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Preview: Millésimé Equestrienne

Millésimé Equestrienne

A blog about me, my sidesaddle adventures and the other things I enjoy most!

Updated: 2015-09-16T16:36:20.343-06:00


Chinooks are a treat!


We are so lucky to have a weather phenomenon called a "Chinook" to break up our cold & long winters. Every so often (sometimes once a week) we get a pressure system that brings warm air from the coast over the mountains and brings our temperatures up as much as 20 degrees (celcius). This week we went from a freezing -25 (not including the wind chill) up to a lovely +6 yesterday and today. Through the week we got quite a bit of snow too... So nice weather + snow.... = sidesaddle in the snow! Had a lovely ride out in the snow on Oliver. He's such an easy going gelding that I thought maybe I'd break out a sidesaddle and try him outside. Not a foot wrong and he was EXTRA springy in all that deep snow. His trot felt a lot like riding the piaffe on Robin's Owen. So much fun!! His canter was HUUUGE though and a bit tricky to ride, so we didn't do much of that. What a gentleman though, just having so much fun riding him. Here's a short video taken from before Christmas, we hauled over to a larger arena and had a bit of a sidesaddle play date. I'd say he's pretty natural at this whole sidesaddle thing! :D

Cold nights = Tack cleaning time!


Last night the temperatures here were a frigid -25 celcius, not including the wind chill. I believe that was closer to -40-ish at times... yuck! It was definitely too cold for my lesson kids to ride so we went with a plan "B". We did vital signs, heights, weights and descriptions of all of the horses in the toasty warm barn instead of riding. I was having a look at my collection of saddles in the basement and determined that some looked a bit on the dry side. Mostly the ones that don't see a lot of use. I got the good leather conditioner out and went to work! My favorite product is this stuff, Belvoir leather balsam made by Carr & Day Martin. It's got beeswax and lanolin in it, actually smells quite nice and leaves your hands nice & soft too! Most leather seems to just inhale this stuff and it makes the leathe super supple. Personally, I find using a cloth to clean tack to be a bit of a pain so one day I found an old holey sock and stuck that on my hand and used that for cleaning. Then one year I got some of these cotton "roping" gloves as we call them (prevents rope burn on your hands) and thought... hmm... those would be perfect for tack cleaning! They work great for really getting your hands in & around the saddles to clean & condition. I find it really interesting to compare the english saddles (mostly made in the UK) to the western saddles (made here in N.America). The leather on the english saddles is just like butter, it seems to stay relatively supple and doesn't crack. Some of the saddles look well used but really, don't let on just how old they are. The westerns are a different story. The leather is a lot different and not quite as supple as the english leather. It seems to tend to get surface 'crazing' easier too. My poor old Great West Saddle seems to be a bit of a project to keep from going downhill. I gave it a really good cleaning & conditioning but I think it has deteriorated some since I first got it. I think it had seen a lot of riding & use in it's life, so it's understandable. I think the main reason the leather is so different between english & western saddles is how they tanned them. Must be. I really don't know much about tanning, other than the chemicals they used to use to tan english leather were quite toxic... and are now banned I believe. Perhaps that's why our modern day saddles don't seem to last as long as the old saddles of 100 years ago? I wonder if they maybe used different breeds of cattle to make saddle leather in England vs. N.America? Not sure if that would have much to do with things or not. Different climate too? I think on average, N. America is a lot drier than it is in the UK and perhaps that damp weather helped keep the leather nicer? Though I do hear a lot of people saying that they have trouble with mold & rot over there. We have dry rot here, everything may look fine and then you notice that stitching has just disintegrated. Aside from conditioning saddles regularly, I'm not sure what to do about that. I'm wondering if I should perhaps be using a different cleaning/conditioning product on the western saddles than the english saddles? Lexol instead perhaps? I'm leery to use oil and such as I've heard bad things about it rotting the stitching. Lots of tack cleaning food for thought when we're stuck inside in the winter! [...]

Loooong winter....


Some days the winters here in Canada certainly do seem loooong.... I guess they are long considering it's usually cold & snowy starting from sometime in October all the way until April. It certainly is pretty though... It's lots of fun to go for a ride out in the deep snow (good for the fat ponies too!) on the days that are nice enough. We are lucky to get chinooks here that bring in warmer temperatures and can take us from -20 to +5 overnight (Celcius). It can be a bit tricky trying to blanket the horses appropriately though - always adding layers, taking them off, adding a neck piece, taking it off... In the greenhouses at the college they've starting seeding the bedding out plants for the summer. It's always nice to see them start to grow and know that spring IS coming after all! I "spring" up the house by buying copious amounts of forced bulbs and enjoying those. Some tips for surviving the cold Canadian winter... GOOD winter boots are a MUST! I've got several pairs and have finally found my favorites! I've tried the "Muck Boots" and they are good, until your feet get a little damp (they don't breathe) and then your feet get COLD! They are good to stand around in, as long as you have good thick socks on, they seem to have soles that insulate from the bottom well. Not a big fan of riding in these though as they have zero ankle support or grip on the calves. The Mountain Horse winter boots are nice, though bulky. I prefer them for riding as they have more grip and good ankle support. But for standing around they are AWFUL! My feet really freeze in them if I'm not actively doing something. My favorites so far are the boots I got for Christmas. They are the "Middleburg Fleeced Lined" boots from Dover Saddlery. They were quite tight on the calf when I first got them but I forced the zipper up and they've streched out well. They are warm for riding & standing around, not too heavy and GREAT to ride in! Highly recommend them! Gloves are super important! I love the SSG silk liners, they help draw moisture away from your skin. Overtop of those I put on the SSG winter mittens - the leather ones that have a thumb & a pinky finger separate from the rest of the fingers. SO warm & nice to ride in. A good toque (that's a winter hat for you non-Canadians! haha) to keep your head warm or a fleece headband that fits inside your helmet & over your ears when you are riding. Underbreeches (Mountain Horse) and fleece lined breeches (Kerritts) are also a staple for me! I have 3 pairs and I wear nothing BUT those to the barn all winter long, -20 and all. They keep you warm! For a nice extra layer I bought a pair of winter riding chaps, kinda like snow pants with a full seat breech on them. They're nicely fitted and not too heavy. Though I do feel like I should almost have a pair of suspenders on to help keep them up when I'm just walking around in them. I'm not the hugest fan of riding in them though as with the loose leg at the bottom, they do slide around a bit in the saddle. I won't complain about that though when it's -20! Lots of layers on the top or a down vest/coat will keep you toasty warm. And to finish it off, a silk scarf around your neck. Helps keep the cold air out and is surprisingly warm! Doesn't get all damp & frosty nor is it itchy or bulky like a lot of scarves. The ponies all get nicely blanketed, some have clips to keep them from getting too sweaty when worked and we all end up making do nicely! [...]

A special gift!


I have to say I'm thoroughly spoiled by all of my lesson kids & their parents. Over Christmas I received lots of nice things & cookies! One of the families had told me that they had a special present ordered but it wouldn't be there in time for Christmas. Well it finally came last week and to say the least I was stunned! I think it looks absolutely perfect tucked in the little display alcove together with my ribbon jars and trophies! What a very thoughtful gift!

I'm back! I'm back! It's been way too long!


Sorry everyone, I'll try to get back to posting. The last few months have been insanely busy and blogging definitely got put on the back-burner. So not to worry, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! Over Christmas we moved all of the horses to a wonderful new barn. I think it was almost as bad as moving to a new house! I can't believe just how much stuff we have accumulated but I guess that comes with the territory of teaching riding lessons and owning 6 horses. (Yup... we're up to 6 now... LOL). The horse trailer was absolutely JAMMED full of tack, jumps, blankets and various other equipment. I feel a bit like a tack hoarder... We had lots of help though so it went smoothly and we got everything set up nicely. We are just loving the people at the new barn and the arena is fantastic! Who knew an extra 10 feet in width and 20-30 feet in length would make SUCH a difference but it sure does! So nice to be able to set up a full course and not have to feel like you are doing rollback turns everywhere you go! lol Not to mention the lighting is excellent, no more "scary corners" or weird spooky shadows. The footing is great too, it's really amazing to see the difference that really good footing makes in the horses too. A lot of the issues that were coming up have all but disappeared. Horses are carrying themselves better, more spring in their step and really using themselves a lot better than they were. Horses are happy and so are the riders! We are especially excited for the fields & outdoor arena (HUGE outdoor arena!) that we can use when summer comes! We've already been enjoying the 160 acre hayfield when the days are warm enough. It's a good workout for the horses to go for a trot through the deep snow. It's also a nice treat to have lots more paddocks so we can separate horses according to personality and feed requirements (i.e. We have a diet pen for the fatties). All of the paddocks are a nice size open to pasture turnout in the summer and have big shelters so everyone can get out of the weather. So here's an update on the herd... So there's my main mare Brigit, my nearly 20 year old WB mare. She's having the winter off and has been living at a friend's place, enjoying a huge field and a free choice round bale with her new friend Rusty. Enjoying her round bale. (Who knew 2 horses could make SUCH a mess out of a round bale in only 3 days! lol) And Kodi, the slightly sassy 1/2 arab that loooves to be ridden sidesaddle and jump! Then there's Copper, the little Appaloosa mare we have on loan for a lesson horse. For a pony she has a HUGE stride and LOVES to jump! (as I'm typing this I have the Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer going through my head.... "you know dasher & dancer... donner & vixen....." One of our new lesson horses is Oscar (the grouch), a coming 7 year old TB gelding. He was left behind at our previous barn by his owners and hadn't been ridden in years. One of the other ladies at the barn started working with him and he just had such a great attitude we decided to try him as a lesson horse. Turns out he's a star! He badly needed his teeth floated and didn't have much topline to speak of when we started using him in September but he's starting to look great now! And he looooves to jump! But has enough patience to pack the walk/trot kids around too! Oscar when we first starting riding him. And a few months later! Look at those cute knees! And today, taken at his very first horse show! He certainly has some scope! Then we've got my new guy (now named Oliver) a 4 year old Canadian Warmblood gelding! He's just an absolute pleasure to ride, such a great mind! And yes, we've tried him sidesaddle! And last but certainly not least is our project pony Ricky or "Ricochet". He is a Connemara Welsh cross and THE most fun to ride! He was unstarted when we got him in September and is by far the easiest horse I've ever started. Within a few months he could walk/trot/canter around the arena w[...]

Tail tube or brain teaser?


I've been having a lot of fun with my new gelding, he's incredibly patient in the barn for a 4 year old and just oh so mellow under saddle. Such a treat to be around. I figured I should maybe go pick a few things up for him so I went on a bit of a shopping trip today. He's now got his very own fancy padded hunter bridle and matching martingale. Looks pretty swanky in it too! Now this horse has THE most amazing tail I think I've ever seen. Touches the ground when he's standing in the stall and is thick as can be. I figured I should maybe put it in a tail bag to keep it nice and see how long I get get it hehe. So I bought one of those "tail tubes" that has the 3 separate sections to put the tail in and then you braid it and "voila!". Well... I think that's easier said that done. Slippery tail + slippery fabric = how in the world does this work?!?! After a good while of fighting with it, I got it in and it looks pretty decent. Lets hope it stays in for awhile so I don't have to re-do it anytime soon! I think this winter might involve quite a bit of trailering out to other barns...with bigger arenas. Our arena is just so darned tiny. I'm grateful to have an arena but this guy is just SO big we seem to make it down the long wall in a few large canter strides. I kinda feel like I'm trying to drive a large yacht round a small duck pond on this guy! The one thing I've got to figure out for him is a new name. He came with the name "Cocoa" and I'm just not sure it suits him. He's a big, fancy boy and needs a name to suit him. His sire is "Beau Soleil" and his dam goes back to Northern Dancer. So far I haven't come up with anything good. Hopefully I will figure it out soon so I can quit calling him "the moose" or "Mr. Brown" or whatever else comes to mind at the moment lol!

A new sidesaddle mount?


Well since Rain didn't work out as a sidesaddle horse, I ended up listing her for sale and finding a great family for her. Couldn't let that money sit in my pocket for too long, so it promptly burned a hole in my pocket and I found an absolutely gorgeous Canadian Warmblood gelding. Meet "Cocoa" (yes we're going to change his name! lol) a 4 year old, 16HH gelding by a stallion called "Beau Soleil". Definitely love his attitude already, he's a pretty mellow guy and has a lovely floaty trot and an amazing canter. We just picked him up last night and I'm itching to go to the barn tonight to play with him. And yes, hopefully he will be my next sidesaddle mount!

1st Level - We did it!


Went to a dressage show on Saturday and figured I'd try riding a few 1st level tests. Plus I just really wanted a good excuse to get out and wear my new habit! After sewing & resewing buttons on to the apron to get it to fit just right and staying up till 1:00am the night before cleaning tack & making a new stock tie, I was tired but ready to go! Ok maybe not totally ready, for the life of me, I could not memorize the 1st level tests! I thought I had one but couldn't remember it at ALL! Good thing I had some friends there that could read for me as I rode. Our first test felt horrible. Brigit was really hot & feeling a bit spooky (scary dressage ring!) and pulled on me the entire time. We broke into a canter in the lengthened trot once (oops!). I figured the test was a write off, we got through it but it sure didn't feel nice at all. However I guess the judge disagreed! We won the class! Our second test felt a lot more relaxed and I thought we nailed it. Well except for one part. Brigit decided she liked the lengthened canter a bit too much and refused to come back to me, so instead we ripped around the corner like a motorcycle, broke gait, popped into the wrong lead and finally managed to get ourselves put back together again. I did have one point of contention with the judge on this test, on our score sheet it noted that we had picked up the wrong lead once, which I know for a fact we hadn't (we have other pics that show it! lol) but it's not a huge deal. For the amount of riding/practicing we did (or lack thereof.....), we did really well and we ended up the Open 1st Level Reserve Champion! Woo! Definitely pulled that out of the dark! lol Definitely have some things to learn & work on for next time. The leg yields are definitely a tough part, it's really interesting to get some feedback on things. For instance, our leg yield to the right felt great but as you can imagine, the leg yield to the left is a bit sticky. But again, the judge said our leg yield right was a bit rushed (we still got a 7). To me the leg yield left felt like we just barely got it. I think she was focused on everything else but listening to my cane lol. And now for a picture from yesterday! More to follow. (Thanks to my friend for taking pics!) I'm sure glad it wasn't any warmer, with a wool vest on and a wool habit, stock tie and gloves, I was cooking!

Cold Saturday Farm


Visiting Cold Saturday Farm was another one of those unforgettable parts of the trip. Robin's family used to own Cold Saturday and the now live next door to it. It's a beautiful old stone house built in the 1700's (I think 1760-something? Should have written it down! lol). Robin says the little stone bridge is a lot of fun to drive across with a horse & cart. She used to practice her driving on the little lane-ways around the farm. Below the house is a little log cabin by the pond. There are two stories on where the name comes from. The first one being that the property was surveyed on a very cold saturday during the winter and it was dubbed the "Cold Saturday" place. The other being that the wife of the original owner wasn't too keen on the place and told her husband "It will be a Cold Saturday before I live there!". I think I'd move there in a heartbeat....after I win the lottery that is lol. We had a lot of fun exploring around the grounds of Cold Saturday, so much interesting history and picturesque little areas. This is what used to be the carriage house. Robin's grandmother loved her horses. She had this barn built (in the 20's I think?) for her horses. When she was a child, her family had a terrible fire in their barn and they lost most of the horses. So this barn was very state of the art for it's time; built out of stone with large metal fire doors separating the different sections. Each stall had a door leading to the outside, just in case they had to get the horses out. Robin was telling us that when her Grandmother was alive, there wasn't a cobweb to be found in the barn. There's still a few equine inhabitants in the barn today. This is the front of the "Orchard Barn", which they used to use as a shed for the broodmares. The house even has a walled garden around it. Looks like the entrance to a secret garden. What a treat to get to visit such a beautiful property. At home our history is a lot younger than out on the east coast, so it's really interesting to see buildings that are hundreds of years old still in such great shape and being used & enjoyed. Many of the "older" buildings here were built out of wood and have since burned down or been torn down. Stone buildings are few & far between. I really enjoyed hearing the history of the farm and seeing how the culture & history is valued. [...]

Back to Maryland.... Getting to ride Owen!


Staying with Robin and getting to ride Owen was such a highlight of my trip. What an amazing feeling to have the opportunity to hop on a horse that does the upper level movements and get to play around a bit. First of all, I LOVE Robin's arena. It's just to die for. Started off with some trot work. Working on some shoulder in & haunches in. And then some leg yielding and half passes... On to cantering and getting Owen to lengthen and shorten his gaits in preparation for some attempted canter pirouettes. Some attempted walk pirouettes. I say attempted because Owen totally knew what he was doing, me not so much! But it was still a LOT of fun! Our first attempts at canter pirouettes were pretty sad. They more more of a glorified (maybe not even glorified lol) tiny canter circle lol. I really wasn't asking him properly and Owen was saying "What the heck do you want lady?" lol So Robin hopped on to show me how to do a few and then I tried again. I think by the end I was almost, kinda sorta getting it. What a neat feeling! I definitely think my favorite was the passage and piaffe though! Just amazing to feel the horse come up underneath you like that and really, dance on the spot. Definitely a treat to ride! Thanks again Robin! And Owen too![...]

A greenhouse!


Well we finally have a shed in our back yard and last weekend we finished building a little lean-to greenhouse on the side for all of my plants. Usually in the spring we play the "in & out" game with the planters and seedlings I've started. They go out in the morning and come into the dining room, turning it into a jungle, in the evening. To give you an idea of what our spring is like, the tulips, daffodils and May-Day trees are blooming now (seems like forever since I was in Virginia & Maryland enjoying spring flowers!), the cherry-trees and crab apples are just about to bloom. It's still a bit cool in the evenings (and some days) and there's the odd chance of frost but it's slowly warming up. I did manage to get a sunburn two weekends ago, so occasionally it gets really nice & warm! I've planted three types of onions, radishes, several types of lettuce and a few different carrots. The radish & lettuce has sprouted but no sign of the carrots or onions yet. The sweet peas are coming up now too. I started 7 heritage varieties of tomatoes - Ildi a small yellow grape tomato, Sweet Million a small red cherry, Black Krim a bigger dark purplish brown fruit, Hawaiian pineapple a tasty and HUGE yellowish orange tomato, Fried Green the name says it all, Beefsteak just to have something that matures a bit sooner and Striped Roma's. I found the heritage varities took forever and ever to produce fruit. This year I'm going to make a point of trimming them back so they work on putting more energy into the fruit instead of getting 8' tall. I'm really pleased with my flower beds, most of the perennials have come back with a vengance this year. Well, except for the tulips. I think a mole or vole got into the beds and had an all you can eat buffet over the winter. The one bed in particular looks rather pathetic! I know for a fact I planted at least 50 tulips in it when I separated them last fall and I've had a pathetic 10 come up and then wither away. No flowers at all. No good. I've got a whole bunch of annuals to plant once the fear of frost is gone but for now they're in the greenhouse looking pretty happy. Boy do I love having a greenhouse to keep everything in! I feel like a kid with a new playhouse!

Visit to Robin's


Robin (Sidesaddle Quest) invited me to stay with her while I was on my trip and she had enticed me by telling me I could go for a ride on the fabulous Owen! After arriving and meeting her sister & mother, we decided we had just enough time to go for a ride before dinner. So off we went for a tour. The woods around Virginia & Maryland are so different from our dense forests at home. As we rode, Robin told me about the history of the farm and her family. I of course, opted to do the trail ride aside, why not? Before untacking, Robin and I had some fun with Owen. She taught me how to do a piaffe & passage on him. What an incredible feeling! Such a treat to ride a horse like him. The next morning, we got up and went into Baltimore to see the National Aquarium. Definitely something you should see if you go to Baltimore. It was pretty amazing. I took a ton of photos but here are a few of the best ones (or I'll be here uploading pics all day! haha) The Aquarium is right on the waterfront in the inner harbor of Baltimore. The submarine out front is really interesting too. There was also an old ship in the harbor that you could do tours of. Inside the aquarium there is so much to see. Inside you work your way up to the top of the building and then you get to this long spiral walkway that takes you down through this enormous tank. As you go lower the types of fish change and there are even some pretty good sized sharks. It was neat to see the divers in the tank feeding the fish. (not in the shark tank of course! lol) This is an interesting photo of what baltimore used to look like and what it looks like now. Lots has changed! As we enjoyed our lunch, we watched the little "dragon boats" out in the water. Unfortunately Robin didn't think much of my idea to rent one and paddle around the water lol. I think it's an interesting juxtaposition seeing those dragons touring around out in front of the old submarine. After touring the aquarium and having lunch, we went back to Robin's farm. We took the scenic route home and saw some huge thoroughbred farms & lots of neat old houses along the way. We stopped at a beautiful old church where Robin was married. Her family has a long history in the area. We had a bit of time to relax and then we had to turn back around and drive to the Baltimore Airport to pick up my friend Lee who was joining us for the ISSO Clinic weekend. Poor Lee! Her flight had come in early and she had arrived at a different terminal that we had expected, so we couldn't find her. We wandered around the airport for a good hour or so looking for her. Finally we found her and heard how the entire trip down had been a bit of an adventure. (Note to self, do not EVER fly though Toronto Airport or on Air Canada again....). For dinner we stopped at a neat old pub and chatted about sidesaddles and horses for at least a few hours. What could be better? Good company, good food and lots of good conversation![...]

Oooooh snow....


Well so much for painting jump poles and perhaps planting a few things in the garden today. Woke up to a pretty good snow storm. Great big flakes coming down. Luckily it's stopped now and is just raining but it's fairly rotten out there. Definitely not going out to play in the garden today! Good day for puttering inside!

Day 5 Goodbye Virginia - off to Maryland!


My next stop was Annapolis. I really didn't know much about the city of Annapolis but I'd been told that it was somewhere that I really should go. So on my way to Robin's house, I stopped and did some touring. At first I ended up in a very industrial, rough looking part of the city, I definitely wasn't in the right spot! I wanted the historic section down by the water. After stopping by a hotel, I found a touristy map and I was off again. Annapolis was definitely a good choice! So many neat old buildings, antique shops, history and seafood! Yum! After I found parking, I went around exploring the historic section. This church was sort of a central spot, there was a gigantic traffic circle that went all the way around it. Some of the buildings around the church. Lots & Lots of brick everywhere. Something you just don't see up here in Canada anymore. A gingerbread looking house. And the amazing back garden behind it. More neat buildings around the Maryland State House And this is the Maryland State House, did you know that Annapolis was the temporary capital of the US for awhile in the 1700's? This is the main street leading down to the docks. Lots of neat little shops down here. A very interesting old street and buildings. They really made use of their space! I wandered down to the water and had a look at the boats on the Chesapeake Bay. And had lunch at a pub (More crab cakes! Yum!) right by the water with a nice view of the town. The server told me about a historic house, The William Paca House, that was nearby that did tours throughout the day. William Paca was one of the people that signed the declaration of independance. Apparently he built this house shortly after he was married. The house was really interesting (but I couldn't take photos) but what I really enjoyed was the large garden behind it. As you can see, the garden was beautiful, I can only imagine what it must look like in the summer when all of the flowers are blooming. On the way back to the car (where did I park again???) I saw some more neat houses and features. This must have been a grand old house in it's day. The front staircase is so interesting. After my tour of Annapolis I was back on the road and headed to Robin's house. I got there with just enough time that we had a chance to go for a trail ride through the woods. Their farm is just beautiful and has some very interesting history! I think I'll save those pics for my next post though, it definitely deserves it's own post or two![...]

The deconstruction of the Parker & Parker


On the weekend, I finally got brave enough to start taking apart the little P&P saddle I acquired from a friend. The stitching had let go and the safe was slowly detaching itself from the nearside flap. It also needs new billets, overgirth & balance strap and probably quite a bit of flocking. When I was at the ISSO clinic, I learned how to drop panels and do a bit of flocking, so I figured the little P&P saddle would become my "sacrificial lamb" so to speak. I was going to give saddle fixing a try! I've also had a LOT of helpful advice from numerous saddlers and sidesaddle experts on what to do and how to do it, so I was feeling like I had enough knowledge know to give it a try (or enough to be dangerous! haha). The first problem was, I didn't have any of the right tools to do the job.... But curiosity took over and we started poking & prodding it. I used a flathead screw driver and gently pulled at the tacks holding the panels on at the front....and out they came with a slight groan from the wood. Now we could kindof see into the inner workings of the saddle but we needed to get the points of the tree out of the point pockets. One came out quite easily but the other was STUCK. Really, really STUCK. We pulled and tried everything we could to get the nearside point out of the pocket but it just wasn't going to happen. I was worried if we pulled too hard that we might rip the leather on the panels. As the stitching was starting to let go, we figured that we would just cut the stitching on the point pocket and re-sew it back on later. Good thing we did, we would have NEVER gotten that point out otherwise. It looks like it maybe corroded a tiny bit and then glued itself onto the leather of the point pocket. We had to peel them apart. So now that we had the panels free, we could actually see the tree, the panels and the webbing underneath. Really interesting! You can see the metal reinforcing the tree and there is a very small bar right behind the main reinforcement. Not quite what anybody would call a "hunting bar". As someone told me, I doubt this saddle was ever intended for jumping, it was likely made for a teenager to go for a tour in the park on. Ok, so now that we had the panels dropped, we needed to figure out how we were going to fix the safe... that really was what we had originally planned to do. It's amazing how one thing leads to another and then to another. My boyfriend's suggestion was to take the entire nearside flap right off the saddle. I was pretty leery of doing this and balked at it but he insisted and starting pulling tacks. First off were the tacks holding the front of the safe to the tree... Lots of tacks up here. Next step was to remove the rest of the tacks holding the nearside flap on.... Can you believe the entire flap was held on only by the tacks at the front on the safe and 4 tacks at the back? I thought there would be way more and that it would require a lot more work to remove. Not at all! I have to say, I'm glad we did end up taking that whole flap off, it would have been a massive pain in the butt to try and restitch the safe back on, with the flap still attached to the saddle. While I began trying to restitch the safe, my boyfriend starting looking at how the billets & balance strap was put on. Can you believe the balance strap was held on by TWO tacks. That's it!! I guess there's a reason they say we shouldn't over-tighten things! [...]

Virginia Day 4


I was lucky to have a tour guide today. Someone that had grown up in "Old Towne Alexandria" which is just outside of Washington, DC. So off we went for a tour. I'm glad I didn't have to drive as there sure was some really confusing roads and LOTS of toll roads! FYI, I think the makers of the GPS systems and the Toll roads have a secret arrangement. If you are lost, the GPS will NOT take you the most direct route.... it will take you to the nearest toll road.... As an interesting side note. Apparently this is what Washington looked like waaaay back when, before they built the land up and drained parts of it. Alexandria was really really neat, lots of old buildings and history. I loved going through the antique shops, you really get an idea of what the area was like back then. One of them was full of antique silver table settings of all kinds. It's interesting to see the different things compared to the shops up here at home. This is Captains Row (or Rowe?), it's the oldest original street in Alexandria, the cobblestones have been there for hundreds of years. This is something I found really interesting. I saw these metal stars on the sides of buildings all over the place. Apparently they are actually structural supports for the brick buildings to keep the walls from bowing out. They run a metal pole through the house, from one side to the other and these decorative looking stars are actually the end of those. We had lunch at a place called the "Fish Market", seafood chowder and oyster po-boy sandwich! So good! And we found an interesting little gift shop where the hot item I was told was the chocolate covered peanuts. Apparently they grow a lot of peanuts in Virginia, who knew? Not me! (They are pretty tasty too!) I was also told that the pineapple was a symbol used to show hospitality and people would carve it into the columns near the entrance of a house or plantation. Here's some more history if you're interested in reading it. After lunch we drove out to Mount Vernon, which was George Washington's home. Unfortunately we couldn't seem much from the road and we didn't have time to go in and do the tour. It's on the list for things to do next time. Apparently George Washington would ride his horse from his house in Mt. Vernon to Alexandria, must have been quite the ride back then as it was a decent distance apart. Along the way we saw the Pentagon... The Washington monument... Dogwood flowers everywhere. I wish these would grow up here! The Lincoln memorial... This was just beautiful, the Eleanor Roosevelt monument with tulips in full bloom. (If you look in the background, the round dome is the Jefferson Memorial) Fort Mc...something... There was a fort on each side of the river, they were there to protect Washington from anything that might try to come up and attack the city. Here's the fort on the other side of the Potomac river, you can see what the backside of it looks like. They had great big cannons on top and stored all of their ammunition below. Did you notice how there are no skyrise buildings in Washington? There is a statue, on top of one of the monuments and there is a law that says nothing can be taller than the top of that statue. Interesting isn't it? Another neat thing we saw was the planes flying into the airport. They are required, by law to follow the course of the Potomac river, they are not allowed to fly over Washington for ANY reason. We came back from Alexandria and I had another sidesaddle lesson, this time from Jane Nordstrom on a lovely Cleveland Bay mare Savanna. She has a canter that's just amazing! You could r[...]

And the collection grows.... W. Musgrave sidesaddle


I think I should start this post with "Hi My name is Michelle and I have a problem..... I'm running out of room in my basement!!" lol Yes I have acquired yet another sidesaddle! It is a beautiful W. Musgrave sidesaddle made sometime between 1880 and 1910. I saw the little tapadero stirrup (my toes *just* fit into it) and the beautiful stamping and knew I had to have it! I especially love the hearts stamped onto each corner of the skirts. I believe the conchos are nickel and the saddle strings are all original. A few have broken off but they were carefully tucked into the offside purse. It was a lucky Craigslist find, I really can't believe no-one else snapped it up before I did! I was a bit nervous dealing with Craigslist and someone I didn't know but it turned out great and the saddle arrived safe & sound on Friday. I wish I could find more about the saddle maker. All I know is that Walter Musgrave was born in Illinois in 1860, moved to Montrose Colorado and married is wife in 1880. They had a saddle shop there from 1880 to 1910 and then moved to Oregon after that. I believe he eventually died in California. It's obviously a very special saddle with the hearts stamped into it. Perhaps he even made it for his wife? (Sounds like a nice story doesn't it?) Isn't the purse on the offside pretty? Even the strap (one is missing) that the cinch attaches to is stamped to match the saddle. I think I will find a local saddler that has a similar stamp and get them to make another strap to match. Even the cold iron cinch rings are decoratively covered to protect them from corrosion. It even has a neat little grab handle on the off-side, just in case things get a little western! The seat is really comfortable too! It's a big saddle but surprisingly, not that heavy! I think my english one is heavier than this one. That surprised me anyways. Looks like it was well loved & taken care of. Yesterday I brought it out to the barn with me to try out on Rain. I figured with her low wither and slightly "round" silhouette, it might fit her. And I was right! Doesn't she look cute in western gear? Poor pony didn't quite know what to think about it though! I was bumping & bumping with my left leg and she kinda stood there like "Umm what do you want?". We finally got motoring and even tried a bit of trot, she's pretty smooth! Sidesaddle horse in the making for sure! It sure feels different than the english sidesaddles, I almost felt like I was sitting up there in a dish on top of a horse lol. I didn't want to do too much riding in it because those latigo straps were pretty crispy (I think I need to get new ones) and I didn't have the back cinch on to help stabilize it. Hate to chance it sliding sideways and wreck it![...]

Virginia Day 3


I decided I was going to venture out on my own Monday and have a bit of a tour around the area. I had a bunch of places that I thought I'd like to see, so armed with my (less than updated) GPS, I was off to explore and try not to get too lost! (I did get slightly lost a few times though and discovered some pretty neat things!) I started my day off by going over to Warrenton, home of the infamous "Horse Country" store. What a fun (and expensive!) store that is! I enjoyed looking at all of the hunt attire and tried on some to die for brown dress boots (droool...). Luckily for my bank account they didn't have any that fit me... Instead I found an original copy of "To Whom the Goddess" to bring home with me. I toured through the town of Warrenton after that, another neat town with lots of historic buildings and lovely architecture. Found a really interesting tack shop/wine store combo... Bought some nice wine to bring home there and then continued on my journey, found a few more tack shops along the way (picked up the elusive brown spur straps I was looking for) and made my way back to Middleburg via a scenic route I had been advised to take if I wanted to see some neat stuff. I toured around Middleburg some more, enjoyed going through all of the antique shops (all of which have hunt whips galore in them!) and the tack stores and had a nice lunch at the pub there. I have to tell you about the hunt whips and sandwich cases at Middleburg Tack, there is an entire WALL of them, I was so tempted but they were kind of expensive so I thought I should pass. Met up with Devon again and she took me for a ride through the Middleburg hunt country! Definitely the best way to see it!! (Yes I was totally being a horsey "tourist" with my camera out as we rode along haha) Another busy but great day![...]

Virginia Day 2


Sunday Maggie had arranged for us to go for bunch in Upperville at the Hunters Head Tavern which dates to the 1700's. We met up with half a dozen other ladies from the area that also ride. The food was great and so was the horsey conversation. After that it was off for a ride with Devon on her lovely gelding Quest. The whole trip was great for putting faces to names and meeting all those people I had emailed but never actually met. We hauled over to a beautiful arena to ride. The scenery is just stunning everywhere. I had a great lesson with Devon and got some fantastic things to think about and ideas to take home with me. Though I really do kinda stink at jumping sidesaddle..... One day I hope I figure it out! lol Finished off the day by picking up the habit that I got from Devon, a BEAUTIFUL smokey grey-blue wool 1930's habit owned by one of the a hunt propriotess of the area. I feel very lucky to have it (and to fit IN it! haha). Can't wait to wear it out to a show.

Trip time!


I finally have a few minutes to put some posts together about my AMAZING trip to Virginia & Maryland. I have to say, the people were wonderful, the scenery was great and there was so much to do! I crammed as much as I possibly could in and even still felt like I didn't see & do enough. I guess that means I'll have to do another trip! So I flew in on a Friday, late afternoon and arrived in Baltimore to a REALLY warm, humid day! What a difference from the below 0 temps and snow at home! The Balitmore airport was HUGE and after much walking, I found my luggage, hopped on a bus and off I went to the rental car facility. Then it was off to Ashburn to a fellow sidesaddle rider's house. She graciously offered to put me up while I was in the area and it was wonderful to get to know her. (Did I mention that I can't wait to go back?) Everything was in bloom and so warm! Love it! Saturday we went to a show to watch her horse compete at a local show. We stopped at a coffee shop called the "Cup o Giddy Up!" for a cup to the coffee and then were off to the barnSavanna is a lovely hunter! I just love this photo with the cherry blossoms in the background. It was a really nice misty morning. . After we watched Savanna go, I went back to Middleburg to tour the town and do a bit of shopping and of COURSE hit up the Middleburg Tack Exchange! What a fun store! So much used tack & neat stuff all crammed in there! I loved the tack stores in Virginia & Maryland, there was so much stuff that you just don't see up here and can't buy really. The town is so beautiful, they really work hard to keep that old style charm feel. Lots of brick and beautiful buildings. Then I went to meet with Devon Zebrovious and her husband George. They took me with them to the Piedmont Point to Point races in the afternoon. It absolutely POURED all afternoon but it was a wonderful time! There was pink champagne, snacks and lots of nice people to visit with and as Devon put it we watched the occassional horse run by lol. As you can see, I looked like a drowned rat by the end of the day but it was well worth it. On the way back we took the scenic route and toured around looking at all the historical houses & farms. Just unbelievable countryside! A busy first day in Virginia![...]

A place for everything & everything in it's place!


Remember my idea to create a holder/rack for all of my antique whips? Well I found all of the pieces and put it all together the last few days. I found the hooks at an antique store in Havre de Grace, Maryland and carted them home with me. A lady that runs an art gallery in town found the window for me. She has a client that makes mirrors and home decor stuff out of old windows and he has a stockpile of them to choose from. So after some measuring, drilling and conjuring up some artsy inspiration, this is what I ended up with. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out! I took a combination of old photos, prints/paintings, photos of me riding and some special ribbons. The red one is my first horse show ribbon ever, the blue & white is my first 1st place ribbon on my old mare Hazel and the big one is my first high point ribbon. Pics of the trip to Virginia & Maryland are coming too!

What an AMAZING trip!!


I got back from my trip to Virginia & Maryland a few days ago and I'm still working on getting unpacked, laundry done & house tidied up. Hopefully in the next day or so, I'll have some time to upload some photos & do a few posts about my trip. I honestly can't wait to go back to that part of the country again, I had such an amazing time! Stay tuned!

Hallmarks & Maker's Marks


Since finding that interesting whip on my latest antique store excursion, I've been really curious to see if I could find out who made the whips I have and when they were made. That in itself would tell quite the story! Most of the whips I have have little markings on them, which I'm assuming means they are silver. There is one or two that doesn't have any marks, so I'm going to guess that those are not or are perhaps just plated silver. This is the maker's mark on the whip I found most recently. It looks like a running fox with a "Trade Mark" stamped underneath. Someone had suggested that this might be the mark of Samuel Fox who was actually famous for inventing a new, more sturdy, umbrella frame in the late 1800's. I guess he also might have made whips in his shop. I've yet to confirm this but it sure would be interesting! This is the engraving mark on a larger whip, probably a man's whip. It simply says "Z.K. 4696". My first thought was that perhaps the "Z" could stand for "Zair" but I don't think so. The initials "E.A." are engraved on the one side of this one. This is definitely a ladies whip. I wonder who "E.A." was? On the other side you can see the silver hallmarks (I'm told "hallmarks" and "maker's marks" are different) that almost look like little squares with crowns on the top. This last one is likely a ladies whip as well. It has a very ornately engraved silver collar with a space left open for the owner's initials. Underneath that space are the tiny initials "J-H" inside a small diamond shape. Not sure if this is a makers mark or a silver hallmark. Thus far I haven't had much luck researching these marks, it's partially because I'm not entirely sure where TO look to find out. It'll be a fun project when I've got some free time to kill.

A few more days.....


And then I'll be hopping on a plane, on my way to Maryland for a week of horse stuff, touring around and the ISSO clinic weekend & awards banquet! I'm REALLY looking forward to it but at the same time, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything I need to do or remember. I've already started piling "important" but "might be forgotten" items on the spare bed so I don't forget them. I am a terrible over-packer too. I guess I can probably blame the crazy Alberta weather for that somewhat, you never know what it will be like so layers are good, as are winter boots & a coat.... Will I need those? Hope not! I'm really wanting to try and pack a minimum so I've got room to bring stuff home with me and not have to pay for tons of extra baggage. (ok, ok, it'll likely happen anyways... lol) I still haven't quite figured out how I'd bring a saddle back with me on the plane, *should* the chance arise... Y'know, have to make sure I've covered any possible scenario. This week I've gotta do laundry, teach lessons, hopefully ride a few times, pack, clean my boots & not forget my helmet at the barn. GPS unit is updated, hopefully I won't get horribly lost trying to navigate my way around. Got the camera, extra batteries & charger. What else do I need?

Trail horse?


Perhaps Rain is trying to tell me that she's not meant to be a jumper (though when she chooses to do it, she's quite good at it..). This morning I had one of my students ride her and she wanted nothing to do with jumping or going over poles at ALL. She's suddenly decided she's not a fan of jumping and is scared of the poles. She was in a slamming on the brakes or deer jumping over the x-rails mood. Not good. . A friend of mine put on a trail course practice day, after the way this morning went, I really wasn't sure how the afternoon would go. Would Rain be really spooky or good? Now I've never been much of a "trail" class fan but I had an absolute blast this afternoon. I've never had a horse I could do it with though, so that sure makes a difference. . They had all kinds of stuff set up to play around with. A kiddie pool with a rope tied to it that you could dally around your saddle horn and drag with your horse. Balloons, a hula/grass skirt and a flag to carry. A teeter-totter bridge that would tip as you walked across it. A "pool noodle" wall to walk through, tarps to walk over, poles to back through, a giant blow up Santa and all kinds of other stuff. The really fun part was an elevated bridge that had several steps to walk up & down. . I was SO impressed with this little horse this afternoon. Absolutely nothing phased her (ok ok, the colored poles & tiny x-rail was still "scary" for some reason...) and she took it all in stride and did everything the first time I asked. There was a lot of people commenting that they'd been working at some of the obstacles ALL day and we waltzed in there and seemed to be able to do everything. Pretty good for a green horse! My friend said she thinks my horse is trying to tell me she doesn't want to be a jumper... Maybe she's right?? . Here's a photo of us on top of the bridge. (I think I was more nervous than she was that she'd fall off! lol)