Thursday, 17 April 2014

Our Little Hack

Hattie is starting to get better, her walking is becoming more freer and forward and she actually trotted the fence line today in the dirt paddock without any head bobbing or limping. She is going to stay in the dirt paddock until Monday and then I will see if she is ready to go into the summer paddock with the rest of the mares. I don't want to put her in there too early, get excited when she sees the new grass, starts galloping around like a loon and injures herself. Fingers crossed that she is def on the mend.

Meanwhile Possa has been doing some more side saddle work. We went for a little hack down the lane yesterday as it was gorgeous weather, too nice to school really. I've hacked out with her but never hacked her out on my own but apart from a few moments when she saw her shadow and then later on, a coffee cup on the floor, she was fine. We even had a couple of short canters on the grass verges. Towards the end of the hack when we were heading home, Possa starting accepting contact and quietly chomping the bit rather than going around with her head up like polo ponies do. She was using her back and bringing her head down and staying on the bit for short periods at the walk. As long as I have known her, she has never worked on the bit, it's always been "go fast after the ball". We have been doing suppling exercises to help her with polo so it seems that we are on the right track and that she actually likes the side saddle!

I decided to change girths and not use Hattie's combination girth and Possa does not have any problems with saddles sliding around or moving on her. Instead, I used a separate three buckle three fold girth and balance girth and she was fine with it. Although the saddle fits her quite well despite not being fitted to her, I find with the separate girths, it just keeps it that little bit more stable and perfect until the saddler can come out and fit it exclusively to her. It just needs lifting up ever so slightly under my right thigh, maybe one shim, that's it, other than that, it's perfect! Hattie has 3 saddles already, Possa can have the Champion & Wilton.

I have also discovered that I ride better with a Queen on my Champion & Wilton when it is on Possa than when it is on Hattie. I don't know why, maybe because it needs lifting slightly under my right thigh? It will be interesting to see if I still need the Queen on my C&W after the saddler puts a shim on the wykham.

Unfortunately, we couldn't do any side saddle work today as yesterday afternoon, Possa got bit in the field on the back by another horse causing a large welt to come up on her back. It's quite raw at the minute so we'll have to wait now until that heals up!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Side Saddle How To's

We didn't end up going to our show this past Sunday as Hattie got kicked in the field by another horse Saturday afternoon and was lame from it. Luckily, it just seems to be muscular and she is getting a bit better each day but it was VERY disappointing as we had prepared so much for it and won't be able to go to our next show, which would have been this coming Sunday. Sarah from A Bit on the Side Saddle, had come down form Lancashire to ride Hattie in a couple of classes too so it was disappointing for her as well.

In an attempt to find something else to do to salvage our weekend, Sarah suggested taking photos for the "Side Saddle How To" guides she wants to make for her website. Since Hattie is out of action for the time being my friend Paul, let me use his polo pony named Possa as our model.

Although I've schooled Possa astride, it's only been to keep her supple for polo and she has never had a side saddle on her before but Paul thought it was a good idea, so off we went to make Sarah's first instalment of her How To guides....How To Introduce A Horse To Side Saddle.

Possa is pretty much the same height and build as Hattie, but probably a bit more leaner since she is a fit polo pony who is exercised everyday and who plays nearly every weekend. Hattie's tack and saddles fit her really well so the next time the saddler comes out, I'm going to have him look at fitting my Champion & Wilton exactly to Possa since that one seems to fit her that little bit better than my Beck.

I was really surprised how well she took to side saddle since polo riding is completely the polar opposite to side saddle riding! Here is us going for it down the long side of the school. Go Possa!

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Less Than Regal Queen

At the last side saddle show I went to, the judged suggested that I add a queen to my Beck to get my left leg over a bit more over to the nearside. Although I already have a queen on my Beck as it has such a tiny pommel, I never realized still how far over to the off-side my leg was. Over the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with different "queens", ones made from foam, gloves, anything really and then I tried Hattie's eye wiping towel folded up several times.

I have it placed a bit further back from the front of the fixed head so I can still get my left leg around it comfortably yet it still supports my thigh. I don't exactly have the smallest thighs on the planet so it's surprising that I need a queen on the saddle but there you go!

Unfortunately, my new queen doesn't live up to it's regal title as it's rather stained with purple spray stains, Hattie eye gunk and goodness knows what else off that horse! Still, it will make it's appearance underneath my habit at our next show on Sunday.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lil' Miss

The other day Lil' Miss came to live with me. She had been advertised on Ebay by her owner as the family were moving into a smaller house for their retirement and couldn't take her with them. Lil' Miss's home wasn't that far from my work so I went to see her while the auction was live but decided against bidding as she was VERY VERY narrow, too narrow for Hattie and the seat size was child size. I couldn't afford the opening bid for something that I wouldn't be able to ride on and the auction ended without any bids.

Then out of the blue, Lil' Miss's owner rang me up and asked if I would like her as they really couldn't take and and had to downsize soon since they were moving and then she showed up on my doorstep!

Well, I had to bring her down the stable to meet Hattie and she actually how narrow she was. It turns out REALLY narrow. Hattie's astride saddle is a 29 Stubben which equals to a "narrow medium/ medium" in most saddle brands is a bit wide on her, 28 (narrow-medium/ narrow) would fit her better. Lil' Miss looks like she would be even narrower than the Stubben size 27 which is "extra narrow". You can see in the photos how narrow it is in the shoulders which makes it ride uphill as it can't sit down properly on Hattie.


I put Hattie's wither tracing against the saddle to show how narrow it is in the shoulders...

I also had some reservations of her tree condition too as when I first went to see her and test the tree, there was some creaking although, there isn't any now although I originally thought the tree was broken behind the fixed head, I think maybe now it may be the webbing? I'll take her down to the Nationals to get inspected but to be honest, Lil' Miss is going to be a display/education saddle. When they hold the Victorian days at the school where I work, I'll bring her in the for the kids to have a sit on as for most of them, it will be the closest they ever get to a horse!

Lil' Miss is a kid's saddle from the 1860's which was modernized, mostly likely, during the 1920's. The original roller bar fitting and square shaped stirrup skirt were removed and replaced by Champion & Wilton with a safety fitting and the L-shaped stirrup skirt. The ornate quilted safe was stitched down in the middle to accommodate the arm of the L-shaped stirrup skirt so that it would lay flat. Although there are no original 1860's maker's stamps or marks on the saddle, when Champion & Wilton did the work, they stamped the saddle on the flap and under the L-shaped stirrup skirt. The safety fitting and the stirrup leather is also stamped Champion & Wilton.

I wonder what the saddlers at Champion & Wilton thought about modernizing, what would have been considered by that date, a very old fashioned saddle? It doesn't have a hunting bar for jumping so I think it may have been updated for a child to mess about with for fun, riding on "grandma's old saddle".

There was also other remedial work done at the time too. When I first looked at this saddle, I thought the fixed head had been cut down to fit a child but after cleaning and oiling it and inspecting the head, I think the fixed head is probably the original height but was just recovered. The rest of the saddle is proportioned for a child too, it looks absolutely tiny compared to my other 1860's saddle, Long Tall Sally! The panels are in remarkably good shape so they may have been fixed up in the 1920's as well.

She has the old style over girth which fits over the flap and her off-side pocket is still in good supple condition. You can see how small her seat is, it measures 19" from the front of the fixed had to cantle and 13" across the seat. I "volunteered" my skinny 13 year old son to have a sit on it to see what age of child it would have fit as there is no way my bum or legs fit on it (I tried!) and it actually fit him rather nicely. He has skinny kid's legs which fit the pommels well so it looks like it would have fit a girl aged 11- 13 years old depending on height and weight riding a REALLY fine boned pony. Seats on 1860's and 1870's saddles tend to be made really wide too to accommodate the full riding skirts they used to wear, the seat on my adult sized 1860's saddle is 16" wide!

                                  Lil' Miss all scrubbed up and conditioned with Effax!