Monday, February 28, 2011

Now that I've had a good positive post for the day....

It's time for a top notch WHINE. My shoulders are absolutely KILLING me. I think it's from trying out the new saddle this past week. I should have been wearing proper boots & attire and waited until the leaping head was bent correctly. That will teach me.
I think I was compensating by hunching my shoulders and having a bit of a tug-o-war with my mare did't help either. They were sore the next day and have been progressively sore-er since.

I attended a riding clinic on the weekend and he worked on getting me to sit taller, open my shoulders and not get into a tug-of-war. We had lovely, easy rides and everything felt great....except for my shoulders afterwards!! Just not sure why they are so darned sore!

I think it's time to go for a massage or perhaps try some accupuncture. My shoulders are in absolute knots and very sore. Last night I took a muscle relaxant and slept on a heat pack. I feel a little better than I did yesterday except I feel like I slept on a heat pack lol.

The things we put ourselves through for riding! (But I sure wouldn't give it up!)

Upwards & Onwards!

I've kind of kept this quiet until now but I've had a major change in my life. I moved my horse & all of my lessons to a new barn. It's definitely a bit daunting to make such a big move but it's definitely for the better and I'm really looking forward to what this year has in store for me!

Plus it was fun to go shopping for a bunch of new school horse tack, brushes etc. I've got my little tack room all set up with kids saddles, girths, pads & two little brush boxes full of goodies.

The new barn is warm (in floor heating!) & bright and much closer to town. I think it will be ideal for dealing with our cold winters and hopefully will mean less cancelled lessons during the winter.

I'm already so impressed. The horses get fed beautiful, top quality hay 3x a day and LOTS of it. Big pens with shelter that are all accesible out the one barn door. No more trudging to the back 40 to go find horses in the dark.

The arena is smaller & there's no outdoor arena but I think it's a small sacrifice to make. I'm sure we can ride in one of the pens during the summer.
Getting to know some new school horses has been fun. I think they'll provide a good new challenge for my riders and me. The first month will be a learning curve I'm sure but that's ok. Everyone seems to be up to the challenge!

Everyone is friendly and really pulls their weight keeping the barn immaculately clean. I'm going to miss the old barn, I was there for just over 3 years. Lots of good memories but change is good sometimes. I'm ready for a fresh start and a change of scenery. I'm excited to get things really going there and so are my riders. I'm so grateful for all of my good friends & family who've helped me make it happen and supported me. I think it's going to be a great year with lots of fun things on the horizon!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An empty saddle rack is just a void waiting to be filled....

So remember how I was down to only have 2 sidesaddles.......

Well that didn't last long....

"My name is Michelle and I have a problem....."

I'm not the proud owner of a 113 year old Champion & Wilton.

The condition is amazing and has all new billets, overgirth & balance strap. The quilting underneath the flaps has been repaired and it's got all new snow white linen underneath. It's just beautiful!

It's got that slightly dipped seat that Leila was talking about and much narrower pommels than my A&B saddle. I wanted to try a C&W out to see if it would be easier to jump in since I've been having such a hard time in my other saddle.

The temperature -22 last night when I left the house to go to the barn but I was determed to take it for a spin!

I think it fits Brigit better than the A&B (I've always worried it was a bit too tight on her withers). It sure is a different ride though! I don't think last night was a fair assessment of it. Brigit was being a little bit wild & strung out and I had my big winter boots on that only the tip of my toe would fit in the stirrup. I think in trying to keep my foot in the stirrup, I was putting too much weight in it and the saddle felt like it was tipping to the nearside (even with the girth done up as tight as we could).
We had to bend the leaping head so my thigh could fit under it, the person that had the saddle must have been VERY skinny! It needs to be bent some more though as it still jabbed me in the thigh a bunch, it's a bit sore today!
It rides a little bit uphill with the dip in the seat and I'm sure not used to that! I was trying to compensate by hunching my shoulders forward and WOW are they sore today! Probably doesn't help I haven't ridden sidesaddle in about a month. I like the smooth seat and it's suprisingly not slippery at all!

For you ladies that ride in a saddle with a slightly dipped seat, any tips for me?

I likely just need to get used to it and just plain ride sidesaddle more often. I really hope it'll be better for jumping!

It was too cold to try taking photos (I probably would have looked like a marshmellow perched up there with all my layers on!) but next time I ride in it, I'll get some.

Here's Winston!

This is Winston, the puppy we've been looking after. Isn't that a cute little face?
I snapped a quick picture as I was leaving the house this morning, I don't think he was too happy I was leaving...

He's getting to know the "rules" of the house and I think we're all in a good routine now. It's sure taken some getting used to though!

I felt so guilty leaving him locked up in his kennel all day while we were gone at work so I figured I would leave him loose and see how he did. Well thus far he's been great! Two whole days loose in the house without any accidents or destruction! Good pup!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Puppy sitting

We're taking care of a neighbor's puppy while she's gone. He's almost a year old so luckily he's house trained and overall he's a great little dog. You might remember Winston (the British bulldog) from last summer when we looked after him over a weekend. This time we've got him for 2 weeks!!

I forgot how much work a dog is!! I feel like I have a child. Got to get up early when he whines to let him out, back to bed, back up again an hour or so later to feed him, back to bed (on the weekend anyways) and then up for good not much later. The bonus is that if I take him back to bed with me, he'll curl up and go back to sleep. A furry hot water bottle!

He's sure grown A LOT since we had him last and he's a strong little guy! He makes us laugh when he see's his reflection in the window and barks at himself. Or when he snores. He seems to think my feet are a good thing to chew on..... Not so much. So we bought him some chew bones to keep his mouth occupied instead.

I feel bad for him, tomorrow I go back to work after the long weekend and he's got to spend all day at home by himself. Poor little guy will probably be pretty bored. He's so good that I'm *almost* tempted to leave him loose but I'm not sure I trust him that much yet! lol

Right now he's snuggled up next to me while I type this, snoring away.

Pictures to be added tomorrow, I left my camera at work.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You win some & you lose some

In regards to Ebay purchases anyways.

Awhile back I saw a nice framed print of a lady riding a bay horse sidesaddle. I thought "Oooh I want it!" but someone beat me to it. I saw it listed in January again and took the chance to snap it up. For $24.50, I figured why not. It was in a neat ornately raised frame.

I received it the other day and was a little disappointed upon unwrapping it. The frame is really gorgeous but the picture is ummm.... Well it looks nice from a distance. It's a pretty poor reproduction/enlargement and appears a bit pixilated and blurry. Not quite what I was expecting. Oh well, for what I paid, it's nice enough! The seller was really good to deal with and shipped it fast so I still left them good feedback.

The only other bad Ebay experience I've had was when a bridle I'd purchased arrived and upon trying it on my horse, the browband LEAKED dye onto my mare's forehead.... Not good.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I don't think I like shipping saddles!!

What a pain in the bum! First trying to find a box big enough to accomodate the saddle and packing materials. Then trying to get a quote for shipping. That's the worst part!!

Yesterday I took the box measurements to the post office in my town, I had the measurements and estimated it to weigh about 40lbs or 18 kg. They gave me a quote I thought was quite reasonable.

So today, before I can send the final invoice to the person, I took the box to the post office, with the saddle et al in it and got an exact quote just to be sure. To my suprise, it only weighs 12.6kg's or 27.72lbs but somehow the shipping is now $30 more expensive and will take an additional 3 days.

I'm baffled!

Now I'm waiting on a quote from UPS and DHL. Hopefully I can get this all figured out in the next hour!

The moral of this story... Keep future sidesaddles and just build more saddle racks in the basement! lol

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goodbye little saddle.....

I did some thinking this week and figured that I really didn't need to hang on to the little saddle with the stitched safe. It doesn't really fit me, nor does it fit my horse.

I carefully listed it on Ebay, making sure to list it's less than perfect condition. It might look a little rough but it is rideable now. I read through the listing and I noticed the way I had written it, it sounded like I really didn't want to sell it. I put a reserve on it and a buy it now price thinking "I really doubt it will sell".

To my suprise this morning, I checked my email and someone had bought it!!! WOW!!! Now to try and find a box big enough to ship it in.

I'm a little sad to see it go because it was really neat little saddle but I really don't need 4 sidesaddles cluttering up my basement... Wait did I say 4 sidesaddles? There was three wasn't there? Maybe I'll have something really interesting to post on next week!

"Hi my name is Michelle and I have a problem....." lol

Monday, February 14, 2011

1922 Country Gentlemen's Newspaper

While I was picking up my saddle I had some extra time on the way home and decided to stop at an antique store I've never had time to go to.

While parusing through some old magazines and books, I found this!
It's in pretty amazing shape considering it's from 1922.

In the newspaper are articles on fishing, swimming, yachting, motoring, hunting, horse shows, polo etc etc. (Although there wasn't quite enough on horse stuff for my liking! lol)

As I was flipping through, I found some really interesting ad's for hunting wear...including sidesaddle habits! Some of the names I recognize, some I don't.

Here's one I recognize!

Aha! Some sidesaddle stuff!
And some more! Swaine & Adney hunting appointments. It's neat to see what they would have cost in 1922.

Champion & Wilton too.

There was also an article on a horse show with a photo of the show ring. If you look really closely, you can see there's a horse jumping one of the fences in the ring.

From now on I'm definitely going to make sure I look through the magazines & newspapers in antique shops!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Look what's back from the saddlers!

Do you remember my $70 sidesaddle find?

This is what it looked like when it arrived.
Kind of looks like it was dragged behind a truck doesn't it? lol

I took it to have some new billets put on it and a balance strap. Well it got that and much more! It still looks a but rough but now it's rideable.

They touched up a lot of the stitching, put some new button screws in here and there to hold things together and oiled the heck out of it. Looks not all too bad now.

New billets & balance billet/girth.

And the off-side.

I really want to try it out but I'm not so sure what it will fit! It's a very fat little saddle and doesn't have a cutback. I don't think this saddle will ever see hard riding but it'd be good for anyone wanting to try sidesaddle.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Speaking of pretty grey horses...

I had a lesson at my friend's barn last night on one of her students horses and wow was it ever good to ride a different horse. This horse had a LOT of potential, let me tell you. The horse was a big grey gelding, very tall and gooorgeous. My first thought upon taking his blankets off was "Ooooh wouldn't he make a lovely sidesaddle mount!"
It's always good to have another pair of eyes to point out things that aren't quite right, and boy are there a bunch of things I need to work on! Lots of bad habits acquired since I last took lessons (at least a few years ago!). My friend told me that I've been riding the same horse for too long, which means I've got LOTS of bad habits from riding Brigit! lol
I definitely wasn't feeling the most confident being on a new, young horse and in a different saddle (it was slippery!!) but it was still a fun ride. I think perhaps this gelding would be a wee bit bouncy for sidesaddle now that I've ridden him! lol He had a LOT of spring in his step at the trot.
We did some jumping and that was a real eye opener!! Talk about SCOPE! From a trot, the horse jumped a tiny x-rail like it was a 4' oxer. I kid you not! I managed to stay with him alright but I made everyone laugh pretty hard by the terrified face I made!! What happened to being fearless and jumping anything and everything? That's sure not me anymore!! lol I wouldn't doubt that this horse will make it to the big jumpers with no problem. It was a real treat to ride a horse with so much potential (although it was a bit humbling... lol). There was a few other times that I got severely jumped out of the tack, which hasn't happened for quite some time!
So I've got a list of things to practice and work on astride. It's good to ride a different horse because you can sure feel where you're not doing things quite as you should.

I think I'll bring some stick-um for next lesson though! lol

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting lost in Chatsworth's gardens

The gardens are why I would have liked to have had an entire day to spend just at Chatsworth. After touring the house we went exploring and we walked & walked & walked and didn't come close to seeing all of the gardens. It was AMAZING.
It was raining/misting lightly but it was nice after how hot London & Windsor had been. Plus there was hardly anyone else there and it made for some great photos.

Chatsworth has it's own orangery. A place to keep valuable plants during the winter. All of the "fashionable" houses had one.

Up the hill from the house is this fountain. It has 24 steps, each one slightly different in height and texture from the other, which results in a slightly different sound from each step as the water falls. It was originally built in the 1600's.

At the top (why of course we walked up to the top!) is the cascade house. It actually turns into a fountain itself. Apparently one of the Duke's was quite the jokester as inside the house there are holes in the floor, water can be turned on to spout water from them and suprise unknowing guests.

My attempt at being artsy. The view down from the cascade house was worth the walk up.
I have to mention how all of the fountains are able to spray water. Up on the hill a man-made pond was built to act as a resevoir. All of the fountains are gravity fed from that pond. It creates enough pressure to send water shooting into the air. Quite the engineering feat considering when it was built.

On to the Japanese garden.

Around every corner was something different, where will this lead us to?

A gorgeous patch of lupines in full bloom and a hedge maze. What stately property would be complete without a maze! (I did make it to the middle of the maze and it took me considerably longer than I thought it would!)

A view of the "Grotto Pond" from the Grotto itself. This used to be a fish pond that supplied the table of Chatsworth with fish.

These hedges must go back to almost Georgiana's time.

Another pond, this one more man-made but still beautiful. There was a family of ducks swimming around, what a perfect home for them!

Statues were everywhere throughout the gardens as well. I'm sure no expense was spared when the gardens were built.

Another view of the house from the canal pond.

This is the "Canal Pond". The fountains in the pond were quite spectacular but unfortunately it was nearing closing time and they had shut off the water.

Walking through the gardens it was amazing to think of how old the gardens were and who walked through them. A note, many of the original gardens were re-done by Lancelot (Capability) Brown, a famous landscape architech of the time. His signature was natural looking parks in comparison to the formal english gardens.

We did see a lot but in fact, we missed a lot as well. We never made it inside the orangery or the greenhouses, we missed the hunting tower, carriage house, kitchen garden and Queen Mary's Bower (Did you know that Queen Mary was held prisoner at Chatsworth for a time?). There's probably more too if a person were to explore. Chatsworth is definitely on my list of places to visit again.

By this time we were practically running back to the entrance to meet our taxi driver, whom we worried would leave if we didn't get there on time. We were sad to have to leave Chatsworth.

Our plan was to go to a small pub in a nearby town for dinner. The taxi driver thought we were nuts for wanting to go "so far" just for dinner. It was only about 10 miles. When we told him how far we travelled for work each day at home, he was shocked! But it was getting late and we decided we would instead eat dinner in Bakewell.
We had "Ploughman's lunch" for dinner, which consists of cold cuts, bread, cheese and some vegetables. It was good and filling after all the walking we had done. And for dessert we had "Bakewell Pudding". It's like a baked custard tart with raspberry jam. Really good! (I attempted to make one when we got home and it just wasn't the same.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The one & only Chatsworth House

If I ever go back to England (which I hope to!) I must, without a doubt, go back to Chatsworth House. It had to be my absolute favorite palace we visited. I love history to begin with but this place absolutely captivated me. Everything was postcard-worthy. Chatsworth is still the home of the current Duke & Duchess of Devonshire. You might recognize it from the movies "The Duchess" and "Pride & Prejudice" and probably a few others!

We actually did Chatsworth the first day we arrived in the Peak District but I decided it really needed it's own post due to all of the photos I took.

First I have to tell you, when we first arrived in Bakewell, someone told us there was "a path" that you could walk that would take you to Chatsworth house. I think by now we'd learned our lesson and knew that it was a) probably much further than implied and b) if we walked there, we likely wouldn't make it there on time and would end up stuck there in the dark. So we took a taxi.
Our taxi driver was really quite funny. We were driving to Chatsworth and we got chatting about deer, we had said that our deer were much bigger than those in England. Then I asked if they had hedgehogs and where a good spot to see them is. His response was "Yes we do, but you usually only see them when they're "stuck" to the road".... Oooh. I was hoping to see a live one.

Upon arrival at Chatsworth we decided we were starving and needed lunch to start off with. The stables have been turned into a restaurant & gift shop. Part of them still remain as stables but not much. I can just imagine this full of horses though. I love the big open stable blocks with the fountain in the middle and the big statue. Gorgeous! The stables were actually quite a walk up the hill from the house itself.

After that we went in to tour the house. Lucky for us (and for you!) we were allowed to take photos inside the house. It is absolutely gorgeous and has many famous paintings on it's walls. Coming in to the house you're met with the grand staircase.

In every room there are fantastic sculptures and artwork.

This one was almost a little bit eerie.

I found myself wandering through the house in awe (and likely with my mouth hanging open! lol)

I got to thinking how long it would take to create a carving like this (it's all wood)

And then I thought to myself, can you imagine how many man hours went into the house and all of it's furnishings? So many people had a part in making this house what it is today.

This is the private garden of the current Duke & Duchess of Devonshire. You might recognize it from scenes in "The Duchess" if you've seen the movie.

Apparently, there used to be a town in view of Chatsworth house but the Duke at the time didn't like seeing it. So he had the town moved out of view of Chatsworth. Can you imagine, moving an entire town because you don't like to look at it???

Not only were we allowed to see the house but we got to see the D & Dss's jewels.

Yes please!

Quite the library, wouldn't you say?

It's hard to imagine anyone actually living here, it seems so much like a museum.

The current Duke & Duchess do still live here though. Not in this part though, they have a wing of the house that's private. We did however meet the Duchess as we toured the house! We had just finshed reading about the family and were walking down a hall when a lady came out of a private door with her little dog. She said hello and we said hello back but it took us a few seconds to realize who we'd just seen!

You might recognize this room from Pride & Prejudice (the new one). Chatsworth was the scene for Mr. Darcy's house.

Apparently at one point, one of the Duke's believed all of this to be worthless rubbish. He didn't like the statues at all and put them away in a basement until they were rediscovered and their value realized.
Oh and there's Meg!

These are only a few of the photos I took inside the house, it was absolutely amazing. This is also where I learned of Georgiana, the 5th Duchess of Devonshire. Her story is absolutely fascinating. To sum it up, she was married at 17 to the Duke, who was very cold, didn't pay much attention to her. His goal in life was to produce an heir. He had many, many affairs (of which Georgiana knew about). The Duchess made the mistake of introducing her best friend to her husband, which resulted in an affair between the two. A 25 year affair. The mistress moved in with them and lived there until Georgiana's death, when she jumped in and married the Duke. She was very hated my many. Right now I'm reading Georgiana's biography and it's very very interesting. I'd highly recommend it.

Tomorrow's post will be on Chatsworth's gardens.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Peak District, My favorite!

From Oxford we took a train & then a bus to the little town of Bakewell. The Peak District had to be one of THE most scenic places on our trip. It was exactly how a person who'd never been to England, pictures England. Most likely because this is where they filmed Pride & Prejudice and various other girly films.

It took us a lot longer than we had expected to get there but we didn't entirely mind, there was so much to look at.

Rolling hills with stone fences and stone houses were everywhere here. I can picture a group of horses & hounds going across this landscape foxhunting, can't you?

Upon arrival in Bakewell, the bus dropped us off next to this stunning garden. It hadn't been as hot & dry as it was in London so everything was green and in full bloom. The whole town centre smelled nice from all of the roses.

Our original plan was to stay at the youth hostel in the town or Youlgreave but due to our trip taking longer than planned, we decided we'd stay in Bakewell instead. We went into the historic Rutland Arms Hotel to enquire about a room, at first it seemed that the rooms would be quite expensive but the wonderful lady at the front desk took pity on us and gave us a room at a really good rate!

But our room wasn't in the main hotel building pictured above, it was across the street in the old stable building! (which I of course thought was great!). They had converted the old stables into guest rooms. You could still see rings to tie the horses in the courtyard and tracks from the wagons under the archway. We had a neat view from our tiny window.

Ajoined to the stable building was a large antique shop with all kinds of amazing things including some old hunt whips and a sandwich case! I just about died when I saw the sandwich case but it was far too expensive for me to buy. I sadly had to leave it behind.

Included in the price of our room was breakfast in the hotel. We felt very posh (and slightly out of place) eating our breakfast in the fancy dining room the next morning.

We also met the proprietor of the hotel. A most interesting older gentlemen with round spectacles. He was also very accomodating to us.
The whole town was full of amazing shops from places to buy woolen garments, to bookstores and then of course there was the bakery! YUM! We bought lunch from the bakery, as well as a day old loaf of bread to take down to the river to feed to the ducks.

I had a lovely cornish pasty. We explored the town and made our way up the steep hill to the church.

The church was very old. That's one thing I was always amazed by, everything is so old compared to home. At home we consider the 1800's old but that is nothing compared to Europe. There were graves dating back to the 1500 and 1600's.

The walk down by the river was really beautiful too.

Feeding the ducks & swans was very entertaining! They would literally follow you up & down the pathway honking & quacking to be fed. They're very brave and would actually take bread right from your hand (but you had to watch those darned swans! They WILL bite your fingers!). The swans were a bit mean, they would chase the ducks away for all the food. While we were feeding the swans we noticed something else, HUGE fish in the river that were also going after the bread crumbs!

We also went to Chatsworth House but that is worthy of a post of it's very own!