show with her still looking like a million bucks...

She truly is a super horse!

We did Best Turned Out where we got 1st place, got 2nd in Best condition (an inhand class), 3rd in Riding Club Horse and Pony and 1st in Prettiest Mare (a ridden class). I had packed the fleece girth cover but couldn't use it for Best Turned Out and didn't end up using it for the rest of the classes either, as Hattie's girth gall was unaffected by the girth since I had cut that lumpy bit out of it. The hair is growing back on it as so it was the lumpy bit of leather that rubbed her!

Here is us waiting to be inspected by the judge in Best Condition...

The judge was the same from the last show and we had positive comments. He said that Hattie was going more forward and working much better now that I was being more strict with her. He watched us during our warm up for the Riding Club as we were going to have to jump and he said that our jump was more fluid and we presented a graceful image.

When we were in the class and did our individual show which had to include the jump, I messed up a bit and did not collect Hattie enough at the canter (we were on the left rein). She got a little on the forehand and took our jump slightly too long. It wasn't TOO bad and a LOT better than before but was just annoyed at myself that we messed it up. I didn't get left behind either which was good as that class gathered quite an audience, everyone wanted to see the only side saddler rider at the show jump. No pressure!!

I'm starting to really enjoy jumping side saddle as I can feel what Hattie is going to do. I can feel her start to gather up so I don't get left behind, it's wonderful! So much better than jumping astride!!

Gary took an action shot of the jump. Unfortunately, Gary took it a tiny bit too early as our camera has an annoying delay. You can see that I wasn't going to get left behind though! I don't know what height the fence was set at, but it was bigger than what we did at home. Looks about 2' to me as it was more "imposing" than my jump set at 1'9" at home.

The judge came up to us afterwards at the end of the show to say goodbye and said that he was talking with the show organizers of having a Championship show in next year's show schedule so hopefully they will do it as it will give Hattie and me something to aim for!

Well, until then, it's dressage season for me now! I dropped off my entry form for next Sunday's dressage show and it seems that I will be doing the Intro B test AND the Prelim 4 test, eek!
I've given Hattie the day off today to rest and then tomorrow is practice time as I only have 5 days to practice two tests!!