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, bathroom...you 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 covered...it'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.