Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Messin' About Side Saddle Style

The day after the Burbage show, I got ill with a bad cold and ear infection and have not been able to ride for the past two weeks due to being constantly knackered from my stupid low white blood cells. I had to go to the doctor's for another blood test as they still don't know what the heck's up with me as I don't "tick" any of the boxes for the stuff they "thought" might be wrong with me, lol. I have to go again on the 16th for more results from the latest blood draining so we shall see!!

Since I've not had the energy or the health to ride, I asked my friend Julia if she would like to help me with Hattie and get to ride her too! Julia is horseless at the moment and is missing riding side saddle so it's a win-win situation!

Julia has been riding in my Whippy, but is finding it much too large for her and causes to constantly fight from falling off the left side. We put her massive padded queen AND a folded up towel on the fixed head to help keep her leg central and put the leaping head on the low hole, but because she is several inches smaller than me in height and dress size, the length of her thigh places her seat bones in the narrow part of the saddle just in front of where the saddle is built up for my left seat bone. If she sits further back in MY sweet spot, she feels secure seat wise but the long length of my saddle, forces her right lower leg up and outwards ala "Mrs. Hayes style".

I've always read that you can ride in a side saddle that is too big for you but not one that is too small. Personally, after seeing Julia struggle, this rule applies to both too small AND too big! It has been suggested by some other side saddle ladies, to stuff some padding under the breeches/jods at the bum/thigh area so we'll try that. 

Despite battling my big 'ole saddle, she actually rode quite well!

Julia brought her side saddle the other day and we swapped saddles so she could at least get some riding in without clinging on by her butt cheek. Her saddle is flocked up for a horse a lot narrower than Hattie but the general tree shape seems to fit Hattie ok. It's not a terribly wide saddle, narrowish/medium Hattie is probably the biggest horse that could fit into it with a wykham pad put on or with the excess flocking removed but it has a very long cutback head so has good wither clearance and a longish off-side point so it stays stable. 

We also discovered that it has a hunting bar and that the tree is heavily reinforced. Julia was hesitant to use it as it does need a lot of work (new panels as the serge on hers is going, new billets and the flocking has all bunched up at the wither area ) but we put a square pad and a gel pad under it to smooth out any bumps the saddle may have had and she had a walk around and a bit of a trot. 

Hattie falling asleep after being ridden... 

Although Julia's saddle looks uphill, it actually does ride that way. Yes, with a bunch of flocking removed, it would sit down better on Hattie but the seat is SO COMFORTABLE as it has wide sweeping seat with a built up right thigh area for comfort. It only measures 16 1/2" from cutback to cantle and 20 1/2" from the front of the fixed head to cantle but amazingly, not only does it fit Julia very well, but it also fits me well too! How unusual is that?

Hattie was happier with Julia riding in that saddle and she was striding out at the walk, nice downward transitions/halts and went into trot easily. She felt secure in the saddle and didn't have to fight to keep her position. The only thing that Julia found hard to get to grips with, was the shorter leg position with her antique saddle as she is used to riding with a long stirrup iron or stirrupless (show -off!)!! Victorian saddles tend to have the pommels set closer together than vintage 20th century saddles do.

Hattie really striding out but Julia's leg was a bit long for this style of saddle.

Better position with the corrected leg...

Nice downward transition to halt with Julia lifting up her ribcage to "scoop herself up" and at the same time, pointing the right down right down...

The fact that Hattie did not buck at the trot, means that she likes the saddle as Hattie will let you know within a few strides of trot by humping her back and trying to bronc you off, if she is not happy with a saddle. Ask me how I know...

The saddle also did not shoot forward at the trot so that is another promising sign with it. A lot of people would probably poo-poo the idea of using such an old Victorian dipped seat "relic" saddle but it just goes to show that if the saddle is comfy for the horse and comfy for the rider, then who cares if it's not a 1930's flat doeskin seated Owen?

Unfortunately, Julia's saddle isn't safe enough or comfortable enough for Hattie in it's current condition so she can't do the heavy duty riding in it that she wants to do so we'll have to try the padded bum route!

Thanks to Julia, a  fellow side saddle "enabler", I seem to have acquired a new addition to my "stable" of saddles. More on that tomorrow...