Saturday, 8 July 2017

Getting used to sitting aside

The day after the RDA lunch I made an exciting new acquisition - my first ever side saddle habit! I managed to find a (relatively) inexpensive one online that was within driving distance so, on probably the wettest day in the year, I drove for an hour along tiny country roads to a little yard to try it on and (yay!) take it home.
About this wet, but not as cross!
I've had one side saddle lesson since then which was an opportunity not only to get some more practice in but also to learn how to tack up and how to arrange the apron (skirt bit). Putting on a side saddle is rather more complicated than putting on a regular saddle. The steps are:

  1. Carefully place the saddle (plus numnah) on the horse's back, a bit further back than you would place a regular saddle. 
  2. Take the main girth and attach it to the bottom holes of the second and fourth girth straps (counting from the front) on the near/left side of the saddle (underneath where your legs will be).
  3. Go round to the off side and attach the same girth to the bottom holes of the first and second girth straps (counting from the front again).
  4. Go back to the near side and tighten the first girth as much as possible - once you're on board it isn't possible to make any adjustments to this side so do them now while you can! 
  5. Take the balance strap (a long, thin girth) and attach the flattest end to the first girth strap on the near side.
  6. Pass the balance strap through a loop on the underside of the first girth, then bring it up to attach across the horse's flank to the fourth girth strap (from the horse's head) on the off side, across the horse's flank. Tighten it as far as possible on the near side.
  7. Now there's only one more girth to go! It is already attached on the near side (it's sewn in) so pass it through the loop on the first girth then go to the off side and fasten it to the remaining girth strap there - which should be the second one. 
All of this takes some time... (I hope I've got it all right; I have tried to recount this from memory!).
Philippa attaching girth 1 to the 1st and 3rd straps on the off side.
I had taken along my habit, thinking it would be handy to learn how to wear the apron. I hadn't thought about potentially wearing the jacket too, though, otherwise I might have worn something other than a baggy polo shirt. I might also have changed the hat cover...!
We had the chance to run through my test and practise a few important moments. I need to remember to sit up and use my core to stop him as well as squeezing my legs together as much as I can. Rolo felt quite lively and I had to do quite a few half halts, which was useful as he is much more responsive to them in a side saddle so I've learned now to be a bit more subtle!
I have no idea how the competition will go next week. I'm quite lucky that I've got something of a practice run before doing the dressage by doing the showing class on the Friday evening. It will only be my fourth time riding side saddle so hopefully there will be more improvements between Friday evening and Saturday morning! I've ridden Rolo a fair bit recently and I've also been able to spend some time just getting to know him better and I do feel that we understand each other pretty well.
I seem to grin a lot when I ride him, anyway!
I don't have nerves about riding side saddle per se but I do really want to do a good job of it. Philippa Kemp-Welch, my instructor, has been so incredibly kind in lending me the saddle and all its gubbins, as well as posting a good luck card and a dummy spur which arrived today, and of course for teaching me! I've also been contacted by the lovely RDA stables manager at Hartpury, Katy Downing. She is a side saddle pro and has offered loads of help and advice. The horsey world is so lovely! I really want to do people proud but this is definitely a step into the unknown. I've never ridden side saddle outdoors before so that will be another new thing to tick off the list!
Bring it on!

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