Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Before & After...

It's raining today and my back and hip are NOT happy at all. It seems that our 14 mile round trip hack took a toll on them. I wish I had my off-side side saddle back so that I could rest the right side if my body and still ride.

The farrier came early last week to shoe Jacob and I had my Beck Morrow leaping head ready for him to rebend to the shape of my Whippy head.

Before (the Beck Morrow head is on the left)...


He gave the Beck Morrow a more backwards sweep and opened it up by taking the extreme bend off of the tip. The head is longer than the Whippy head but Beck Morrow seems to have made their saddles with longer than average leaping heads.

When my saddler comes back to refit the panels, I'll let him deal with putting the leaping head cover back on!!

Just a reminder that there is a side saddle class being held this month at Horse Shows Online. International entries are welcome but there is an extra £1.50 charge. They take Paypal too! Entries close on August 31.

Monday, 22 August 2011

I Jumped! At A Show!

Hattie has not been co-operating at all this week with schooling, preferring to go around with her head in the air, ears pricked forward and taking notice of everything going on around her EXCEPT the job at hand.

I got so fed up that I made Thursday our last schooling day of the week and just practised our left rein trot/canter/trot transitions and our individual show for about 10 minutes before going on a hack. Hattie was better on Thursday with our mini schooling session although she was still trying to look for any hay making tractors in the distance at some points!

On Friday, I scrubbed up all my tack and my side saddle and went for a hack on my astride saddle as I washed the linen on my side saddle and on Saturday, we went for a good gallop (again astride as I didn't want to dirty my clean Whippy!) to get any spookiness or pent up energy out of Hattie's system before our 14 mile round trip to the show on Sunday.

I find that whenever Hattie starts acting up in schooling sessions or gets really spooky out on hacks, that a good gallop is needed to calm her down. It worked as she was good hacking the 7 miles there and the 7 miles back from the school. We rode over train tracks, through road works, over highway bridges, some kid shouting "BOO" through the hedges at us, busy roundabouts and even a tractor with lights a-flashing pulling a vintage car without Hattie batting an eye. A real transformation from the other day when she nearly sh*t herself because the farmer left the gate near our field open....

The plan was to do Best Turned Out (a ridden class), Best Condition (an inhand class) and Prettiest Mare (a ridden class) but ended up somehow getting talked in to doing the Riding Club Horse & Pony class as well by persuasive horse show folk!

The weather was nice and hot, a change from the last two Diamond Horse Shows we attended where it's tipped it down with rain and very was glad for my nice new lightweight habit.

I was pleased how my new habit rode (the apron didn't flap up when I was cantering and the judge (and lots of people at the show too) complimented me on it but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's gotten a little too big for me from when I first ordered it and there is only so much I can push the buttons over before it loses it's shape. It's a bit big for my taste, in places where it wasn't when I first tried it on in December. Although I don't think I've lost that much weight since ordering it, I've toned up from going to Aquatone classes, etc and now find I can carry heavier loads and have the upper strength to deal with Jacob when he pulls, etc. I'll wear it to next month's Diamond horse show and see how it fits then (I always have my 1934 habit as a back up if it gets much too big for me next month) before deciding what to do.

It's a bit of a bugger really as I waited so long for it and it's the first habit I've had that covers my wrists. I'm glad that I've lost some weight but weight fluctuations are costly!!!

Our first class was Best Turned Out where we came first. The judge said that it shows that I take care of my saddle and tack and I presented a neat workmanlike appearance.

Us walking around in Best Turned Out...

The winners and our rosettes!

Hattie came 2nd in our next class, Best Condition, but the judge said that it was a close call between Hattie and the pony that won it. It was a NICE looking pony so we were beat fair and square.

Then it was the dreaded Riding Club Horse & Pony class. LOL, so much for "scrapping" that class as I had planned to do in my previous post on the subject. I suppose it was a good thing I had practised jumping the other week as I was absolutely kakking myself before the class. The only other competitors in the class were "no sense-no feeling" kids and teenagers that will jump anything and everything and here I am, 35 going on 36 with arthritis and various other ailments, and who breaks something as soon as she hits the ground. I fell off trying to mount on Saturday before our hack. What the hell was I doing in this class??

Nervously waiting and watching the competitor do their individual show and jump before me...

Anyways, the judge said that we could trot the fence as the ground was a bit hard but I elected to canter it as there was less chance of Hattie refusing. I believe in hardening a horse up by doing lots of roadwork and schooling on various surfaces paired up with a good farrier and hoof care so that when faced with a situation like showing on a hard surface, a horse can handle it without any ill effect.

So we cantered the jump, Hattie didn't rush and I didn't fall off! For some reason, she knocked it down. The judge said that I set her up correctly for it but it looked like that Hattie was taking the p*ss and trying to get away with as little work as possible! We ended up coming 2nd despite the knock down and the judge said Hattie relies heavily on me to tell her what to do and that she has to learn that when in the show ring, it's not sleep time. Basically, what the dressage judges tell me on my comment sheet- lacks purpose! I have to be more strict with her and ride her more forward. He said that I am a sympathetic rider and an capable of doing it and that Hattie is MORE THAN capable of doing it but that she's used to getting her own way in the ring and chilling out.

Here's the video of our death defying jump!

The last class of the day and a nice chill out class, was Prettiest Mare where we came 4th but also got a Special red and green tartan colored rosette as well (I think because I was side saddle). There was some mega cute horses and ponies in that class which was won by a lovely very fine boned chestnut mare called Highbent Sharina.

I really enjoy the Diamond Horse Show as it's a good fun show and I got some good comments and tips from this month's judge as well. He said that he will be back for next month's show (which will sadly be the last one of the season till next year) so Hattie and I have to work on being more forward so we can trade in our 2nd place rosette for a 1st place one!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Schooling, Habits & Shows!

This post is a bit of an amalgamation of the past few days as I've been so busy with things. I've been schooling everyday as we have a show on Sunday and had planned to do the Riding Club Horse & Pony class which includes a jump (about 1 1/2' high) but have decided to scrap that class for now.

Our flat work is coming along but I'm still out of shape from my holiday and it's affecting my riding. I started my Aquatone class again but promptly got an ear infection after my second class, grrrrr. I've have narrow eustachian tubes in my ear and my ear drum is riddled with scar tissue from years of ear infections since I was a child so it's my achilles heel. I ordered some silicone ear plugs, an ear band AND a swim cap with elastic chin strap to protect my ears during Aquatone from the water so I can continue my fitness for riding!

Defective ears aside, we attempted jumping again with mixed results. Hattie likes jumping and tends to rush the jumps and we were ok on the right rein (it was only a little 1' jump) albeit a little rushed but she went wappy on the left rein and had to abort our mission (which she wasn't happy about!). We ended up trotting over it on the left rein a couple of times but even then she tried to rush it.

It's a combination of me being out of shape, not riding for the past three weeks and the left rein being Hattie's weaker rein.

So I'm going to put the jumping on hold for now and work on our transitions to get both of us balanced and her listening to my aids when I say to slow down. We schooled for a bit this morning and it was better, we had a good transition from trot to canter and back again on the left rein so left it at that.

I have till next summer anyways to work on little jumps for when the show season starts again and then maybe we will attempt the Riding Club class.

I also had an unexpected class from my local tack shop the other day as well...

In December, I paid my local tack shop a visit and they had a new Mears "County" model cutaway jacket in navy in my size and a TALL size to boot! I knew I was going to sell my old black habit as it didn't quite fit right anymore so was kind of in the market for a new habit. The tack shop rang up Mears to see if they would be able to make me a matching apron for this particular jacket as they already make side saddle habits with the County model jacket option to begin with. They said "no problem", so I purchased the jacket (which was a bargain!) and sent it off to Mears with a cheque and my measurements for my apron.

My tack shop kept chasing them afterwards wanting updates on how my habit was going and also asked them if they could also add an off-side apron to the order after I had purchased my Beck Morrow saddle.

It turns out that Mears was trying to find an exact match for the jacket as they no longer had that batch of particular material in stock and even went back to the fabric manufacturer to see if they could match it.

Well, it turns out that Mears managed to find a small amount of the left of that particular batch of fabric, exactly enough to make two aprons in my size and that's it!! How lucky was that! They shipped it to my tack shop and the shop called me the other day to pick up my new habit complete with opposite aprons.

It's FAB and for once I have a habit that is long enough for me. The only thing is that I've lost a bit of weight since ordering it so I had to push over the buttons by 3" on the apron to make it smaller in the waist and hips and will have to move the buttons over by an inch on the jacket. I may take up the sleeves an inch or two as the jacket would fit a woman up to 5'11"- 6' and I'm only 5'9"!

Since my off-side saddle is still with Roger along with my side saddle surcingle, I haven't had
a chance to ride in my off-side apron but have been "breaking in" my nearside apron for the past two days while schooling.

These photos were taken the first day before I took the waist in. The waist was pulling forward due to being too big and something funky was happening with my right toe sticking out.

But I managed to sort my foot out and point it more inwards towards Hattie at the end of my left rein canter and the downward transition to trot.

Hopefully it will bring me luck at the show on Sunday!

Speaking of shows...

Remember my blog post in June about online horse shows and if there would be enough interest in an online side saddle class?

Well, our wish was granted and Horse Shows Online has created a side saddle photo class. Horse and rider will be judged on presentation and turnout. Entries close August 28, 2011!

Monday, 15 August 2011

WANTED: 16.5"- 17.5" Side Saddle

I received this request from Emily as she is looking for a new side saddle after selling her 15 1/2" one to Ceri, who posted her side saddle wanted ad in June!

"I am looking for a 16.5 - 17.5 inch sidesaddle, medium-wide fit and ideally a known make ie Mayhew, Champion & Wilton or Whippy. The saddle will probably be used for a 16.1hh ID type with a fairly short back so 16.3/4 inch would probably be best but as my 15.5inch was too short for me it will be a balancing act! If anybody knows of a saddle fitting this criteria, I'd be really pleased to hear from you."

Please note, the measurements Emily states are the UK way of measuring a side saddle from cutback to cantle.

She can be reached at emilybutterick @ googlemail.com (please remove the space before and after the @ sign).

Here is a photo Emily sent me of her and her horse, Kye to give you an idea of the fit needed...

FOR SALE: 16" Whippy Side Saddle

I'm just catching up on some of the emails I got while on holiday and received one from Gabriella Hirschprung as she is selling her 16" Whippy side saddle. Please note, the measurement Gabi states is the UK way of measuring a side saddle from cutback to cantle.

Here are the photos that Gabi sent me of her Whippy...

The saddle is currently in Germany and includes the original stirrup leather and stirrup. She is asking €2000 and can be contacted at gabi @ farm4fun.com (please remove the space before and after the @ sign).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Progress on my Off-Side Side Saddle!

My saddler, Roger Whitehead, came out yesterday to fit Hattie for the new panels thatare going to be made for my off-side side saddle. Like the originals, they are going to be felt instead of flocking but instead of being covered in leather like the original, I'm going to have them done in linen as Hattie seems to like the linen on her when I ride in my Whippy and it will provide a bit of extra grip on her back.

With the few Beck-Morrows I have seen, most seem to have been made with leather panels but I have seen two (a nearside and a reversible one), that had linen panels.

Beck-Morrows have panels which resemble the panels on close contact saddles which Hattie seems to like. Close contact astride saddles with the thin, flat panels are the only style of astride saddle that Hattie likes and my off-side has similar built panels. I remember when I tried my Beck-Morrow for Roger the first time, he remarked on how forward she moved in it. We were picking up canters from a halt and walk! Strange horse thought it was a close contact saddle...

Roger is going to build the panels up with layers of felt and the saddle needs lifting at the back. Once he's constructed the panels (yesterday was just to see what needs to go where), then I'll go for a test ride before he finishes them for good. He said that the tree is a little wide for her but that it is better than being too narrow. You don't want to go TOO wide however, as then you get the rolling problem but my Beck-Morrow seems to be a good medium-wide fit as Hattie tends to take mediums in saddles. He will be able to get a good snug fit with the felt too.

THEN, once that is done, Roger said we could start to think about the rest of the saddle as I'll need all new billets and straps, the annoying overgirth converted to one with a convenience tab and the pommels recovered as the leather is delicate (they look to have been covered in a fine thin kidskin of some sort). He is also looking for some large head saddle nails to replace the old knackered ones that are coming loose.

It needs a lot of work but I think it's worth it since it's an off-side saddle which just happens to fit me AND Hattie!

Roger unstitched the cover off of the leaping head too so that I can have the farrier rebend it to fit my leg instead of Countess Pillet-Wills skinny thigh. You can see in the photo the extreme curve of the Beck-Morrow head on the left compared to the Whippy on the right. The Whippy has more of a backwards sweep with not so much of a point end. I'll bring both to my farrier to show him what I need.

I schooled today in the field as we have a show in a week and half's time but Hattie was a bit useless today with her head up in the air and going on the forehand concentrating on the tractor bailing straw in the next field. Even though Hattie was faffing about, we did get some good canter transitions on both leads so that was good and my Whippy stayed put despite all the ruckus going on.

I REALLY love my Whippy saddle and it's the only side saddle I've ever had that hasn't caused me problems, slide forward, injured my horse, caused her to buck from pain or needed fancy pads underneath it. It just stays there and makes me feel secure even when she does her naughty "I don't want to work" bucks. The shape of it just suits her and the billet straps are placed exactly where they need to be. All the Whippys of the same era as mine that I have seen, all seem to be made the same way.

It got me thinking today as I was trying to school through all the messing about, how I wish I could find an off-side Whippy as if my nearside one is this great for Hattie, then could you imagine us in an off-side Whippy which is our better side? Man, that would be wonderful!! I was kind of hoping when I went to the Nationals, that there would be one there but sadly, all there was, were little nearside Whippys. I don't even know if Whippy even made any. They must have surely?

Oh well, another thing added to my "holy grail" side saddle list along with finding a habit with long enough sleeves....

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Side Saddle Nationals at Addington!

We got back home from Montreal on Friday and still suffering from jet lag, my ever obliging husband graciously drove me 64 miles to the Addington Manor Equestrian Centre so that I could watch the Side Saddle Nationals on Saturday!

There is talk of the Nationals being held in Grantham, Lincolnshire next year due to the increased traffic, etc from the 2012 Olympics in that area and the Side Saddle Association sent out voting slips to the members so that we could vote if we still wanted it at Addington in Buckinghamshire or in Lincolnshire at Arena UK so we shall see.

The weather was ok but in true British fashion, it rained somewhat with the sun peeking out later on in the afternoon. Despite the cruddy weather, there were lots of competitors, spectators and vendors. I didn't do that much shopping as I was a bit low on cash after just come back from holiday but got the show shirt I wanted, another Cope stirrup for my side saddle surcingle and 5 Aerborn brand hairnets for red hair as they were only 20p each!

I looked at all the saddles that were for sale at the various vendors but nothing unusual like any off-side or reversible saddles (I asked!) and I don't need another nearside saddle as my Whippy is just fine! I found saddle prices generally high though, even for saddles needing some work, but this may be because side saddle riding is on the increase and the lack of old name saddles to meet the demand (I noticed that there wasn't as many saddles for sale as there has been at the Nationals in other years). It seems that it would be safe to say, that a saddle bought at these high prices would hold their value, if not increase in the future with current growth in the interest of side saddle riding.

The highest priced saddles seemed to be the small seated (16 1/2" and under UK measurement) saddles and I felt distinctly FAT walking around seeing all these skinny lithe elegant riders with their little saddles. I took note of what sizes people were looking for in saddles at the various vendors and it was all the small seated ones that seemed to generate the most interest with the larger seated ones, left wanting. I guess more choice for me and Hattie!

I thought to myself that maybe the UK and the US could do a swap of side saddles as the larger sizes seem to be in more demand than here in the UK? Brita, I spotted some saddles that would have been long enough for you including an 18 1/2" Champion & Wilton (UK measurement).

I am thinking about buying a new habit as the sleeves on my 1934 Moss Bros one are a little bit short. There were lots of habits for sale but most of them were too small or the few that I could get on, were much too big for me. One vendor had a vintage UK size 14 habit that was long enough in the sleeve but the apron was too short! It was £250 though and had a lot of repairs and wear so not really appropriate for the showing that I want to do any ways. There was an off-side apron for sale too but it only had a 26" waist, boo hoo!!

I tried to take as many photos as I could while I walked around and thank you to all the vendors who graciously allowed me to photograph their stands!

One of the first stands I visited was the Alexander James stand...

I have always admired their riding habits and tried some size combinations for fit. I think that once the shows are over, that I'm going to sell my Moss Bros habit and save up for an Alexander James habit as the fit was excellent, even though the garments I tried, were the off-the-peg range that they offer. I found the price reasonable and they said that they could make me an off-side apron to match. I've got my brochure and price quotes save here beside me to am really to order when the time comes!

Next was master saddler, Saskia von Ehrenkrook's, stand showing new saddles she has made along with beautiful vintage ones for sale...

There were also riding habits made by Ewe Mueller on display and Saskia showed me the modern tree on which she builds her side saddles.

The Headline's stand is always a favorite of mine as they sell everything from vintage clothing & habits to antique tack and collectibles. It's a bit of heaven for me as it combines everything I love into one convenient place!

They also make new side saddle costumes and habits as well and my friend Gill, was particulary smitten by a Victorian reproduction habit of theirs on display outside the stand..

Gill wants to now try my Whippy on her Connemara gelding, Smokey. I think I have converted another!

I liked the burgundy habit outside of Headlines and it looked like it would have just about fit me...

A beautiful antique side saddle that Headlines had for sale...

Their business does not have a website, but their contact details are:
Jan Lines
Hartshill Cottage
Burton Dassett
Nr. Southam, Warwickshire
CV47 2AB
01295 770 689
jan_lines1 @ yahoo.co.uk (please removed the space before and after the @ sign).

Thompstone Toppers is another regular at the Nationals and another favorite as they carry vintage habits and LOTS AND LOTS of antique and vintage top hats and bowlers. I lusted after that green habit but alas, it was too small..

They had a small sized Whippy for sale that I was tempted to get for Hattie for Josie to ride!

A glimpse of some of their many hats...

Their business does not have a website either, but their contact details are:
Thompstone Toppers
Ros Thompstone
Grove Farm
Burton Dassett
Southam, Warwickshire
CV47 2AB
01295 770 204
Mobile: 07900 272 390

I always enjoy going to the Side Saddles tent as it's one big side saddle only tack shop that sells new and vintage/antique items. I ALWAYS have to buy something from them!

A closer look at the Victorian pilch side saddle that they have for sale (if I had a spare £650, I'd buy it just for decoration)...

After doing the first aisle of vendors, we decided to grab a hamburger, relax and watch some showing. It was still raining at this point and I took this neat picture of some pony riders and their moms aka "grooms" sheltering under some trees waiting for their class to start. The grey pony on the left was wearing a synthetic side saddle.

Dressage in the rain...

and jumping in the rain! These are all of Samantha Boxall riding Parklands Phoenix. I wish I was a fearless jumper like her!

After watching jumping and eating hamburgers, we decided to tackle the rest of the shopping stalls as I really wanted to get my show shirt from the Teque-Style stand. Turns out, I was just in time as they had sold out of all but one in the size and color I needed. This is the shirt I got and they are my FAVORITE and comfiest shirts ever.

We also came across the Field and Country Antiques stand and they had some beautiful vintage habits along with LOTS of antique and vintage hunting accessories like whips, sandwich cases, etc for sale. I looked at every habit they had but sadly, none to fit me although there were some beauties. They also had a small selection of side saddles for sale, this is where I saw the 18 1/2" Champion & Wilton.

Mike Huline-Dickens and Suzie Vandepeer also had a stand there where they were repairing side saddles along with having saddles and accessories for sale.

Suzie showed me a very drool-worthy side saddle that she had made herself and one which I could have happily carried off home with me!!

She also introduced me to a lady name Julie (sorry, I missed your last name!) who is training to make side saddles. The saddle that Julie is standing in front of without the leaping head, is one that she was currently making. It's good to see that there is a whole new generation of side saddle makers appearing.

Afterwards, we wandered into the indoor arena to have a look at the horses and riders warming up and to watch some equitation classes. I didn't get to take any photos of the indoor classes as I did not want to disturb the classes with my camera flash but managed a quick snap of the indoor warm-up area of some elegant riders and their lovely horses.

Coming out of the indoor arena, there was a show hunter class going on in the outside dressage arena and I caught sight of a familiar face, my instructor Lili Brooksby!

I knew Lili was going to be there but didn't know which classes she was entering but I was lucky enough to watch her while she was doing a class. I really like Lili's individual show as it's short and sweet so I think I'm going to steal it for when I have to do an individual show!

She got 2nd in the show hunter class with her horse, Paddy (Silver Mercedes)! Go Lili!

After Lili's class, we headed over to watch the Restricted Equitation class as this is the class I would enter next year if I am lucky enough to be able to take Hattie to the Nationals. On the way there, I snapped this candid shot of riders waiting in the drizzle for the jumping class to start.

These were some of the riders waiting for the Restricted Equitation class to start. I liked the habit that the lady was wearing on the colored cob on the right. It was kind of a charcoal grey/browny color and looked vintage.

There was a very high turn out standard but nothing that Hattie and I don't do any ways for a show, local shows at that! I reckon we would have a chance and the class consisted of walk/trot/canter with a tack & turnout inspection and individual show. Something to aspire to for next year. Maybe I'll do it in my off-side side saddle with an Alexander James habit!

FINALLY the sun came out and we went to see the native pony class. Just outside the class, there was a little girl watching the native class and holding her own cute pony with it's neat antique side saddle.

Ponies in action!

Nearby was Master Saddler, Susan Slade's stand with a nice selection of vintage side saddles. I was lusting after that double bridle hanging up at the front and nearly bought it!!

My favorite part of the whole day was probably the costume classes. First was the children's costume classes and it was cute to see the kids getting themselves and their ponies ready and trying to memorize the historical facts about their costumes ready to tell the judges!

The ladies costume class was right after the children's class. Here are some of my favorite costumes...

This one was an original 1908 habit. In the costume class, you can either wear an original ANTIQUE habit or a reproduction. Last year, an pinstriped olive colored 1907 habit won it (it was a beautiful habit!).

Action shots of the costumes!

A beautiful red habit...

As we were waiting to be picked up by my husband, I took some photos of the gorgeous prizes to inspire me for next year!