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....