Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Placemats in Full Color

Here are nice image scans of the side saddle images in the placemat set
A nice grey

Stopping at the Inn

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cleaning Closets

Up until now, my side saddle fund has been $2000.  It has been minorly depleted by shipping the first one in, then off to consignment.  Then shipping the second one in and returning it.  And once I went fox hunting in Virginia which took a nice little chunk out of it....  I have been able to replace it, while also buying related necessary side saddle equipment like girths, long reins, vet wrap and Oakwood conditioner.  But, due to my long legs and my horse's round ribs, it has become apparent that the price range I really need to be shopping in is not the $1500-$2000 range, but the $2500-$3000 range.  I have two possible candidates on the radar in this price range.

With that in mind, I have been hoeing out bookcases, closets, the attic, the basement shelves, in search of under appreciated items that I do not want as much as I want a side saddle.  I've made trips to the consignment shops, listings on Craigs list, Amazon and shortly Ebay to take advantage of America's upcoming festival of spending and self indulgence known as Christmas.  I have been hoarding boxes and padded envelopes, and portioning out my stock of packing peanuts and bubble wrap.  I have denied myself little luxuries like new clippers and tack room clocks. If all goes as estimated, by spring I will have grown my cash stash enough to embark on another saddle shopping spree.

But not to worry, I am still accumulating side saddle treasures.  It seems my mother is also in the midst of "fall clean-up" and I found these gift wrapped and sitting on my tack trunk the other day.

This set of hard board placemats has three side saddle images on them.  I had forgotten they existed, and I am very pleased to have them.  Isn't that the best way to clean your closet?  Get rid of clutter AND give a treasured gift?

Thanks Mom!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Want List: Riding Whip

Available at the American Saddlebred Museum
  I've had my eyes peeled for a nice "fancy" riding whip for awhile.  Of course I have your usual collection of everyday hunt crops and dressage whips but I was thinking of something a bit more upscale.  I've been looking at stag horn hunting crops, but now this has caught my eye.

It sports the George Ford Morris image "Circus Girl" but reworked so the horse appears grey instead of palomino.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

George Ford Morris

Vivian Gooch and Madame X .  Vivian Gooch was an Englishman
who judged the National Horse Show at the Garden in 1918

One of my favorite pastimes as a child was pouring over horse books.  One of my favorites was “Portraitures of Horses” which was a large, leather bound volume containing the bulk of the life’s work of renowned equine artist George Ford Morris.  GFM was born in 1873 and died in 1960.  He discovered his passion for art as a child and his life’s work spans the golden age of the horse in America.  He made portraits of all the famous horses and personalities of the day. Although he himself owned American Saddlebreds, his work includes American Saddlebreds, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Morgans Arabians, draft stallions and hitches, coaching breeds, personal hunters and pets and prize winning cattle.  The human subjects, the owners and riders, are among the elite and wealthy families of the day.   Some of my favorites are featured on horse show posters and magazine covers.  I believe this is the origin of my love for illustration art, particularly that of the 1920s.

Art for a Horse Show Poster The National 1910

Because this is a side saddle blog…  and because this entry is prompted by the new item offered by my favorite gift shop at the American Saddlebred Museum,

Lampshade featuring Mary Fisher and Royal Irish

 I have rounded up a collection of his work featuring ladies aside.  In fact, this image,cooincidenatlyl, is the same one I featured on a recent Blog entry when one of Mary Fisher’s side saddles came up for sale on Ebay.  

Miss Bull on Lady Bonnie

I have clipped many quality George Ford Morris images from the web over the years.  Some of these, I am privileged enough to own in some hard copy format such as prints, horse show posters, playing cards, magazines or magazine over runs and vintage calendars.  My friend who owns Saddlebred Memories makes a few prints of pieces she owns originals of and whenever she makes these available, I snap them up immediately.  The American Saddlebred Museum has recently opened an expansion to hold a gallery of his work, which is on my short list of “places to visit as soon as possible”.

Here is a brief George Ford Morris biography I found on the web Link

"Circus Girl"

There are a couple of collectors who own good portions of his estate.  As you can see here Link, he was also an amazing sculptor, although I am aware of only a few pieces.  One Ebay seller often offers items for sale on Ebay with correct provenance from the Estate, and I am happy to bid on them whenever they come up.

Mrs. Francis Garvan on her hunter Alert.

Original oil paintings come up at auction regularly and can be had for anywhere from $5,000 to upwards if $20,000... maybe some day.

This little print of "Fantasy"and Mrs. Charles Hubbs graces a chest of drawers in my home.

This one of Princess Sonia almost appears to be a companion piece.

One of my favorites, above, was comissioned for a riding school calendar.

And this one for an Armour catalog.

Laramees Harness

His advertising pieces are the most rare.

And even a simple pencil study can be valued at several hundred dollars. 
My passion for George Ford Morris Art is greater than my passion for side saddle.  Or, perhaps, they are one and the same.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hankerchief Slits Revisted

 This is what I love about blogging:  There are people out there, who know more than I, whom I have never met, reading it... and they're willing to share their stuff!!!

These two wonderful vintage photos come to us from the collection of Jeannie Whited.  I just love them.  These smartly turned out ladies each give us a glimpse into the past.  And, they are each sporting a hanky in their hanky slit.

Circa 1880s?
The photo above also shows some interesting off side straps.  When I questioned Jeannie as to their purpose she responded that she thinks they would have been used for a raincoat.  She has some other photos with them shown.

Circa 1910?
How do you supposed this gal keeps her bowler on at that angle?  I don't see a hat cord (which would anchor it to her collar in case it flew off) so my guess is some serious hat pins?
I really like her long and lean little horse.  Plenty of room there for a side saddle.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Miss Mary V Fisher

Presently on Ebay, there is a very nice side saddle for sale.  Listing Here.

This auction was posted on Facebook by Leila, and Nick Creaton identifies the saddle as a Whippy Ladies Show Saddle No 5. First marketed in the 1920's.

Picture from Ebay listing for posterity

The first thing you will note about this saddle, besides that it is in lovely condition, is the very pared down off side flap.  This identifies it a show saddle specifically designed to minimise the saddle's profile on the horse.  Looks like you would have to be careful about what type of saddle rack you put it on.

Picture from Ebay listing for posterity

Actually, the first thing I noticed about the listing is that this saddle was owned by Miss Mary V Fisher of Dixiana Farms.  And that, to a student of American Saddlebred history, is the most fascinating part.

Mary Fisher was the daughter of Charles T and Sarah Fisher. Charles Fisher was one of the owners of Fisher Body, a Detroit car body builder
In 1928, when Mary was 15, he purchased the Lexington Thoroughbred breeding farm Dixiana.  Besides becoming influential in horse racing, Miss Mary, like many socialites of the day, bred, rode and showed American Saddle Horses.

From Famous American Saddle Horses Vol III by Susanne

In fact, she excelled at it.  In 1936, she was the first woman rider to win a Championship Stake class at the World Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair.  She won the 3-Gaited Horse over 15.2 on a horse called Royal Irish.  I believe she repeated this in 1937 or 1938.  There would not be another woman to win such a prestigious open class until Jean McLean Davis won the 3-Gaited World's Grand Championship in 1989 aboard Gimcrack.  Mary Fisher was the first saddle horse rider inducted into the National Horse Show Hall of Fame in 1986.

Miss Mary Fisher aboard Royal Irish painting by George Ford Morris

Miss Fisher was very active showing Saddle Horses in the 1930s and into the 1940s.  Eventually she became more focused on Thoroughbred racing.  I am pleased that one of her saddles has been so well preserved and retains it's identity. 

And, because I just love 1920s illustration art, below are a few fun 1920s Body by Fisher ads for her father's company.  The company continued into the 1980s when it was absorbed into General Motors.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Measuring the Rider for a Side Saddle

In our search for a saddle to correctly fit the unique individual curves of our horse's backs, we must not forget to find just the right fit for the rider. As a taller person (5' 9") with long legs and a curvy figure I am on the lookout for a larger than average saddle.  I am told, and have experienced this myself, that each make of saddle will ride just a bit differently as far as size.   My first saddle was well broken in and there was a distinct "sweet spot" in the seat which drew my seat bones in.  My M&M saddle measured 22.5" and I felt that I was right at the back of the cantle.  The 23" long Mayhew felt as if I had ample room, much more dramatic than a mere half inch.

The trick is to measure the length of your thigh from the back of your buttocks to the bend of your knee.  The following link to the ISSO website shows the tried and true standard method of estimating what seat length will work for you.

Finding a surface to sit on that will place you firmly upright against a wall but keep your thigh horizontal while not interfering with the way your leg will naturally hang is tricky, as is measuring the length of your thigh yourself.  Deb Smith of the Side Saddle Connection has reverse engineered this idea and come up with what I think is an easier method.  I was able to duplicate this on my own coffee table and found it to be so much easier to actually do myself. 

Photo courtesy of Deb Smith The Side Saddle Connection

 *  sit on a flat surface with lower leg over the front edge (eg: a low table, tack box, saddle stand with a flat  top, as you would sit in a saddle)

push a right angle object, such as a weighted box back until the back of your knee is against the flat surface. The box is weighted so it doesn't move or twist when the rider stands up.  (my note**: The box should be quite tall, but I think if you got it too tall leaning back could skew your results.  Belt height would seem to be most accurate.)

Photo courtesy of Deb Smith The Side Saddle Connection

* Measure the length shown by the blue line, this will give the riders leg length
Jeanne Cracknell, also of the Side Saddle Connection, states that she believes that in order to not hang off the back edge of the seat, you should still add 1" to your overall number.
When I measured myself using the wall method, I came up with 22.5".  This was confirmed by sitting in both 22.5" and 23" measured saddle seats.  Using Deb Smith's method I got 21" to 21.5".  Adding an inch makes my likely measurement 22.5" which is consistent with the wall method resuls, but, the box method is so much easier to set up and do yourself.

Jeanne Cracknell and Debbie Smith joined forces in The Side Saddle Connection in order to provide riders with the best possible advice in regards to Side Saddle fitting and riding. They offer clinics, saddle sales, fittings and demonstrations.  My thanks to them for their providing this info and the photos used.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Insanity of Wither Tracings

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
~ Albert Einstein
As I soldier on in my search for a side saddle, I decided to revisit the whole wither tracing thing.  I was going to send a tracing off to another source.  I reached into my closet and pulled out the two cardboard cutouts, carefully labeled with the date.  I straightened the little stack, held them up in front of me and was immediately dissatisfied with their differences.  I decided I would make yet another tracing, but as I tried to go to sleep that night, my thoughts were plagued with the difficulties on making an accurate tracing.  What I really wanted, instead of a wire, was a tool like a profile gage that woodworkers use.  But on a grander scale.
When I finally gave up trying to sleep, I logged onto Facebook early in the morning and posed the question to the Side Saddle community., in one form or another "What do you use to make a wither tracing with?"  In the end, I gave up trying to find a 24" wide contour gage, decided to give up on my collection of wires, and I found a 36" artist's curve to order from the internet.  It arrived yesterday and today, after my ride, I spent at least half an hour laboring over a fresh wither tracing.  My stepfather wandered into the barn and together we checked this cutout from every angle.  His verdict "They can't say you didn't try."

So, here is the step by step process of how I took the most accurate wither tracing I could muster.

This is my Stubben Siegfried which fits us both well.  I rode for quite awhile in order to leave a sweat mark of the tree in the proper place for reference purposes.

The proper place for a saddle to sit, is two fingers behind the shoulder blade.

Normally, you would want a helper to lift and extend the horse's front leg so you could see where the Shoulder Blade travels when the horse is in motion.  Because I have just ridden in this saddle, I know that there were at least two fingers width between the blade and the saddle tree at all times.  Here you can see that the shoulder is up against my ring finger, and the sweat mark is to the right of my index finger.

I place my artist's curve (centered) over the withers at the front of the sweat mark.  Notice the girth mark also gives me a reference point.

Now the TRICKY part.  Unless its 10 below and the plastic is cold and rigid, the curve (or wire) is very likely to sag between the horse and the cardboard no matter how careful you are.  See how this curve has closed?  It is important to have the cardboard set up as close to the horse as possible.

Secondly, you want to trace on the correct side of the curve.  This is the WRONG side.

This is the correct side.  Have someone help to hold the curve firmly in place and be careful not to push it with your pen.

Now, cut the shape out of the cardboard and label the Near and Off sides.

And the FRUSTRATING part.  Put the negative space back on the horse to see if it fits.

You may have another go at placing a freshly measured curve against your cut out.  Starting small makes sense because we can continue to whittle away until it fits.

William got used to wearing the cardboard.  You will note that as the horse moves, and the muscles expand and contract, the shape will fit differently.

20 minutes and many shards of cardboard later, the curve is beginning to fit down on the horse properly.

Make sure the board is upright and level across the top.  Check both sides to see that the curve follows the sweat mark down the side.  Identify tight spots and remove them with your scissors.

See the difference between my initial best effort at tracing and the final "verified" shape?  This is due to the curve (or wire) sagging and closing the angle at the withers.  If you didn't verify that the cut out fits, you would be sending erroneous information to your saddle seller, and we all know the old saying "garbage in garbage out".

Now, find some light weight kraft paper to trace the shape onto.  Do not trace the removed peice of cardboard.  Trace the one you tried on the horse.  Label the Near and Off sides clearly and write your name, contact info and date.  Be sure to write all this info on the INSIDE of the curve so that when the shape is cut out to compare to the saddle, the info is not on the scrap.

Here is my short stack of wither tracings.

My most recent tracing, which I sent to Linda Flemmer for the Mayhew, fits fairly well.  It is an advantage to work with a base line tracing that you have compared to an actual saddle and seen where the fit challenges are with that saddle so you can become familiar with your horse's shape.

With the last tracing and today's tracing superimposed on each other, you can see that they are very similar.  I now feel comfortable mailing this tracing off to match against the next candidate.