Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Meet Champy!

Hattie and I went for a glorious gallop the other day on my off-side saddle. Galloped up the hill, then walked down it and then tore off in the corner of the field, flying over the ridge and furrow field and jumping the water filled "ditch" (actually, just where the rain water pooled at the bottom of the furrow but Hattie didn't now that!). I felt VERY secure in my Beck (it is still hard work trying to keep my spine straight but at least I'm concious of it now) and am tempted to go hunting the next time there is a Side Saddle meet at the local hunt (won't be jumping hedges though- we'll go the flat non-jumping route!).

My friend Julia and I also also decided to take a road trip last weekend to do some antiquing as the weather was rubbish, her neighbours were being jerks and it was just a generally rubbish day. Old things always cheer us up and we drool at the architecture of the old houses we pass along the way. We ended up in a junky shop in the middle of nowhere and went in. There was nothing much there, just old tat, most of it overpriced and nothing special. It was all pretty depressing really and as I wandered around in a zombie state looking at all the crap "antiques", I stumbled upon a back room with the door open. I don't know if customers were supposed to go in the room or not, but the door was open and there were some things that had price tags on them so I went in. 

And there piled up on a card board box with load of broken old mouldy stuff, garbage, junk, was a c. 1920's Champion & Wilton!

 It looked at me and I looked at it (his name is Champy), and he told me to rescue him from this dump of a shop and take him home. Unfortunately, since he was in the "garbage pile", he had no price tag and the unhelpful salesperson didn't know a price nor did they want to sell Champy as the shop owner wasn't there. Champy was crying as he didn't want to be there with all the nasty things in the box so I made an offer, the salesperson went away to "consult" with the other salesperson there and then Champy came home with me. Champy was VERY happy when he arrived home to see that this was a horsey family and that there were other side saddles to be his friend! Parker (my reversible) and Little Adam (the pilch!) both introduced themselves and warned him that I would probably be taking him for a spin on the Hairy Miserable Beast.

Well, ride Champy I have and he is VERY comfy, the seat seems to be padded with something between the leather and webbing, I wonder if it's Illsey foam? His panels are a bit moth eaten (not too bad, a linen covering would sort that out) and the flocking needs sorting out in him but other than that (and needing new billets as the original ones are on there), it's actually quite ridable as is!

Some lazy photos of us riding in it. I didn't want to push Hattie too much as I didn't know if the old billets would give away or not!

The seat has a slight dip to it which I like and the pommels are comfy too. The seat is 17 1/2" from cutback to cantle (US 21 1/2") and is 13 1/2" wide so fits my bum better than my Whippy.

It has a Champion & Wilton style balance girth with point and buckle but luckily it came with such a balance girth which also happened to fit Hattie as I don't have any balance girths in this style. 

The saddle will need a point strap on the off-side for Hattie however, as the saddle slide forward about 2" after we walk, trotted and cantered. 

It did not go as far forward as my Edwardian Champion & Wilton did and she did not seem to mind it (if Hattie does not buck when trying a saddle, she likes it). You can see by the white scuff marks made by the edge of the numnah, how far the saddle went forward. A point strap and the flocking being sorted out will fix this. 

Interestingly, the saddle has a crupper loop at the back of it. I wonder if this saddle went forward on the horse who originally wore this as well? If so, why didn't the saddler just put a point strap on the off-side for maximum girth set? Other side saddles from this era, like Whippys, had off-side point straps. This saddle also has two back D-rings for attached a rolled up rain proof mac to the back of it too!

Usually Champion & Wilton trees do not fit Hattie as the off-side fork, curves too acutely inwards and pinches her off-side wither. This one seems to have a slightly more open head than all the other C&W's I have seen but without having a huge flair at the shoulders. It is VERY similar shaped to my Whippy- open at the head without being too flared at the shoulder and ribs. You can see that the tree shape follows her shape quite well.

This is the shape I need for modern astride saddles and what causes Hattie so much grief when trying to find her an astride saddle. The "narrow" modern trees fit her in the shoulder but pinch in the wither, the "medium" or "medium/wide" trees fit her in the wither but stick out like wings at the shoulders! I think we'll stick to old name side saddles.

Annoyingly, a little mouse also had fun with Champy sometime during the past 80+ years and chewed through the leather layers of the fixed head!! LUCKILY, the mouse chose to chew through the middle of the fixed head and hit the iron strapping on the tree so could no proceed any further and gave up. The fixed head is completely sound (it's only cosmetic what the mouse did), and it's neat to see all the layers of leather that the saddle maker used to build up the big flared head on the saddle!

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