Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Open Headed Side Saddle

Often when I get side saddle riders look at my Beck saddle, they comment on the lack of safe at the cutback head and ask why don't I have anything there or why did I "have it chopped off".

It is a peculiar thing and did feel weird when I first rode on it but after a while, you appreciate the close contact feel of the lack of extended safe.

This style of flap with the lack of extended safe over the cutback head, is called an "open head". According to Nick Creaton, the open head was patented in 1893 and it's purpose was "to leave the withers of the horse quite free, thus allowing the air to pass more freely." He said that "It came about due to some safe's at the time being held responsible for damage to the withers" and that "Leatherby's of London pioneered its use, though Owen, C & W, Mayhew and Whippy also used it". He mentioned that he has also seen it used by other London and provincial saddle makers and actually has an early 1930's Mayhew belonging to one of his pupils, shown on the Museum Gallery page of his website (shown in the last photo on the fourth row from the top which is image 20 of 51, entitled F.W. Mayhew & Co.).

My Beck is from 1898 so fits in with the time frame of when it was first patented. The French saddlers such as Beck, Hermes and Haste used the open head in their turn of the century saddles as well.  Beck was London based as well as in France and all three companies seemed to have worked with each other as you often seen saddles with mixed names such as Beck-Hermes, Hermes-Haste with all three companies having saddles that look very similar to each other.

Although I do use a sheepskin half pad under my Beck (the sheepskin does give a little bit of support to my left leg), the saddle is still relatively close contact and I find Hattie is a little bit more responsive to lesser shifts in position or leg movements than my Mayhew which has a full safe.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Something To Think About

Someone on the Sidesaddle Riders! Facebook group posted a link the other day of an article entitled "Evaluation of the force acting on the back of the horse with an English saddle and a side saddle at walk, trot and canter." which was of research done by the Clinic of Orthopaedics in Ungulates, University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria in 2006.

Although the full article isn't available unless you are a vet, the conclusion seemed to be that a combination of aside and astride riding is beneficial to the horse to prevent back injury and as a training variation (from what I gathered through the technical mumbo jumbo, doing this keeps your horse evened up).

Now, what struck me when I read the article and their conclusion, was the fact that many well to do ladies in the Golden Age of side saddle riding, had near and off-side side saddles, or maybe ladies of slightly lesser means, had the reversible saddles. The thought back then, was that it was healthier for women and growing girls to alternate riding sides to prevent crookedness of the spine but I wonder if  unknowingly, it was the horse causing the rider to be crooked or feel crooked by only being side saddle on one side? By alternating saddles, it would have allowed the horse to muscle up evenly on both sides, which in turn, would make the rider not feel crooked!

Betty Skelton herself says in her book "Side Saddle Riding", "In my younger days my mother rode on alternate sides every other day and woe betide the groom who forgot which side it was to be on on any particular day!"

It's probably not such an issue today as most aside riders ride astride sometimes (even I do) and with more modern training techniques available and more understanding of the Equine body available to the average rider, we know more about working horses correctly as compared to equestriennes 100+ years ago whose horses were only often only taught to canter from a walk- no trotting.

I do notice though that since I have been alternating between my nearside Mayhew and my off-side Beck, that my riding has improved, my hip pain in both hips has improved and Hattie is MUCH more even on both also recommended me alternating saddles to keep us both evened up.

Since using both sided saddles regularly, I also find that I'm not collapsing like I did last year like I wrote about in this October 2012 blog post. I do have a slight curvature of the spine but I am much straighter now riding so maybe there was some method to the Victorian madness about alternating saddles to help the rider as well.

The near and the offside, side by side!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Lazy Days of Summer

The UK is right in the middle of a wonderful heatwave! It makes a change from the cold, wind and rain we usually get every summer and the cancelled shows!

We went to the South Kilworth Riding Club show last Sunday but almost didn't get to go as the horse transporter I had booked, bailed on me and I wouldn't have found out had I not rang to confirm the day before! Luckily, my friend Paul, wasn't playing polo that day and saved the day by generously offering to take me in his lorry to the show.

Well, it was baking that day, I had to wear my lightweight habit and Hattie was her usual brilliant self at the show but it was a very disappointing showing experience with us placing 7th in the Ridden Veteran class and placing 4th out of four in Style and Appearance, both classes we usually win or place very high. We were turned out to our usual high standard, nailed our transitions and Hattie was working in a nice outline but that is showing for you, it really depends on what judge you have that day and their preference!

Despite our disappointing placings, I still had a good time and laughs with my friends so that made up for it.

Paul snapped this nice photo of us at the show in front of Stanford Hall, I like how it looks like a still out of an old colorized 1930's or 1940's film.

We have also been working on our jumping and I think I've managed to "clip my wings" and get my elbows under control. It's REALLY hard and I have to think about keeping my elbows stuck to my waist on the approach to the jump and then follow with a release over the jump. Hopefully I'll get someone to snap some photos so I can see if I've managed to do it.

I also decided to sell my trailer and then with the money, take my driving theory test, then a week of intensive driving lessons, then towing lessons/test and save up to buy a single trailer so I can haul myself to shows. I am very grateful to my friends for offering to bring me to shows but I feel bad putting people out so decided now is the time. Once I get my license too, my dream is to become a side saddle instructor too so it's all coming into place.

It was too muggy to do any schooling today so we went for a gallop. Hattie was very fast today and we galloped around the big hay field three times. to cool down, we walked around the meadow beside the hay field and there were lots of butterflies. I tried to take a photo but Hattie would not stay still and of course, no butterflies ended up in our photo!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Look Ma, I'm Flying!

We schooled yesterday evening in the field as it was too hot during the day to do anything and the thought of going around in circles in the school, did not appeal to Hattie or me!

Did some trotting and cantering around on a loose rein to loosen ourselves up (and to wake us up too we both were too dopey fro the heat!) and then popped a couple of little jumps. My friend, Millie, was there and snapped a few photos as I rarely have anyone around when I school so wanted to see how our jumping was going.

Goodness gracious me, I was shocked and appalled by my arms!!!

How does one's arm position go from this...

To this, a flapping chicken????

I even purposely rode around and jumped on a long rein so make sure I wasn't relying on Hattie's mouth to balance myself over the jumps but still kept the chicken arms. Big or small jumps, I'm still trying to take off with my arms!

On a good note, I'm glad to see that my left shoulder is back, my left toe down and I'm sitting square on the saddle. Hattie certainly looks happy and you can see in the photos how she is flying over the jumps. She was loving it yesterday. I certainly don't feel unbalance when I'm jumping and thought that I was giving a good release. Evidently not!

So now I've got something else to work on now- my arms.

With horses, you truly never stop learning!

Friday, 5 July 2013

All This Jumping Malarky...

I didn't end up going to the Blaston show which was disappointing as there was another side saddle rider competing and according to a friend who went, there was a lady with a side saddle booth set up there!   


I just couldn't face getting up early as I was still poorly and this lurgey still hasn't shifted off my chest but at least I don't feeling like the walking dead which is good, as I have the 3rd South Kilworth Riding Club show next Sunday to go to!

Well, since I have been feeling better this week, I have been alternating between fast galloping hacks out, flatwork and jumping on both my nearside and my off-side side saddles. I think Hattie and I have both become ambidextrous with side saddle riding now as now neither of us feel any different when swapping saddles, both sides feel the same. I find too, if I swap regularly, my right hip doesn't feel so bad . It still hurts but just a bit less. 

I think though, that until I find a hunting weight off-side saddle, that most of my jumping will have to be done in my nearside Mayhew Lissadell which IS a hunting saddle. My off-side Beck, although it does have a hunting bar, was mainly a park saddle originally and with the age of it (115 years old!), I don't want to wreck it.

I also managed to jump after 16 years, 2'6" again (well, nearly 2'6"!). 1997 was the last time I jumped 2'6"- 3' and that was astride. I've been a chicken ever since, well not anymore this week AND they were jumped in my OFF-SIDE side saddle!

First we did the ducks which was set at 2'4"...

I nearly came off over the ducks during one of my attempts as Hattie cat leaped it but grabbed my leaping horse and yanks myself back. Thank goodness for leaping heads!

Then I got cocky and did the spread which was set at 2'5 1/2" with a 1'9" spread!

We demolished that jump a couple of times but got over it a few times unscathed too. I think though that I need more practice before attempting those "dizzying heights" again BUT I have noticed this week that I am no longer afraid of jumping 2' and our 2' jumps are becoming easier and more fluid on both reins and in both sided saddles. I just needed to attempt those higher jumps for my own sanity and to snap me out of being scared, to show myself that I CAN do it. 

I'm not going to rush myself but just build up slowly as we get more confident!