I have come to the conclusion that for every hour one spends in the sidesaddle, five are spent on the ground either searching for the elusive "perfect" saddle or having a current one properly reflocked. I thought my Manorgrove and I were destined for a long and happy life together, but since my latest set of fractures it has become extremely painful to ride in; the walk and trot are fine, but just a few strides of canter sends shivers up my spine...and not the good kind, either! My Martin & Mayhew (no, that's not a typo) rides fine, but the tree has been repaired and has a welding joint, so I'm reluctant to put too much strain on it; I'm looking for something that can hold up to a day's hunting. Both of my western saddles fit both me and Owen well and I quite enjoy riding in them, but can you just imagine me showing up to a meet in a Stetson?
So, once again I join the sidesaddle lonely hearts club, searching for Mr. (Aside) right. Or Ms.. I'm not picky.
I helped (wo)man the ISSO booth at this year's Horse World Expo, and both Jeannie and Carolyn, from the Side Saddlery brought saddles for me to try. The first was a Bunney that's been for sale for some time, searching for its forever home. It was sitting on a saddle stand next to me for most of the weekend and I found myself lovingly caressing it as I worked the booth. It was a wide fit with a wonderful narrow offside flap and beautiful linen panels, and on the fitting horse it seemed quite promising. I enthusiastically transported it to the farm and tossed it up on to Owen's back, but even in the dark it was quickly clear that it was a no go. Oddly enough, the long left point fit fine, but the very tip of the offside point dug oh so slightly into his ribcage. In a brief and desperate moment of denial I shifted the saddle back and forth a bit, hoping to find that sweet spot where the saddle actually fit properly but after a few minutes even my strongest hopes were dashed. When I pulled the saddle off and had a closer look I could see that the tip of the offside point was slightly bent in, consistent with the saddle having been dropped at some point in its long life. If I were less caring, if I were less knowledgable, I would have ridden off in ignorant bliss, perhaps with a little extra padding. After all, a Mattes pad can cure all saddle ills, right?
So, I reluctantly returned the Bunney.
But Jeannie had brought an M&M, one of my favorite brands, and one that I've had a lot of luck with on my morgans. She handed it over to me, stating that she was doubtful about its prospects. It's an attractive saddle, with a little wear here and there but has a new suede seat, wide pommels, and the garage door offside, tho' with leather panels which I don't like. But I slogged it out in the sleet and dark to try it on Owen, and lo!, it fit, tho' it needs some additional flocking to the cantle. And when sitting on the saddle stand it fit me, too. I added lift pad to raise the cantle and climbed on.
On a quick aside (no pun intended), I always find riding a different sidesaddle for the first time to be somewhat like a blind date: you never know how it's going to turn out. So, I'm apprehensive climbing into a strange saddle, not knowing if it's going to toss me to the left or cause a bucking paroxysm in my horse. The M&M did neither but I must say it felt odd. I wish I could have given it a good hard ride, but unfortunately the footing is quite bad at the moment and the best I could do was trot and canter a bit on the drive. So, I'm not sure if the saddle doesn't quite fit me or if it still is unfamiliar enough for me to commit. There will have to be some additional test rides to be sure. Against its favor, it has a doubled and stitched balance strap (I HATE doubled strap work) and the billets seem to be in odd locations. The point strap on the near side is so angled backward as to make it unusable on Owen; I have to fasten the balance girth to the 1st billet. It will need a good reflocking to make it sit level, and again I don't really like leather panels. This saddle has also been dropped in the past and the offside garage door is bent in and will need to be addressed; this won't be difficult.
I could consider ordering one of the Melody sidesaddle from a Bit on the Side Saddle. That would be custom but is a risk since I can't test ride it first, and since I'm overseas fitting and corrections to the fitting would be tricky.