Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ignorance Is Bliss

Had a good showing day at the South Kilworth Riding Club show on June 16- Hattie did not disappoint and we came home with a 1st in Ridden Veteran, 2nd in Style & Appearance and a 3rd in Best Turned Out as well as the Reserve Champ again in the Ridden Section. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from the show but there are a few on the show photographer's website so you can see the sort of thing that went on that day.

We are supposed to be going to the Blaston Show this Sunday but am unsure as to whether to go or not now as I've been sick since last Saturday so am going to decide tomorrow depending on how I feel, as to whether we go or not. I've been looking forward to the Blaston Show as I've always wanted to go and one of the classes I had wanted to enter, Riding Horse, is an Equifest Qualifier. Maybe I will go and just do one of two classes and leave the qualifier, not sure though.

I got fed up with resting yesterday though so decided to ride in the afternoon. The yard owner and my friend, had set up jumps in the top field so decided to school a little and then jump as Hattie is always better schooling in the field than in the school itself.

Hattie was quick and had to take off my spur and jumped all the jumps except one, which had been set super high. I figured all the rest were about 1'6"ish.

It wasn't until I got off at the end and looked at them on foot and saw that some were above my knee (then ran and got the tape measure), that I realized that one was 1'9", two were 2ft (well, one was 2ft and a bit)!

Hattie sailed over them and I was on my off-side side saddle. I know she definitely prefers jumping in that saddle and I didn't bother with a schooling whip, only had my cane.

The spread we did, measures 1'6" with a 2' spread, that was very fun to jump...

While jumping, I was having so much fun that I forgot how rubbish I was feeling although afterwards, I felt worse, lol. I don't know, however, what I'm going to do with my riding boots as the finish is wearing off on the outside of my left boot from riding on the off-side all the time. These boots are supposed to be my show boots for the odd time I ride astride or on the nearside. D'oh!!!!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Bit on the OFFSIDE Side Saddle

With more and more people taking up side saddle (women AND men), many are finding that they cannot ride on the nearside due to various physical reasons. I know even a gentle hour walking hack on my nearside saddle is often too much for my hip but unfortunately, vintage off-side and reversible side saddles are few and far between and the Zaldi Lady England side saddle seems fraught with tree design problems judging from the emails I've received and the reviews I've read.

I was VERY lucky in the fact I found an off-side side saddle and a reversible that happen to fit Hattie AND my own tall height but think most of the luck was down to Hattie being a Thoroughbred, the breed most vintage side saddles were made for. If I had a cob type, I would have been out of luck, however, these vintage side saddles are coming to the end of their long lives so something has to be done to meet the need of Equestriennes and Equestrians who need to ride on the off-side (and who don't fancy taking up driving to get their horsey fix, especially when they still have one good hip that works!!).

To meet this demand, Sarah Parry who owns A Bit on the Side Saddle, has taken to designing a new modern off-side side saddle called the Megan, which will be very similar to her nearside Melody model which is coming out this year. With many years of working in the Equestrian Industry for many of the top UK saddlery and riding apparel companies and as well as being a side saddle rider herself, Sarah is more than experienced to take up this challenge.

The saddle will be manufactured in Europe from European materials, the tree, also European made, is based on a Mayhew and will be reinforced for jumping and will available in a whole range of tree sizes including the very wide tree widths. The seat will be adult sizes in even increments up to a UK 18" but if the demand warrants, smaller seat sizes will be made as well.

This is the protoype of the Megan but is still going through design changes and testing so the final product may look slightly different but at least it is in the works! Sarah hopes to get the finished product (as well as other side saddles and side saddle goodies!) in time for the SSA Nationals this summer at Addington.

Any inquiries about the off-side Megan or about any of her other products and saddles, can be made to her through the contact page on her website, A Bit on the Side Saddle or she can be reached through the Bit on the Side Saddle Facebook page.

Needless to say, I am VERY excited for the Megan!!!!

Off-side saddles are not the only "off-side" thing that Sarah makes either! Check out my lovely new REAL silk cover purchased from A Bit on the Side Saddle! I use it under my fleece cover to keep the leather nice and smooth and it's just lovely! The covers are available in near and off-side models as well as different fabrics.


Updated February 3, 2014, presenting the Off-side Megan!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Change of Tack

We all know that Hattie's conformation does not do her any favors when it comes to saddle fit, both astride and aside, with her big mare barrel and her very forward girth groove (I reckon and so does the vet, that she has had a foal in the past).

When the saddler came out the other month to tweak the panels on my Mayhew and on my off-side Beck, we did a little experiment where we only attached the balance girth loosely and only used the first two buckles on my three buckle girth. My saddler said that both trees on each saddle were a good fit for her, but wanted to see if it was the full balance girth used on Hattie's BIG barrel that was bumping my saddles forward and if the third buckle on my three buckle girth, was causing extra drag on the saddle as well since the third billet is set far back on both side saddles.

Well, lo and behold, the saddles stayed put with a loose balance girth and the only the first two billets used on both saddles. I didn't even need to use my gel grip pads.

Unfortunately, I can't show with a balance girth flapping around and all I had wide 3 buckle girths so my saddler suggested that I get a narrower 3" wide girth (my ones are 4" wide) made from soft leather so it curls back away from her shoulder due to her forward girth groove and get it made with a short attached balance girth. So I had a tack room clear out and sold a few of my regular side saddle girths and invested in two side saddle combi-girths, a near side and a off-side model from Northumbria Equine.

Because a regular balance girth attaches to the front of the saddle and then goes around the horse's widest point of the barrel, Hattie's big barrel was bumping the balance girth, which in turn, was buckled onto the tree point of the saddle, causing it to move forward. With the short attached balance girth, it only rests on the rests on the side of her barrel and there are things buckled onto the tree points of the saddle which means, less things to drag the saddle forward. 

I really like these combi girths and any side saddler can make them or adapt an existing normal side saddle girth, even a three buckle one if your horse does not get on with separate girths. I don't find my saddle any less stable using them at all but I probably would not recommend them for a beginner just starting out as I did find that my saddle did shift a bit when I had my friend's daughter who had never ridden side saddle before, try my saddle as beginners tend to move about too much. I even jumped that 2' jump in it at the Burbage Diamond Jubliee show last month and it was fine.

I've always started using a Lemieux sheepskin half pad with my off-side side saddle to prevent another bursitis bump on her withers since she is prone to them. I don't need one with my Mayhew, only a thin quilted pad but it's better to be safe than sorry and Hattie likes the sheepskin as well. It also has shims so I can adjust the fit of the saddle with the change of seasons as well. The white one I also use with my astride saddle but also have a brown one for showing in.

So far so good with the change of tack!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

YAY! A Great Start To the 2013 Show Season!

I know I haven't been around all winter and most of spring but am here now! :)

I didn't have either of my side saddles all winter as they were at the saddler's getting tweaked. Hattie came down with that bump on her withers in January and I think it was caused by the panels on my off-side side saddle shifting due to weight change/settling down/whatever. The vet did say when she had it the first time two years ago, that she would be forever prone to them coming back in that area if anything in the tiniest rubbed her the wrong way there.

Anyway, the saddle shaved back some of the felt and pulled back the linen on my off-sider tightly so problem solved.

I sold my Whippy as I was no longer happy with it and neither was Hattie. In March, we went out for a hack and the saddle shot forward when we galloped along a grass verge and I came off on the concrete lane that runs alongside the galloping bit and landed on my knees!! The saddle was literally on her neck and when I tacked her up that morning, she was just not happy with it. It just did not fit her any more. To be honest, although it was a beautiful saddle, my hip did not feel comfortable in it so was not sad to see it go.

Luckily, I had my Mayhew back newly rebalanced and with all new straps, in time for the first show of the season so with that, we went to the Diamond Jubilee Burbage Riding Club show where we got three 1sts, a 4th and a 5th in our five classes. The 5th was in the Adult Equitation class as Hattie refused the jump the 1st time (it was 2'!!) but we got over it the 2nd time.

Frankly, I was surprised we even jumped it as the outdoor school at my yard had been closed all winter due to repairs and resurfacing and did not reopen until a week before our first show so we hadn't actually been able to school all winter!

Some Burbage Riding Club Jubilee Show photos...

Doing our individual show in the Style and Appearance class, we came 1st...

My friend Heather trying out a side saddle for the first time...

The next week after we went to the Diamond Equestrian Show where I decided to compete on my off-side side saddle as it had come back that week from the saddlers and my hip was not very happy having to compete all day the week before.

Hattie did really well that day and we came home with a 1st, three 2nds and a 3rd in our five classes as well as qualifying in all our classes for the Championships held in the winter. She went really well in my off-sider and my hip was happy too. I was also glad that I wore my lightweight habit as for once, it was actually warm in England!!

Hattie waiting for all the action to begin...

Waiting in the collection ring for our class to start...

Doing our individual show in the Style and Appearance class...

In the line up waiting to be placed, we came 1st in Style and Appearance!

There are more good photographs taken at the show at Peter James Photography as well. When I get paid, there are a couple I'd like to order!

The next weekend we were at the South Kilworth Riding Club show. I have to defend our trophies that we won last year in the Style and Appearance and Ridden Veteran classes. Hattie did not disappoint and we came home with a 2nd in Style and Appearance, a 1st in Best Turned Out and 3rd in Ridden Veteran as well as winning a little trophy and getting Reserve Champion in the Ridden Showing section at the end of the day!

The weather forecast grey skies and light rain so decided to wear my wool tweed habit but for once, the weather report was wrong in a GOOD way and I ended up baking in my habit.

Walking around at the start of Style and Appearance...

Our 1st place rosette in front of the the lovely Stamford Hall...

At the start of our show in the Ridden Veteran class...

Our individual show...

In the line up...

Hattie with her Reserve Champion rosette and her boyfriend Smokey, at the end of the day and waiting to go home...

More photos of the day can be seen on NJB Photography.

A week later we were off again to another Burbage Riding Club show but this time we only did two classes as I was getting a bit low on funds (right before pay day!!) and it was a HOT day.

I'm glad we only did two classes as Hattie was a right mare that day as the flies were bothering her due to the heat and she must have been a bit grumpy that day from being heavily in season and being apart from her boyfriend.

Despite the fact Hattie kept trying to get strong and run away (and buck!), she managed to hold it together for the two classes and we got a 2nd in Best Turned Out and a 1st in Style and Appearance before we called it quits and went home. I was kind of glad to go too as I was roasting in my tweed.

Hattie having an "episode" and getting strong in the warm-up ring. Definitely LEFT shoulder back here!

Pulling it together for our class- note my serious face...

She was starting to get a bit strong and "willful" here. It didn't help that there was a gelding calling to her in the trailer park!

Our well earned 1st place rosette and time to go home!

A week later, Hattie was back to her old sensible self and we went to the 2nd Diamond Equestrian show of the season where Hattie was brilliant and came home with an amazing FOUR 1st place rosettes and a 2nd place in the five classes we entered! I also chose the right habit to wear for once as it was a bit breezy and chilly that day but I was nice and warm.

Walking around in Best Turned Out...

1st place in the line up for Best Turned Out...

2nd place in In Hand Best Condition (it's hard doing the run up in an apron!)...

Style and Appearance...

A well deserved break after our long day of showing!

Hattie amazed at all the stuff we have to haul to shows...

 This weekend was the first weekend that we didn't have any shows to go to (well, there was some on but we just needed a rest for once!) but next Sunday we'll be back at it again!