Wednesday, 1 February 2012

More History and Progress On My Beck Morrow!

Blech, think I'm coming down with a cold or something as I feel rotten. Not good when you have a dressage show in 4 days!!!

We've been practising our Prelim 1 test with mixed results. I've been trying to ride Hattie more forward, soften the inside rein , ride "inside leg to outside hand" and all that but she just reverts back to being a sluggish old donkey on the forehand.

Last weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), I did not ride side saddle at all and only schooled astride WITHOUT stirrups (40 minute schooling sessions at that!!) and we got some good riding done! Our transitions were good (our canters were brilliant!), Hattie was carrying herself and working in a nice outline, I was working that inside rein to outside hand and I thought, this is great!

Put the side saddle on her on Monday and it was like that good work we did, never existed. It's so frustrating as I think Hattie has figured out that when I'm side saddle, I only have one leg to use and she can ignore me. Beating my horse with the schooling whip, although very tempting when she tries to pull that crap, isn't the solution! She's on the forehand doing an annoying shuffle trot or either that, or she's going around with her head up in the air and ears forward looking at everything that is going on except the job at hand!

The footing in the school was better last week and at the weekend when we did that good work and it's gone slippery in there now with the temperature drop so maybe that is the reason that she has gone back into stubborn donkey mode.

I've booked the indoor school at the stable down the lane from me where the show is being held to see if we school any better on a surface which Hattie likes (the same place where we went for our brilliant lesson with Lili). We shall see...

On a happier note, my saddle came today to try and fit for size, the new felt panels he's made. The panels are still a work-in-progress so ignore how they look. My saddler asked me if I wanted them made into a Wykham pad or laced on like normal panels but can't decide. He said that it's quite a wide tree and I thought if I had them as a Wykham pad, then if I ever got another horse who was wider that I wanted to use this saddle on, that it would be easier for him to adjust the pad.

Even though the panels are rough looking, the balance of the saddle is better. You can see the layers of felt he's had to use to make the saddle level. He is going to think of a way to secure the off-side flap as well as I can't be dealing with the rubbish Victorian overgirth it had where you needed a groom to do it up once mounted.

My saddler is going to shave off the edges of the felt at an angle to plenty of space for her high yet fat withers while still being supportive on her back. A far cry from the thick bulked and bunched up felt that the saddle originally had in the gullet for a horse much narrower than Hattie.

Another view of all the layers my saddler has had to put so that the saddle does not ride uphill on her high Thoroughbred withers and also to support my right thigh. Looks nice and level! I think I went a bit nutty with my farrier opening up the leaping head for me as now it looks like the pommel on a cheap Indian made saddle. When my farrier comes back out, I'm going to have him keep the general curve of it but just fold it a bit forward.

Every single strap on this saddle needs replacing and my saddler needs to bring the billets a little more forward for Hattie but you can see the layers of felt he's needed to make it fit Hattie. Some of the antique felt he is keeping on the panel as it's good stuff.

I had a sit and a walk in it and it felt weird riding in my Beck Morrow after a whole year of riding just in my flat doeskin seated 1930's Whippy. The seat on my Beck Morrow is dipped and perfectly symmetrical unlike my Whippy which has the seat built out in a paisley shape to support your hip and thigh. It's going to take some getting used to again but I don't think I'll be jumping in it, it will be my dressage saddle.

I also found out more information about the Countess Pillet Will who owned my saddle.

Her name was Marie Marguerite Isabelle de Comminges-Péguilhan and was born August 17, 1874 (a bit of a weird co-inkydink as my middle name is Isabelle and my birthday is August 25, 1975).

She married Count Pillet Will in 1892, he later died of a mental illness but it seems early in their marriage, she had an affair with the Haut Commissariat de la Republique Francaise en Syrie et au Liban, Henri Jouvenel des Ursins. This affair was probably going on when my saddle was made in 1898 (she would have only been 24) but ended in 1911 when Henri met and married Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a French novelist and performer.

Who would have thought and old leather saddle could carry so much history?


  1. I love that you can find out that information regarding the saddle's original owner. And it certainly is sitting much better with those new felt panels. If it were me, I'd go ahead and have them done as Wickham panels, tho' I don't know if that would affect your turnout score in a sidesaddle class.
    A suggestion regarding Hattie and her forehand...get her started on the shoulder fore exercise. You may want to introduce this under the cross saddle first, but in a nutshell, you ask her to slightly bring her shoulders to the inside of her haunches. This is not shoulder-in, which is ridden on three tracks, tho' it serves well as an introduction to it later on. By bringing her shoulders inside slightly, you force her to step under more with the inside hind leg and therefore lighten her forehand. I teach all of my sidesaddle horses this exercise, whether or not I intend to show them in dressage.
    Another useful exercise is called "entwicklen" developed by Walter Zettl who rides sidesaddle himself. Ride Hattie from the rail a very slight oblique angle about three or four steps, not even as far as the quarterline. Then straighten her and leg yield her back to the rail. At first, don't be too obsessed with how much sideways movement you get; instead focus on her maintaining forward motion and stepping under with the inside hind. Over time, she will grow stronger and begin to do several repetitions of this on a single long side. At that point, she can begin to associate your inside half halt with increased action of the hind leg.
    Either of these take time, so don't get too frustrated and keep the long term goal in mind.

    1. Thanks Robin for those tips, I'll try them this week and see what happens! :)

  2. I have read your blog.... and i think you must be pretty rich financially to be able to keep affording all those repairs to saddles!!!!!
    Also, it looks like Hattie prefers being ridden astride as she goes much better when you are astride, maybe she associates the side saddle with competitions and tests??? This is why she is more relaxed and goes better when ridden astride.... just a thought!!!

    1. Actually no to both thoughts! If I were rich, I would just go and spend several thousand £'s on a Laura Dempsey custom saddle and forget trying to repair used saddles. All my breeches have various repairs/darns to them so that I don't have to go out and buy new ones, buying used on Ebay and charity shops is my friend (bought a nice Barnsby bridle once for £8 at a charity shop), we buy store own brands, turn off the heat at night and any one who knows me, knows that I work darn hard to afford this sport. I don't drink, smoke, go out or do drugs so that saves me a bundle! Friday and Saturday nights involve blogging, watching TV and going to bed at a sensible hour.

      Actually, Hattie doesn't like any kind of work, astride or aside. She actually quite likes competing but not not the dressage involved but it's tough as all the showing shows are in the summer and dressage fills the void during winter months.

      She only went well astride this past weekend as I took off my stirrups and had BOTH looooooong legs to get after her when she was trying to be lazy. This is why I think she has realized I only have one leg side saddle and can ignore me. Maybe I will drop my side saddle stirrup to see what happens. she will be in a for a shock when I suddenly grow a long left leg!!

    2. I forgot to say that a lot of it is her picking up on my pain too. I have pain no matter which way I ride, astride or aside on the nearside. I caught myself collapsing to the left when I was riding astride this weekend to get my weight off of my right hip. This is why I'm pumping money into my Beck Morrow so that there is no more pain.

  3. Anonymous, I think you should keep your "thoughts" to yourself. They are not constructive or meaningful. Hattie goes quite well sidesaddle and I think her relaxed state shows exactly that.

    Lei, I'm really struggling with "Forward!" on my green bean right now, she's getting better but it's definitely taking some work. When I first got her, she was literally dead sided. I've found that LOTS of transitions (like ever 4 strides) has helped and I make sure to ask nicely once and then I make it happen. She's learning that she'd much rather just do it nicely the first time and the lazyness is slowly fading away. I wouldn't be too afraid to give Hattie a good tap if you need it. I bet it's a lot to do with the weather & time of year & slippery footing, she'll get better again! They all seem to have their days.

    1. I feel your pain Michelle! This is what Lili was teaching me to do is ask nice first and if not, then make it happen. I just get so frustrated and I forget to "make it happen" and get down, lol.

      The slippery surface isn't helping matters as we were schooling today and her back end was slipping and sliding all over the place at a trot so we ended up just practising our halt and the "free walk on a long rein" in the end. Got some nice square halts and Hattie had a nice forward walk on the "free walk".

      It don't help either as she is coming into season. She gets so miserable when it's that time of year and it's come early due to the mild we've been having. I'm going to start giving her her Stroppy Mare supplement!

  4. I like your statement that Hattie doesn't care for any kind of work. I can say the same about a couple of the equines at our place.

    To anyone who thinks we all have tons of money:
    As far as money goes, most of the aside riders I am acquainted with are far from rich, yet they still have to shell out bucks for several saddles until they find the right one. As a result, many sidesaddlers are pretty accomodating when it comes to lay-a-way or making payments over time. It also means that those of us who decide that riding aside is central to our lives must give up other comforts in life; I drive an old car, can't afford vacations, and wear hopelessly out of date clothing.

    I happen to have some really nice saddles, but they are the result of my happening to be in the right place at the right time so they were somewhat affordable. Leila, like me, has to sell some saddles everytime a new one comes into the sidesaddle stable, and she runs a home business that I assume contributes to her sidesaddle obsession. She also keeps her eye out for sidesaddle accessories such as saddle pads, queens, etc. that she sells online and on ebay to raise additional funds. She has found a way to make her love of sidesaddle pay for itself.

    Finally, if she were rich she wouldn't be walking several miles each way in order to compete; that takes true dedication!

    1. That is all true Robin and probably true of most other side saddle riders as well! I work two jobs (my business and my dinner lady job), do my own tax returns and book keeping for both jobs so that I don't have to pay an accountant to do it (thank you FREE small business accountancy course!) and scrimp and save for everything. If I want that off-side Zaldi, then I will probably have to sell my Beck Morrow.

      This sport ain't cheap but it's all consuming and it is definitely doable with hard work and ingenuity.

      If I ever win the lotto though, then I'm definitely going to start collecting side saddles! :)

  5. Don't forget about the custom tack room with climate control, dehumidifier, and tack cleaning area with sink to go with all those saddles.
    I picture something wood paneled with sporting prints on the walls, perhaps with some nice carpets and a flat screen TV on which to watch side saddle vids!

  6. Yes!!!

    A toilet would be nice too instead of having to pee in the stable and then muck out that patch of shavings!!! :-P