Monday, 28 February 2011

Just Browsin' and Shoppin' on Ebay...

I have a love/hate relationship with Ebay...

I love it because it's fun to look at stuff and you can find really obscure things on there (like side saddle things!) yet I hate it as it makes you spend money, often on things you can't afford!

I won two side saddle images recently, one is a postcard dated February 24, 1914, showing a lady in a walking outfit (too bad it's not a riding habit although she is holding a whip!) holding a grey horse. You can just see it's side saddle with the pommels rising out of the top of the lady's head!!

The other image is a c. 1900 cabinet card from France showing a lady in her straw boater hat riding her Thoroughbred type horse. Her side saddle has a vestigial off-side pommel but note her neat saddle pad with "C" on it! I wonder if "C" was one of her initials or of her horse?

These two items were pretty cheap to buy, only a couple of £'s but I have been eyeing up this Mayhew off-side side saddle on Ebay for the past few days that it has been on there.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for my husband), it's WAY too small for me and Mayhew trees don't suit Hattie anyways, so the temptation for me to bid on it is gone but oh how I'd like to add it to my "collection"!

A Mayhew stirrup fitting made in the opposite direction...

I love when saddles have their original labels on the underside of the trees...

This one has a date of June 30, 1903 (my grandfather would have been 3 months and 1 day old when this tree was made!). Interestingly, the label states a seat measurement of 16" but the seller
states that the seat is 15". It's like my Beck Morrow where the label gives a seat measurement of 18" but the seat actually measures 17". They must have measured differently back then.

Thanks again to Google Maps, I found the building where Mayhew was located, it's now a Lebanese restaurant!

The tree maker's address, 26 Horace St., Queen St., Edgware Rd., was a little harder to find but wasn't actually that far from the Mayhew premises. It turns out the Queen Street was renamed to "Harrowby Street" and Horace Street renamed to "Cato Street". Actually, it seems that it was Cato street until the early- mid 19th century, then renamed Horace Street and now is back to Cato Street.

Unfortunately, most of the buildings on Horace/Cato street look to be from the 1950's- 1980's which may mean that the street was heavily bombed during WWII and reconstruction began in the 1950's. There are only a couple of older houses left on this narrow little street right at the top of Cato Street where it meets Queen/Harrowby Street under a little old pedestrian archway.

The numbering of the old houses goes up from no. 19 so the tree maker at no. 26 may have been located near the archway if the numbering did not change on the street.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Montreal Horses & History

We're hoping to get to go to Montreal again this summer to see my family (all being well!!) and one of the things I would like to do, is photograph horses and horse related stuff (especially if it's side saddle related stuff!!) like old stable buildings, etc.

One of my favorite tack shops that I used to go to all the time (and still go to when I visit Montreal, is called Lemay Saddlery. They have a Victorian side saddle hanging up from the ceiling by the cash register that has been there ever since I was 14 (that was a long time ago!!). It's havana brown with a fancy stitched safe and a small off-side horn that I have been coveting since they got it over 20 years ago but they won't sell it as they say it's "broken". I'm hoping that they will let me at least take a photo of it this summer.

I also would like to visit the Montreal Cavalry stables on Mount Royal as well. This is another place I used to go to when I was a teenager and annoy all the policemen with questions about their horses. One policeman even let me groom and saddle up his horse once! They used to only have about box stalls in the barn and the rest were nice big standing stalls but it looks as if in the video, that they have renovated the barn made it all box stalls.

You also used to be able to just pop in and visit as the barn was always open but when we went last year, it was closed to public and visits were by appointment only, I guess to stop annoying teenage girls from coming in and pestering the policemen about their horses!! ;) I'll be prepared this year!

I would also like to photograph the Ravenscrag stables as well. The stables are made from beautiful grey stone work and were part of the Ravenscrag estate which was owned by Sir Hugh Allan, a Scottish industrialist, who made Montreal his home.

All the photos are from the turn of the century but the buildings still stand and are now part of the Royal Victoria Hospital's psychiatric unit.

Here are some of the stables...

Front view, there is a stone horse head at the top of the archway. When I visited the stables in the late 90's, the horsehead was still there.

Back view of the stables...

Interior view with a carriage and a sleigh on either side...

Close up of the horses in the standing stalls...

Stall area...

Missie Allan and her pony...

When we went to Montreal in 2008, I was lucky enough to visit my old school, a historic private girl's school called, Villa Maria which was built in 1804 and became a school in 1854 when the Congrégation de Notre-Dame nuns bought it.

The school still has their old stable standing at the back of the main building and I took a sneaky photo of it before one of the caretakers came running out shouting that the nuns would not like it! LOL, I spent 5 years of my life there studying hard and I'll be darned if I didn't get a photo of the stables! ;)

I was the "tour guide" for the stables when I was in my graduating year there as the older girls had to tell the younger girls about the school and show them around. It was last used for horse sin 1949 and the Stucco on outside walls, is original! I'm going to go back and try to get a back view too!

I'm also hoping that I can go around the Pointe St Charles and Griffintown areas of the city and photograph some of the historic stables too where the caleche horses which pull the carriages in Old Montreal, live and speak to Leo Leonard, who owns the Griffintown Horse Palace too.

Until I get to go back to Montreal and get some more horse related history for you all, check out my previous blog posts on my home city...

The Montreal Hunt Club & Equestrian Building History

The Mount Royal Riding Academy and Club

Owen Side Saddles in Museums

Saturday, 26 February 2011

History of a Saddle Tree

I had my saddler, Roger Whitehead, come out to check both my new saddles that I bought from Sandon Saddlery to make sure that they would be good for Hattie and also to fit the panels on my off-side side saddle.

It turns out that my off-side side saddle was padded with layers of felt with flocking in-between each layer. He removed one layer of flocking from between the felt and immediately, it dropped the saddler down, becoming a better fit for Hattie. Roger said that it probably was originally, just padded with felt but that the flocking was added later on at some point, to make the saddle smaller for a narrower horse. He also said that it made his job a ALOT easier when he opened up the saddle and saw that he could just peel away layers!

Now that we know the tree width is finally correct for Hattie, it is now the tricky part of balancing the saddle. He had me ride around in it and shimmed it out with bits and bobs to see where it needs lifting and took the saddle back to the workshop so he can cut felt shims to put in-between the panel layers.

Roger is going to put a full panel length shim on each side and taper it to nothing towards the front to raise the back of the saddle. He is then going to build up the off-side with layers of felt shims but he needs to come back to see me ride in it so that he can add or remove shims as necessary. He is also going to build up the front of the panels at the tree points a little and move the girth straps forward as he says that Hattie needs this with her particular conformation.

He had me ride with the girth on the point, 1st and 2nd billets on the off-side and attach the balance girth onto the 1st billet and it did make a difference with the saddle staying put!

So things that need doing to my off-side side saddle:
1) Balance panels.
2) Recover panels (not sure about whether to go with leather or linen).
3) Replace all billets and move the back ones more forward closer to the tree points.
4) Reattach the over girth I cut off and add a convenience tab.
5) Try and rebend the leaping head to take a little bit of the curliness out.

Although my Beck Morrow is still a long way off from being finished, at least we are on the right track with fit and making it perfect for Hattie. Roger feels that it is worth it with this saddle as Hattie seemed very forward in it and he said that the tree is actually a good fit for her, better than any of the other saddles (astride or aside) that I've had. We walked, trotted and cantered on both reins in it with ease and without the weird bending sideways thing she did in my last lesson so even with the panels in their current state, the saddle is a million times better in fit than it was!!

Next Roger looked at my Whippy and he said that the panels were fine and they didn't need any flocking taken out (I guess I was paranoid after all the flocking I had to put into my Manorgrove I guess). In fact, he said it could do with a tiny bit more at the extreme back but he said just to see if my side saddle riser pad with out any stuffing in it does the trick as the empty pocket may add the tiny bit of lift that it needs. He said that he couldn't take any flocking out of the front as you could already get two fingers clearance between her withers and the pommel and anymore would make it drop down too much.

He said that my Whippy was probably one of the best fitting nearside side saddles that I have had and to keep it as he is all too familiar with Hattie's awkward conformation. He said the only problem was that the seat was a bit narrow for my wide bum but that he meant it in the nicest possible way! LOL! Roger said though that it was a case of working with what you have since vintage saddles tend to have narrowish seats anyways and that Hattie is such a hard fitting (i.e. needle = haystack) so I must continue with my diet to get my 42" hips back down to the 38" they were in 2007.

We walk, trotted and cantered on both reins and Roger had me put the girth on the nearside point strap and attach the balance girth to the 1st billet and I didn't end up needing my non-slip pad underneath. He took the saddle back with him as well and is going to replace all the billets on it and move the back ones closer to the tree points as well.

The news wasn't so good with my lovely Swain though...

Roger said that is REALLY well made quality saddle but that is was unfortunately WAY too big for Hattie. He said that it would need too much doing to it to make it a narrower fit and that it would probably end up rolling anyways due to it being too wide. He said he had never seen a new black side saddle and that it was very unusual. Roger said it was too bad as the seat fit my bottom!

So with a heavy heart, my lovely Swain is up for sale :(

On a happy note, when Roger took off the panels of my Beck Morrow, he found the original maker's labels on the saddle tree!

The first label gives the date of 1898 and the maker as being W. Slatford & Son with an address of 44 Greek Street in the Soho area of London as well as a former address of 15 or 16 Gerrard Street.

From the Society of the Military Horse website, I found out a bit of history about the Slatfords:

"This family originated in Oxford, James Slatford (1824-1893), a Freeman of the City of Oxford, brought his family and saddle tree business to London around 1850. They were in Gerrard Street in Soho. James was succeeded by his son William who in turn was succeeded by his sons William James and James Cornelius. The business seems to have died out after them about the time of WW1."

With Beck Morrow closing in 1907, it is no surprise that Slatford ceased trading shortly afterward. World War One and all the horses being requisitioned, would have been the final nail in the coffin for the business.

Thanks also to Google Maps, I also found the area where the tree was originally made although the actual 44 Greek street building got demolished in the late 1920's to build the Prince Edward Theatre which opened on April 3, 1930. The addresses on Greek street skip from no. 40 to no. 47.
I hihlighted with a little grey box down the street on the left side, approx. where number 44 would have stood.

The building(s) on Gerrard Street where Slatford was originally located are still standing right in the heart of Chinatown!

The building is also a historic one as well and has a plaque on it marking it's history. It looks like it got turned into a restaurant after the tree makers moved out!

Interestingly, the saddle measurements on the label give the seat as being 18" and the seat width being 12 1/2". I do not know how they measured the saddle as I get 17" from cutback to cantle or 21" from the front of the fixed head to cantle. The seat measures 14" across it, 12 1/2" is what my Whippy is and that is ALOT narrower than my Beck Morrow. After reading Brita's blog post about side saddle seat sizing and seeing the measurements written on the label, I'm starting to think maybe they measured seats a different way in the Victorian era than how we do today.

The tree fitting is also stated as being a "general" fit when the actual tree is quite generous fitting!

The second label gives the abbreviation of Ctsse and the name Pillet-Will. The only thing that I can think what Ctsse stands for is the French word Comtesse (which is Countess in English). Pillet- Will is a French name and there was a Comtesse Pillet- Will around the time the saddle was made too. She was a rich Parisian socialite and apparently very well known according to a 1901 article in New Zealand's The Evening Post newspaper.

With Beck Morrow being a high class London based saddler with a branch in Paris, she certainly would have been able to afford to have such a specialized saddle made and since France is only over the channel from England, Beck Morrow may have had their trees made in London (or maybe even their entire saddles too) and then sent over to Paris in a fairly short time.

If it is the Comtesse's saddle, then she was about my height but probably a bit skinnier than me! I found this portrait of her painted in 1910 by Paul Albert Besnard which was sold at an auction in Lyon, France in 2006.

Oh if saddles could talk!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Side Saddles!!

I got to test out my new acquisitions on Sunday and hacked out in my Whippy on Monday and today.

All in all, I am pleased with both saddles but both of them need some tweaking and fixing to make them perfect.

Let's start with the Whippy...

A REALLY nice looking saddle in show condition that looks like a Mayhew but not a Mayhew (thank goodness as Mayhew trees are totally the wrong shape for Hattie)!

I rode with the leaping head on the lower hole on Sunday and Monday as I could not budge it. It was comfortable but I find with the pommels spread so far apart, that I could not get my right leg back enough so that I ended up with my right leg nearly on Hattie's shoulder.

Ignore the poor photograph as my new camera takes blurry out of focus photos. My butt wasn't really hanging off the end of the saddle that much even with Hattie standing halfway up a hill! I don't know what was up with that photo with my bum but you can see I was unable to get my right leg back.

So armed with a screw driver, a butter knife and a pair of big pliers, I got that leaping head off and put it onto the top hole. MUCH more comfier with the leaping head set higher and I was able to get my seat more forward onto the saddle and bring my right leg back easily. When I rode out in it today, we had a canter along the grass verge, trotted through the 3' deep ford river and had a good time in it!

The saddle sits a little up hill as it was HEAVILY flocked up to fit a medium width horse but it does have a nice wide gullet channel between the panels which suits modern horses. The panels are completely covered in linen which is handy for cleaning. The flocking is completely lump free so I think it must have been recently reflocked before whoever decided to sell it.

I'm going to need some of the flocking taken out at the front to set it down a little bit. Not too much though as when I'm on the saddle, I can just get two fingers width between Hattie's withers and the saddle. The gullet is very wide though and measures 6" across the top. You can also see in the photo how far apart the arms of the tree are. No wonder it was so heavily flocked up to fit a medium horse but is good news for medium/wide Hattie though!

The saddle fits nice and level with a slight tilt to the right. I do not feel like the saddle is rolling at all when I ride in it and I feel very secure. When Hattie trots, I do not move at all in it even when she is doing her "race for home" trot when we are heading back. Josie laughed at me yesterday when we were trotting home as she said that she could see Hattie's speedy legs moving along but I was sitting there motionless!

The forward billets on the Whippy suit Hattie's conformation too and there is a handy off-side point strap too. The overgirth (which I generally find annoying), doesn't annoy me so much as it's set further forward than usual which suits Hattie. It also has a longer strap than normal which also suits her as since the buckle comes up higher than her shoulder, it does not rub so no need for a fiddly fleece girth cover.

I'll have to get the billets and the balance strap replaced for safety however.

So things that need doing to the Whippy:
1) Replace all billet straps and the balance strap.
2) Remove excess flocking.
3) Replace stretched out elastic on the convenience tab.
4) Have a hook cover sleeve made for the stirrup leather.

I only rode in my Swain on Sunday as it needs a bit more doing to it than the Whippy (despite it being a brand new saddle!) but is SO comfortable! The leather feels like butter and it feels like you are sitting in butter as the saddle was starting to mould to the shape of my legs and bum.

These photos were taken of the Swain after I rode around in the field in it, trotting and cantering on both reins. You can see the how on the flap, it was starting to mould to Hattie's and my shape. I LOVE the wide sweepy seat and how close the pommels are together, perfect in comfiness for me. It was like sitting in a big easy chair. I could get my right leg back easily as well.

The Whippy made me sit proper in a show ring seat but the sweepy seat vintage tree that the Swain was built on, was built for long distance comfort riding. I think my body was made for Victorian saddles.

I had to use my new thick red fleece numnah with the Swain as it is a wide fit tree and it came down onto Hattie's withers when I was riding in it. Before I got on, I could get two fingers between Hattie's withers and the saddle but after, I could not get any in. I also tried it on my friend's 15hh chunky Shire cross cob type horse who takes the red wide gullet in Wintec saddles and this fit him perfectly. The actual gullet width is about the same as the Whippy so I reckon with proper flocking up, we can get it to a medium/wide. Josie suggested that I get it fitted when Hattie is at her fattest time of year from June to early November and save it as her "fat" saddle. This wise 13 year old said that with Hattie's conformation, I may need "seasonal tack".

Although the tree is a vintage one from c. 1900 which was salvaged and refurbished by Barry Swain, the actual saddle had never been ridden in prior to me riding in it on Sunday so the flocking is all new inside as well (the panels are serge with no linen covering). Because it is essentially a new saddle and was never fitted to a particular horse, the flocking packed down quick when I was riding in it. The left side dropped down a bit and will need building up.

Although it is a Swain saddle, it was not made entirely by Barry Swain but by one of his employees. He did tell me which one of his employees made it but the name escapes me now. All I know it was a male name! I wonder if it was made as a apprentice piece or as a display saddle for trade shows, etc which would explain the peculiar little short billet straps it has.

I REALLY do not like these little billets as they only have 3 holes on each strap and because they are so short, with my arthritic hands, I cannot get enough leverage to do them up. They are too short for my three buckle Owen girth and too long for my Rob Jenkins girth. In the end, I had to use some girth extenders with my three buckle girth but didn't have a third extender for the last buckle.

The overgirth is also too short for Hattie and Josie could barely do it up on the first hole when I was mounted.

I love the Swain but the things that need doing to it are:
1) New longer billet straps.
2) Longer over girth strap (my saddler may be able to splice a matching extension onto the buckle end).
3) Needs to be flocked up.

We'll get there in the end!!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Well, It's Better Than Being Addicted To Drugs!!

My name is Leila and I have a problem, a side saddle problem....

Not done much this past week as the back lady told me to give Hattie this week off and that I could start riding her on a 20 minute walking hack on a long rein this weekend. Unfortunately, it was raining, pouring today and my coat was leaking badly so instead THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE WORLD
took me to the BEST DARN TACK SHOP IN THE WORLD today and shop I did!!

Armed with a wither tracing and scraped together money, I came home with this...

A NEW black Swain side saddle, a Whippy, 4 side saddle numnahs (don't you just love the red one?) with the Whippy coming with it's Mayhew style stirrup leather, stirrup iron, side saddle cover, girth extender and balance girth. I also bought a grazing muzzle for Hatster to stop her from turning into "Fatster".

I was speaking to Barry Swain yesterday as I called him to see if he had any 2nd hand side saddles in stock that would work for Hattie and I but he said that he had sold 60 side saddles to someone in Germany to get rid of them all and took the last two to Sandon Saddlery. He said that he brought a black one there and that he thought it would work for us and that if I ended up buying it, that he would come out and fit it to Hattie.

We had a nice chat about side saddle fit and Mr. Swain said that a mistake alot of side saddlers make is over stuffing the saddles which causes rolling and all sorts of problems. He said that on a nearside side saddle, that the flocking has to be "denser" but not "thick" that it tilts the side saddle. Alot of saddlers make the mistake of building up the nearside too high he said.

Very interesting points he made and I guess if you have been making and dealing with side saddles for 52 years as he has, then you certainly know your stuff!

Luckily, I rang Sandon Saddlery as soon as I got off the phone with Mr. Swain and Miss Dodd-Noble, the 80-something owner owner of Sandon Saddlery, informed me that she still had the black Swain and that she would be expecting me on Saturday!!

It's BEAUTIFUL and the leather is new and buttery soft with doeskin pommels and seat. You rarely see new black leather side saddles, it's so unique! The girth straps are also quite forward placed too which should work for Hattie. The serge panels are so new that they are not lined with linen and will need to be flocked up as they settle.

Barry Swain also brought another side saddle to Sandon Saddlery as well and that was beautiful as well. It was smaller than my saddle (about a 16" seat UK measurement) but a very wide fit with doeskin pommels and seat but the flaps were made from a havana brown buffalo patterned hide. It was GORGEOUS!

Both Swain saddles were built on vintage side saddle trees that he refurbishes so no two saddles are alike. He took off the original stirrup bar fittings on both Swain saddles though (they probably were roller bars) and put modern standard stirrup bars on them so I will have to use a breakaway stirrup.

I think my saddle has a slightly older tree than the other Swain did, as my seat is slightly dipped just how I like it and has a longer and wider seat which turn of the century side saddles like my Beck Morrow, tend to have. The seat measures 16 3/4" from cutback head to cantle (UK measurements) or 21" from the front of the fixed head to cantle (US measurement) with a 14" wide seat and is SO COMFY. Infact, the seat has the same dimensions as my off-side side saddle.

While the Swain is flocked up to be a generous medium/wide, my Whippy is heavily flocked up to be a medium but if Barry adjusts the bloated over-stuffed panels, it would also fit a medium/wide as well as the points measure a nice 13 1/2"- 14" across which seems to suit Hattie. Comparing the tree shape to Hattie's wither tracing, the tree shape seems to fit her body shape as well.

The seat is 17 1/2" from cutback to cantle (UK measurement) or 21 1/2" from the front of the fixed head to cantle (US measurement) with the seat being 12 1/2" wide. Even thought this saddle is 1/2" longer and 1/2" narrower in the seat, it's just as comfy as the Swain. It has a flattish seat but has a very slight dip to it which is comfy for me.

I like the fixed head position on it too, not too curved so it suits my leg. It does have a dual position leaping head on it but the head is stuck fast in the lower hole and I don't want to force it. When Barry Swain comes out, I will see if he can do something with it. As it is though, it fits me fine anyways so I am not too fussed as I won't be jumping anyways.

I really like the Whippy as it has a point strap on the off-side as well as having forward placed girth straps so a bonus for Hattie!

Brita, I took measurements of the Mayhew for you and will email you pictures and info. Anita, I checked for queens for you but it seems that alot of side saddle stuff got sold since my last visit and there wasn't any queens like the ones I bought last time, just some old foam and vinyl one.

I also got a few photos of the "Side Saddle Corner". Some of the saddles are for sale but others like the little pilch side saddle that can be ridden on the near or off-side, aren't.

A bigger view of the corner, the buffalo hide Swain with the light doeskin pommels and seat, is next to the embroidered antique saddle on the bottom shelf.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Our Plan For This Summer, Part Two....

One of the other shows Josie and I would like to go to are run by Diamond Equestrian. They do dressage, clear round jumping and small eventing shows but these would be a bit difficult for us to get to without transportation as they are often held in the week (although the dressage shows are sometimes held on Sundays). The show we would REALLY love to do is the big Fun Show that they hold at the end of August. this was the schedule for it last year but it's pretty much the same every year.

I'd like to do Class 1 - Clear Round Jumping, with poles on the 1st hole as a fun warm up for me and Hattie (but only if I end up with a side saddle reinforced for jumping) and then it's showing on the flat classes for me afterwards with us trying our luck in Class 9 - Best turned out (ridden), Class 10 - Best condition (in hand), Class 13 - Riding club horse/pony (ridden) and Class 18 - Prettist mare (ridden or in hand).

We would do the same as for the South Kilworth shows with me hacking Hattie to the show astride and then changing to side saddle at the show. My husband would meet us there like at the South kilworth shows with all our stuff!

Since Josie lives halfway between our stables and the show, we would bring Hattie and Jacob to her house the evening before and they can stay in her large backyard overnight (subject to her parent's permission, LOL!) and I would section off a stall sized area for each of them with electric fencing. He dad says as long as it doesn't rain, then they can go in there! Hopefully we will get nice weather as it would only take us an hour to get to the show from her house...

View Larger Map

If not, then we'll hack straight from our stables to the show and would take us about 1 and 45 minutes to 2 hours to get there.

I just hope I have a side saddle by the time all these shows start as I'm starting to get a bit disillusioned with saddle shopping at the moment. I just want to RIDE my horse and it seems that everytime my riding starts progressing, that I end up having some kind of "saddle crisis" and then go back to square one.


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Our Plan For This Summer...

Since I do not have any transport to get to shows, no driver's license and no 4x4 to tow a trailer even if I rent a horse trailer, Josie and I have decided that we are going to hack Hattie and Jacob to the two local shows that are fairly nearby. We are fed up with everyone else getting to go to shows and us just being stuck at home while the others get to have fun.

With all the time and money I spend on Hattie (schooling, lessons and tack), it just seems like a bit of a waste if all we get to do is hack out and go to the dressage shows down the lane from us which are mostly only held during the winter months anyways when I don't get to ride and school as much!

Unfortunately, one of the shows (a good and fun one too) is exactly 10 miles away from us. Here is our route to the field where the show is held:

View Larger Map

It is the South Kilworth Riding Club show and they have all sorts of classes from show jumping to "Family Horse & Pony" classes. I went to the South Kilworth show last year in a friend's borrowed trailer and we did the clear round jumping class side saddle but this year, I may try our luck in the Showing classes and do the "FAMILY HORSE/PONY" and "STYLE & APPEARANCE" classes and MAYBE the "RIDING CLUB HORSE OVER 15HH" and "RIDDEN HUNTER (exc 15hh)" classes if they don't involve jumping (which sometimes they do and the jumps are usually set at about 2' or a little bigger).

With the Ridden Hunter class, sometimes the judge rides and if they don't ride side saddle, I would need to provide an astride saddle which all I have is a tan close contact saddle which isn't really appropriate for a UK hunter class!

Those are the ridden classes (I would do those side saddle) but I would also probably do some inhand showing classes as well like the "BEST CONDITION" and the "HUNTER TYPE IN HAND" classes.

There are four South Kilworth shows and they also have some fun classes which they change at each show. Last year they did "Prettiest Mare" at one show and "Best Turned Out" at another. We'd do those too as well at having a go at the Clear Round class if whatever side saddle I happen to have then, is reinforced for jumping (I'd only do 1' little jumps).

The South Kilowrth show would take us 3 1/2 hours to get there at a walk and we'd have to leave out at about 5:30- 5:45 am to get to the show in good time as it starts at 9:30am. The show is always on a Sunday so the roads wouldn't be too bad that time of morning and shouldn't be that busy on a Sunday afternoon when we come back anyways.

There are grass verges at the side of the road for us to walk on away from the cars but we would also be wearing hi-viz equipment to make ourselves as visible as possible to cars! I plan on ordering a bunch of pink hi-viz stuff from V-Bandz, I already have their pink reflective noseband cover and would also wear my back protector our hacking as well.

My husband would meet us at the show with the car fully stocked with hay and water for the horses, food and drinks for us, my side saddle and show clothes for Josie and I as well as mounting block, water bucket, halters, grooming and first aid kits.

I'm going to ride Hattie to the show and back in my astride saddle to save her back (and mine) so that I can post to the trot over the long distances and in case I want to get off and walk on foot for a bit. I'll wear my dark breeches that match my habit and my show shirt hacking but won't bother with the jacket as it will be late spring and summer that the shows are held in.

Weather will be important as well as we will not bother if it's raining (the show would probably be cancelled anyways as it is on grass) and if it looks like it's going to be a scorcher, then forget it too as I don't fancy all 4 of us getting heat stroke 10 miles from home!

More about the 2nd show we plan on going to in my next post...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Saddle choices- Martin & Martin? Knoud?

The back lady, Kate, came out today to Hattie and all went well. Hattie had a few tight spots at the back of her poll and along the top of her neck, at the base of her withers and on her back towards her loins mostly on the off-side. She said that Hattie wasn't too bad and that it was a good call to get her out before anything got too serious. Kate also recommended me giving Hattie another week off and then start riding her in straight lines (so hacking out) at a walk on a loose rein for a few days for about 20 minutes at a time just to get her stretching out and using her muscles correctly again, then start adding in the trot.

Since I don't have any usable side saddles at the moment, she said I could use my normal saddle while I do this and that way it shouldn't cause too much problems with my hip (she also trained as a human physiotherapist!).

Hattie loved her massage and started to fall asleep at the end although she wasn't so sure about it at the beginning!!

I've been browsing side saddles for sale and the ones that always seem to catch my eye tend to be Martin & Martins or Knouds. I remember reading somewhere (can't remember where for the life of me), that sometimes saddlers from Martin & Martin used to work at Knoud which is why both brands of saddles tend to resemble each other. Knouds are rare in the UK and Martin & Martins not so common so I've never ridden in one but from what I've seen of them, they seem to tick all the boxes of what I want in a side saddle.

The billet straps on these two brands of saddles is one that Hattie needs as well as they tend to be forward placed and have off-side point straps and the seats tend to have a bit of a dip to them which suits my conformation as well.

I always admire Brita's Martin & Martin as that saddle would suit me and Hattie to a T. Even the pommel shape is one that I like too. Brita, if you ever consider selling it, please let me know! ;)

Another thing that I like about M&M's and Knouds is the spring loaded flap. I HATE overgirths as they are a pain in the butt to do up and they always rub Hattie so I have to end up putting a fleece girth cover on which is another hassle.

Does anyone have any comments on M&M's or Knouds and/or how they ride?

This is another antique photo from my collection that I scanned for your viewing pleasure. I bought it 11 years ago from the Leicester Market for £1 and is one of my favorites as you can see the saddle. I love this grey hunter and how perky he looks and the saddle looks to be a comfy close contact one, I would have loved to have ridden this horse in that saddle!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Reversible Side Saddles Galore!

The arthritis in my right hip and in my hands (today it is my left hand's turn to ache) has been bugging me today. I don't know why as it's not particularly cold today but I reckon my right hip is getting a bit stiff from not riding this week.

With my left hand out of action and my right hip bugging me, I thought how nice it would be to have an off-side Western side saddle so that on days like this, I could ride with one hand and on my non-buggered hip. Unfortunately, there is probably even less of those around than English off-side side saddles! I'll probably find one one-of-these -days though as I seem to have a knack for sniffing out off-siders.

Hundred Oaks are able to order in off-side Steele side saddles and even have one in stock. I wonder how seat sizes run in Western side saddles? Hmmmm, very tempting....

Well, until I have a lottery win or something and can buy myself an off-side Steele, I'll have to make due with watching my favorite video of a lady riding on an off-side Western side saddle on a Tennessee Walking Horse for a demonstration given on the historic Mackinac Island in Michigan:

Lately, there seems to have been lots of reversible side saddles popping up. It started with the reversible Martin & Martin on the Side Saddlery (I really wish I could have bought that saddle as it would have fit Hattie and I!) and over the past week, two more have appeared on Ebay!

You know what they say, good things come in 3's!

The first one resembles the Martin & Martin that was on the Side Saddlery but was made by A J Gardner probably in the late 1890's- early 1900's.

I was tempted to buy it but looking at the tree, it would have been too narrow for Hattie.

The the seat measured a scant 18" from the front of the fixed horn to the cantle and only 11" across the seat which meant it was probably originally made for a girl or young teenager to ride in.

I find it interesting the difference in pommel shape on all 4 pommels. You would think because the saddle was made symmetrical, that the opposite pommels would have been made the same. The left fixed head is more curved than the off-side one and the off-side leaping head, looks shorter and definitely has less of a bend to it. I wonder if the original owner was disabled somehow, maybe suffered from polio or something that made her left side weaker with less muscle mass?

The second reversible side saddle is earlier, probably late 1870's? 1880's? It's gorgeous though with it's ornate stitching!

I found an engraving in my Moseman's Illustrated Guide to Horse Furnishing goods book which dates to c. 1889, of a very similar reversible side saddle. Both these saddles on have one leaping horn which you swapped over unlike the other turn of the century saddle and the M&M, which had two leaping heads.

According to the auction description, this saddle is sized to fit a child or small adult. It seems to be that most reversible side saddles were aimed more for girls. I guess unless you were VERY rich and could afford to keep buying matching off-side and nearside saddles each time a girl outgrew them, it made more sense just to buy one saddle and just keep replacing the one saddle each time she outgrew it. Maybe that is why you tend to find off-side side saddles in adult sizes as since a woman would not grow anymore, then she could afford to spurge and have two different saddles made as they would be "keepers".

I can't believe how symmetrical and NARROW the seat is! Although beautiful, it couldn't have been very comfy. The fixed heads look perfectly symmetrical though, unlike the other turn of the century saddle.

A close up of the detailing...

This is another model of an off-side side saddle that was advertised in the Moseman's catalog but with this saddle, EVERYTHING was removable, even the "fixed" heads. I don't know if I would like the idea of having a removable fixed head though!! What if it gave way under strenuous riding? I can't imagine many of those survived.