Thursday, 3 February 2011


I had my side saddle lesson yesterday in my off-side side saddle and it was fun except for the saddle shooting onto Hattie's shoulders! Hattie didn't try to buck me off or anything like she used to with my old side saddle, (thank goodness for that!) but I kept having to get off and reset it.

We did some good forward trot work and did some beautiful trot to canter transitions (have to work on the downward ones by preparing Hattie more with half halts) when the saddle wasn't shooting forward, but at the walk throughout the lesson, she started really overbending and doing this weird sideways walk thing away from my right leg while I was on the left rein. Towards the end of the lesson, Lili just had walk on a loose rein only on the right rein in an attempt to end on a good note. Hattie would not walk straight while on the left rein but she was ok at the canter and trot on that rein.

Some things we need to work on is turning with the outside rein NOT the inside rein (but it's so easy to turn with the inside!!), half halts around the corners but keep my leg on her as she tends to get strung out around them, soften my inside rein and not to let my reins get too long!!

Lili took some photos of me riding during my lesson so that I can track my progress and she said that Hattie was ALOT more forward and working alot better during this lesson than in our lesson last week and ESPECIALLY during our last dressage test!

The new title photo at the top of the page is one of the ones she took of us riding but here are some more....

Some trotting at the beginning of our lesson...

And getting better throughout our lesson...

A nice forward trot towards the latter part of our lesson. Lili told me that I have to becareful as sometimes Hattie wants to rush and makes the metal horse shoes clipping sound which she called "forging". She said for me to half halts and balance her which we worked on.

Cantering was fun in my off-side side saddle and so easy, Hattie seemed to enjoy it too as all I had to do was shift a little to the inside and raise my inside rein and off she went!! Lili said I was "showing off", lol. So much more easier than in my other side saddle (more about that later on)...

Then I had my own saddler come out today to get his opinion on both my side saddles, and his opinion he did give, and some of it not what I wanted to hear...

For my off-side side saddle, he said the tree looks wide enough for Hattie (he said it was definitely wider than my old C&W) but that it was too flocked up narrow for a smaller horse. What he is going to do, is take some of the padding out at the front and see how the balance is then. He had to take it back to the workshop as it's padded with layers of felt and was too big a job to do it at the stables.

My saddler says that if it looks to be right on Hattie after he removes some of the excess padding, then he will make a new panel for it and will also make the gullet between the panels wider. He said that because the off-side was overly padded out for a narrower horse (he said the tree was probably much to wide for the horse and they tried to heavily pad it out to fit it), it "bloated" the panels inwards and made the gullet channel too narrow for Hattie's spine.

He said that once he does that and if it's a good to go width wise, then once he starts making new panels then he will also put new and more forward girth straps on it to stop it from sliding forward.

*FINGERS CROSSED* that the width is good for Hattie once he takes off the extra padding!!

For my Manorgrove side saddle, it was not such hopeful news...

My saddler said although it was a nice modern lightweight side saddle (he was surprised at it's weight when he picked it up), that the fit and shape of the panels is all wrong for Hattie now.

He said that it would suit a bigger horse with more shape (he said with higher withers) and bigger shoulders so like a big hunter type not a ladies hack type like Hattie! He picked up on all the problems I'd been having with it without seeing me ride in it (like it dropping onto her withers and rolling to the left) and it boiled down to Hattie being too narrow for it now.

I stupidly had her measured for it when she had grown fat from grazing unmuzzled on my friend's field (I have since bought her a grazing muzzle) and with me going on holiday and then breaking my rib, she was REALLY overweight when she got measured. After I healed up and started riding regularly, of course, Hattie became more fit and lost the excess weight which is when I started having fit problems. It all makes sense now.

He showed me where the saddle was pressing down on her withers and where it was making her sore. I noticed she's been a bit flinchy these past few weeks when grooming in that area since I've been riding more due to the weather getting better, but it turns out it was the saddle pressing on her as it comes down at the front onto her withers due to being too big. That correlates with those horrible ruffled patches I got on her when I took off the saddle.

Maybe that is why she went all weirdly over bent and side-ways during my lesson yesterday as she was still sore from my near-side saddle pressing down on her and the off-side one was just aggravating her when it started to slide forward onto her sore spot.

I told my saddler how forward Hattie was yesterday in my off-side side saddle compared to how she was in the lesson before and also the dressage test (both of which I rode in my Manorgrove) and he said that he's not surprised as it was digging into her and rolling to the left due to being too large in tree size. It was just like Laura Dempsey told me that if a tree is too large, no amount of padding will stop the rolling.

So what I'm going to do since she was such a good girl yesterday and performed so well despite being a bit ouchy, I'm going to give her this week off to rest her back. I'm also having the back lady come out on Wednesday to give Hattie a nice massage.

Sigh, looks like it's saddle shopping again...


  1. OK answer me this one and forgive my ignorance! but, how do you do half halts in a side saddle? (I have only ridden astride and half halt with ur inner thighs.) Do you use the reins? Don't laugh! :)

  2. How I do it, is keep a nice contact with the inside rein and half halt with the outside rein while at the same time keeping my leg on Hattie to keep her balanced and forward. I also have to make sure that I remember to sit tall and keep my "ribs" up especially when doing downward transitions.

  3. I know it's out of fashion now, but have you thought of using a crupper? You might have to get a ring put on your saddle, but it would help it from sliding forward. But I guess if the billets can be moved, you wouldn't need it... Just a thought.

  4. Adults aren't allowed to use cruppers in competition here only little kids on ponies and I would get marked down in equitation as well. The sliding problem is easily solved anyways by a more forward billet strap placement.

  5. What a shame about your manorgrove saddle! Sounds like you having an amazing saddler to help you out.

  6. I know Michelle, I suppose that is who it is with side saddles though. :(

    I am luck yo have my saddler as since he's not connected to any company, you always get an unbiased opinion. If he can't fix a saddle, no one can.

  7. Wow - what a great looking trot. What a difference. Too bad about the Manorgrove though.

  8. I know Deb, I am gutted as I waited so long for my Manorgrove and then it became too big from Hattie fittening up. The irony of it! I'm really pleased with her trot though, it just goes to show what difference saddle fit can make to their way of going.

  9. Well heck, if even the custom saddles don't fit.... is there any hope?!? I'm convinced bareback is the easiest way!

  10. The problem is that it was custom for Hattie when she was a chunkster. Looking back, the trouble with fit really started when she started to lose the weight through regular riding. I think I learned an expensive lesson, never fit a saddle when your horse has been out of work and on the grass :( Even my saddler said yesterday to keep Hattie at the weight she is now and not to let her get any bigger like she was.

  11. She looks about the same size as Leroy, but it is hard to tell from a picture. Leroy is 15'3" and a QH but fairly refined: He doesn't have huge withers but does have enough to hold my dressage saddle in place.

  12. Actually Hattie is only 3/4 TB, the last 1/4 is literally Quarter Horse! Se's 15.3 too. Leroy does look alot like Hattie, he's not your typical chunky stock type QH. I wonder if he has some TB in him too?

  13. I think he has TB way way back, but I've been told he comes from foundation stock. He sure doesn't look like it. His ancestors were cow / team penning horses. His sire has done just about everything. I think he's a nice mover but with a smooth trot, which is good for my back. The saddle I use on him was originally bought for my wide draft-cross, it has a 32 cm tree, but it fits really well on a variety of horses as long as they have some withers. I wonder if the Manorgrove would fit Leroy? Too bad you're not closer! I wouldn't consider him really hugely wide though. I'm not sure how TB widths compare to QH widths in general.

  14. Felt paneled saddles can be a challenge to fit, since they can't just be reflocked stall side like a wool flocked saddle. I have a cross saddle that is made with felt panels. I love it, but when it needs work it has to go to the saddler's shop and be opened up for a new layer of felt to be added.
    There can be touchy saddle reasons for Hattie to mince sideways, but the primary reason may be simply that she is not forward enough. Sounds like this may be the case since she was straight at the trot and canter, and the text book answer to a wiggly horse is impulsion. If Hattie is starting to forge it also sounds like she is starting to change her balance and use her back. As she gets better and stronger it will improve, but takes time. Chummie was naturally a short choppy mover and he went through a forging phase when I first started asking him to lenghten his stride at the trot, despite all the shoeing permutations I tried.
    My Manorgrove ended up fitting Owen quite well but is too long for me; I lost a good 30 pounds after I ordered it.

  15. Hello, I have found your posts so helpful!

    I had a most disappointing thing happen: I was scheduled with an appointment (for six months, SO looking forward to it) with Laura Dempsey on her trip to the US, and two days before my appointment, her American host cancelled on me (unhelpfully, for ridiculous reasons, didn't feel much need to set things right for me). So, I need a sidesaddle in the next six to nine months (I am not in good health and have a bad hip and want to be able to ride with my daughters while I can). I guess I am back to getting a Manorgrove. In spite of your problems with it, do you think it is a good saddle? I can't seem to communicate with the people at Manorgrove, as they never answer their e-mails. Any idea how I can get through to them from the states?

    Jane Marie in Ithaca, NY