Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The George Parker & Sons Reversible Side Saddle

Presenting the newest addition to my saddle stable, a turn of the century George Parker & Sons reversible side saddle!

I have always wanted a reversible but finding one in an adult size is hard as they were mostly made for children and teenagers to ride in as it was thought that if a girl only rode on one side while she was growing, then her spine would develop crookedly.

It has the George Parker and Sons brass plate on each side of the long tree points and lists them as being at 18 and 19 Upper St. Martin's Lane which if you Google the address now, is a Stringfellow's topless dancing club. My, how times have changed!

A copy of the Parker Saddler's 1911 catalog is available to view online but sadly, there are no reversibles listed in it.

Mine is all leather but the safe was cut down at some point. It should have extended down the length of the flap with the bottom of it, looping onto the overgirth strap like what I have drawn on the photo.

One thing that has always puzzled me about reversibles, is how the heck do you flock them? Normal side saddles are built up more on one side to support the hip on the stirrup side but you can't do that with a reversible. The only way I think they would have done it back in the day, is flock it up properly to the rider's preferred side and then use some sort of riser pad on the days when the rider swapped to the least preferred side.  My saddle was ridden more on the off-side as the flap on that side, has a great deal of wear to it whereas, the nearside flap, has no wear to the grain pattern on the leather. When I have my saddler work on it, I am going to have it flocked up to be ridden on the off-side.

Interestingly, so you do not get mixed up with the pommels, the leaping head does not screw into the holes for the fixed head and vice versa. 

As soon as my saddle came, I hauled it down to the stables to try on Hattie. The tree follows the contours of her conformation perfectly. It truly was made for a Thoroughbred and I couldn't really get a better tree fit even going custom! 

The saddle needs the panels relining and the flocking sorting out as there are moth holes in the serge and the flocking is flat and all over the place. These photos were taken after I had ridden in it for about 10- 15 minutes with walking and trotting. The flocking settled right down on her and I could only get one finger between her withers and the gullet channel.

The tree follows her shoulders nicely but the whole saddle needs lifting up and flocking added for extra support.

Hattie looking unimpressed with her new wardrobe but you can see on the off-side how the tree seems to be a good fit.

The long points stopped the saddle from rolling too much despite the flat non existent flocking but you can see how it will need building up for off-side riding.

You can see how compacted the panels are and how much the saddle will need lifting it will need. Despite the rubbush panels, the seat is near level. It does have a dippy style seat like my off-side Beck Morrow but I don't mind as I like a bit of a dippy seat any ways.

Hattie seems to like the saddle and there were no "bucks of objection" when trotting as she normally does if she does not like a saddle. I couldn't do too much and work her properly due to the flocking and the OLD billet straps, but it did not slide forward so another good thing!

I think I'm going to need to put my queen on the fixed head but whoever had this saddle, was about my size as the leaping head fits lovely and the seat is plenty long enough for me. From the front of the fixed head to cantle is 21 1/4", from the cutback head to cantle is 17", the seat width is a comfy 13" so a bit wider than my Whippy seat.

My saddler came out the other day to do the final fitting on my off-side Beck Morrow (it's going good!!) and I showed him my reversible and put it on Hattie. He tested the tree and said it was sound and said that, terrible flockin aside, that the tree was actually quite a good fit for Hattie so when he finishes my Beck Morrow, I'll have him start on my reversible.

And then it will happy trails on this saddle!

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