Sunday, 27 November 2011

Jessica of Tacky Tack of the Day, This One's for You...

Someone sent me a link to this abomination for sale on Ebay, I thought it was Tacky Tack of the Day worthy so Jessica, this one is for you....

I had to do a double take when I saw this, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This is probably the worst Asian made side saddle I have ever seen. A poster child of what NOT to buy when buying a side saddle. How the heck would you even ride in this???!!

To be fair, the seller probably doesn't know much about side saddles and probably only bought this to "have a go" but if you managed to jam your right leg into the extreme curl of the fixed head, you would be fighting riding uphill while trying to balance on a narrow seated astride tree! Your left leg would be at an impossible angle as the leaping head is so far over to the middle side of the seat that your left leg would have to hang nearly straight down due to being blocked by the horn...and what the hell is going on with the "forward cut" flap???!!!!

Sigh, it looks like the manufacturers copied this monstrosity from an ancient relic side saddle with it's cutback-less head and it's vestigial off-side horn.

Don't get me started on the fact the seller advertises that they had "their saddler out to see if we could get it to fit and he told me it's a fairly rare combination saddle. The leg loop unscrews and you can ride as astride."

He got the astride part right!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Surcingle Is Back Home!

When my saddler came out in August, I gave him my side saddle surcingle to fix as the cinch loop had ripped off over the years and also the stirrup D-ring needed replacing as well.

Well today it came back and looks lovely! Don't know how much riding I'll do in it but at least it's back home in my collection. My saddler wasn't able to replace the stirrup leather D-ring as the surcingle leather is fragile and couldn't take any more bulk put inside without tearing when being sewn back. It don't matter as I can always hang the stirrup leather off of the cinch ring. It's not as if I'm going to be trotting or cantering around in it and I have my big thick felt Western pad to go under it too.

Roger also looked at my saddle and he saw that it was tipping to the left a bit. He also said that there was a void underneath the nearside panel near the withers where the flocking had packed down so he took it away and is going to fix that for Hattie! Yay, we are getting somewhere!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Another one for the collection...

For the past few months, I have not been feeling very well. I've been feeling very drained and tired like I've been running on empty. In fact some days, I haven't even felt like riding and even picking out Hattie's feet has been an ordeal. The last two shows I have been to this month (the dressage and the clear round), were ridden through sheer determination as I felt like a zombie.

Fed up with feeling this way, I went to the doctor's and had a blood test done the other week. Today I went to get my result and it turns out that I have low white blood cells. The normal range is about 4000 to 11 000 cells per microlitres and mine is 3000 (this is the info my doc told me and what I saw on the computer there) so a bit low to say the least!

Basically in a nut shell, I have to change my diet and eat more healthily- eat more like Hattie and less like Homer Simpson so hopefully I will start to reap the benefits of this new healthy diet I'm embarking on. I'm giving myself this week off from riding to rest but I'll have to ride tomorrow as my saddler is coming out to reflock my Whippy.

Back to horses now...

Still feeling like crap on Saturday, I managed to schlep my death-warmed-over self around Your Horse Live, which was held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. As you will remember from my Your Horse Live blog post from last year, it's a mega horse event with demos, LOTS of shopping and horse stuff to do.

Sadly, the horse simulator with the side saddle wasn't there this year- well, the "horse" was but they brought a western and a jumping saddle to try so I didn't bother as I've already ridden Western in Canada and I already have a jumping saddle for when I need to ride astride. there were no side saddles for sale this year like there was last year either.

It was fun shopping but I didn't actually buy very much except for a pair of mucker boots, a pair of long winter riding boots (field boots at that!), a pair of posh navy full suede seat breeches in that trendy Schoeller technical fabric you see nowadays (should have bought two pairs really as they were stupidly cheap), an ear warmer for me and a new lycra hood and neck cover for Hattie.

I also got measured up for these RUBY RED PATENT CROCODILE SKIN riding boots (the ones in the middle of the page)!!! Price wise, they aren't actually that much more than what Ariat riding boots retail here in the UK for and those are non custom and made in China! I told the lady that I couldn't actually buy them yet but she said that it was ok as she would take my measurements for the day I save up enough :) I will get them eventually.

I tried on another pair at their stand and their boots made my big ole feet look like tiny Cinderella feet but without the pain. The leather was so soft, the quality so beautiful...Oh for heaven's sake, I'm dribbling down my top!

Although there wasn't much side saddle at this year's Your Horse Live, I DID manage to find a book that I have been looking for AGES for sale at a second hand equestrian book retailer there. It's the Saddle of Queens by Lida Fleitmann Bloodgood and when I spotted it, I HAD to buy it as I never could manage to win one on Ebay. I have quite a few original copies of books on side saddle riding from the Victorian and early 19th century but this one from 1959 managed to elude me until Saturday.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Tack Change

Apart from adding the non slip grip gel pad, I've also gone back to using my Cope safety iron.

Betty Skelton mentioned in her book, Side Saddle Riding, that her father always made her ride with a safety iron even though her side saddles had safety stirrup bars on them as it would be unlikely that both safety devices would fail if she came off. I used to use this iron on my Champion & Wilton saddle for that very reason and when ever I came off, I always felt the iron release before the safety catch did on the saddle (it was kept well oiled and opened easily).

I'm glad I had this iron on my off-side side saddle when I fell of jumping last August as the saddle had a roller bar on it and once again, the iron opened up before I even hit the ground.

My Whippy came with a normal side saddle egg- eyed Prussian stirrup iron which I do like as it's a nice trim iron but better to be safe than sorry! The only problem with the safety iron, is that it's long and I had to punch extra holes in the stirrup leather to get the correct length for me. It's an OK length for me now although I would prefer it a little shorter but there isn't enough room left to punch any more holes. Maybe when I get some extra cash, I will buy a slightly shorter leather but it's ok for now.

I was really pleased with my three buckle three fold girth made by Owen on Sunday as well. This is another piece of tack that I used to use with my C&W saddle.

I had wanted to use it when I first got my Whippy but because it was newly and heavily flocked up, it was too short. It fits now as the flocking has settled in and Hattie has become fitter and trimmer due to all the schooling and riding we have been doing since actually having a saddle that fits. Hopefully it will still fit after my saddler adjusts the flocking.

This is a really handy girth due to the triple fork in it as it stablizes the saddle. It's also handy for Hattie as the forked ends can spread out to each billet and not cause the girth to drag the saddle forward (you can see how they spread out on her in the photos). The saddle stayed put while jumping on Sunday and it stayed put while schooling today too. I have a normal atherstone elastic ended girth for my close contact saddle (astride) and that has a split end as well so that I can buckle it to the point and 4th billet with ease as the elastic end will spread as does the split side. I think split/forked girths are a Hattie necessity.

It's a shame they don't make three fold girths like this any more as the forked ends do seem to be kinder to the horse and also as an extra safety precaution too. If one billet goes, at least you have two more. The Manorgrove saddler did make me a three buckle girth but it didn't have forked ends so it was always a hassle girthing it up due to the last billet being far back and so fork to reach it.

There you go, to all you saddlers out there, a nifty idea for you to make, start making the Owen three buckle forked three fold girths again!

Monday, 7 November 2011

FOR SALE: 16" Elan Side Saddle

Lieke has emailed me some photos and information about her lovely Elan side saddle which she would like to sell. She can be contacted by emailing Lieke Brandt at: linschotenbabe_abel @ (remove the space before and after the @ symbol).

For sale, beautiful light leather Elan side saddle imported from America.
It's a 16" (UK measuring), 20" in USA measuring seat and a medium tree.

It has a beautiful suede seat and the pommels are lined with the same beige suede.
It comes with a stirrup leather in the same color light leather and a messing safety stirrup, also a balance girth in the same light leather color.

I'm selling it because it's too narrow for my round ribbed Arabian, though I've ridden in it three times on a normal sized TB/warmblood mix and it fitted that horse perfectly. The saddle was very comfortable to ride in. I even tried a tiny jump in it and it stayed on perfectly.
I've only ridden it those three times so the saddle is nearly unused and still in perfect condition. It even smells new!

For sale for £800, I'll ship anywhere.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yay!!! We Did It!

It was the clear round jumping show held by my local riding club,BRRA at Blaby Mill Stables today and we jumped!!!!

I have done these shows before on Hattie but only jumping astride and the last time I did one, was last April on a friend's horse when Hattie had that bump on her withers.

The last clear round jumping I did side saddle, was May 2010 at the South Kilworth show and we mostly trotted around the course so I was absolutely kakking myself today as I wasn't sure how Hattie was going to be after being Speedy Gonzales yesterday.

I put the gel anti-slip pad under the side saddle and tried my 51" vintage Owen three buckle-three fold girth and it fit a treat. I was happy about that as it saves me having to fork out ££'s for a new Robert Jenkins girth which I can ill afford this month. I'll save her 52 1/2" girth as her "fat" girth. The saddle stayed put today too and Hattie was back to her old self today as you will see in the video with her ears forward.

Hattie was spooking all the way to the show so I wasn't hopeful about our performance so when I got to the show, I took her in the indoor ring to warm up and get her listening by practising some walk/trot/canter transitions, no jumping to wind her up.

We only did the 1' course and I am pleased with how Hattie went. We did not get any rosettes unfortunately as we had some fences down but our goal today, was to have nice calm ride with no bombing off or jumping WAAAAAAAAAY before the fence. I think next time we'll try a slightly higher height as Hattie was a bit lazy going over these but she seems to respect the higher jumps more. I remembered to keep my right shoulder back, my ribcage up and my right toe down and this helped Hattie with her striding and stopped her from taking off too early.

Here's our video!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Flippin' Heck, What A Difference!

My friend Gill and I, went back to Blaby Mill Stables today to use the outside arena (this is where the dressage show was held last Sunday) so we could practice our jumping for the show tomorrow since Gill does not have access to an arena to practice.

We set up two little jumps (only 1' high) and b*gger me, if Hattie wasn't a little speed demon! For the past month, I've been having to boot her along to get her to canter and jump and today, I was having to sit back and slow her down! It was crazy! Her ears were forward and she was enjoying herself just like before.

I definitely think now that there are several contributing factors as to why Hattie has been sluggish and unhappy over the past month...

1)Saddle flocking needs tweaking after having it nearly a year.
2)Hattie prefers the footing at Blaby Mill Stables.
3)I've been a moron and been riding around with a loose girth.

Roger, my saddler is coming out on the 15th so after experimenting with pads this morning before heading off to jump, I decided just to use the thin gel grip pad until he can adjust the flocking. It's so thin that it won't alter the fit of the saddle but is tacky to prevent the saddle from sliding all over the place.

These photos were taken after we returned home after jump schooling. You can see by the scurf mark left by the balance girth, that the saddle has slide forward to rest in it's "normal" (well, normal for Hattie's conformation) position like it normally does but has not gone straight onto her shoulders like it was been doing for the past few weeks.

The gel grip pad really did it's job today as the saddle is correctly positioned at Hattie's withers and did not try to go "up and over" them like it's been trying to do recently.

I had a feel underneath the panel on the nearside and it has flattened out quite a bit from when Roger took out some flocking in May to prevent anything from pressing on that wither bump she had. I guess it's time to pad it back up there now.

After I got on and tightened my girth to where I usually tighten it, I looked down and saw that it still was a little slacker than I remembered it. Usually I just tighten it without looking when mounted but this time, I happen to look down. I could slide my hand easily between Hattie and the girth. I wonder how long I'd been riding like this? It also probably did not help the saddle to stop shifting around too much if the girth was always loose! I suppose it shows I have good balance, lol. There was only one hole left to tighten it and when I did, the girth felt it's normal tightness like before.

I will try my three buckle three fold girth tomorrow. if that is TOO short, then I'll have to order another one from Robert Jenkins again. It looks like I'm going to have a whole collection of beautiful three fold girths in various sizes!

For arena footing, it's tough, as wood chippings is what we have at our stable. Maybe for jumping, I will book the arena at Blaby Mill Stables occasionally but I'm not made of money especially after forking out for new three fold girths so Hattie will just have to deal with it at least for schooling dressage.

I don't know what to think about jumping side saddle tomorrow especially after how speedy and keen Hattie was today but we shall see!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Dressage report!

I should be walking the dog but it's cold and rainy outside so instead I'm sitting here blogging (don't worry, said wimpy dog does not want to go out in the rain either so I'll take her out when this is done).

We did our Intro A and Prelim 1 tests last Sunday after a month of struggling with schooling. Hattie has not been right all month- not lame but in a bad mood. At first, I put it down to her being in season (which she is) but then I began to notice a reluctance to go forward when schooling. Hattie loves cantering and jumping and usually when she gets in her bad moods with dressaging, if I add a jump in to a test, she's happy and revved up. Even jumping and cantering weren't helping now with her just hollowing during canter transitions with hear head up in the air, ears back and really angry tail swishing, especially on the right rein. Usually I have to sit back and SLOW her down for jumping but this time, I am having to boot her on.

Last Saturday, when we were doing last minute schooling, I noticed the saddle slipping forward more than usual. I got off and looked at the saddle pad which had slipped back causing the thick binding to pinch in between the panel and her shoulder where the saddle had slide forward.

My Whippy has always slide forward a little but then stays put, this time was quite a bit forward so removed the saddle pad and pushed the saddle back into place. Hattie is not a fan of pads any ways so I gave up using it and will have to accept the fact that I will always have to scrub my panels to keep them clean.

Without the pad, the saddle stayed put a bit better and the next day we did our dressage show.

Considering the trouble we'd been having schooling, we actually did not do too badly at the show. For the intro A test, we scored 64% with quite a few marks of 7's (which mean "fairly good") and 6's ("satisfactory). The only low mark we got a 4 on one movement as Hattie broke into a canter when we were supposed to be trotting (now THAT was a surprise considering how NON forward she had been).

The camera was not working properly for the Intro test so my husband/groom was not able to film but he frantically snapped away and got some good shots of us performing.

20m circle at E (we got a 6 for this, note my calm expression)...

The start of our "change rein on a free walk on a long rein"...

Free walk on a long rein, we got a 7 for this. I like how shiny Hattie's butt was...

Our 20 circle which is done at a medium walk at C to X, then working trot from X to C (we got a 7 for this)...

Changing the rein at MXK in working trot (we got a 6 for this as Hattie got a bit strong on the forhand and lost her outline a little)...

Halt, immobility, salute (we got a 6 for this has Hattie drifted a bit to the right but our halt was fairly square)...

One thing I did notice while doing our test on the shredded rubber surface and warming up on the coated sand in the indoor arena, is that Hattie seemed a lot happier and forward. The surface which is down in the arena at my stable is soft wood chippings which I have been finding a bit slippery to walk on myself. It did come into my mind that maybe Hattie does not like it either due to being slippery, maybe she feels unsafe at faster speeds like cantering or jumping (she is fine at the trot)? I have a feeling that this may be a contributing factor with Hattie's moods lately.

Any ways 20 minutes later, we did our Prelim 1 test which started out good and forward until the judge accidently beeped her horn at us during our test. When the judge beeps you, it means you did something wrong in the test. In the Prelim 1 test, you do a half 20m circle at A to the right, a half 20m circle at X to the left, a half 20m circle at C to the left and finish it off with a half 20m circle at X to the right (simply put, a figure 8 across the whole ring). Just as I finished my figure 8, the judge beeped me so I went into walk and just looked around confused as I knew I had done nothing wrong.

After you finish the figure 8, you are supposed to change rein at KXM and then at M, ask for a working canter on the left rein. I just kept walking and just passed the turn at K when the judge finally decided to tell me that it was ok and to keep going...sigh...

Good thing we had practised this test many a time so although we overshot the turn at K, we still made it across the arena on the diagonal to M and got our left rein canter. Hattie was such a good horse for that. We got a 6 for that movement due to Hattie being "long in the outline". When we had practised this at home, we always made a good turn with Hattie working forward in a nice outline but because we had to rush it and compensate for the overshot turn, we lacked impulsion.

We got a mix of 5's, 6's and 7's (mostly 6's though), with a 5 for our right rein canter due to Hattie opening her mouth and being a bit stiff and another 5 for our halt as Hattie drifted AGAIN!

Gary managed to video out test...

There were quite a few competitors in both classes so I'm pleased with the 4th we got for the Intro test and the 5th for the Prelim 1 test.

Schooling this week has been the same with Hattie being in a bad mood so I got off yesterday and had a look to see what my saddle was doing besides sliding too far forward on her.

Standing her square and looking from the back, I could see that my saddle was dropping to the left a bit. Looking at the off side panel at the front, I could see the tilt to the left with the left panel coming very close to being "up and over" her withers!!! If it wasn't for Hattie's high withers, the saddle would be totally rolling over. The right side off her poor withers was taking the brunt of the saddle and me, no wonder she didn't want to go forward cantering and jumping. If you look at my photos and video too, you can see me tilting to the right, I've unconsciously leaning to the right to counteract the saddle falling to the left. I think too, that the saddle pad was also helping to cause the saddle to slip more which is why Hattie was happier when I took it off as the saddle was able to grip to her back better and stay put.

I still think as well, that Hattie prefers the non wood chipping footing of the show but it's tough luck really as I can't fork out ££££'s to get the surface changed at our arena at home!

With this new observation, I called my saddler so he'll be coming out to us. He said that it's probably due for a reflocking any ways as it has been fine all summer up until now.

Until then though, we have still have two shows and a side saddle lesson with Lili so I will experiment with temporary measures tomorrow to see what helps to keep my saddle level until my saddler comes out. I have the non slip grippy gel pad that I can try along with my special side saddle riser pad. If I pad up the left side of it, that should help keep the saddle from dropping too much until Roger can come out and adjust it.

Hopefully, as we have a clear round jumping show on Sunday on the arena surface that Hattie likes!!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Senara the Arabian

After nearly a month long hiatus, I promise an update this week (hopefully tomorrow!) on our "interesting" dressage show we attended on Sunday! Reading Robin's blog post today though, about her horse Foxy, got me thinking about horses that I've had the pleasure of knowing and riding in the past.

One in particular is Senara who is owned by my friend, Bev. When my son was born, Bev promised me that when I lost the baby weight, that I could ride her Arabian, Senara (or Sen for short). Well, I lost the weight and ended up helping Bev take care of Sen and her other horses.

Sen was 17 when I started riding and taking care of her and when I got my old Champion & Wilton side saddle, well, she took to that with ease! The first time I rode her in the side saddle, I hadn't expected it to fit so only brought it down to the stables to see how it fit. As soon as I plopped it on her back and saw what a good fit it was, I thought "hey, let's go riding!". Unfortunately, Bev does not leave tack down at her stable due to thefts in the area and my own bridle was at home so I put two lead ropes on her halter and rode her down the lane like that!

The next day, I brought my bridle and we went out for a little hack down the lane and back again, this was us on Sen's 2nd attempt at side saddle...

Over the year, we went from a hairy Arab lacking topline and condition to a slick beast.

We hacked everywhere side saddle and eventually did the Miss Blaby Procession.

After a while, I noticed the saddle started to roll and ride uphill. Because of all the work and the conditioning feed I had been giving her, my C&W became too narrow...

I had planned on buying her a wider saddle but that fell through when another friend offered me her cob on loan.

Bev still owns Senara and although I don't ride her any more, she is stabled near to Hattie's stable so I still get to see her everyday.

This is her doing her head twirling thing whenever she REALLY wanted something whether it was food, to be turned out or going for a gallop. I had to ride her with a martingale as she would do this while galloping and nearly broke my nose once! LOL!