Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A few days have passed since my maiden voyage in a side saddle. I admit, I dismounted thinking something along the lines of “Wow, that really sucked.” But my enthusiasm has recovered. In fact, now it is difficult to wait for the issues to be resolved so I can take another crack at it. So each day I try to do a little something towards resolving the issues.

Let’s face it, even if the saddle had fit the horse and myself like a glove, I still would have a lot of skills to prefect and the saddle would have to be maintained over time. So no matter what I would have had a lot to learn and resources to gather. It was inevitable. My last horse was a very top quality five gaited show horse. He was not an easy horse to train and ride. I guarantee that learning the finer points of getting along with him and stay in the saddle was fraught with just as many pitfalls as learning to ride aside.

Ideally, I would live somewhere where there was an experienced side saddle person nearby to take me under her wing and show me the ropes. Ideally, life would be as it was when these lovely saddles were created, and there would be a saddler to measure and build to suit. Neither one of these things is true.

Of the resources I am aware of, the Side Saddlery in Bruceton Mills, WV is 4 hours away. Sidesaddle Heaven is over 7 hours away. Lillian Chaudray who repaired and reconditioned this saddle, is all the way across America. I’m sure there are many others within half a days drive, but those are the internet for instances that I’ve focused on. Luckily, I have a few people, the person I purchased the saddle from, and Lillian for starters, who have been very gracious in answering my questions and suggesting directions for me to go. Besides that, the internet resources and the books I have are serving fairly well.

So here is what I’ve done thus far:
Reins: I found that Googling “Extra Long Reins” gave me many shopping alternatives. They need to be at least 66” long. American Lady Aside sells long (plain) double reins which are appropriate for a Pelham or Double Bridle, and proportionately pricey. My horse is still more comfortable in a snaffle, so I ordered a set of braided reins from Dover.

Girth: I am not comfortable using the flimsy looking girth extender any more than necessary. I ordered a string girth which will serve as a practice girth. I can order a three fold girth in the future.

Cantle leveling: I ordered a closed cell pad with a cantle lift. This will give me the half inch I think I need until I decide whether or not I need the front reduced a bit. It will also give me a basis for shimming the near side additionally to see if that needs to be done as well.

And finally, the leaping head. I have found how to remove the leather cover. My farrier or another experienced metal worker will be able to heat and reshape the iron to fit my thigh. More about the adjustable leaping head in the future.

And in the mean time, the saddle sits in my living room looking ever so elegant and taunting me as all I can do is shop for her highness and rub her with conditioner. What a life!


  1. I'm glad you're not too discouraged! It will get better! I know the first time I rode sidesaddle I was beyond excited and after the ride, I felt a little down. It was harder than I'd thought, I wasn't very good at it and I thought I was going to slide off often and my back was so sore the next morning. I stuck with it and now it's much more natural and more importantly enjoyable!
    The wonderful thing about the sidesaddle world is that there are SO many wonderful people who are passionate about it and willing to help & share their knowledge. I did most of my learning the same way you are, through the internet.

    A note on the 3 fold girth, look at used/consignment tack stores. I found mine for $15, nobody wanted it because it was odd and didn't have elastic. It's quite old but in incredible shape.

    (and don't worry, I think we all have a sidesaddle sitting in our living rooms.... I know I sure do! haha)

  2. OH - WONDERFUL BLOG!!!! Okay - I have to admit after reading first your description of Lost Elegance and then reading the word "sucked" in this post .. well I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Can't wait to see more Brita!!

    Oh - and BTW - don't fool yourself. Bill almost fell off of his horse too at the canter! If you go way back in my blog, you will see the picture where he is almost completely sideways!!! There were angels flying along side of him on that ride!.. oh but what a wonderful character he is!!

  3. Alex,
    I use a saddle seat humane girth for schooling; it works just fine for the sidesaddle and is easy to adjust. Three fold girths are nice and fairly trumpted by the hunter set as the defacto sidesaddle girth but it is not your only option. The important thing about a sidesaddle girth is that it not have elastic. Anything else is fine.

    4 hours from Bruceton Mills isn't bad at all...that's about how far I am from them. Perhaps you might think about coming down to the ISSO March clinic and sidesaddle weekend. Regular good instruction is always nice, but you'd be amazed how far a few really productive lessons will get you. I had a grand total of 2 sidesaddle lessons to set me on my way; after that I just rode with my regular event instructor.