Sunday, 30 January 2011

That Was A Close One!

I tried to school today and was experimenting with the bed roll shims in my riser pad as they are causing my off-side side saddle to bridge a bit. The saddle doesn't bridge when I put it on Hattie's back without a pad on but it does with the riser pad. The panels keep a close contact with her back and the front of the panels fit well with her withers without pinching (although it could do with a tiny bit more padding on the side of her off-side wither). Unfortunately, the back of the saddle needs lifting until Roger can come on Thursday and fix everything so I have to use the darn pad! Plus the saddle kept sliding forward when we were doing nice forward trots so I gave up, got off, reset the saddle and went for a hack with Josie and my friend Gill.

It was a nice hack and thought since we didn't get any work done in the school, that I would practise making Hattie do a nice forward walk and keeping her in an outline on a soft contact. We also did some nice forward trotting too and the saddle stayed put for some reason. Hattie really prefers hacking to schooling so maybe we should do our schooling out on hacks!!

Got back to the stables to untack and went to undo the girth and to my horror, I realized that I had forgotten to tighten it when I re-positioned the saddle! It was only on the 2nd hole and was hanging loosely around her belly which meant it would have been even looser with me on the saddle!



Bizarrely, the saddle never shifted or even slid forward even when were were trotting! I was even riding up and down into ditches on the grassy bit on side of the lane to give my saddle a "good action test".

I guess that means the saddle is a good fit as even the balance girth wasn't done up exceptionally tight either!

It also proves that it is the position of the girth straps on Hattie's saddles that decides whether a saddle will slide forward or not. The girth was only loosely buckled to the billets causing it not to ride forward to settle into her forward girth groove and pull the saddle along with it.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Off-Siding is the Way Forward!



I took Robin's advice and swapped to another side saddle to ride until Roger, my saddler, can come out and give me an honest opinion on my near-side saddle. The only other one I have (other than my close contact jumping saddle which buggers up my back and hip riding in it and my too-small-for-me off-side saddle), is my Beck Morrow off-side side saddle so used that to school and hack out today.

I didn't want to ride it too "hard" until Roger can put new billet straps on but we schooled for 30 minutes today and then hacked down the lane doing mostly walking and some trotting. It was hard to resist the urge to canter on the grassy bits but I didn't want billets popping at a fast pace in an unenclosed area!!

We walked around a bit for me to get used to off-siding, then practised making Hattie walking and trotting forward, walk/trot transitions and ran through the Intro A test (which wasn't so good, LOL!). Our left rein cantering was iffy so I think I need to work on that with Lili but I managed to get a few strides out of Hattie on the left rein and then I thought, "well, if Hattie is going to go back into a trot, then it better be a damn good transition" so made her keep trotting until I was ready to walk and did a smooth trot to walk transition.

We had a good canter on the right rein though so that was fun!

Thank you Anita for her tip on using foam rubber bed roll as saddle shims! Since my Beck Morrow needs lifting a bit at the back and under the right thigh, I cut out four pieces of bed roll to out inside the pocket of my side saddle riser numnah and it worked a treat! The trick is "close celled" foam (like what Wintec uses for their riser pads and what bed roll is made from) instead of "open cell" foam (like what those old "Lollipop" or "Banjo" riser pads that everybody used to use in the late 80's and early 90's, are made from) as it supportive yet not to hard.

I REALLY like my off-side Beck Morrow, it was nice not having to battle the saddle today with it rolling around but it did slide forward a bit onto her shoulders (when we were cantering so had to get off to push it back each time we cantered on a different rein) but the panels need doing on it to fit Hattie better. The billet straps on the Beck morrow aren't as forward placed as they are on my other off-side side saddle (but not as bad as they were on my old C&W) so when Roger comes, I'm going to ask him if he can add another billet between the point and 1st strap on the near-side and another between point and 1st on the off-side as there is space. This will help to keep my saddle from sliding forward as Hattie has a very forward girth groove.

My saddle was comfortable and riding side saddle felt less of a struggle. It was easier to get my left shoulder back when riding off-side than getting my right shoulder back on a near-side saddle. My good left hip was happy to ride and my back right hip was happy to rest. I think off-siding is the way forward for me, I prefer it.

I took some before and after photos of the Beck Morrow to check fit with the riser numnah...

Before view of the nearside with the riser numnah newly in place:


After schooling and hacking and it sits more level (note that the saddle didn't slide forward during our hack when we were only walking and trotting):



Before off-side view:



After off-side view (the saddle pad slide back a bit):



Before cantle view showing a good tilt to the saddle (Hattie was standing a bit crooked trying to get into the tack room to eat, but the gullet did line up with her spine):



After view of the cantle and as you can see, the closed cell foam bed roll in the pad gave good support:



These are before photos of the pommel clearance on Hattie's withers but unfortunately my stupid camera ran out of memory so I could take after photos but even when mounted, the pommel clearance stayed the same and no saddle rolling occurred at the side of Hattie's withers as well. There were no ruffled fur patches at her withers when I took the saddle off like there was with my Manorgrove.



You can see daylight out of the back and it was the same when I finished riding. you can get about 2 or 2 1/2 fingers between the pommel and withers when mounted or unmounted. The felt inside the panels seems to be agreeable with Hattie just like my felt Wykham pad was on my C&W.



If I am going to ride in the Beck Morrow regularly, then it is worth restoring. The leaping head is a bit too curved for my thigh so I need to get that hammered out a little straighter- not too much but just enough to take the edge out of the curliness of it. Until then, I'm going to use a rubber martingale stopper to left the head up a bit but at the same time, stop it from twirling around. It needs new billet straps without questions (first and foremost!). The panels need major refurbishment as the leather panels, although soft and oiled, have become fragile over the years. I will see what Roger says. Maybe I'll splurge and get a Wykham pad put on, we'll see though.

If cut off the darn overgirth straps today as well. I HATE overgirths as they rub Hattie and they are a pain in the butt to faff about with. The one on the Beck Morrow was one of those REALLY OLD FASHIONED ones without a convenience tab which requires a groom to help you girth up. Fine if you have help but when I school, I'm mostly on my own so off it went. The stitches were rotting anyways so I just sliced off the thread with a knife without damage to the flaps, fancy stitching or overgirth. I saved the overgirth incase I ever sell the saddle and someone wants them (they could be out back on easy) but until then, the saddle is fine without them. The flaps weren't flapping up and down anyways during my ride today and it's not as if I'm going to be hunting and jumping with it.



It was a cold but nice day to hack out after schooling and we went down to the ford river to ride through it.



Hattie and Chance like going trough it and Hattie seems to like the taste of river water! She always stops for a big drink of it. I've never known a horse to stick most of their face in water though like she does!!



Hattie was going in a nice outline with a nice sift contact all through our hack and walking nice and forward, let's hope she keeps it that way for our test on the 20th!!



She did become a bit silly and strong on the way home as she knew a romp in the paddock was waiting for her when she got back.

What a good girl today!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Should I Admit Defeat?

Hattie and I schooled this afternoon but I think I may have to admit defeat with my saddle. I think the tree is too big for Hattie and I don't find a perfectly flat Owen style seat comfortable.

After riding in my off-side side saddle the other day with it's dished seat and remembering how comfy the dished seat of my old C&W was, I think I'm a dished seated lady rather than an Owen lady. Maybe flat seated saddles don't suit my conformation. My legs aren't fat but they do have curves them, maybe a dished seat allows some place for the "flesh" to go. Flat seated Owen side saddles may suit ladies with straighter shaped legs? More toned bottoms than mine maybe??

I don't know but all I know is I like a bit of a curve to my seat.

I also had a look at the tree and what it was doing after I tacked her up and tightened her girth and even with the girth being tight and a shim on the off-side wither, I could get my hand easily in between the near-side tree point and Hattie and slide it down. After I rode, I had a look and the long nearside point was digging into Hattie's side from the saddle being tilted to the left and the gap was still there too.

When I went to the Nationals and spoke with Laura Dempsey about a wide fit saddle she had for sale there that would have fit me and had good billet strap placement for Hattie, she said that no matter how much flocking you put in, if the saddle is too wide, it will always roll to the left.

With Lili saying that it looked over-stuffed, the fact I can get my hand easily into a gap on the nearside and with all the flocking put in, it occurred to me that what if it's just simply too big for Hattie?

We only schooled for 30 minutes and the whole time I was battling the saddle. I kept having to grab the fixed head when I was riding and hoik it over to the right. Despite the saddle literally starting to turn into a "side" saddle, we did some good work between the saddle slipping and hoiking, with Hattie working with a nice elastic contact. Towards the end when the saddle refused to go to the right anymore, she started to get inverted and hollow (I guess she was getting fed up with the saddle as was I) but in a final effort to end on a good note, we did two last walk/trot transitions on both reins.

Instead of our usual abrupt ones, I remembered to start preparing and half halt but keep the energy up, and Hattie went from a nice forward trot into a nice smooth and forward walk without effort. It felt so nice and flowing! I'm really pleased with how we nailed those transitions!!

It was annoying as we were starting to get into our groove and I wanted to practise everything Lili taught me but thought it best to end on a good note and I don't want Hattie getting sour from getting rubbed by a too big saddle.

I can't fault my Manorgrove in workmanship, materials, quality and beauty but I don't know if it's the right saddle for Hattie and I.

I'm having my regular saddler come out on Thursday to see what he says and if he says it's too big for Hattie then maybe I will have to start looking for another saddle again...sigh...

For all you fashion history lovers out there, here is a trade card in my collection from a c. 1878 Paris shop showing "Then and Now" views of riding habits. Compare the c. 1778 one with the c. 1878! Too bad I don't have a photo of a habit made in 1978 to add into the mix!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Remind Me Why I Do this?

And why I couldn't have learned side saddle when I was a kid and more flexible??

I feel like how I felt like when I first went horseback riding- sore!!

I woke up and my butt was sore and every muscle in my arms and torso hurt. My left side of my ribs is sore too. I think after I broke my ribs, my body subconsciously, stopped using that side as a form of self preservation and with Lili making me sit properly and ride my horse, these muscles which haven't been used for a while (or not used properly) are being whipped back into shape and then some!

It makes you wonder how rubbish I was riding before if after just one lesson, I'm all ouchy from using the correct muscles?!

I felt better today after riding my bike to bring my son to school and then head to the stables and then to work but having to stack the tables at the school when the kids finished eating was "fun" but at least it got my muscles moving, LOL!

Unfortunately, I didn't get to ride today as I had to get dog food for my "poor suffering" dog (she had to make due with salami sausages for breakfast this morning!) and had to pack some parcels for the business (and I needed to recuperate from yesterday) but am planning on riding and practising what Lili taught me. I hope I can remember everything!

An interesting thing that Lili did during our lesson yesterday, was tell me what she would have rated the various things we did if we had done them during our dressage test and why she would have marked them as such. For example, our walk/trot transitions at the beginning of our lesson would have been 5's which is classified as "Sufficient" but later on in our lesson, our transitions were staring to become 7's which are rated as "Fairly Good". The thing that stuck out in my mind was how much WORK it took to raise our marks from 5 to 7 and what the hell I had to do to make them 10's?!!

Lili is judging at the next dressage show that I'll be entering on February 20 but I asked her is I would be allowed to show as I'm her student or if I would have to do it Hors Concours. She said that it is fine for unaffiliated dressage but that she would have to notify the show organizers though. She said not for me to expect her to be soft on me when judging but I said, "Nope, if I'm crap, then make sure you let me know!"

I want to practise and do well to make her proud though!

I'm just dreading the saddle rolling over tomorrow though when we school as when I took it off of Hattie yesterday, all her fur was all badly ruffled on the left side of her withers from the saddle dragging downwards to the left. Towards the end of my lesson, it was literally my right blubbery butt cheek, that was clenching onto the saddle with all it's life, to keep me on that darn thing.

It didn't move forwards which is good but just dropped down..alot..sigh..

Well, hopefully when my saddler comes to look at it next week, I'll look more like this Edwardian rider (from an early 1900's postcard in my collection),



instead of having my saddle end up like this!



To be fair, she was riding an old "cow horn" Victorian side saddle which aren't meant for jumping in, but my saddle felt it would have ended the same way! LOL!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Happy and Exhausted

I had my first side saddle lesson in ages with Lili Brooksby and it was amazing!

She is an excellent teacher and stopped me from being so wimpy by making me RIDE my horse. I'm exhausted mentally and physically as I learned so much today but I'm happy as we really improved from the start of our lesson to the end of it.

I have been sitting crooked all this time (too far over to the right but she said that I compensated for it well by keeping my right shoulder back) and she got me to sit more to the left of my saddle so that my spine is over Hattie's.

We worked on getting Hattie more forward and stopping me from working so hard to get her forward by constantly nagging with my left leg (hard to do but we were getting there in the end). Lili got us to work on our walk/trot transitions so that they were more smoother and not so abrupt by balancing her with my outside rein and preparing her by half halting. We we also worked on keeping her to a slight bend to the inside so I could see Hattie's eyelashes and all this work on balancing Hattie and my corrected riding position, resulted to Hattie working in a nice outline with a nice contact and not being really heavy on the reins like she can be.

Lili also got me to point my right foot down for canter transitions and get her prepared for cantering by going in a nice forward trot with a slight bend to the inside and a nice elastic contact. She also told me about the use of the right hip when cantering and to really put your weigh into it as it acts as your right leg to stop your horse from swinging it's back around.

We did get to canter on both reins though, I'm so happy!!

I also need to work on keeping my hands lower when cantering as I tend to raise them too high and it makes her go hollow and becareful with my whip as it tickles Hattie and she gets annoyed and bucks (she did a big buck in the canter from my whip swinging back and tickling her but Lili said I sat that well!).

My saddle started rolling to the left by the end of the lesson and it REALLY needs flocking up again as Lili said that when Hattie was really using her back and going well, that I had the saddle rolling me to the left undoing everything so the saddler is coming out next Thursday to adjust it. She said that it may be overflocked as well.

I know Lili taught me more things today but my brain is shutting down for the night now but I know they will come back to me when I school this week!

Another piece of good news, the equestrian company that I spoke about having problems with in my blog post about Rotten Row, sent back my side saddle riser numnah along with a complimentary white quilted side saddle pad as a thank you and a pink side saddle cover with my name on it! They sent me a letter of apology saying that they got swamped with Christmas orders so I'm glad that they had the decency to rectify the situation. Like I said before, I've ordered twice from them in the past and have always been happy with my goods and so am really pleased with the ones they sent me this week!



Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Best Darn Tack Shop in the World

is Sandon Saddlery right here in the heart of England!



That is where I bought my beautiful and comfy off-side side saddle from -the last of three that Miss Dodd-Noble, the eighty-something owner of Sandon Saddlery, has owned during her long and interesting life! She is quite a woman with a quick mind who works out all the prices plus tax in her mind and gives you a hand written receipt. She will also tell you stories about horses she has owned and showed me old photos of her partner riding side saddle on a horse they bought for £200.

It's not a fancy tack shop- it doesn't stock trendy brands like Ariat or Kingsland nor does it have expensive French saddles like Butet or Devoucoux. It's been around since the 1950's and alot of the stock is 2nd hand stuff Miss Dodd-Noble has bought over the years and it's just accumulated but she does sell quite a bit of new tack as well. It's a mix of old and new. Some people don't like it as they say "it's where tack comes to die" and granted quite a few things ARE moth eaten and/or in questionable condition but to me, it's a the perfect tack shop.

Even if they didn't have any side saddle bits and bobs there, I would still love it as it's the kind of shop where everything is piled up and you have to dig through to find what you are looking for. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea as many people like to shop with ease and convenience but as an antique dealer, I like to dig in amongst the muck to find the treasure so it appeases my craving to search and find yet I get to buy tack!

The window on the left has some modern and old tack on display in it while the window on the far right, has all miniature bridles and other mini tack on display!

When you go through the front doors, you are hit with clutter everywhere in the front room. The stairs to upstairs are right in front of you and there are book shelves with horse books in them right beside the doors inside, piles of saddles to your right near the till (there was an Indian made side saddle on top of the saddle pile) along with a stack of saddle pads on sale near the door as well.

They even sell candy and toilet paper there too!

Then you go into the next room and this is where the chaos hits you! There are hundreds of astride saddles stacked in here, I didn't get to look at any of them as I did't have that much time as well as bridles, reins, bits and other accessories all over the place. Josie found a nice pair of black leather reins with diamante trim on them. There were antique bits and stirrups hanging up near the ceiling too along with wooden display cases full of stuff in them too. Please bear in mind that the room wasn't that big, probably the size of a good size modern day living room.

In this room was where the little side saddle section was too. Apart from my off-side side saddle, there were 6 other side saddles on display or for sale. I say "or" as Miss Dodd-Noble doesn't sell all of them, some are from her own collection and are for display only. She will not sell them for any price as other people have tried and failed!

There was a nice but dusty tan leather c.1930's looking Champion & Wilton that had moth eaten panels (I really liked this saddle), a c. 1870's- 1880's Victorian side saddle with fancy stitched safe (I don't think this one was for sale), a Victorian child's reversible side saddle pilch with fancy stitching all over it (this was NOT for sale!), a rather large seated c.1920's Mayhew (it was for a woman taller than me and with a bigger bum!), a newish modern side saddle (which looked to be a 16" seat and was a consignment side saddle) and a nice looking c.1920's- 1930's Mayhew with doeskin seat and pommels which looked like it would have fitted Josie quite well. The side saddles that were for sale, seemed to be mostly about £1200 and up.

I believe the pilch side saddle is the one she told me the story about how when she was a young woman, she used to walk miles or hitch hike to the different auctions to buy tack. She went to one auction where they had about 7 side saddles which had belonged to a Lady who died the month before. No one wanted them in the auction room and the auctioneer offered them to Miss Dodd-Noble for 1 shilling each just to get rid of them. She could only afford one and even if she had the money for all of them, she would have had to walk all the way back from Cambridgeshire to Hertfordshire with 7 side saddles! She ended up only buying the pilch side saddle which is why she will not sell it as she is so proud of it.

None of the side saddles were a wide fit (except the pilch), all seemed to be in the medium/ medium/wide range (except for the Victorian one which was narrow) and all (except the Victorian one and the pilch) looked like they would fit Hattie. Darn her accommodating Thoroughbred shape!! If I were flush for cash (or had a bit more left on my credit card!!), I would have liked to have bought that comfy looking large seated Mayhew and the nice C&W with the moth eaten panels. Both looked like they would have fit Hattie. The C&W was my size but I think the large seated Mayhew would have been a bit too long for Hattie's back. Still I can dream...

I wish I could have taken photos but it was too dark in the shop!!

Then where the side saddles were, was a couple of buckets and boxes of side saddle "stuff". There was one cardboard box full of old dusty (some mouldy!) side saddle covers- you know the old canvas ones which were stitched to fit a particular saddle. There must have been about 20 of them in there in all sizes but none for an off-side saddle.

There was box that had some old side saddle stirrup leathers, lots of old small pony sized balance girths, a weird lightweight aluminium leaping head without a cover and an old 56" three fold Fitzwilliam girth (I would have bought this had it been 2" shorter for Hattie). I spotted a Mayhew one in the box but the rest were Champion & Wilton ones. There were more old C&W ones hanging up on the wall where the saddles were too but no Owen ones or any strange ones from lesser known brands. The stirrup leathers started from about £20 and went up in price depending on condition.

The the last box were other oddments like old chamois numnahs for side saddles and astride saddles and side saddle queens. That is where I found my matching set:



They were being sold as a pair but I don't mind as I can quite happily use both! The fixed pommel on my off-side side saddle is so dinky and narrow too that I need something more substantial for my leg so the off-side queen is perfect.



The rest of the queens were just standard foam and elastic ones so I am very pleased with my posh doeskin ones!

There is also a big selection of saddle pads, blankets, correction pads, horse boots in the other rooms in all shapes, sizes and condition but I didn't have time to dig through everything but Josie found a nice non slip gel pad for Chance there. That is where I bought my fleece side saddle numnah there. They are new as they make them there and come in a few different colors as wel. I bought the brown off-side one but I ordered a red fleece one and another brown fleece one for my near-side side saddle today as they are reasonably priced and are of good quality. They also made thin quilted cotton ones too and the sizes are small, medium and large. Medium fits both my 17" side saddles and the large white one I have, is a bit long.



In another room were helmets, body protectors and piles of old hunting breeches and old fashioned flared hip breeches all folded up on shelves including some old Harry Hall ones. Quite a few were moth eaten as they are all wool but they were interesting to look at to see how fashions have changed over the years! All of them had button fronts, I think I prefer zippers though especially when I'm busting and have to go for a quick pee in the stable (sorry Hattie!!).

Upstairs was full of riding boots in all shapes, sizes and conditions. I would have liked to have looked for another pair of leather dress boots to wear with my habit as my current ones, I bought 2nd hand and were made for someone who had MUCH narrower feet than mine. Every time I wear them to a show, I dare not get off Hattie or else I'm crippled from blisters and badly rubbed feet. If I ever get to go back to Sandon Saddlery again, I'm going to look for a another pair of riding boots.

There were also racks and racks of all sorts of show jackets (new and used), hunting coats, quilted riding vests, all sorts of riding jackets and coats along with a side saddle attire section!!

I spent a LONG time in this section as well going through every apron to see if I could find an off-side one or anything in my size to fit. There was a good sized selection of odd aprons, new, vintage and used, but most of them seemed to have a 24", 26" or 28" waist, with most being in the 24" range (grrrr!!!). There was an Edwardian grey shadow striped one that I liked that was only £17 but it had a tiny waist and was completely moth eaten. You couldn't wear it or displayu it as it was so holey, only take a pattern from it as it was that bad. There were some new light blue schooling aprons for only £10 but again, there were only 24" waists left. There was a new apron that had a 30" waist that I liked but was out of my budget and a good selection of riding habits in smaller sizes. It would be a good place to go if you have skinny teenage side saddle riders and there were a couple of new girl's habits there too. Not much for the busty more mature lady though! I was kinda glad though as my bank account couldn't take anymore battering.

Prices for aprons ranged from £10 for schooling aprons to over £100 for a nice new wool one. Habits vintage or new, ranged in price from £100 to over £500.

Out of all the aprons and habits I looked through (or sucked in my stomach to try and get into), there was one lonesome off-side apron there for me and at a price I could afford (and a price that my husband would not shout at me for, LOL!). It has a 28" waist and if I hold my breathe, I can suck in my 32" waist small enough to get into it!! The length is good on me and I've already lost 7lbs so just need to lose 15lbs more and I should be able to get into it by the end of the year.

It's lovely and it's made from black melton wool. Miss Dodd-Noble said that it had been made for a customer but I guess the customer never came to get it so they sold it off cheap since not many people ride in an off-side.



This tack shop may not be to everyone's tastes but to me it was a bit of heaven and I hope that when I get to Miss Dodd-Noble's age that I'm just like her, sharp in the mind and with a place full of tack.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Presenting The Beck Morrow Off-Side Side Saddle!



We went shopping yesterday and boy did I shop!

Came home with a Beck Morrow OFF-SIDE side saddle, a new wool off-side apron, a pair of matching full suede and leather queens for a near-side and off-side saddle and a new brown fleece off-side numnah!



My saddle is a Beck Morrow side saddle (although it's only stamped Beck) which were copies of French Hermes side saddles. Even though they were copies, the quality, materials and workmanship were on the same level as Hermes saddles. Beck Morrow was a London saddler based in Paris and theirs along with Hermes side saddles, are known for the "close contact" panels were are felt covered in leather. I prefer close contact saddles when riding astride and I liked the close contact feel of my old Champion & Wilton saddle when I had the Wykham pad put on but sometimes feel that the thick padding that my Manorgrove has (along with other heavily flocked up side saddles), keeps me form feeling what Hattie is doing.

My saddle only has a partial remnant of the Beck Morrow label but it would have looked like this one that I came across on a photo of a nearside Beck Morrow from the same era.

It says:
Beck and Morrow
Saddler and Harness Maker
From London
To his Late Excellency
The British Ambassador
41, rue Boissy d'Anglas
Paris

Beck Morrow ceased trading in 1907.



The seat measures 17" from cutback to cantle or 21" from front of fixed head to cantle. It is only 1/2" longer and 1" wider in the seat than my other off-side side saddle but it is so comfortable and fits me well! It's amazing how small a measurement can make the difference in rider comfort. The seat has a slight dip to it which I like as well and I don't find it slippery at all even though the seat is pigskin (but I was wearing full seat breeches). The pommels are narrow which I'm not keen on due to the arthritis my knees so I'm so glad I was able find a Queen for an off-side saddle at the same time.

It has a roller bar fitting like my other off-side saddle so just used the same stirrup leather for that as well.



The annoying thing about the saddle, is that there isn't a convenience tab for the overgirth only a buckled overgirth which requires a groom to do up when a lady is mounted!! When I have the saddler out to adjust the felt/flocking and change the girth straps, I may ask if he can change it to a convenience tab or just take it off completely as overgirths tend to annoy Hattie. It is too short for her anyways and I had to use a girth extender to buckle it!



I put a felt pad between the panel and the saddle on the off-side to boost up the right side though area, it flattened down a bit after I rode in it so I will have to get the saddler to adjust it. With the queen on, I get a nice upright head for my leg.



The saddle has an "open head" which means it doesn't have a flap extending from the top of the safe over the withers. It's weird feeling Hattie's withers when I ride but the saddle doesn't come down on her withers at all. The open head gives good room for a high withered horse like a Thoroughbred. The panels are only half panels as well which also suit Hatties conformation as there is nothing to interfere with her shoulder movement. You can see in the photo, the front edge of the panel, how is it only beside the withers (which fit her well) but nothing to bug her shoulders.



The nearside of the saddle, has a stiff leather flap over the half panel to protect the horse from the girth but other than the half panel, there is not superfluous padding. I'm so glad that Beck Morrows had point straps though as Hattie needs them!



The off-side panel is just a thick piece of felt covered in leather with a pocket for the long point. You can just see the edge of the stirrup roller bar. You have to thread the stirrup leather though the hole in outer flap onto the stirrup bar. It's a bit fiddly to get on but keeps the buckle and the excess end of the stirrup leather hidden away. Like Owen side saddles, there isn't much support under the safe for the calf for extra close contact. The leather covering the felt is a bit fragile so I may have to get the panels refurbished in the near future if I'm going to use this saddle regularly.



We got back too late for me to try it out but I got to this morning.



It was nice having a big enough seat and not having my butt hang off the side of the saddle!!



It was weird getting back on the off-side again but we we started out with lots of walking on both reins and thinking "LEFT SHOULDER BACK". We also did lots of walk/trot transistions.



Hattie was a bit confused today with my legs being on the right side but towards the end of our 20-30 minute schooling sessions, she was starting to get it again.



Need to stop slouching!!



It started to come together at the end...



Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Why Ebay Is Bad For you..

Because it makes you spend!

I bought a vintage riding habit on there the other day and it finally came. I didn't expect it to fit but it was cheap and thought if it didn't (which it probably wouldn't as most vintage habits are too short for me), I could resell it and at least get the money back that I paid for it.

Well, wouldn't you just know that as soon as I tried the darn thing on, it fit. Very well. Very well indeed!

Excuse the rubbish photos, they are from the auction. I'll take better ones when I'm not so tired.



It's from the Moss Bros, the famous London suit makers and was made on September 27 1934 for a Mrs. Carl.



Moss Bros. used to make men's and women's sportswear like riding clothes until the 1960's and even sold tack. Unfortunately, they only seem to deal in men's suits now which is a shame as the few vintage habits I have seen of theirs, have been lovely.

The habit was most likely made for hunting as it has some repairs and is made from medium weight navy blue melton with the jacket being lined in black rayon satin. The apron is partially lined in cotton twill with the left side edge having a nifty button back fastening to that when not mounted, the apron wraps around nicely like a skirt around you but when mounted, it folds and buttons back on the underside! Hard to explain but I will take photos.

Mrs. Carl must have been the same height and build as me (it's too bad I don't have her saddle!) and the habit fits better than my current black Calcutt & Sons habit which is also a proper hunting one.

I really like my black cutaway habit but I've always found the sleeves a bit short for me and the bust/shoulders a tiny bit tight. Whoever my black one was made for, she had slightly smaller shoulders and was a bit less bustier than me! It fits ok but the Moss Bros one is more comfortable as there is more room in the shoulders. Strangely, the sleeves measure the same on both jackets but I suppose because the Moss Bros one has slightly wider shoulders, it doesn't cause the sleeves to ride up on me.

There is no point in keeping both habits but I will wait to next month for the next dressage show to see how the Moss Bros habit rides and make my final decision on which one to definitely keep then!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Side Saddle Videos!

While uploading the video of my dressage test to You Tube last night, I found some old videos Josie took of me jumping Hattie side saddle for the first time last May. I had forgotten I had them so uploaded them too!

Hattie & I jumping for the 1st time ever, excuse the shaky camera as Josie was running around after us trying to film, LOL!



Our 2nd attempt. I really miss my C&W saddle as I found my right leg had a more solid position in it and it really fit my butt good!! Shame it got too narrow for Hattie!



This is the video of the Intro B dressage test we did on Sunday. I prefer the Intro A side saddle and the B is a bit harder to ride aside but we didn't do too badly! I can see how my left shoulder has come up though and how I'm sitting crooked at some points.



Good news! I'm having a side saddle lesson with Lili Brooksby next week! She emailed me back and we arranged a time so hopefully she will be able to whip me into shape. Yippee!!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I Got Whooped Good Today!

Well, after a week of being depressed, I decided to school Hattie one last time yesterday afternoon to do any last preparations for our test today. Hattie was really good and working on a soft contact and in an nice outline. After packing my saddle up with foam stuff, it felt level so just schooled for 10 minutes before calling it quits so we'd end on a good note.

I think we us, short and sweet will have to be our catchphrase with schooling to be no longer than 20 minutes. Hopefully, I can start to afford a once a month side saddle lesson again next month just to start whipping us back into form again and hopefully will be able to practice more in the week if I can get my son into some sort of after-school program.

Then at the show today, we did a short 10 minute schooling session in the warm up arena and just walked around it after that to relax. My saddle didn't feel right afterwards though as even though I put the foam padding between the panels, it packed down at the left side of Hattie's withers so I felt like I was rolling to the left slightly and had to battle to keep my right shoulder back which in turn, was causing me to raise my left shoulder and sit crooked.

We did our test and we did ok but Hattie wasn't really listening to me and the nice elastic contact we had yesterday and in the warm up, went out of the window. She kept falling in and our circles were bizarre shaped. I was trying to sit up straight to keep us all balanced but I felt like I was going to slide off the left side of the saddle so I wasn't much help!!!

It was windy today and there was some stupid yappy dog that kept barking during my test (and only my test) and Hattie kept paying attention to that stupid thing and not me! I love dogs but I could have drop-kicked that dog to the the moon for yapping during my test. Dogs do not belong at dressage tests. I don't bring my dog to horse shows as she would be a nuisance to everyone around so why can't other people repay the same courtesy?

Thankfully I have a good horse that knows what she is doing so we got through the test without mishap and with a decent score of 61.7% with lots of 6's and 7's (only two 5's).

Our comments were all what I expected and our collective comment was:

"A consistent test- well done. Some marks lost today due to falling in and against the hand (I felt this when I was riding), which was a shame. Better marks with improved self carriage, Well done."

Hattie was going well in our schooling yesterday and before the test so I need to keep working that regularly and in short spurts so hopefully by our next test, she will be more elastic in my hand. The improved self carriage will also come when I'm sitting more balanced and not sliding off the saddle so Hattie can get on with her job!

I recognized the judges name, Lili Brooksby and Googled her and realized that I had seen her ride side saddle on her horse, Silver Mercedes, before at shows and also have seen her name on the Side Saddle Association Area 12 results lists!

Finally a judge that understood side saddle and she teaches side saddle and dressage too! Often at the stable (where the shows are held) down the lane from me too!!

There are photos of her and me riding in our side saddle costumes at the 2009 Hinckley Dressage Christmas show.

I think I may have to contact her as I need help in both disciplines!

Unfortunately, there was a couple of us that had scores of 61.7% and although usually they will give a joint placing (I would have tied for 6th place out of 15 competitors), the show officials decided not to give joint placings today and work out our scores using the collective marks (or something like that, they lost me when it was being explained). I ended up missing out on 6th place by 1 mark and lost to 13 year old Josie who also rode Hattie (not side saddle) and also got 61.7%!

She got a 7 mark for rider position and I got a 6 for mine due to me riding crooked. Probably a normal judge wouldn't have noticed BUT I was under the critical eye of a side saddle judge. I need to shape up!

Josie rode Hattie REALLY well and it was her first ever dressage test so although it's hilarious I got beat by my own horse and my own "stable kid", at least I didn't lose out by much. Although Josie and my husband will probably NEVER EVER let me live it down!

LOL, I got whooped good today!

I was surfing on Ebay tonight trying to treat myself to something because I missed out on being in the ribbons, and found a BARGOON!

A side saddle numnah for £3.99!



It looks to be homemade but for the price, I can sew shims on it to try and balance my saddle until the saddler can come out next month. It'll be my "7th place" prize ;-)

Friday, 14 January 2011

Moping About...

Sorry for the gap in posting but I've been moping around all week thinking about my rubbish riding and our rubbish schooling session on Monday (and feeling guilty about losing my temper with Hattie then too!)

It started out good, Hattie was going around nicely forward and in an outline and I think I should have left it there after about 20 minutes as Hattie HATES schooling at the best of times. Instead since everything was going well, I thought "why not try working on our canter?".

BIG MISTAKE.

We got a few shuffling strides on the right rein after multiple tries and none on the left rein.

My stupid saddle started rolling to the left AGAIN even though it had only been flocked up 2 days beforehand. Hattie started going around with her head up in the air, I was getting tired and frustrated....

So I gave up trying to canter and went back to working on our trot and practising our test.

Hattie was still going around with her head in the air, rushing the trots, not stopping so I lost my cool so yanked the rein (MY BAD!!!!!!!!) and shouted at her.

I felt like crying as we were doing so well last summer and now we suck. I feel like I'm battling the saddle and it's affecting my riding and Hattie is getting the brunt of it which is NOT COOL at all.

I feel so guilty about taking out my frustration on her as it's not Hattie's fault that I'm a rubbish rider and she is such a kind mare. She didn't ask to have some lump of a rider on her back and you should NEVER take out your anger on a horse. I feel like a very bad parent and feel VERY guilty. You guys have permission to shout at me and tell me off!!

Plus, the Side Saddle Association Area 12 email came through with the list of side saddle shows for 2011 and the one that we went in last year and won is on it and I probably won't be able to go to it again as I don't have transport and my riding has gone down the drain.

I don't know what to do about my saddle as it's comfy when it's flocked up and Hattie doesn't throw a buck with it like she did with my old one but I don't know if she truly likes it. Is it normal for it to need reflocking every 2 days???

I need lessons too as I need to sort out if it's me or the saddle (or both!) that is leading to such a block when it comes to riding.

Maybe just keep schooling to 20 minutes MAX and just go back to the beginning with riding and when it comes time to canter, just aim for a couple of strides and really concentrate on my position.

I put that foam grip stuff between my panels again as a temporary fix until I have the saddler come out again and to keep the saddle level for the dressage test on Sunday.

I don't know how we will do on Sunday but I promised Hattie that I would NEVER EVER take out my anger on her again like I did on Monday. She just looked at me when I said that and pushed me with her nose as if to say "go get me my food woman"....

Here are some blurry photos from a few weeks ago when we tried out the pelham. Hattie didn't mind it one bit but my off-side side saddle needed flocking up desperately on her so we only walked around.



It was tricky riding with two reins but after a while, it wasn't too bad. I didn't bother riding off the curb so kept that a little bit loose but kept the contact on the snaffle.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

What a Hack Today!

Had a good schooling session today! Hattie wasn't as "go, Go, GO!" in the school as she was yesterday but was working more in a calm fashion and in a nice outline. Her "proceed down the center line" was straighter so that was good but we still need to work on our "half 20 metre circles" as they were a bit wonky.

My son is going to his friend's house after school so I will be able to get some more schooling in tomorrow afternoon but then that is it till Saturday when I get to ride again! Better make tomorrow count then.

Although Hattie was calm for schooling, she was saving up her energy for our hack afterwards! LOL, that was fun!!!

Using Robin's advice about tightening your buttock to ask for the canter, Hattie and I had a nice canter on both reins without her speeding up and rushing into a canter or doing the opposite, a shuffle canter.

I do think as well that with the saddle being rebalanced yesterday, it's made for a happier horse today since she was working in a nice outline and our easy canter transitions. I'm going to keep my eye on the saddle and first signs it needs re-flocking, the saddler said he will come back.

There is a small river which runs at the back of our field and runs the length of the lane that turns into a ford that you can drive through if you have the key to the gate (which I do) and a 4x4 (which I don't!). You can ride through it as well although it was nearing 3' today due to all the rain we have had over the past week.

Here is my comical attempts to cross it. I ended up chickening out as we neared the middle when my paddock boots toe got wet and my head nearly clonked the side of the bridge. Excuse the quality of the video as it was filmed on a phone and you may want to turn down your volume as there is lots of screaming by a woman-old-enough-to-know-better and 13 year old Josie filming!



Coming back, Hattie was psyched up from being in the water (and probably from the sugar beet and all the laughing and screaming!) that she was on her toes. It didn't help that Josie on Hattie's stablemate, Chance, cantered on by and Hattie decided to remember that she was a Thoroughbred. She tried to do a buck and was prancing/cantering on the spot trying to take off after Chance so I had to keep my leg off of her and persuade her to get onto the narrow grass verge so that she wouldn't slip on the concrete whilst faffing about.

When she gets herself worked up like this, you HAVE to keep your leg OFF of her, point your toe RIGHT down, keep your right shoulder BACK and her head UP as any movement from you or touch from your leg, will send her flying forward. If you don't keep her head right up, she can and WILL buck you off even with a side saddle. You also have to speak firmly in a very low man's voice to "aaaand ho", "aaaand walk", "steeeeeady on", over and over again until her feet are planted on the floor and she's not trying to spin around. Only then can you start to very gently nudge her walking forward while repeating the phrases over and over again until she's calmed down. When she starts walking forward, you have to MAKE her go in an outline to make her concentrate on you and not what others are doing as then if you don't, she will start all over again. It took me all of the walk back home to do this!

It's hard enough doing this astride but with a side saddle it's harder as she keeps wanting to spin so if you forget to keep your right shoulder back, you come off. I was very pleased with my new side saddle though as it stood up to the job of keeping me put and did not slide forward onto her shoulders during her "episode" like my old one used to when she used to get in this state (and making things worse).

When we got back, Hattie promptly fell asleep while being untacked. I had a good look at my saddle to see if it sunk anywhere during our eventful hack and I was pleased to see that the new flocking is holding up well so far.



It has stayed level from front to back and still supports my left thigh.



You can see daylight through the gullet too as it's staying off her withers.



I tell you what though, NO MORE sugar beet for Hattie after I finish the bag this week!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

A Peek at Rotten Row in the Edwardian Era...

Had an "interesting" schooling session today! I REALLY did not feel like riding today due to my stinking cold (and you KNOW I'm poorly when I don't feel like riding!) but only have 8 days till the dressage show on the 16th (omigosh, only 8 days? I thought I still had 2 weeks left!!!) so thought I best get some practice in as I probably get a chance to ride in the week due to work.

Last school term, I was able to get quick rides in the afternoon as my little boy used to go to afterschool club and play golf and basketball. This term, all the school is offering afterschool is Girl's World and football (soccer to those in the US and Canada!). Since my son is neither into Girl's World or football, that is my schooling time screwed for this school term! The government keeps harping on how the UK is becoming a nation of "obesity" (yeah, tell that to my bean pole 10 year old) but then they cancel the sports activities kids want to play.

With that off my chest, back to our schooling...

Well, you know how we get the usual "lacks purpose" and "needs to be ridden more forward" comments on our dressage tests due to Hattie becoming a donkey at shows? I think I found the answer to turning her into a proper "hot blooded" Thoroughbred...sugar beet.

I have been giving her sugar beet in her feed for the past 2 weeks as she was starting to drop weight due to the extreme cold and non existent grass. Hay just wasn't enough to get the weight back on quick, so started giving her the beet. Unfortunately, Hattie does not get on well with sugars so I always have to watch what I feed her. I wanted to get her an unmollassed beet product like Speedi-Beet but when we went to the feed shop on Christmas Eve, all they had left in stock was mollassed sugar beet so got that.

With Hattie pulling a shoe on the day before New Years Eve and me being sick, I've not ridden so only today found out the power of Sugar Beet!

She was dancing around while being tied up, when Josie lead her to the grass to graze for a bit while I tidied up the stables, she galloped off down my friend's driveway pulling the lead out of Josie's hand...Schooling she was VERY forward and had to tell her to "steady on" as she just wanted to go, Go, GO! As we were practising our test, she was bucking and doing little prancey skip/buck things so had to shout at her and tell her to "QUIT IT!" and then we did a nice 20 metre circle with her going forward with soft contact in an outline!

I don't have much of that sugar beet left and don't think I will buy another bag again when it runs out but I'm going to try and make it last for the next 8 days and hopefully we won't get that "lacks purpose" comment! LOL!

The Equxtra saddler came out this afternoon after our "fun filled" schooling session, to reflock my near-side and my off-side side saddles. He had to put quite a bit of flocking in my Manorgrove side saddle as I wasn't able to have him come out for 2 months due to my son being poorly for most of November and then the freeze we had in December. It was DESPERATE for flocking! He put alot at the front as it was dropping down on Hattie's withers and then flocked up under the left thigh and in the middle of my right thigh.

With the way Hattie was behaving today, I didn't trust her to try and canter her in it as she would have bucked me clean out of that saddle due to high spirits but just tested it at the walk and trot with 20 meter circles. It felt good and level and the panels are supportive and firm but I will keep an eye on it and if it needs more, then I will call him next month to come out during the school's half term break to adjust it.

My off-side side saddle was SO FLAT to years of not being reflocked but although the saddler flocked up the panels as much as he could (there was no more stretch in the fabric), it still wasn't as supportive under my right thigh as I need. It's better than it was but not enough so I'm going to have to use a side saddle riser pad with it just to give it that bit of extra boost for me.

I do have a side saddle riser pad but unfortunately, it's now in the clutches of an unscrupulous equestrian company that makes custom made saddle covers and saddle pads here in the UK (it is NOT the trustworthy Mattes company). I placed an order with them in November for two side saddle covers and a bunch of side saddle numnahs and sent them my one so they could make me a reverse one for my off-side side saddle. Well, over a month passes with no communication, them not answering their phone or returning messages and of course, I never received my order. They now refuse to send my numnah back to me and I had to make a claim with Paypal (which I won) for non-receipt of goods. The company never even bothered to respond to the Paypal claim and looking at the Ebay feedback they started to receive right after I placed my order (they sell on their own website and on Ebay), is mostly negative. I will NEVER EVER deal with this company again and have removed any previous mention of them from this blog.

Thanks to these people, I know how to fork out for another riser numnah so that I can use my off-side side saddle to rest my bad hip.

On a positive note, my Manorgrove is all stuffed up and Hattie has new shoes so we are semi ready for our show next Sunday!

I have a stack of antique postcards by my computer here that I keep meaning to file away but they are too nice to keep hidden so scanned two for you all to see.

Both are from the Edwardian era and show riders riding on Rotten Row in Hyde Park, London. this one is postmarked 1908.



A close up of the side saddle riders and you can see the variety of hats they are wearing including boaters, top hats and bowlers.



This is a more famous postcard of Rotten Row. It does not have a postmark as it was never used but it is from the Edwardian era as well.



A close up of the side saddle rider at the front. I wonder what she was looking at? What she was thinking there? I bet she never thought side saddle riders a hundred years later from 2011 would be looking at her photo! I really like the long jacket of her habit.



If I ever get the chance to, I'd LOVE to bring Hattie down to London and ride side saddle in my habit on Rotten Row, it would be AMAZING! There is Hyde Park Stables where you can book a hack around Hyde Park but there doesn't seem to be any side saddle instruction or riding there and as I am now, I'm too "fat" to ride their horses as they have a weight limit so I'd have to bring my own horse!

Fine by me and Hattie! :)