Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Burbage Riding Club Show Report!

We did it! We FINALLY got to the Burbage riding Club show and I didn't have to hack the 22 mile round trip!

It was a brilliant day and the weather was sunny and hot (glad I had my lightweight habit on). Hattie travelled with her boyfriend, fellow bay Thoroughbred, Charlie who is owned by my yard owners and we entered Best Turned Out, Style and Appearance, Riding Club Horse & Pony, Senior Equitation and Best Condition Over 15 years (In-hand).

Hattie also decided to come into season that morning and was calling to Charlie all the time back and forth, back and forth which also made her a bit sharp and wappy when Laura, Charlie's owner, finished her showing classes and took him to do some show jumping in the other ring.

We did REALLY well on Sunday and qualified for the Championship show in September in ALL the classes we entered! In Best Turned Out we came 1st, in Style and Appearance we came 2nd, in Riding Club Horse, we got 4th, for Senior Equitation we came 2nd and Hattie came 1st in Veteran Best Condition class!

For Best Turned Out, all our tack was inspected, even underneath our stirrup iron. I am a bit obsessive compulsive about tack cleaning and turn out so we really did earn our 1st place. I HATE having dirty tack and can't rest until it's all cleaned.

Us walking around being judged in Best Turned Out...

Being inspected...

Our 1st place rosette!

For Style & Appearance, your turnout AND your riding/horse's way of going is judged. I was a bit nervous and I don't think our individual show was as good as our later ones were but all things considered, Hattie was nice and forward although I did catch my right shoulder dropping down a few times and we could have used more of the ring instead of cutting corners (the judge mentioned using more of the ring as well).

 In the Riding Club Horse class, you are judged on how suitable your horse is for riding club activities (jumping, dressage, showing) and Hattie was a nightmare in this class due to Charlie leaving and going off to do some show jumping. She was screeching for him and was STRONG and FAST.

The judged wanted us to show walk/trot/canter on both reins with a gallop along the long side of the ring on the right rein and also incorporating a small jump. The jumps were only about 1'3" but Hattie knocked it down. She just doesn't respect the small jumps as she hasn't been touching ANY of the 1'9" ones we have been doing all week. There was no reason for her to knock it down as we had a nice forward pace too, it was just laziness and lack of concentration with her thinking about her boyfriend.

 I kept having to halt her in our individual show as she was screeching and trying to gallop off to Charlie. After we finished, the judge said "Well ridden" and "that looked hard", lol! My husband didn't film it (wish he did to prove that Hattie was a nutjob during that class) but we managed to get some good riding in between the crazy bits. It was a true test of my equitation.

 Lovely trot courtesy of Lili Brooksby's excellent teaching...

A controlled gallop down the long side as I wasn't sure Hattie wouldn't try to jump the fence at the end to go to Charlie...

Us getting our well deserved 4th place ribbon...

Hattie and her harlequin patterned 4th place ribbon for Riding Club Horse...

After a short break was the Senior (over 14yrs) Equitation class. I felt a bit old as at 36, I was probably the oldest rider in the class despite it covering all the ages from 14 years, upwards!!

 Our individual show was better than the previous as Hattie had calmed down a LITTLE bit (not much but she was a bit better) since Charlie was now occupied with jumping than calling for his girlfriend. The judged wanted walk, trot and canter plus a gallop down the long side on the right rein. A jump was optional but since everyone was jumping, I had to as well. I still had to be careful at the gallop however as she wanted to GO. The flies had come out by this time and were annoying her too so did not want her to go nuts and buck like she tried to do at the Roger Philot clinic.

 Hattie was nice and forward in her test (why can't she be like that in the dressage!) but we had trouble at the jump with her refusing it twice. I'm not quite sure why she refused it as you can see in the video, we had a nice forward pace and I was balanced as well. The grass was a bit damp still and I'm wondering if she just felt it was a bit slippery as the jump was going downhill. We gave up after the 2nd attempt and did it going uphill and she jumped it no problem.

I think next time, if we have to incorporate a jump, I'll choose one going uphill or on the flat.

 I wasn't the only one who knocked the jump or refused but the judge judged us on how we rode the entire individual show and how we handled situations equitation-wise. LOL, I didn't come off at the jump so that was good and for our effort, we got a 2nd place!

 Victory lap...

The last class of the day, was the Best Condition Over 15yrs class. Hattie is 16 years old and I pride myself on how fit and how in good condition I keep her. Her dapples are coming through on her bum as well and she was looking shiny that day so we won the class! The judge said for me to keep on doing what I do with her.

 Me walking Hattie while being judged- most unladylike with my hitched up apron...

My champion mare!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The World Didn't End!

We started working on our jumping again yesterday as we will have to include a jump within our individual show for the Riding Club Horse and Pony class at the show on Sunday.

We messed about with some 1'3" cross poles yesterday and did those easily so then today, I decided to up the ante and try 1'9" again as a straight pole to get over my fear. There will already be working hunter jumps set up in the ring where the showing classes are held for the Working Hunter classes that start after the Showing classes are over. The working hunter jumps will be set for the pony division first and will range from 1'3" to 1'9" so thought it best we put this silly fear away!!

Well, I set that pole up and realized how small it looked when I stood beside it! I mean, how could something be scary when it's lower than your kneecap?

Warmed up first and remember to think of my arms as being pipes connected to Hattie's mouth pushing the bridle away, did some nice trot to canter transitions and then it was TIME...

Forced a smile on my face, looked up and beyond and over the jump we went! I didn't come off and the world didn't end!!

First time round on the left rein, don't know what's up with my chicken wing arms!!

On the right rein and my right shoulder came forward a bit...

so did it over...

and had a blast of a time!

I'm so happy we did it and I feel confident for the show now on Sunday. Think I'll stick to practising 1'9" as I find the lower heights boring now. Who knows, maybe, one day I'll even attempt 2'!

As part of our pre-show preparations, I scrubbed the linen on my saddle as it was FILTHY! since Hattie likes the red pad under her saddle, I'll just keep riding her with that and won't have to scrub my saddle so often.

Drying in the sun...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lesson Report!

I had another brilliant side saddle dressage lesson with Lili Brooksby yesterday and I am so knackered today! She really works you and although you feel like you are going to collapse afterwards, you also feel brilliant as you did stuff that you didn't think you could do..ever!!

We worked on transitions and riding different trots and canters (i.e. collected, working and medium) which was FUN! It was a bit tricky with collecting the canter and we only aims for a few strides, but it's a balancing act between collecting and not letting the horse break into trot. I found I had to sit up, half halt with my outside rein as if I wanted a downward transition for trot but keep my leg on her to keep the energy up so that Hattie stayed in canter. We managed it a few times on each rein with a few mishaps of going into trot by accident but got a few strides in the end and then lengthened into a medium canter as a reward which was wonderful!

Practising the medium trot was also fun but also tricky as I had to feel like I was speeding up "for a gallop" but not let the trot get strung out or racing. I felt it was kind of like the same thing as collecting for canter, with maintaining a contact with the outside rein to stop speeding and also sitting up but also putting my leg on her to keep up that wonderful forward trot. Funny how similar aids achieve two different gaits!

We also continued to work on my inside rein as I have a tendency to hang off of it, especially on the right rein. This is what has been causing me so much trouble with Hattie not wanting to pick up right rein canters and just being generally in a bad mood on that rein (and also what caused us so much trouble at the last dressage test). Lili said that it was because I was giving conflicting signals with telling her to go and then blocking, that eventually a horse just gets fed up. She said that to think of my contact on the reins as "pushing" the bridle and instantly when she said that, I pictured in my mind's eye, my arms from my elbow, being long pipes connected to Hattie's mouth/bit. This was kind of a lightbulb moment and you will see a difference in Hattie attitude and gaits with my "pipe" arms.

Part of the problem which causes me to hang off the inside rein on the right rein, is when I bring my right shoulder back, my hand moves back as well so yesterday we were trying to train my lower arm to stay forward and my hand and fingers, soft and spongey. I find this really tiring with keeping my right shoulder back BUT keeping my lower arm and hard forward but the results were instant.

With our lessons, Lili explained to me that she teaches a "feeling" way to ride, not a set of rigid exercises that you do over and over again till you get it right. It's learning to ride through feeling and making mistakes too and conveniently, this way of learning how to ride, is what I need so lots of practice!

We did school today and I was working on my pipe arms, keeping my right shoulder back, my lower right arm/hand soft and forward (again, I found this knackering) and our riding was so much better this morning than it has been. Not perfect but better. Hattie was working in a nice outline and forward and we practised our routine for the individual shows that you have to do in the showing classes on Sunday. Even did a cross rail jump on each rein set on the 1'9" hole (but obviously the X part was a little lower) and Hattie was better with my pipe arms jumping too. It wasn't perfect but we're getting there.

Lili took 123 photos but here are some of my favorites from yesterday. Please ignore my horrible XL baggy top that I wear for stable use and which does me no favors in the body flattering department. I am going to burn it as it makes me look bigger than I actually am!!

I have a Pegasus and have photographic proof...

Take off...


Now, if we can ride like this on Sunday, we'll be ok!!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Our first showing show of the season is next Sunday on the 25th and I'm getting excited!!

I have started working Hattie this week and it's so nice NOT to have to worry about memorizing dressage tests and doing accurate movements. Monday was our day off and Tuesday, Hattie got her new clip to get rid of the winter fur and make her look smart for our show. Her body has been clipped out, her legs left but tidied up and a bridle line put on her head.

Oddly enough, her saddle seems to fit better with the lack of fur on her back??? I have been riding her with my red pad and her normal gel pad and everything seems to be ok. I'm going to use the brown pad at the show though.

Hattie and her new clip...

We started our work yesterday with 30 minutes of just walking and trotting on a long rein (at the buckle!) with lots of 20m circles, figure 8's and transitions mixed in so that Hattie could stretch down and stretch out her back. Then today, we did about 10- 15 minutes of stretching and 20m circles like yesterday and then picked up the contact with 10m circles thrown in as well. I was working on keeping my right shoulder back, keeping all my weight on my right thigh, keeping my rib up, inside leg to outside hand, softening the inside rein (and trying to remember everything else Lili told me!!) and then Hattie just did it!

She was nice and forward, working in an outline with a slight bend to the inside and soft on the inside rein! The right rein has been the difficult rein lately and as we were on the right rein, once she did it perfectly, I stopped and left it like that to end on a good note. We'll pick up from that tomorrow but I think with Hattie, doing our long warm up stretches, really makes a difference. Probably should take my own advice for my hip and back too!! Next week, we will attempt some jumping as well as there will be a jump in the Riding Club horse class that we plan on entering.

The back lady is coming out on April 13 to see Hattie and give her a well earned massage but in the mean time, she said to get two hot water bottles (with covers), tie them together and put them over Hattie's back for 20 minutes before riding as the heat helps to loosen the muscles before riding. I bought some today so after I write this, I'm going to cobble something for them.

Been getting my show stuff ready too and bought a big plastic container to keep my show grooming kit, show lead, sheets, buckles, etc in it so that everything is in one place and can easily loaded into the car. I also made a list of things I need to replace that have ran out from last year (hairspray for braids, black eyeliner to cover up old scars on Hattie's legs, fly spray, hoof black). I also tried on my habit, show shirt and show breeches and they still fit although I'm somewhat disappointed that my Mears habit now fits like a glove when it was a bit loose on me last year!!!!

The first step in the restoration of my Turk side saddle has begun too. My replacement thumb screw for the leaping head, came in the mail yesterday. Robert Jenkins sells the replacements and they fit most makes of side saddles. Fit the Turk perfectly!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Side Saddle Play Day

I've started schooling for our showing show on March 25, nothing intense as I'm still not 100% in health but just 20- 30 minutes of walk, trot, canter work and working on our individual show. I think I am also going to have the back lady come out and massage Hattie's back as I want to make sure she is in tip top form and comfort for the start of the showing season after not really doing much all winter. With my arthritic right hip, I sometimes feel it takes a toll on her back as I'm stiff on that side. I definitely KNOW that she feels my pain which is why she is better when I'm in my off-side side saddle. I also need to call the saddler and see how he's getting on with my off-side side saddle and if he can come out and just check the flocking on my Whippy too to make sure I haven't worn it down funny due to my hip. All these preparations for show season!!

We did some good schooling on Saturday, only walk-trot transitions and Hattie was becoming softer in the mouth and using her back more so that was good and I called it quits after 20 minutes as she did good but my hip and hip weren't so good (still not right now either)! I also used my red fleece pad under my saddle to try and cushion Hattie against my thudding hip. For Best Turned Out, you are not allowed to use a pad but I have a discreet brown one that I may bring with me to use depending on how I'm feeling on the day. I would rather be comfy and get a lower placing than win 1st place at the expense of my horse's comfort.

I really like my red pad though, too bad I can't show in it as it's quite saucy!

All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl however so afterwards, I got every pad and gel pad out of the tack room and decided to have a sit on "George", my Turk of Cheltenham side saddle. Leo Wright is going to rebuild the tree points for me (and if I ask him nicely, I wonder if he would kindly replace all the girth straps for me?). The overgirth straps look ok (need some regular oiling) but the buckle end on the off-side has torn a little at the screw hole where it's been screwed onto the tree. I can fix this myself by unscrewing the strap from the tree, cutting off about 1/2" at the top of the leather where it's torn off and screwing it back onto the tree in the same holes. I will also put some Araldite in the screw holes to strengthen them.

Padded up with 6 layers of pads and gel pads, I had a sit and a little walk around the school on George! The tree shape actually fits Hattie's shape quite well and I think I've decided that when it comes time to make panels for it, then I'm going to go with a Wykham pad. It's actually quite a good width tree with a nice spacious gullet that doesn't come near touching her withers and the pommels are to die for! They fit me like a glove!!!

I thought the narrow seat wouldn't be comfortable for my fat butt but again, this saddle surprised me- the seat is lovely and comfy and I feel secure in it with a little space at the back of my bum too.

Hattie seemed to like this saddle too even despite not having panels. Think it's a keeper as I bought a replacement leaping head screw for it off of Rob Jenkins as the saddle was missing it.

I can't wait to save up some money to get this handsome saddle ridable as I probably would go as far as to say, that it is more comfortable than my Whippy.

Later on my friend Julia, came over armed with her two side saddles for a "Side Saddle Play Day". We spent the whole afternoon measuring, comparing tree shapes and sizes, fit and all the intricacies of our saddles with Hattie being our ever obliging "horse model".

Julia & Hattie...

First to be modelled was Julia's late Victorian no-name saddle. It has pigskin pommels, seat and safe which someone in the past has taken some sandpaper to them to "roughen" them up. It has a roller bar fitting and a very long cutback pommel.

It sat a bit uphill on Hattie but it wasn't for lack of tree width- the tree was surprisingly a good medium width. The gullet area of the nearside tree fork did not curve to tightly inwards but was actually quite "open" to fit a horse with a fat base of withers. The reason it sat uphill was the old panels had been over flocked at some point, probably for a narrower horse, and had bunched up at the front like what had happened with my off-side Beck Morrow when I first got it. Hattie seemed to like this saddle very much and wasn't girthy at all when we were doing it up.

It was the first time Julia had ever sat in this side saddle since buying it and we both found it VERY comfortable. The pommels fit Julia's legs better than mine (I used my stirrup which was a bit long for her) but the seat shape and style was wonderful!

It didn't feel like you were riding uphill at all and the seat was built for WOMEN'S legs. The dip of the seat made room for a woman's thicker thigh with the front of the seat raising upwards a bit so that you could press your right thigh down easily on the saddle without fatigue. I told Julia that this saddle was a gem as it was so comfortable.

Next up was Julia's late 1890's Bartley that she had been oiling with Jeffries fine leather oil to rejuvenate the leather as it had been left in her neighbour's barn for ages. This one also has a pigskin seat, pommels and safe but were spared the "roughing up" and had the Bartley label on the off-side tree point. It was also a lot wider than her other one but the tree shape, also fit Hattie's conformation quite well as the gullet was quite open for her fat base of withers. The tree width was similar to my Whippy but not as heavily flocked up (the flocking was quite flat in it so we wondered if it had even been used very much as the panels were only serge). If I had this saddle, I would have to get it heavily flocked for Hattie as we had to use 2 pads and 3 gel pads underneath it.

This one did not fit both of us the same as Julia's slightly older saddle. The pommels were totally the wrong shape and fit for Julia as they were made for a very large thighed lady (lucky Julia is considerably more slender than I!) and she felt twisted in the saddle. I felt very comfortable in it as there was enough butt room for my wide load and the leaping head was open enough so as not to dig into my left thigh. I felt so comfortable, that we even had a trot around the school on both reins and guess what....the saddle DID NOT SHOOT FORWARD ON HATTIE!!!!!

I know within a few strides of trot whether a saddle will work or not for Hattie as it will either shoot forward straight away and/or she will buck. She did neither so needless to say, I will continue to pester Julia for this saddle ;-)

It was funny though as we BOTH felt the same level of comfort in Julia's older saddle despite us having different builds (she is a couple of inches shorter than me) but with the Bartley, it was like night and day.

Here is a photo comparison to show how the Bartley affected both of our positions...

On the nearside...



On the off-side...



Front view of our thigh position as Julia felt that her leg was going to diagonally across the saddle to meet the fixed head (she would have needed a queen of several inches thickness)...

I found the REALLY straight upright head lovely, you can also see how it cleared Hattie's withers nicely...

Back view as Julia said she felt very twisted in it...

My back view, I didn't feel twisted at all (lol, a semi action shot as Hattie didn't want to stand still!)...

It was an interesting experiment to see how saddle shape and size can affect a rider and how it actually best when buying a side saddle, to sit on your horse in it. Julia had found it surprising as on the saddle stand, she felt the Bartley was more comfortable than her older Victorian saddle but once on a horse, her opinion of each saddle swapped!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A New Addition To The Stable...

After our last dressage show, I was feeling rotten with my low white cells so decided to give riding a break for a bit until I was feeling better. Thankfully the break did me good and am starting to feel A LOT better. I went to the doctor's last Friday and he gave me a clean bill of health and to keep doing what I am doing but to keep eating healthy and try not to do to much!

It was very BORING not riding for a week and just flaking out to rest so to cheer me up, my ever obliging husband drove me the 70 miles to Sandon Saddlery (you can also read about it here too).

I was looking forward to having a poke 'round the side saddle corner there but when I arrived and made my way to the back of the shop to ogle the side saddles, I was greeted with piles of black second hand synthetic saddles stacked up!! There were only 4 side saddles on display, 2 of which were not for sale (there was Miss Dodd- Noble's pony pilch side saddle and an ornate Victorian one that had a loose leaping head) and the other two weren't really suitable. One of those was a tiny c. 1890's girl's side saddle with a 15" seat which I WAS tempted to buy but what the heck was I going to do with it as I'm too tall for it and don't have a daughter. Too bad too as it would have fitted Hattie. The 4th side saddle there, a rebuilt Champion & Wilton, I WOULD have bought as it was my size and the tree fitted Hattie's wither tracing like a glove, but was missing it's leaping head! D'oh!!!!

The saleslady said that they have been inundated with requests for side saddles that they haven't been able to keep up so it was bit of a disappointing shopping trip but did manage to buy something, an orphan Champion & Wilton style stirrup leather for my leg length. I don't know why I bought it as I didn't own a saddle with a C&W fitting on it but I saw it on the hook, the price was right and it looked lonesome.

I'm glad I did buy it as look what arrived on my doorstep at 6:09 AM this morning....

I bought my Turk of Cheltenham on Ebay that night after we came home from Sandon Saddlery. It was on a "Best Offer" auction as it needed work and my offer was accepted.

Well, I'm so pleased with it. The seat measures 21 1/2" (measurement)/ 17 3/4" (UK measurement) and the seat is 12 1/2" across. The tree is actually about 1/2" wider than my Whippy and about the same size as my Beck Morrow which would put it at a sound medium/wide fit with the gullet measuring 5 1/2" across (my Whippy is about 5", my old Champion & Wilton was 4 1/2"!).

It doesn't look like it was used very much as the flaps aren't broken in properly yet but it does need some work. Whoever took off the panels, did not store the saddle properly so the tree points have cracking so I am going to get Leo Wright Saddlery to build up the points again. The tree itself is sound with no movement and Leo can fix those points easily at a reasonable price. This saddle is going to be an ongoing project for me as I'll get something done as I save up. After the tree points are done, I need to replace all the billets with new and get a patch put on over the area where the leather has torn off at the edge of the cantle. I can't afford to get a whole new seat but a little patch would be ok. THEN comes the expensive part, new panels!!

Maybe I'll get traditional panels, maybe a wykham, maybe I'll luck out and come across some orphan panels that fit..we'll have to see but I'm not in a rush.

The saddle tree has a label saying that it was made for Mr. George Turk on May 16 1925. Unfortunately, someone also thought it would be a good idea to put CLEAR PACKING TAPE over the label to "preserve" it as well. I just hope it doesn't turn yellow with age. The seat measurements on the label are 18 1/2" and 12". Yet again, it's another case of the tree specs bearing no resemblance to what the seat actually measures on top!

Because the saddle wasn't used very much, the leather is a bit dry so gave a it a good saddle soaping today and oiled with with some Effax oil which made a world of difference as the saddle came to me looking dry like this...

Since it doesn't have any panels, I have not been able to try it on Hattie so I put is on a chair to try it out. The seat fits me well and is a similar width to my Whippy (narrow bum size!!). The seat isn't as flat as my 1930's Whippy but not as dippy as my 1898 Beck Morrow (whch isn't too bad for a Victorian saddle)- kind of in between.

It will be interesting to see how it rides with it having a pigskin seat and doeskin pommels, all my saddles have either been all doeskin or all pigskin. The tree is well reinforced with lots or iron so it's jumping worthy too!

Until then, it's going to live safely, well padded out, on the saddle stand in my bedroom.

Just thought I would share this photo too..

I knew I had a pile of canvas side saddle covers somewhere that I've accumulated over the years from various road trips in search of vintage clothing for my business and FINALLY found them last week in the loft! I thought they had been thrown out but there they were buried behind old VHS casette tapes and bags of clothes that are too small for me. I sorted them out and washed all of them, even discovered that I have an off-side one that will conveniently fit my Beck Morrow. I don't know what the heck I'm going to do with all of them, some are stamped Whippy and Champion & Wilton!