Thursday, 30 June 2011

Guess What Came in the Mail?

A side saddle surcingle from The Side Saddlery!

It dates from the late 19th century and is a neat Western style one with a basket weave pattern purse on the off-side and ornate tooling all around the edges. Linda Flemmer put new latigos on it as they were missing and found me a BEAUTIFUL Jose Ortiz mohair cinch to go with it (which I have to practice cinching up!).

Looking at the construction of it, I'm not sure how the pommels are actually attached to the surcingle. Looking at Nick Creaton's surcingle, the pommels seem to be attached to some sort of tree inside the surcingle but the ones on my one, don't seem to be attached onto anything stiff like metal. I'm not even sure if the pommels have metal inside them or if they are built on layers of stiff leather? They are placed very close together, touching each other and with the leaping head curved so that it touches the fixed head, seems to give it support.

The fixed head isn't as straight up or over to the right as the fixed head is on a normal saddle, this one is very curved seems to just act as a "leg rest" or either that, was made for a lady with a thigh ALOT bigger than mine. Somehow though, I think it was merely meant to act as a leg rest. With the fixed head being moreover to the left than the placement on an actual side saddle, you cannot get a true square seat like you can on a saddle. To be honest, I think it would be impossible to get a square seat sitting aside bareback as there is nothing to support your left butt cheek and thigh (you would have to defy the laws of gravity!). You can physically only sit with both seat bones on the horses back with your right hip slightly more forward than normal so that there is something to support your left thigh if that makes sense?

You can see in the photos that my right hip is slightly more forward than normal but that my right shoulder still is way back. I really had to concentrate on "right shoulder back" and keep it WAY back to keep me as square and secure on the horse as possible. This is why found the genteel little hand hold on the off-side a bit puzzling as grabbing this would make your right shoulder go way forward and cause you to go off balance. It's much easier just to keep your right shoulder WAY back than to mess about grabbing a handle so far forward.

It's all these things put together that make me think that this particular surcingle wasn't made for circus use but purely for pleasure riding, at a walk. Probably a farmer's wife or daughter owned this to ride the family horse around the farm, down to the creek on a hot summer's day, ride to the general store to get some candy, etc. Just general messing about for fun. I don't think the construction of the pommels would have been able to handle any strenuous circus work like trick rearing, etc but just low key riding. A farmer's wife or daughter probably wouldn't have had the best equitation, probably just learned to get on a horse and go which may explain the grab handle on the off-side as she may not have realized to "keep your right shoulder back"!!

I'm really pleased with it however, and it's just the sort of tool I can use for practising to have a secure seat. I can practise walking dressage tests in it while remembering to sit up straight, keep my rib (and core muscles up) and my right shoulder back as these are the only things that hold you on when riding in this surcingle!

I tried it on Hattie first and I think I'm going to have to use a wither pad on her as she has high withers and it comes down on them.

It was weird sitting aside on her with no saddle as she has a typical Thoroughbred sticky up spine but I could feel where my seat bones were on here and feeling her spine, made me remember to stay as centered as possible on her compared to riding Jacob in it which is just like sitting on a comfy couch as he's so fat!

I definitely have a better position on Hattie than Jacob...

I only walked a few steps with Hattie but she "got it" straight away. Jacob kicked her on Sunday in the evening after the show and her leg swelled up where he kicked it so she has been on rest all week. The vet came out today to have a look and he said it's healing really well and he doesn't need to do anything to it and I can start riding her next week when the last bit of swelling is gone (nearly gone now).

The surcingle fitted Jacob better in the withers but although he is comfortable to ride, the surcingle started to roll to the left as he is so round with no withers to keep anything in place. Despite only have been ridden twice side saddle, in March, he started to get it as well.

Better fit in the withers...

But he's so rolly!!

The saddle starting to roll on fat Jacob...

I had a closer look at the construction and I'm going to send it to my saddler, Roger (the one who is working on my off-side side saddle), to restore. It has a large metal ring with a small flap underneath it to protect the horse, on the offside and just a little D-ring on the near side. Linda attached the nearside latigo to the little D-ring as there was nothing else to attach it to but upon closer inspection, the D-ring is actually for a stirrup and you can just see the remains of a small leather flap where a large metal ring was underneath. This must of where the original latigo attached to but the ring and leather flap broke off years ago. I reckon Roger will be able to fix this no problem.I'm also going to have him check the leather and stitching on the off-side metal loop and put a new leather onto the stirrup D-ring as the original is cracking.

The good thing too is that the surcingle fits in my back pack!!


  1. I am so envious! I've been dying to try using one of those. I'd recommend using it with a felt pad if possible, provided it doesn't change the fit of the arch.


  2. That's a good idea about a felt pad! I think it would actually help to keep it off of her withers too.

  3. DUDE! That is SO cool!
    And I never aspire to trying it!!! Ever. Grey would launch me so hard I would land in Anita's back yard.


  4. LOL, I thought Hattie was going to when I first got on but then she just stood there and fell asleep (see above photo of dopey look on her face!).

  5. What if you put a queen on it, would you feel more secure? And I'm with Robin on the pad. Tell us how you get on with it!

  6. I do have a queen that would fit this so will try. The tack shop near me has all sorts of weird pads so I bet they have a felt one there. I'll go have a look and see!

  7. Hmmm, just had a thought and I don't think I could get a queen on it as the pommels do not move and the curve of the fixed head rests against the raised arch of the leaping head.

  8. OMG I WANT ONE!! I suggest adding a large western saddle pad underneath to protect your tailbone and Hattie's spinal processes from one another. My mare that I rode bareback for years with no pad developed calcium deposits that formed little bumps along her spine. Very unsightly and probably not comfy.

  9. That's the plan when we go to Montreal this summer! :) I can't get Western pads over here (not nice ones anyways) but the tack shop I go to in Montreal, has a huge range of Western stuff so I'm going to look to see if I can get a nice felt Western pad :) LOL, maybe a Western bridle too ;)

  10. That is just too neat! What a unique little thing!
    If you ever need anything that you can't get over there, just pop me an email and I can definitely get it sent over for you!

  11. You can try vet wrapping a queen on, just go around the leaping horn, too.

    It could still have been for some sort of trick riding. Or maybe a fan trying to learn at home. :) A lot of bareback rider pics I see with the rider aside she is rather twisted. I'd assumed the tack was more a vaulting surcingle, but can very seldom see through the costume.

  12. Yikes! I'll just sit on the sidelines and watch you play with this new toy. The minute I saw this.. I envisioned me hanging up side down.. like a Christmas ornament!!!