Monday, October 29, 2012

Good Morning, Sandy

We're starting to get hammered, so I thought I'd get a post up before we lose power.

Saturday we had an open house and a halloween party.  We had some re-enactor and sidesaddle people show up, along with some work colleagues.  Now, I really take Halloween seriously, and finally I'm living in a house that is crying out to made into a haunted house, so naturally I tricked it out:

I added cobwebs everywhere...this
is the front hall.

...and the stairs...

...the landing...

One of the several serving tables

my kitchen 

I put this creepy lady behind the living room door
so you didn't see her staring at you until you turned
around; note the little mouse on the chair rail.

I threw together this little skeleton
cake, which was a challenge since
my cake stuff is all in storage and I
had to make do with what was to
hand.  It's devil's food (which I found
appropriate) with butter cream cheese

We even used Owen for pony rides!  Occasionally a child grew nervous and clamped down and squeaked, which only made Owen piaffe.  If only that kid knew what he was accomplishing!

And something I didn't have to work on...this is a grave that has been on the farm property since 1894.  It contains the body of Edith Gittings, a little baby that died at the age of three months and is buried on top of a very steep hill, back in the woods and rather far from the main house.  Her's is the only grave we know of on the property.  I wonder why she wasn't buried in a church yard or consecrated ground and why she is all alone out there on the hill top.  We take the care of her grave very seriously and check on her regularly.  Interestingly, once some of the children at the party heard that there was a grave they insisted on visiting her.  It's not an easy hike, but my sister took them out bushwacking to see the site.  The children suggested they say a prayer for her, and they all knelt down and recited a blessing in french.  Children can amaze me.

The horses are all tucked into their stalls, with heavy rugs on, knee deep shavings, and a half bale of hay each in case we can't make it out to the barn before tomorrow.  Several parts of the driveway are already under water.  My sidesaddles, however, are safely inside.  Naturally, when Barb Thelan arrived at my party I had to drag her over to see my newest saddle first thing.  I've made some superficial changes to it, which I'll post at some point.  Currently I have a few more pressing things on my mind...such as 90 mph winds.  But I feel really safe here at Cold Saturday, sitting within 2 ft thick stone walls.  I rode out Hurricane Agnes back in the day here and I'm sure we'll be fine this time, tho' we are having to strategically place buckets around to catch the 10 inches of rain being dumped on us.  This house has stood firm since 1740, and curled up here on the couch with the cats I'm barely aware of the storm outside.  I know we'll lose some fencing, some of the driveway, and possibly the bridge, but everything that counts is hunkered down under cover.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Sometimes you just have to make do with whatever is in the tack room.  I have ordered a queen for my new saddle, but it hasn't arrived yet and I wanted to take it out for a hack.  Fighting the saddle for correct position certainly didn't appeal to me and there wasn't any vet wrap to hand, so in a flash of inspiration I took one of Owen's fetlock boots and fastened it around the upright horn.

Worked a treat!  Had a nice longish ride, including some good cross country trail work.

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Kingdom for a Queen...

At last, a real post with real information!

But first a little gloat...
Here is the view from my kitchen window:

But this old house is long and linear, being only one room wide, strung together like railroad cars, so it's also the view from my living room, bedroom, get the idea.  Kinda makes up for living with the ants and air leaks around the windows.

But back to sidesaddle meat and potatoes.  Since we sold the house I thought I deserved a little treat, and what better way than to add to the sidesaddle stable.  I was looking for something lightweight, easy to toss up on Owen's back, that I could use for training and trail riding, since trying to lift my other western sidesaddle is a real chore that's killing my back.  I came across this little saddle on ebay, and while I don't recommend most people buy saddles that way, I figured it was worth taking a chance on...and I didn't pay much for it.  According to the seller, this saddle was originally purchased from Hundred Oaks and has been passed around on the Arabian show circuit.  Supposedly, it has won some National championships.  There is no maker's mark, and it's origin is a puzzler.

When I first saw the photos online I thought it was rebuilt on an old tree, but once it arrived I was able to take a peak at the tree and discovered it was fiberglass.  I cannot speak to who supplied the tree, but I'm sure some of the saddle historians and experts out there know who is making trees these days.  The style of manufacture (the types of nail heads and spacing, as well as the manner of the leather cutting) is consistent with Pete's Custom Saddles, and I know they do make saddles for Hundred Oaks, but this saddle has some amateurish touches that make it a little like a 4-H project.  The leather used is first rate saddle leather, but the silver is mismatched, like they just scrambled around and put assorted bits here and there on the saddle.  Also, the stirrup isn't even leather's plastic and strung onto an english stirrup leather than has been cut down in length.

Nearside view.  It doesn't ride as down in front as this picture
looks; Owen decided to graze and it popped his back up.  But
you can see what I mean about the stirrup and leather.

In addition, who ever put this saddle together put the tie straps on backwards, with the half breed on the offside and the tie on the near side, something I always associate with people that really don't know sidesaddles.  Once the lady is mounted you can't tighten the cinch, plus the knot from the tie strap forms a bulge under the left flap that I find annoying.

The tree has what appears to be a Steele inspired bowl shape, but you can see it sits nice and level.

What gives with the height and setting of the upright pommel?

But here's the head scratcher:  If one were to go to the trouble of building a new tree (and I assume the maker made several of these, since fiberglass trees require making a mould so why make just one?) why in the world would you make such a tiny upright horn?  Yes, I've seen these tiny pommels on old saddles but if one is building for the modern equine and human figures why not make some adaptations?  Whoever made this tree did make it nice and wide and the seat width is generous, so why not increase the horn height?  Also, the horn placement is a bit low down and back, so there is too much room for the width of the thigh, a total contradiction. (why, why, why...sounds like whine, whine, whine!)  But it makes your right thigh lie at too oblique an angle and cross the spine at an inappropriate place.

The plain offside flap, with no purse or balance strap.  It does
ride level, honest, not tilted down like this photo shows.

The reason I was drawn to this saddle is because there is NO balance strap or offside purse.  Those of you who have read my old posts know my thoughts on balance straps.  I really do understand their role and I would never advocate anyone start pulling their balance girths off their saddles, but for my dressage purposes I find they do get in the way.  My logic is that with a well fitting saddle and the appropriate rider they can be left off.  Now, I would never hunt or event without one, but when I ride in my Chandler western sidesaddle, the rear cinch is left so loose as to be non functional, so I'm not really using one then, either.  And offside purses are cute and decorative, but I've never found them to be particularly functional, always being of an odd size and shallow depth, plus stuff rattles around in them when you lope.

Also, the front rigging is a 3/4 position, one which I'm not crazy about because it places the cinch too far back on Owen.  Yes, it's true that the cavalry used centerfire rigging on their Maclellans, and many cowboys in the past did too, but a lot of those old saddles were designed with narrow horses and upright shoulders in mind, and they don't work for everyone; but it's no big deal to have the rigging changed to a 7/8, which would put the cinch staps further forward.

Mind, even tho' I'm pointing out the flaws in this saddle this does not mean that I am unhappy with my purchase.  The leather quality and structure is good, and the saddle safe to ride in.  And ride in it I did.  We went out on a longish hack, up and down some very steep hills and that saddle really stayed put.  At one point I did experience a bit of roll to the left, but the cinch had worked loose and I'd never bothered to tighten it after mounting.  I was able to recenter the saddle and finished the ride.  My biggest complaint comes down to that upright horn placement, since I couldn't really stabilize my right leg and therefore my seat was somewhat compromised.  When I wedged my hand between the horn and my right leg the situation was vastly improved, proving the necessity for a nice fat queen.  The leaping head also needs bending, but of course my farrier can take care of that the next time Owen gets shod.  Overall, this saddle will work well for what I bought it for; it just needs some tweaking.

This picture shows some interesting wear pattens in the seat.  When the saddle arrived the sitrrup leather was very short, showing that some previous user really cranked her left leg up into the pommel.  At the same time, there is excessive wear on the left side of the seat, indicating that she was hanging her weight to the left and wasn't rolled up onto her right seat bone.
Sidesaddle forensics! (and the saddles don't lie.)

The cats have settled into the new house
very well...LT has such a high stress life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New internet!

Just moved, bought a new western sidesaddle that I'm dying to profile for you all, but moved into the new house only to be informed by Verizon that they can't give us internet connection!  So much for posting!  No chance to ride, plus a new cat has joined our feline herd.  What a total mess.

Stay tuned for evaluation of my new saddle...can't tell you much about it, who made it, etc., but it will be a learning experience for us all.