Friday, January 29, 2010

And a relieved barn owner!

Originally I had talked to my barn owner, who is an excellent seamstress and can make almost anything, about altering my sidesaddle jacket so it fit me better. She had agreed to do it but is quite busy, hence why I took it to a tailor for a quote.

Last night I broke the news to her that I had taken it to a tailor to have the alterations done. I was a little worried she would be put out by me taking it to someone else. As it turns out she was quite relieved! We chatted about how much work it would be to pretty much take the jacket & lining apart to make the alterations; a LOT of fiddly work. She said what the tailor was charging me for the alterations was more than reasonable and jokingly offered to pay for it just so she didn't have to do it! LOL

As our conversation progressed, she offered to make me a vest, saying those were very easy. So now I get to go fabric shopping!! For someone so hopeless at sewing, I absolutely LOVE to visit fabric stores. I see all of the gorgeous fabrics and have visions of all the amazing things that could be made from them.....just not by me!

I think I'd like a traditional canary vest and perhaps something a little fancier like a yellow satin. I'm tempted to make them a backless style to reduce the bulk under the jacket & so it doesn't get as hot in the summer.

Isn't this one nice?
The next dilemma is the buttons.... What kind of buttons should I get? And how many buttons should be on a vest? I've seen some pictures of hunt vests and they look like they've got 8 or so buttons. Seems like a lot!

And of course, while I was looking for pictures of yellow vests that I liked, I got a bit sidetracked....

How smart does the purple vest & stock tie look under a black cutaway jacket look! (I know, I'd probably get crucified for even thinking of wearing purple under a habit....but....but.... it's so pretty!)
Orrr..... How about a nice sage green habit? I just love this too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Magical Tailor!

I think an essential part of every ladies wardrobe should be a good tailor. Ok the tailor doesn't actually have to reside in your wardrobe but it's important to know a good one!

I found this wonderful little lady, Mrs. Wong, that does custom tailoring and makes suits etc. I used her once before on a historical dress I had purchased that was a tad too big for me. She did an absolutely FANTASTIC job and her prices were very reasonable.

Ok so maybe it's not just sidesaddle that fascinates me, I love all old/antique type things!

Anyways, remember the navy blue habit I purchased after Christmas? Well it fit well but just not quite right so I decided to take the jacket to Mrs. Wong to see what she could do (and more importantly, how much it would cost! ). The verdict was that the shoulder pads (ick, ick, ick!) were too big and not put in the jacket properly so they kiiindof made me look like a football player... LOL. In addition to that, the sleeves were HUGE, I think I could have fit my leg into them, just too much material. So I asked about having those taken in too. She pinned one sleeve a bit shorter and what a difference it made! The coat looked elegant like it should! She was also going to add another button on the front to pull the bust in a bit.

And all for $65! I was pleased that it wasn't going to cost me an arm and a leg to get done!

She had some absolutely gorgeous English and Italian suiting material and of course I had to ask how much she would charge to make a full outfit consisting of a jacket and long skirt. $800.... Yeowch.... That's not gonna happen! I'm sure it'd be absolutely gorgeous if I could afford it though!

While we were tack shopping on the weekend I found a bunch of great deals, one of which was a nice white show shirt for $18! I realized that I had a pink, blue, purple and yellow shirt, but no white one. It looks really sharp with the navy blue habit!

I also found this while parusing the internet..... Isn't it gorgeous?? I think I might just have to own one.....

It's a silk brocake stock tie.... pretty...

So I have the habit, white shirt, matching navy breeches and whip.

Now I just need a top hat and veil....

And a nice yellow vest.
And a pair of brown gloves (which should be the easiest out of it all to find!) and I'm set for showing!
Next part of the puzzle...finding a show to go to!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Off to BC!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I've been so busy and haven't had time to think about a new post topics. I'm off to BC for the weekend to visit a friend and do some tack shopping! I'll be back on monday, maybe I'll have some neat finds to share with you guys!

So for now I'll leave you with some neat pictures! For when riding sidesaddle on a horse is no longer a challenge, you might try one of the following...
Why not try a mule to start off with?
And then try your luck on a bull. (He looks like he might need some spurs to get mooooving).

Perhaps something more exotic is what you fancy?

Or for a real challenge, try riding an ostrich!
And when you're bored of riding, teach him to drive!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Decisions, Decisions.... On to my newest scheme....

A couple of years ago I tried to breed my mare. It didn't work out and I was left with a HUGE vet bill (3x what they quoted me....$3K for two cycles...) and no foal. I swore that I wasn't going to try that again.

But now that spring is approaching the temptation to try it again has crept back into my head.

Four things I will do differently this time:

1. First and foremost, I'm going to take Brigit in to the vet clinic, before I purchase any stud services and have her cultured and biopsied to make sure that this is even a viable option. We cultured her last time and everything was ok but it would be a good idea to do both, she's no spring chicken and if there's something wrong it could be a huge waste of money to even try.
2. I'm going to find a nice stallion that's local. Last time I used a stallion from Colorado and had the "goods" shipped up. The container rental, pick-up fees & shipping were EXPENSIVE. Plus I think it would be a better idea to use a local stallion so everything is really really fresh.

3. I'm going to use a vet that I have more confidence in. The vet I used before just didn't seem to exude confidence when it came to deterimining when the mare was ovulating or that we actually were going to get her bred.

4. I'm going to wait until mid-May to mid-June to breed. I think the last time we tried it was just too early in the year and her body was still in "winter" mode. Aside from that she was a touch on the lean side (not skinny, just not as fat as she should have been) from coming through a cold winter. Plus I really don't want to have a new baby when it's -40, snowing and icy outside thank you very much!

Don't you think these two would make pretty babies?
The only downfall to breeding Brigit this year is that I'd be really nervous to take her anywhere to shows or clinics or anything like that. She's kind of a nervous horse - doesn't get upset just nervous - and I'd worry about her getting stressed out and aborting....
I'm not too worried about finding other horse's to ride because there are lots around. I was just looking forward to doing a pile of sidesaddle stuff this year with Brigit! Ya can't do it all thought right?
Decisions, decisions....

Monday, January 18, 2010

The rules & traditions of Sidesaddle - gloves

Riding sidesaddle has so much history and therefore a lot of interesting rules to go by. I find it so fascinating.

Gloves: Gloves apparently must not be black as only ladies in mourning wore black gloves, and therefore shouldn't be riding! Plus black gloves were dyed and they would stain a lady's hands. A natural light brown or "chamois" glove was the acceptable thing to wear. Otherwise brown gloves are appropriate. And plain cotton knitted or crocheted gloves were supposed to be worn for rainy weather so the reins didn't slip out of your hands. In an appointments class the cotton gloves are supposed to be tucked under the billets on the offside of the saddle with the tips just peaking out.

Last week while we were at an antique store I happened to find a pair of really delicate little chamois gloves, they were waaay too small for my hands though. Otherwise I would have snapped them up!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Really riding sidesaddle IS safe!

A lot of people seem to assume that riding sidesaddle is very precarious and insecure. I'll let you in on a little secret... it's not! It's actually quite secure and comfortable once you build up the right muscles. That's why ladies of the Victorian and Edwardian era and some today, are able to do just about anything sidesaddle.

One story that I heard was that the Cavalry used to employ a sidesaddle when they were trying to break a really rank horse because it was nearly impossible to come out of. I'm certainly not wanting to test that theory though but so far I haven't felt like I was going to come off. My mare has thrown in the odd crow hop and aside from me not appreciating her antics, I still felt secure.

Originally ladies had to ride sideways behind a man. Or sit on a saddle that had a plank on one side (to rest their feet on) and be led by a groom. These saddles were definitely not very secure at all and restricted the ladies to walking while being led. Then a saddle with an "upright head" was developed that allowed the lady to sit facing forwards. This gave her the luxury of being able to steer her own horse and go faster. These saddles were still not very secure but better then they had been. Then came the development of the "leaping head". This increased a ladies security greatly as she could now use her left leg to grip as well. Nowadays saddles with only one pommel are considered unsafe.

If your saddle fits your horse correctly and you are sitting correctly, your weight is distributed evenly. Even though your legs are off to one side.
One thing riders should do to ensure their saddle is secure and thus safer is to use a girth with no elastic. The elastic can cause your saddle to not be tight enough and thus potentially slide. It's nearly impossible to find a girth that does not have elastic these days as I've discovered. I had to look high and low for one and ended up finding one at a local used tack store. New ones have to be special ordered.
The balance strap on the saddle (the one that goes from the rear right hand side of the saddle to the front left hand side of the saddle) ensures that your saddle doesn't slide sideways or "torque" when you are riding, especially jumping. See the strap that runs from the back right side of the saddle down towards the girth? That's the balance strap.
Originally ladies wore full, long skirts but they could be stepped on by the horse or caught on something, or worst of all, be caught up on the pommels of the saddle and the lady could be drug. During the edwardian and victorian times a simpler habit was developed. The lady wore tall riding boots and breeches and an "apron" overtop. This apron had much less material than a full skirt and was usually constructed so that it would come undone if the apron became hung up. Modern day riding aprons usually have a velcro closure.

Very old saddles also had a stirrup bar that resembles what most english saddles have today. These were a problem and had caused ladies to be drug if their foot was stuck in the stirrup because the leather would remain attached from the saddle. A mechanism was developed to release the stirrup leather & stirrup in the event of a fall. The mechanism remains closed when you are on the horse but if pressure is put on the mechanism (ie your weight as you come off the horse) it pops open, thus releasing everything. This is why you can't use a regular "english" stirrup leather.

Safety stirrups were also developed to prevent the foot from being caught up. These are really interesting. They basically look like a stirrup within a stirrup. The inside stirrup is hinged and has a break at the top. If you fall the stirrup basically comes apart. The inside stirrup tips backwards and then pops open to release the foot.
I've also recently heard that it's a very bad idea to use a peacock stirrup (the safety stirrup with the rubber band on the outside). They are actually only meant for small children. The weight of an adults can cause the stirrup to bend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I feel like I've met someone famous!

Monday night I had the opportunity to drop my saddle off with Betty-Lynn Tattersall. What an amazing lady.
They have a little workshop on their farm that had so many different sewing machines, rolls of leather, pictures and all kinds of other neat stuff to look at. She was working on a new saddle when I arrived. When I brought my saddle in Betty-lynn and her husband began to look over every detail of my saddle. It was so interesting to listen to. They think my saddle is much older than was originally thought. I was told the saddle was 10-20 years old but upon inspection, Betty-Lynn thinks the saddle is closer to being made in the 1920's. How neat is that? She said that the quality of the leather and the fine stitching details were non-existent in saddles of today. We don't have that kind of leather anymore (different tanning processes) nor do we have the sewing machines they did back then.
It turns out that not all that much needed to be done to the saddle to fix it up. She was going to patch some holes in the linen underside, replace/lengthen the overgirth (I can baaarely get it done up as is!), touch up some stitching that's come undone, replace the sandwich case D's and replace some nails that have come out in the gullet.
I'm supposed to go back tomorrow to pick my saddle up. I'm really excited to see it and I'm even more excited to be able to stay a bit longer visiting with them this time. I didn't get a chance to see Betty-Lynn's sidesaddle "museum". She has a large collection of sidesaddles that she's acquired over the years and fixed up. I can't wait to see it! She was telling me that she has a set of matching saddles; a man's western and a lady's sidesaddle. How neat!
I asked her how she got into making her own sidesaddles and she told me that she got one sidesaddle that was in such bad shape that she just started taking it apart. Once she had it apart and started to repair it and put it back together she said "I can do this!" and found a tree maker to get her started. And the rest is history! She's sold her saddles all over the world.
She also makes sidesaddle outfits and showed me a binder full of pictures of what she's made. I think I need another couple of outfits........ hehe
It seemed like I was only there for a short period of time but in reality it was over an hour. I really didn't want to leave but I had to meet up with a coworker. It was so neat to have someone that shares the same passion for sidesaddles to talk to in person. I could have sat there all night listening and learning.
Anyways, that's all for tonight! It's been a long day and I'm tuckered out!

Monday, January 11, 2010

An adventure outside in the snow

It was such a gorgeous weekend up here, we had a chinook blow through and the temperatures were above freezing. What a treat!

I decided it was a good day to attempt a sidesaddle ride outside! A friend and I tacked up and set off down the road. We made it out to the neighbor's field and then my mare decided she wanted to RUN. And since I wasn't going to let her, she decided to fuss. Pulling and dancing and just being an overall idiot. I should have known better! We ended up heading home to switch saddles so we could continue our ride.

*BUT* the one good thing that came from it.... I didn't feel like I was going to come off at all. I still felt quite secure up there through her antics. (ok mostly secure! LOL). I'll have to upload the pictures my friend took when she sends them to me.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Sidesaddle IS secure! Key points.

Recently I've been discussing some of the common myths about sidesaddle with a few people. Many people have made comments such as "I don't know how you can do that! I'd fall right off!" or "There's no way I could do anything other than a walk!", "How do you stay on?" and various other things along those lines. I've also been talking to a few people that have purchased a sidesaddle on a whim but didn't really have much guidance as to how to ride in it. Hopefully sharing a few tidbits about what I've learned will be really helpful.

Suprising to most is the fact that riding in a sidesaddle is actually quite secure. Before I rode aside I thought for sure it was going to feel like I was going to fall off the off-side (right) because there was no leg there. Where in actuality I felt a little insecure to the near-side (left) as both legs were to that side. Once I learned how to sit properly and figured out my balance (which didn't take long) I felt quite comfortable up there. There are some key points to remember when riding aside as I've been told and discovered myself.

Your body and seat should still be square to the horse's, the same as you would when riding astride. Think of keeping your right shoulder back. If your stirrup isn't quite the right length (most likely too short), it can make it difficult to sit squarely. Also think of having a tack under your left seatbone so that you have a good majority of your weight on the right seatbone. This balances out the fact that you have the weight of both of your legs to one side. I've had people tell me that some ladies that are very good at sidesaddle riding would sit so hard on that right seat bone that they'd wear out that side of the seat first. Your body shouldn't be tipped forward or leaning back, your weight should be centered over the mid-point of your right thigh actually. I borrowed this picture from the ISSO's website.
The left leg pretty much just dangles and sits in the stirrup. It is used as an aid at times but unlike an astride saddle, you don't put much weight in the stirrup at all. This can cause you and your saddle to be unbalanced. You should have enough space between the top of your left thigh and your leaping head to fit your hand in. You don't want it too tight or you won't have any room to move, it may be uncomfortable and you might not be able to get out if you need to. Your left leg should be long with the heel slightly down.

Your right thigh should be in line with the horse's spine. If it's not, it can make you unbalanced and struggle to keep your body square with the horse (as you would riding astride). If you find your leg is sitting too far to the left, you can get what's called a "queen" to fix this. It's basically just some padding that you wrap around the upright head that keeps your leg a bit more to the right. Another issue can be small people and a saddle that has wide pommels. It can be hard for small/short legs to be comfortable around a really wide pommel. The only remedy for this is to try a different saddle. Your right leg pretty much does all of the work to keep you on. To gain "purchase" or grip on your saddle you push your right knee towards the upright head and your foot/thigh is pushed towards the horse's shoulder. To help engage the correct muscles for the most grip, make sure your right toe is pointed down and your heel is as close to your left leg as possible.
Your hands should be very quiet and sit either in your lap or to each side of your right knee. Some people with really big horses or shorter arms may need to purchase longer reins so they can sit comfortably and not have to reach.

The "emergency grip" is one of those things that is important to know how to do if your horse is acting up. Part of the reason you don't want your stirrup too long is so you can effectively do this. Basically you engage your right leg to get as much purchase as you can. With your left leg you want to bring your heel up (while maintaining your toe in the stirrup) so that you can push your left thigh up into the leaping head. Sit up tall and remember to keep that right shoulder back.

Some other key things I've learned. Sidesaddles are much more secure on a horse that has a good set of withers on them. Round, flat withered horses tend to cause sidesaddles to slip sideways if your girth isn't really really tight.

I prefer to ride in a saddle that has a doeskin seat and pommels. I rode in a sidesaddle last summer that had a smooth seat and I felt quite insecure in it. I was told I looked like I was rowing a boat because I had trouble keeping centered and kept having to "pull" myself forward into the saddle because I kept sliding all over. It wasn't that it was a bad saddle but I was (am?) a beginner and my horse has a BIIIIG canter!

I'd say it's pretty secure! Look at Mrs. Esther Stace jumping her horse over a record 6'6"! Amazing!
Or this lady on her slighly frisky horse!

Monday, January 4, 2010


I love hats. They are a real weakness of mine. Although I rarely have a place to wear them. Maybe that's another reason sidesaddle was so appealing, I get to wear fancy hats and outfits and look elegant. I don't have a hat yet but I want one....

A simple yet elegant top hat is a must....

Or what about a slightly more fancy version...

What about something with some feathers?

I love this straw hat!

This whole outfit looks so perfect.

A lot of these hats probably aren't "appropriate" for sidesaddle attire except for costume wear. But they're still fun!

More new attire!

I've been in need of some new paddock boots and half chaps for awhile now and I happened to find a heck of a deal on some BROWN Ariat paddock boots and half chaps. I like the look of the brown, it's kinda vintage and classy looking. (Now I just need a pair of nice brown gloves to match!)

Oh and my wonderful boyfriend bought me a pair of full seat breeches for Christmas! They were black but I decided to exchange them for navy blue ones to match my habit. Did I mention that I couldn't wait for it to arrive so I could try it on??

Hmmm so what else do I need? (or should I say want?) I'd loooove to get a fancy top hat (and a veil) but I think I'll stick with my helmet for the time being. I really want to stop by a fabric store on the way home one of these days to look for some fancy yellow fabric to make a vest out of. I think it would look really sharp peeking out from under the navy blue jacket.

I'm hoping to take my saddle up to Betty-Lynn Tattersall in the next week or so. It needs some minor repairs and my dad offered to pay to have it fixed up for my Christmas present. It appears that the D-rings on the off-side were removed somehow, so I'd like to get them put back on. The overgirth is just barely big enough and the one side is cracked so I'd like to get that replaced. And the one strap for the balance girth is cracked and should probably be replaced. In addition to a little bit of stitching here and there that could use a touch up. Betty-Lynn does wonderful work and has a huge collection of sidesaddles, I can't wait to meet her!

Another new sidesaddle outfit!

Over the holidays I was parusing the internet and found a craigslist posting for a navy blue sidesaddle habit that fit my measurements almost exactly! I negotiated with the seller a bit on the price and bought it! It's coming all the way from Florida, I'm so excited to get it. It should be here at the earliest on Thursday.
It should look something like this one....
I was determined to find something reasonably priced so I
would be able to show in the spring. I've still got lots of practicing to do but that's my goal! I've really got to work on my leg muscle strength, my inner thigh muscles get tired and crampy after a few laps of trotting. Cantering is better but we've still got to improve our transition a bit. The weather is supposed to warm up this week, so hopefully that'll give me a chance to get riding some more.
I'm just itching to try going for a ride aside in the snow! But I'm not quite brave enough to go alone yet! Plus if someone comes with me, I can coerce them into take pictures! ;)