This saddle is unlike anything I've had before, it's VERY close contact due to the lack of safe (it never had one- ever) and it has a blocked head with an extended flap that goes over the cutback head for leg support due to it not having a safe. So it's an "open head" side saddle but the little flap makes it not so open headed. I rather like the angle of the fixed head too, I like them well over towards the middle of the saddle. The blocked head is a dream to ride too. The 22" and a bit seat (UK 17") is plenty long enough for me too.
You can see that the flap over the cutback, is actually part of the blocked head cover, there is no seam connecting it to the blocked head but one continuous piece of doeskin.
There is a small flat piece of iron inserted into the flap to keep it rigid across and over the cutback.
It also has a Champion & Wilton safety fitting which makes a nice change, as all my off-side side saddles have only ever had roller bars. The safety fitting is reversed for an off-side side saddle and mine has a little "O" stamped on the arm for "off-side".
A regular nearside Champion & Wilton safety fitting...
An off-side Champion & Wilton safety fitting...
I was so happy and relieved when Roger came and had a look at it on Hattie yesterday afternoon. He said that it was actually a really good fit and that not much needed doing to the saddle to fit it to Hattie. He put a felt him between the wykham pad and the tree for support under my right thigh, adjusted the flocking in the leaping head for me and tightened the thread on the leaping head with PVA tape. He said that I can shave a bit of the felt off of the nearside at the cutback to keep it away from Hattie's withers but that it wasn't pinching.
Once those little tweaks were all done to the saddle, it was time for my lesson and for me to get tweaked! Roger was helping me to get my position more centered which in turn, leads to much easier ride!!
For example, when I am on the right rein to help me stop cork screwing to the off-side, I am to try and keep my hip pointed in the direction of Hattie's nearside shoulder and on the bend to the right, I am only to move my HEAD in that direction. This helps to keep my body still but Hattie can still feel the weight of my head going in the direction she needs to go in.
On the left rein, the hip thing and head thing still applies obviously, but I am to bring my left hand back a bit to "take the rein" and not bring my whip/cane so far back as that will act as my inside leg to bend around.
I am also to keep my head up too! I have an awful habit of dropping my head and looking down but Roger told me to keep my nose, up, Up, UP!
All these tweaks will help me to be a quieter, more effective rider and I must admit, makes riding a whole lot easier!
Next, building on from the tweaks, was cantering and Roger was getting me to get my weight in the saddle more forward so that my right seat bone was very light in the saddle and my weight was concentrated on my left thigh towards my left knee. He also got me to think about following a "rolling slide" rhythm at the canter with my hips and thigh when keeping my weight centered forward rather than an upright dressage position. Doing this makes you very secure in the saddle when out cross country and jumping and helps you sail over uneven ground.
I can safely say this was tested out by me yesterday as we sailed around the field in our new forward weight, "rolling slide" position. Hattie was flying over the ridge and furrows and uneven ground and I did not feel any of it, it was so smooth, I was laughing and smiling all the way around! I lost my stirrup a couple of times, but it didn't matter as my new position felt so secure in the saddle that roger said I didn't need it. I totally get now why they always say that your side saddle stirrup should only be used as a foot rest.
I've got to practice all these as he is coming next month to work on jumping which I am VERY looking forward to.
The saddle was a dream to ride, the seat is between a sweepy and flat seat. Roger said that the saddle was from about 1908 so there were both styles of seats kicking about then so I guess this was a happy medium between the two.
Despite not having a grip pad or an extra point strap, the saddle did not move on Hattie at all. It was nice to finally get a riding saddle that I did not have to have panels rebuilt to fit her or extra point straps added.
I did put the girth on the point and 1st strap on the off-side and then the first two on the nearside for maximum set. I still don't use a separate balance girth but instead, the combi girth with the little balance girth attached. This arrangement seems to work for Hattie as it causes less drag and this saddle feels stable with it any ways!
I'm very glad to be able to give Champy II a new home!