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.


  1. Yes, Leila, you do have a problem. What *are* you going to do with it all?

    I would love to be able to visit such a cool tack shop, and I'm envious that you can have Mr. Swain just come out and fit your saddles so easily. But I suppose we can now compare Swain notes instead of MGs. I'm curious to see what Laura does with my saddles when she flies over in April.

    A couple of the long time sidesaddlers I know deliberately overstuff the rear panels on some hunting saddles because they say some ladies never learn to be considerate of the horse's back and just bang along at the trot or over fences.

  2. LOL, Robin, I don't know!! I need to get another saddle rack though and another breakaway stirrup iron though!!

  3. I love the way you shop! Can't wait for the fashion shoot with Hattie modelling the new saddles now :)

  4. It may be better than being addicted to drugs, but you may have to start selling them to finance your habit!

  5. Leila is that your room or was this picture taken at the shop??

  6. I don't see the "problem" in all this.... At least you have a horse!!

  7. Oh My Goodnes, what a haul!! They look amazing!
    Do you have any idea how much they wanted for the Bufflo one?
    Thanks to all your helpful tips and advice we managed to come second in the show last weekend - which astounded me as we were the only first timers - thank you all!

  8. My name is Michelle and I am green with envy over your growing collection!! It's really probably a good thing that tack store is nowhere neat me!! lol

    I can't wait to see more pics of your new saddles too!

    I agree, I think we're all going to have to figure out a better way to pay for this expensive habit! lol

  9. What a spree! Good shoppin' girl!

  10. I know it was crazy shopping there on Saturday!! If I had the cash, I would have bought the rest of the saddles there, lol. That is the problem with side saddles, they are collectible AND functional!

    Mum, no that is the tack shop not my house! :)

    Mummy Mellie, well done at your show!!! The buffalo leather saddle was about £1294 or something like that.

  11. Hi just been introduced to the world of side saddle. each time I google anything to do with the subject your site comes up. Fascinating stuff! Becoming an addict like yourself. More I read the more you inspire me to carry on, even if my hip hurts and my right leg gets pins and needles. Entered 1st comp. next week walk and trot class. Can't canter yet!!

  12. Good luck on your comp!! Let us know how it goes :)