The weather lately has been really uncooperative as far as riding.  Early in the week, it was so cold that the footing–which had been perfect over the warm weekend–was frozen into a concrete like substance, so that any real riding, and especially any jumping were out.  The big ring, which doesn’t get so much shade, got warm enough that I was able to do a little dressage work in there midday on Monday, much to Cally’s chagrin.  Let’s face it, she’s not happy being stuck doing flatwork for weeks on end, and really mentally does so much better when I can pop over a fence or two most rides, even if it’s just a crossrail in my dressage saddle.

But!  Finally, on Friday, it was foggy and damp but above freezing, so lesson was a go!  I’d only hopped on in the sidesaddle briefly when she arrived, so this was going to be our first lesson in it, since Holly was eager to try it out, too.  The fit was a bit better with a little padding behind, but was then too tight at the withers, thus pushing the pad out, pretty much confirming our fit thought on what needs to be done with flocking.  I’ve got a call in to a saddler who does major work on sidesaddles (as well as regular saddles) to set up an appointment for reflocking, so hopefully I’ll have something lined up for that within the next week or so.  For now, we’ll do a bit of tweaking with pads, and no major-major riding/jumping.

Holly hopped up on her first, and did a bit of w/t/c until she was going nicely and relaxedly around, instead of a giraffe who’d had four days off and just wanted to gallop.  She did a small jump with her a few times, and Cally was a bit more enthusiastic than was necessary for an 18″ cavaletti.  So we decided as I hopped up that perhaps no jumping for me, until she’d had a proper astride jump school or three!  But I was eager to mount up and start getting a real feel of my sidesaddle!

Incidentally, the saddle’s previous owner saw my last blog about it’s arrival, and commented here on it. I’m so glad that it’s prior owner is happy to see it out and about and getting used, and hopefully doing a lot of fun things in the future. She also mentioned that this saddle had never had a name, unlike her other sidesaddle, which had come with one. I pondered that one a bit, since these old English-made sidesaddles are grand old dames, who probably do deserve a name. Since I used money I got from my grandparents’ estate to purchase it, it seemed only right to use a name that in some way honored them. So my lovely saddle is going to be Josephine, or “Jo”, after my grandmother’s mother, as my grandmother was a great lover of horses and so supportive of my riding, and would probably have appreciated that the most.

The biggest challenge on Cally sidesaddle is the lack of a right leg to keep her right shoulder from popping out, since that’s her favorite evasion from having to be straight and round and through and carry herself properly. Figuring out how to compensate with my seat, and having to use a bit more hand, was a good lesson, though. Once we got round and forward though, it was suddenly easy to sit up there, and allow the forward at the trot.

I have no idea how you’d do this on a horse you have to create forward on. The great thing about Cally aside is that I just have to think allow, and then channel the forward into through, and we’re golden.

The canter is actually a bit easier to sit, as it’s a smoother gait, and while she’s not as round as she is at the trot, she’s pretty uphill, so it’s easier to stay with it.

The big challenge with the canter is that you really have to sit like you would in a dressage saddle and plug your seatbones in to the seat.  I tend to want to close my hip a bit foward like the hunter person that I am, as I always struggled with in dressage, and that leads to you bouncing a bit, like you’ll see in this canter clip from us going left.

Why post a video of us looking not-so-amazeballs, you may ask? Because this is a blog about an adult amateur trying her best to learn new things and sometimes that process involves some imperfection as we figure things out.  Or, you know, a lot of it.  It doesn’t start off perfectly, but the more you do it, and work at it, the better it gets.

And the rewarding thing about sidesaddle, much like Cally herself, is that when you’re doing it right, it’s suddenly easier.  Like when I planted my ass in the saddle, it was suddenly totally great to be sitting up there, and we could have cantered along all day but when you close your hip forward and bounce around, it feels a little like you might die at any moment.  So, self-correcting in that way.

Yesterday we had a nice little school in the regular saddle, and jumped a few small things with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm.  Then I plopped the sidesaddle on for a few laps of the ring at the trot and canter, then headed out for a little walk.  I need to get used to just riding in it, doing things in it, not just admiring it for being pretty.  I mean, it is, but it’s also going to take some practicing both in and out of lessons, and I’ve got a whole winter to work with it while we’re having a little less intensive lesson schedule.