Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Looking back at all the side saddle things Hattie and I have accomplished over 2011, I must say we haven't done too badly despite me breaking my rib and Hattie getting that darn bump on her withers from an ill fitting saddle! We finally got to go to some shows where we did very well, did some jumping, FINALLY managed to do a couple of Prelim tests AND despite countless unsuitable saddles, we managed to find our beloved Whippy- without with, we wouldn't have been able to do all this fun side saddle stuff this past year.

So I take this opportunity to thank my saddle...thank you Whippy!

What plans do I have for 2012?

First thing is first, I have the side saddler coming out in January to DE-flock my side saddle. Then this coming year, plan to continue doing the Prelim tests, work on our jumping and attend the clear round jumping show which is held every month- maybe work up the nerve to jump higher than 1' but we'll have to see!! Hopefully we will be able to attend more shows as well if I am lucky enough to get lifts if not, then we'll just stick to the shows we normally do in the summer. Hopefully, I will be able to find another off-side side saddle as well to do some competing on too.

I would also like to join the International Side Saddle Organization and enter their points program too so I need to get my membership sent off to them.

So quite a few things to do this coming year!!

Now, time to get off the computer and pull some left over Christmas crackers but would like to wish all my side saddle friends here and their families, a VERY HAPPY AND SAFE 2012!


Friday, 30 December 2011


My friend Gill and I booked the indoor school at Blaby Mill Stables to practice some jumping as the Christmas show that was cancelled on the 18th, has been postponed to a later date so that means we will have two jumping shows in January. Whoo hoo!!

Hattie quite happy to jump today and we had fun! We'll never be international show jumpers but we are quite happy popping our little fences. Keeps Hattie happy as she loves jumping and keeps me feeling alive!

Did some flatwork which was nice and forward (it has really made a difference with my saddle fit and Hattie's way of going with me scooting as far forward as I can get on my saddle), then it was jumping time which Gill graciously filmed (she asked if she could have a go on my saddle next time!). I'm pleased to see how rock solid my right leg has become.

Our first attempt with a straight on the left rein, Hattie was good with this one but she was staring to get hyper so we put the fences down to a cross rail after...

After we put it down, Hattie was still a little frazzled so it is our "blooper" video. I think Gill was being sarcastic at the end, LOL.

Jumping on the right rein, Hattie was starting to calm down...

Our blooper video, I didn't ride her forward enough (and our line was wonky) and she got lazy with her feet.

One more time on the right rein to end on a good note...

And once more on the left rein to end our schooling on a good note!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

If I Could Turn Back Time..

My first side saddle lesson was a complete disaster. It was a clinic with Roger Philpot in May 2009 at Witham Villa Riding Centre and was going to be my first ever proper side saddle lesson as up until then, my aside instruction had consisted of reading books, looking at You Tube Videos and trial and error! Hattie had only been ridden TWICE aside before as well and that was only walking around in my field with my old C&W with it's narrow panels!!

I was so looking forward to the clinic and it was a bargain at only £25. The side saddler had also come out in February to make a Wykham pad for my old C&W and had promised that it would be ready in time for the clinic in May so I was looking forward to using my newly renovated saddle at the clinic as well.

Well, nothing ever happens like it's supposed to and it all went to pot. It ended up being a BAKING HOT day and the saddler didn't have my saddle ready for the clinic so Roger Philpot had to loan me a saddle on the day (a Mayhew). It fit me nicely and seemed to fit Hattie nicely BUT if you have been reading my blog long enough, you will know how awkward a horse Hattie is to fit, even if you have the correct tree width and everything.

All was well walking around the school at the beginning of the lesson, that is, until the midges came out. It was then, for the first time, that I discovered that Hattie is a head shaker during the midge season in the summer and needs a nose net to be ridden in when it's bad day. I had only had Hattie since December 2008 so had not encountered the hot midge season with her and was not informed of this! That hot day out of all the days, was the worst and eventually near the end of the clinic, one of Roger's assistants managed to find and borrow a nose net from one of the private boarders at Witham Villa as Hattie was unrideable.

Not only did the midges ruin our lesson, but as soon as we started trotting, that darn Mayhew did nothing else but to shoot straight onto Hattie's shoulders which caused her to have a bucking fit. So I had a head shaking bucking bronco to deal with as a beginner aside rider.

The assistant came to my rescue, tried to adjust the saddle again, led me around at a walk and gave me pointers on my position. I was pretty disappointed with the day as I was looking forward to riding and having a canter as everyone else got to canter, even those who had never ridden side saddle before. At the end of the lesson, Roger also told people what saddles they should get, if they were ready for County standard showing, tips for their riding, etc but I was just kind of left out which made me feel even more like useless crap as I needed some guidance. That Mayhew saddle shooting forward, was a hint of things to come!

I made sure to invest in two nose nets when I got home which I still use when it's midge high season.

My husband had video'ed the day but he deleted it as it was crap so I never got to see the little bit of riding that we did. Surfing on You Tube tonight however, I stumbled across a video taken by the friend of one of the other riders in the clinic! You can see the kind of stuff we or shall I say, they, did that day and see Hattie and I just standing there like bumps on a log (everyone else had greys) along with when the assistant finally managed to track down a nose net and tie it to Hattie's noseband.

Roger Philpot hasn't come back to Witham Villa since but if he ever does, Hattie and I will be prepared with nose nets and a Whippy with a point strap on it!!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Telluride Historical Museum: Saddle Up!

Found this while Googling "side saddle" as you do, a nice image of a Western side saddle although the author is slightly misinformed that you need two men to "hoist" a woman in a side saddle! A mounting block will do just fine :)

Telluride Historical Museum: Saddle Up!: First invented in the 1380's as a means to protect the virginity of aristocratic girls while riding, the primitive sidesaddle was chair like...

YAY! No Snow!

After the show got cancelled last Sunday due to the light dusting of snow, it's been very spring like out. Hopefully it will stay that way for the rest of winter as I REALLY HATE snow.

Last year our annual Christmas Eve pub hack got cancelled due to bad weather (ice and snow) but this year, it was very green!!

Got my top hat and veil out, decided to wear my wool habit as although it was spring out, it would have been too cold for my lightweight Mears habit and put Hattie's pelham bit on her bridle since it was a special occasion. It's a lozenge pelham (like a KK bit but stainless steel instead of Herm Sprenger's Aurigan metal) and Hattie went really well in it. It was the first time I rode her in this particular bit too so I think I may use it as her showing bit in the summer.

I also experimented with double rein placement after reading several ways of holding double reins and decided afterwards that the snaffle rein held under my little finger and the curb between my little and 4th finger was the most comfiest and easiest for my hands.

The pub we go to, called the Glen Parva Manor, was built in the mid 15th century so it has a nice atmosphere about it especially on Christmas Eve. It was a fun day and here are some photos of the festivities!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

An Edwardian Sportswoman's Riding Corset

Bah humbug, I HATE snow!!! Here in England, if it snows a few flakes, everything shuts down and gets cancelled.

It was supposed to be the Christmas clear round jumping show today run by my local riding club but instead it got cancelled at the last minute this morning due to the light sprinkling if snow we had this morning just as we were about to get ready.

I was so disappointed as the show got cancelled last Christmas but that was understandable due to the amount of ice and snow we had. This year, it was going to be a bit special as we were going to jump side saddle and my 10-going-on-11 year old son was going to enter the kid's fancy dress class on my friend's Connemara, Smokey.

I had started the costume last year but never finished it as the 2010 Christmas show got cancelled a few days beforehand so I ended up finishing it this week in preparation for today's show. Now he will never get to wear it after all my hard work, as it probably won't fit him next December and he will be nearly 12 for the next show and more than likely, won't want to do the class (it took much coercing to get him to do it this year). All ruined due to a light dusting of snow that was gone before I got back home before 10:30 the morning (the show was supposed to start at 10:30).

I was too annoyed to ride today so instead, here is a look at a lovely turn of the century riding corset which was once part of my antique corset collection...

1900- 1905. A sporting corset made from creme colored silk and lined in white jean.

Although there are no maker's marks present, it was most likely made by Symington(Market Harborough, Leicestershire). The Symington corset collection describes the corset as being "an avant-garde design for the sportswoman, this corset includes many features and adaptations to make it suitable for riding, cycling, tennis and golf."

The corset is cut under the bust to allow the body to move with ease and cut high in the hip to allow for the correct position during side saddle riding.

The top and bottom edges of the corset are trimmed with a narrow band of Broderie Anglaise. Extremely narrow rows of cording run parallel with the top and bottom edges of the corset. The boning is whalebone and runs the full length of the corset at the sides and alongside the grommets while shorter whalebones are seen on the stomach and back side panels. These short bones along with the cording, would have given the figure the required support yet still allowed for ease of movement during sports. Stocking suspenders on this corset were kept to a bare minimum of two so that stockings could still be worn but without the constraint of additional suspenders.

The busk is perfectly straight as was fashionable during the Edwardian era. Measurements: Waist 22 1/2", Busk length 11".

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What Are The Odds?

We did some schooling today for the clear round jumping show on Sunday despite the freezing cold and it went good! I remembered to scoot myself MUCH more forward that I was used to and the saddle didn't feel too bad in doing so. The panels will still need bringing down all over due to being so overstuffed but sitting more at the front of the saddle, caused it not to tilt to the left so much and opened up more room behind for my big bum. Hattie seemed happier and our jumping was quite good. She took off on the correct spot and got her correct leads afterwards. Hattie will do auto-changes BUT, and a big BUT, only if I'm sitting balanced and secure. I think she was happier with my sitting more at the front of the saddle.

It felt weird as I'm not used to it but it did feel secure. I kept having to check that I could get two fingers width between the back of my knee and the fixed head to make sure I hadn't slipped back. In the 20- 25 minutes we were schooling, I pretty much stayed put and only once had to "reset" myself to sit more at the front of the saddle so that was good!

I've got the rest of the week to adjust to my new position so hopefully by Sunday, we will be ready! If this cold weather keeps up however, I'm going to have to wear my vintage 1930's wool habit despite it being a teeny bit short for me and my wool waistcoat as my summer weight Mears habit is going to be FREEZING!

On the subject of vintage things...

For over 10 years now, I have collected old photographs of side saddle riders. The earliest image I have is from the 1850's with most stretching over the entire Victorian period with the latest image dating from the early 1930's. Most of my photos have been bought on Ebay but some have been bought from antique fairs.

One such image was one that I bought probably about 2004-ish. It was before I got back into riding and horses due to life stuff and pregnancy any ways but at least collecting side saddle images kept me connected to horses in a way. An antique dealer that I used to see at fairs, kept it aside for me as he knew I collected side saddle photos and thought I would be interested in it. I think he was asking some silly price like £5 for it so I bought it. I always wondered who it was in the photo and thought it was just a photo taken of some regular unknown woman on her horse as all it had to identify her was, Di on "Be Truthful" 1923, hand written in old ink on the photograph. The plain frame and old mount that it's shown in, are original to the photo.

Fast forward 7 years to 2011 and I'm sitting yesterday evening flicking through my To Whom The Goddess book written in 1932 by Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Apsley, when I came across the SAME photo on the frontispiece and identified as Lady Diana Shedden herself!

This is the frontispiece photo scanned from my book...

I have owned this book since last November when I bought it from Your Horse Live but never put two and two together, I may not have even realized their was a frontispiece as I was busy looking for the information on Mrs. Straker, whose several side saddle habits I had owned in 2005.

Mrs. Straker probably knew Lady Shedden as all the hunting ladies knew each other back then as they were all of the same social standing. This is probably why Mrs. Straker's photo is in the book but what are the odds of me owning items from both ladies all these years in the future without realizing it AND buying them even before I started riding side saddle??!! I think this realization is confirmation that I'm meant to ride side saddle! :)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

It's Not You, It's Me....

We have a Christmas clear round jumping show next so my friend and I had the indoor school booked at Blaby Mill Stables for today to practice some jumping! This is the same ring where we had our disastrous warm-up last Sunday but today Hattie was a different horse with the grippy gel pad underneath the saddle. I had decided to school side saddle today instead of astride to see what was going on with the saddle and if the gel pad does indeed make a difference as I know for a fact that Hattie likes the ring surface at this venue.

We did some good jumping today and Hattie was happy so I think we will stick with the gel pad until I can get my saddle flocking sorted out.

Afterwards, we headed home as we were having a visitor bring their Champion & Wilton side saddle for us to try. Louise arrived mid-day with a beautiful tan C&W in tow and I was in love with it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I ABSOLUTELY ADORE tan tack- all my astride tack is tan and I wish my side saddle stuff was too. Louise also judges side saddle classes and has ridden in side saddle showing classes to a high level so I was lucky to get a few hours of her expertise!

Louise said that ideally, Hattie could do with a slightly smaller saddle but because I'm very tall, that it was a case of making do with the best fit saddle I can get. She said the length of my 17 1/2" Whippy and her C&W (which looked about 17 1/2") were ok though but I wouldn't want to go longer than them so 18" saddles are out for me.

She put her C&W saddle on Hattie's back and it seemed a good fit gullet wise and was away from her withers however riding it in, soon showed that it seemed to be the wrong tree shape and fit for Hattie. It went forward onto her shoulder bone like my old C&W did and pinched very badly. I told Louise this is what my old C&W did and that it seemed to confirm my suspicions that Hattie is not a C&W horse! I think C&W trees curve TOO inwards just below the gullet for her.

However, the short time I rode in it, it was VERY comfortable and the wide seat fit my butt perfectly. It was like sitting on a heavenly saddle and I felt very secure even though the seat and pommels were pigskin. I always wear full suede seat breeches but I felt that seat was very comfortable and secure. If it would have suited Hattie I would have bought it in an instant as Louise said that I sat well in it and it suited my height.

This is the saddle that Louise is selling and is still available if anyone is interested in it. The seat is a generous 17 1/2" (approx. 21 1/2"- 22" US measurements) and the tree width is a medium to medium/wide fit. She is asking £1200 ono and is based in Newark, Nottinghamshire. She said that I could forward her email address onto any interested parties so email me at crinolinegirl @ (remove the space before and after the @ sign) so I can forward her contact details on.

One thing Louise did say was that I sit too far back and I need two fingers clearance between the front of the fixed head and the inside of my knee so she scooted me forward..A LOT forward than I'm used to sitting and it opened up MUCH more seat for my fat butt to sit on. She did this with me on both her C&W and my Whippy. In fact, she REALLY got me forward on my Whippy due to the high placement I have the leaping head set on.

I then did walk, trot and canter riding on my Whippy with this new position and my saddle felt secure. It did not feel like it was tipping, did not feel like I was riding uphill and did not shoot right onto her shoulders. Louise said to try to work on my position with sitting more forward than I have been and see if that helps my saddle but that I should keep using my gel pad in the meantime. I knew that my butt had something to do with the saddle shifting...

Generally, she said that my Whippy seemed to fit Hattie quite well, that it sat quite nice and level on her back and that the shape of the tree followed her nicely BUT that the panels were too bloated and needed an overall "de-flocking" to bring the whole saddle down a bit more on her. So basically, my saddle needs to lose some weight!

That is good news as that means I don't have to sell my beloved Whippy and have to fork out ££££'s for a new saddle but instead probably a couple of £££'s for a complete reflock which is more doable for me.

Louise also gave me some tips on turnout and said that I don't have to do my 21 tiny North American Hunter Braids but that 9 British Showing Plaits are more correct. I'm gutted as I take pride in my even row of tiny braids as I think it looks much polished so that is going to be a MUCH harder habit to break than trying to sit more forward on my saddle!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Dressage!

My side saddle has been depressing me and annoying Hattie so I haven't been in the mood to blog lately as I'm so fed up with dealing with saddles that don't fit, forking out ££££'s, side-saddlers that don't call you back, a horse that changes shape constantly, etc, etc, etc. I'm seriously fed up and tempted to sell all my side saddle stuff and give up but hopefully it won't come to that just yet.

A lady who happens to be a side saddle judge and that has done all sorts of side saddle stuff to a high level, is coming out tomorrow with a c. 1938- 1939 Champion & Wilton for me to try. It's a beautiful saddle, within my price range and still is the lovely tan color that I love as it was hardly used. The saddle she is bringing is the spitting image of the one in the 1938-1939 Champion & Wilton catalog...

She is going to help me with fit and I asked if she could give her opinion on my Whippy and why it's doing the things it's doing despite being fine all spring and summer and being flocked up. I also feel it's a bit small for my butt. Lengthwise it's fine but widthwise, it's a scant 12 1/2" wide and I have big child bearing hips so sometimes I wonder if it's my arse pulling the saddle over as it's too wide for it. The C&W the lady is bringing, has a wider seat like my Beck Morrow does.

Will let you know how we get on!

Going back in time now, we went to the last Hinckley Dressage show of the year on Sunday and it was a special Christmas show where you had the option of doing your test in fancy dress so I went as the Snow Queen from the Chronicles of Narnia. We won for best costume two years ago when I was Mrs. Santa Claus (it was cancelled last year due to bad weather) but this year, went to a cute little girl dressed as Santa on an equally cute shetland pony dressed as Rudolph. You can't really argue with cuteness!!

We only did the Intro A test this time, no prelim tests because I've been battling my saddle and I'm still not 100% healthwise so decided to take it easy and just go to get dressed up and have fun. Our warmup was not so good as Hattie was really not happy with the saddle as I had stupidly decided not to put her grip gel pad underneath it thinking it would be ok since we weren't cantering. The saddle was rolling to the left and pinching her off-side wither so much that she bit my husband when he put his hand there to see what the saddle was doing. I could have kicked myself for not using that darn pad!!! We had been using the grip pad all week without any problem, Hattie was happy, I was happy and then stupid me decides to leave it off that day.

It's a mystery as when I'm off the saddle, it appears that it's sitting correctly with a slight tilt to the right like it's supposed to. It doesn't even press on her wither when I'm off. It's when I sit my fat arse in it that it all goes to pot which makes me think that I'm the problem.

Anyways, I stopped trying to warm up, got off, ungirthed my saddle pushed it back and more over to the right and did not get back on until I was called for my test. The steward let the judge know I was having problems just in case.

Us as we got called in to do our test...

Well, bugger me if we didn't end up winning the class!!!!

As soon as we went in the ring to do our test, Hattie was forward and although not 100%, she was a lot happier than what she had been in the warmup ring. I decided just to let her go forward and not try to bring her on the bit on anything, just let her do her thing. I could sense a slight head nod on the right rein like something was blocking and annoying her, if you look carefully, you can probably just slightly see it in the video. And bugger me again, if she didn't end the test with a perfectly SQUARE halt!!!! You got to love that horse!!!

We got all 6's (which mean "satisfactory") and 7's (which mean "fairly good") for all the movements and our collective comments were "A lovely partnership!", "A very consistent test, well done.", "Just lacking suppleness and balance at times."- which is hardly surprising how the saddle was annoying her and I was trying my darnest not to hang off her left side, lol!

Here is the video of our test:

Hattie falling promptly asleep after our test and with her 1st place rosette. I have never met such a chilled out horse, so chilled out that she is horizontal...

Along with the rosette, we also won free entry into the next show and Hattie got a well deserved stocking of horse treats. I gave her one whole pack of treats when we got back home as a thank you for gritting her teeth and putting up with an annoying saddle and getting us through the test without mishap. I think she was pleased with her prize...

Despite tack failure, I think we did ok and it's not as if we were the only ones in the class either. We definitely earned our 63.91% as there were quite a few in our class too. Hopefully once I sort out the fit of my Whippy or if this C&W ends up working better for us, we will start doing the prelims again. Until then, our grippy gel pad remains!!