Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Side Saddle Rescue!

Not been doing much riding this week as the weather has been rain, rain, rain and Hattie pulled a shoe due to the soggy conditions.

I did upgrade my membership to the Side Saddle Association from "associate" to "full" as I think we are going to start trying to qualify for next year's show. There is a SSA qualifier for next year in August at the Rugby Riding Club show so we shall see...

Even though I have not done much this week, my friend Susan, who owns and runs, Beltane Equestrian, in Dumfries, has been working on restoring an antique side saddle she acquired. She plans to return it to it's original glory so asked her if I could chronicle her progress here as I know everyone would love to see this grand dame of a saddle, being rescued. With so many people wanting to ride side saddle now, it seems a shame to let well built saddles like these, go to waste.

It looks to be a late 19th century, probably made in the 1880's and lacks the cutback head like later Victorian saddles had. It also has a vestigial off-side horn left over from when side saddles had two upright pommels (also know as "cow horn" side saddles). Note the flattish seat which shows this saddle was one of the transitional styles to what we are familiar with now.

Look at the fancy stitch work on the safe and upright head...

The saddler was made by "Nelson Saddler and Harness Maker". I could not find any information on this saddler but if anyone knows anything about the saddler, please let us know. 

The panels look to be in ok condition (you can see how the quilt stitches have come out) considering their age...

but Susan removed them and is now taking a new template from them to make new ones with lovely brand spanking new Irish linen!

With the panels off, you can see the construction of the tree which looks pretty new considering it's 125+ years old. The chipped off tree points are common on side saddles and is an easy fix with some JB Weld. I like dropping the panels off of saddles as then you can vacuum all the years of crud that has accumulated and really get in there to clean.

A front view of the tree and you can see how the vestigial off-side horn sweeps out elegantly. Hmmm, the tree size looks like it would be a good fit for Hattie! The gullet, has a more "open" spread to it than what is usually found in saddles of this era, especially for a cutback-less head one. They tend to be really narrow but this one looks to be quite generous at the withers. Maybe it was built for an ancestor of Hattie, a horse with fat withers and fine shoulders. I like the pommel shape too, looks like it would be very comfortable.

The seat looks like it is covered in soft leather which looks really comfortable as well. Obviously it was a very comfy saddle, as shown by the wear holes in the seat caused by a succession of riders. Unfortunately, rubbish repairs, were done on the seat (is that electrical tape stuck in one hole??)....

that Susan has now removed to be repaired properly...

Along with removing the shoddy seat repairs, she also removed the fancy stitched safe to restore it as it had become dry and curled up.

Now, it's nicely oiled and flat, ready to be restored and eventually put back on the saddle.

The saddle originally had an off-side pocket which is now missing.

But how convenient that I have a photo from the 1880's showing a near identical styled saddle (even with the vestigial off-side horn, off-side short flap and cutback-less head) with the type of pocket that this saddle would have most likely had! 

There you go Susan, one for you to copy!

Edited July 11, with more notes from Susan about this project...

"The linen panels are not in as good condition as they may appear from the photo's and are completely frayed away around most of the seams and unbelievably delicate. The horsehair flock was rancid for want of a better term, and I'm pretty sure was infested with whatever as it made me scratch like mad so I decided I had no option but to remove it and replace it with new. Yes, I will be making a new pocket as well from recycled leather from a busted saddle as well so nice photo. The seat will be doe hide sourced from Scottish Estates once I have done the ground work. The leather on the saddle was very dry but after several applications of Fiebings Mink Oil Paste, is now more malleable."

Can't wait to see the finished result!


  1. Addington write-up? PLEASE?

  2. I will send you a photo of my saddle with the off side safe on it. This saddle is even a closer fit to mine. Same sort of stiching. No safety bar just a roller.