Monday, 23 January 2012

Goodness Gracious!

Well, I don't know what sort of riding I did yesterday but it was RUBBISH!!!

We've been schooling all the time and then when it comes to the crunch, my brain goes into meltdown and I forget everything. Maybe I'm not meant to jump, probably best if that is left to the young who bounce well and the stupid, I mean "brave", lol.

Maybe it's just me that is stupid! I don't even have to watch the below videos to say what I did wrong.

The course at the Sunday clear round show was 8 jumps and they set it at 1'3"- which was fine, some may have even been 1'6" (ok, worrying a bit now but we did 1'9" the other week and we lived to tell the story) but then there was this FREAKIN' BIG GATE jump set at 2'!!! When I saw that, it crashed my fragile confidence and the day went down hill. Riding the course, my legs felt like jelly and Hattie sensed it and refused the gate. Then I decided to "grow some" and tried to ride her as forward and aggressively as I could just to get her over that blasted gated and Hattie did so, even if it was rather begrudgingly.

After that, my mind was in a panic and all the jumps became a blur and my equitation went out the window. the only thing that kept me on Hattie was the pommels and remembering to keep my RIGHT SHOULDER BACK as a few times I started to feel myself twist to the left. Whacking my shoulder back, yanked me back securely into position.

Dressage is so much more relaxing as I can take each movement as it comes, I have to remember to take each jump as it comes and not think of the whole thing as a course. I also have to learn to trust Hattie too as if you look at the videos, she did her auto lead changes and then I would annoyingly bring her back into trot to change her canter leads when she was already put herself on the correct lead.

After the first round, some people wanted the jumps lower and they got rid of the gate so I decided to try and end on a good note for my own sanity. My riding was still rubbish but the round a little less hairy. I forgot the course too.

The good thing about clear round shows is that they are low key and it's only yourself that you are competing against as if you go clear, you get a rosette, if not, then you had £5 worth of jumping a course and using it as schooling.

I think with some jumps like more imposing ones like that blasted gate, I need to ride more aggressively and break down the course into a series of one jumps each so I can plan how I'm going to ride each one. With jump no.s 3 and 6 (the one at the end of the ring on a tight turn), I should have collected a bit more, really looked, rib up, rode inside leg to outside hand and that would have helped us make the tight turn. All the other jumps were straight forward but it was 3 and 6 along with the gate that tested us!

I'm glad I did it though as I didn't come off and I was not the only one that day to have problems with that gate, quite a few horses refused or hesitated at it and at least I did it side saddle! Hear's to Hattie as well as she is such a good horse, she takes care of me and gets me out of tricky spots even when I don't know what the heck I'm doing.

Us after our rounds with my looking exhausted yet relieved!
Do you like my braids? I didn't do my signature 21 braids but instead did 12. I just can't do just 9 braids like the showing judge told me to, Hattie just has too much mane and they would look big and lumpy so I just "compromised".

Saturday, 14 January 2012

More Frosty Morning Work!

It still was in the minus numbers this morning but the sun was shining and it melted half of the school so we were able to add a teeny tiny bit of canter and trot work in with out walk schooling.

We were mostly working on (well, I was) softening my inside rein especially when on the right rein (which I have been finding the hardest rein to do it on) and working on going down the center lines STRAIGHT.

At first, I practised both things at a walk just to get the feel and is started to click. For softening the inside rein, I really have to think about sitting up and back, right shoulder back and give giving inside hand a little bit forward but still maintaining a VERY VERY soft and gentle contact. As Lili said in my last lesson, it like feeling nothing. When we achieved this, I found that my outside rein softened even more to a slight contact on the rein and Hattie carried herself better. When we were doing this consistently at a walk, we upped it to a trot and practised it by trotted down the center line at A, halted at G from a trot, walked to C and then asked for a trot on the right rein until K when we picked up a canter. We did a mirror image of this exercise on the left rein as well.

I remembered while going down the center line to set her up as if we would be turning left at C to prevent her from drifting to the right off of the center line and I must say our lines were A LOT straighter today!

It's only baby steps just yet but I think today we made real progess with softening the inside reins and having straighter center lines. hopefully if we keep up this good work, we can claw back some marks from the judge next month when we do the Prelim 1 tests.

For those that don't live here in England but that wanted to read the mini article on off-side side saddles that was published in Horse and Hound magazine this week, they have put it online on the Horse and Hound website.

My saddler also called me yesterday to let me know that we will do a final test run of the new panels on my off-side Beck Morrow before he recovers them. His car blew up so he's not able to do any fittings at the moment but will let me know next week when he'll be able to come and finish my Beck Morrow which is good as my poor hip felt very jolted today.

Although the panels were originally covered in leather, I think I'm going to opt for linen lined panels as Hattie seems to prefer fabric to leather on her back. Maybe it is warmer for her and it does offer more grip on my awkward conformation than leather does.

Even though my Beck Morrow is coming back soon (hopefully), I'm still considering investing in an off-side Zaldi for heavy duty riding. I'm worried about wearing out my 114 year old Beck Morrow and although the tree is reinforced for jumping, the flat felt panels and sweepy seat, make it more suitable for dressage and flat work than jumping. It's something I'm going to have to think about.

Talking about 114 year old saddles....

This is a scan of a late 1860's- early 1870's CDV photo in my collection of a horse with a rather large side saddle on his back! The saddle looks new so maybe this photo was taken for posterity to celebrate the buying of a saddle which would have been rather expensive judging by the quality of it (wonder where it is now?). Nevermind coming past this horse's last rib, it's nearly to his croup!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Frosty Morning!

It's been a bit spring like for most of December and into January but this weekend, it's supposed to dip down to about -1 to -2C and then go back up on Tuesday to a balmy spring like 6C. Meanwhile, until it heats up again this coming week, the outdoor ring has been frosty in the mornings when I can only school.

Us this morning taken when it was very white and frosty out!

It was too slippery in the school to do anything faster than a walk (and my right hip was hurting too) so just practised walking down our center lines for when we do our two dressage shows next month. Both are offering the Prelim 1 test but I don't know if I'm going to bother doing the Intro A test any more as I find it boring now. Maybe I will do one more at the first show as a warm up to get us back into the swing of things but I will have to see.

One of the comments that we always get on our test sheet is about Hattie drifting to the right of the center line so during my last lesson, Lili made me set her up after we turned at A to go down the center line, as if we would be turning left once we reached C. If I can scrape some extra marks for our center lines, so be it!

To do this, I find that it helps if I look just slightly left of C like as if I'm looking at the corner of the arena, hold her with my right rein and keep my whip on her side and invite by softening with my left rein while just keeping my leg on her slightly so Hattie doesn't actually head off to the left. I have to practise doing this on both reins although I find it slightly harder to master the turn at A to go down the center line when I'm on the left rein. I will practise this again tomorrow at a walk as it's going to be frosty start to the day!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Zaldi Makes Off-Side Side Saddles!

Last year Zaldi came out with their newest and nicest model of side saddle called the Lady England which is based on a Mayhew Lissadel even with the correct Mayhew safety stirrup bar.

(Photo from Zaldi)

Becca Holland from the Flying Foxes Side Saddle Display Team, has been to the Zaldi factory and see their Lady England tree and she said that it is a proper made tree. She also suggested that I contact Hold Your Horses, where she is ordering her Lady England side saddle from as they are the UK authorized dealers of Zaldi saddles, to see if they could ask Zaldi about making an off-side saddle for me.

Well, Lesley from Hold Your Horses got back to me after I inquired and she said that Zaldi would make me a custom off-side Lady England with with the reverse Mayhew safety stirrup fitting! She quoted me a price which I thought was VERY, VERY reasonable for a CUSTOM OFF-SIDE side saddle although she did say that if she was able to get 5 orders together for off-sides, then she could renegotiate the price for me. SO if any one is wanting an off-side, then let me know as the more people we can get, the cheaper the price. Email me at crinolinegirl @ for more information (take out the space before and after the @ symbol in my email address).

This week's issue of Horse and Hound also came out today and in it was a mini article on the lack of off-side side saddles and the demand for them. It is talks about Lucinda Sims who is the grandaughter of Betty Skelton, about how she had to give up riding aside two years ago due to her having arthritis in her right hip (same as me) and in her knee and how if she could find an off-side side saddle, then she would be able to ride without pain again. The article goes on to quote Laura Dempsey about how rare they are, how they are not able to be made any more due to lack of trees and how most of them end up going to the USA. Then the author quoted me about me finding my Beck Morrow and being able to ride without pain in it!

I've tried to email Lucinda Sims about the off-side Zaldi side saddle but her email address keeps bouncing. I'm going to try again tomorrow and if not, contact the author at Horse and Hound if she can pass on the message for me as she takes side saddle lessons from Lucinda Sims.

Hopefully, this article will kick start some more interest in off-side riding as the demand is there and in 2012, you would think that the technology would be there to make an off-side tree easily. Hopefully Zaldi will be able to fill this void in the market now.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Unexpected!

I schooled today and were practising transitions and continuing our work with nice active trots and canters. Although I love practising dressage, Hattie doesn't and I could tell she was bored today as she was a lot of work to get going forward and was heavy on the forehand. Not like the nice trots and canters with her using her back like we've been getting. I kept remembering to soften the inside rein and this did help but Hattie just did not want to work today.

We did some parts of the Prelim 4 test where you do a..
-20 metre circle in a working trot on the left rein at E,
-at K, you ask for working canter,
-at B a 20 metre circle in working canter before returning to a working trot at C,
-changing rein at HXF
-ask for working canter at F,
-at E 20 metre circle in working canter,
-then return to working trot at C.

I often use this sequence as a schooling exercise as it peps Hattie up a bit, it's good for practising transitions and makes me practise riding with inside leg to outside hand and forces me to soften the inside rein.

After I managed to get some ok work out of her with that sequence, I decided to whack up a jump just to keep her happy as she enjoys jumping.

I couldn't be bothered messing around with the jump cups and was fed up with doing cross rails as Hattie gets lazy with them so out the pole across at the height I figured about about 1'3"- 1'6".

We did it first on the left rein which is her good rein, and Hattie was nice and balanced with a nice rolling canter. I remembered to sit back, keep my right shoulder back, point that right toe down, hold her with my outside rein and soften the inside. It was fun and Hattie really basculed over it. It's HARD to get forward over a bigger jump in a side saddle!!

The right rein was iffy and I kept having to go back and balance her with transitions and really forcing myself to sit back and soften the inside rein. I'm finding it really hard to do that on the right rein.

After a refusal, a couple of last minute pop ins and knock downs on the right rein, we managed to sort it out. Did some more balancing in the transitions and found that I had to ride her REALLY forward on the right rein yet at the same time, hold her with the outside, REALLY put my right shoulder back to act as my "inside leg to outside hand" and concentrate on keeping that inside rein elastic and soft. We got two good jumps to finish off in the end and we were both knackered and sweaty after our 40 minute session of schooling.

Afterwards when I went to put the jump away, I measured it as it looked massive and I'll be darned if it didn't measure 1'9"! Flippin' heck , no wonder it felt like Hattie was jumping over a mountain!

Photographic proof that we did that height...

I was happy that I finally jumped that high in a side saddle and we did alright but I don't know if I getting too wimpy as I don't know if I like jumping that high. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it but don't know if I would like doing whole courses that high. The odd jump that they have at that height in the Riding Club Horse classes at shows is one thing but I don't know if I would ever feel happy jumping a course at that height. I'm just going to take it slow and work on our flat work with the odd jump added in for fun. I'll be jumping at the next clear round show but I don't want to do 1'9", I'll stick to doing it a bit lower for the time being as you always school higher at home than what you show at.

The saddle felt ok flatting and jumping today though so that is good. It's not gone right forward on her shoulders, just stayed put where it normally wants to settle on her conformation.

Hattie looking in good weight and muscle with all the work we've been doing for the summer shows and saddle sitting pretty level.

I must say though, that a Whippy is truly a good saddle for sitting on, while sailing through the air on a horse!

Saturday, 7 January 2012


I'm seriously stiff and ouchy after my side saddle lesson on Thursday. Are stomach muscles supposed to hurt??? Went on a hack yesterday and then decided to do some schooling and see if we could do again what we did on Thursday during our lesson.

Well, I feel like a total beginner again. Who knew that riding correctly would make you regress!

Why is it when you learn something new, you feel like a total numpty all over again? Pain aside from using muscles I wasn't using before (who knew stomach muscles help you ride side saddle?!), I was all over the place today trying to remember to stop nagging Hattie and ask her to move forward desicively, remembering inside leg to outside hand, give with the inside rein....

I found it easier on the left rein to do all this (well, at least "inside leg to outside hand" was) but we struggled a bit on the right rein. I kept having to recheck my position and reset myself BUT we struggled on and despite muttering "ouch, ouch, ouch" with each stride of trot jolting my sore core muscles, we managed to squeeze out a bit of good riding today.

Our trot was more active (much to the disdain of my poor core muscles!) and Hattie was starting to soften and lower her head when I remembered to become more elastic with my inside rein and ride inside leg to outside hand (I find this takes A LOT of co-ordination). Our canter was rolly again too!! I couldn't believe we managed to do out rolly active canter today!

I didn't bother practising our center lines today (sorry Lili!) as I was knackered after 30 minutes of all that forward riding and rolling canters but will try again tomorrow :)

Hopefully, my co-ordination and fitness will come today soon as I have two dressage shows next month. Both are offering the Prelim 1 tests which I know and will be a good thing to practise all this new correct way of riding that Lili has taught me. It will be interesting to see what the judges comments will be.

For your viewing pleasure after reading all my ramblings, is one of my favorite videos from the British Pathe archive showing the Ladies Point to Point race from 1923. There is a good shot of a Champion & Wilton side saddle too!


Thursday, 5 January 2012

I'm Still Buzzing...

...from my BRILLIANT lesson today that I had with my favorite ever instructor, Lili Brooksby. She is pushes you because she knows you can do it and then you are knackered at the end of your lesson (lol) but you end up doing things that you never knew you could do!!

Lili said how well conditioned and muscled Hattie had become since she last saw her and that we had improved since our last lesson together which was last February I believe! I told her that I had kept in mind everything she had and we had practised as best as I could. She said Hattie was a lot more forward and we worked on transitions, riding with inside leg to outside hand, working on our centre lines, softening my inside rein and getting nice active trots and canters with Hattie using her back and me softening my inside rein.

We had some good active trots and Hattie's canters were AMAZING!!! I didn't even know that Hattie could canter like that. She was using her back, I didn't need to prop her up with my inside rein, for once in her life she wasn't on the forehand and it felt like it was riding a rocking horse. Tt was so active and EASY, so comfortable to ride. I caught sight of us in the mirror and Hattie's legs were in the air when she was cantering, it was lovely.

I remembered to scoot up as far forward as I could get in the saddle and didn't have any problems with the saddle slipping to the left or with it irritating Hattie. Judging from how she was going today, the saddle seems to be ok, it was me that was the problem.

So things I have to practise before our next lesson in February...

-Remember inside leg to outside hand (and when riding on the right rein, use my seat more and remember not to let my whip slide too far back as I'm prone to do).
-Keep a contact with my outside rein and soften the inside rein by making my wrist more elastic and giving slightly towards her ear (sounds like gobbildy gook as I'm writing this but in my brain and muscle memory it makes sense!).
-Don't nag Hattie with my leg, ask her decisively!
-Keep the pace active in downward transitions.
-Look where I'm going even before I come around the corner to turn down the center line. Lili said to pretend there is a big Oxer on the center line so that forces you to look. To stop Hattie drifting off to the right of the center line, I need to set her up by looking to the left and opening my left rein so that she thinks I will be turning left at the end of it.
-While on the right rein, I've been turning too late to go down the center line and over shooting it, I need to start turning about a meter before the letter. On the left rein, I need to wait a fraction later to turn so about 1/2 meter before the letter. This is something I need to play around with.

So lots of stuff to keep Hattie and I busy this month!

No piccies of my lesson today (next time!), but here is an unusual late 1860's- early 1870's CDV photo from my collection showing a man and a woman dressed for riding, waiting by the stable door. I like how you can see the groom's head just poking out! I wonder who the horse was tacked up for?