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!