Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let's just pretend for a while that this blog is all about saddles...

I got another one. Before you start freaking out and saying unhelpful things about "tack addiction" and "horse crazy", let me tell you -- this is no ordinary saddle.  This one, my friends, is an astride saddle. 

Oh, Wen, I hear you saying, Stop making up silly names for things and just get back to stitching up some 14th century doodahs, will you? 

In a while, man. Listen, let me tell you about astride saddles first. A little history lesson, if you will. I'll keep it short. 

You know about sidesaddles, right? Standard for lady equestriennes because throwing one's limb over and straddling a horse was simply too gauche. Unladylike! Mannish! And (according to something I read and now simply cannot find to link, darn it) would lead to stretching of the nether regions, leaving your lady parts loose and unattractive. Ugh! How frightful! 

Except sidesaddles are terrifying in their own right. I think it's everyone's first reaction when they see someone riding in one -- "How on earth do they not fall off immediately?" Plus I was reading an ancient text called The Horsewoman: A Practical Guide to Side-Saddle Riding by Alice M Hayes (1903), and it seemed like almost every chapter contained dire stories of women who were dragged to death after getting their feet or skirts caught up in the stirrup. 

Once men realized that women were bound and determined to ride anyway (and often liked to go faster than a safe, sedate walk without the fear of being dragged to death) they decided to turn this into a money-making opportunity. Women would not simply use men's saddles --no, no! Women were delicate creatures who needed their own sort of saddle: lightweight, attractive, and padded in the right places to provide comfort, while not being so wide as to promote that stretching we discussed earlier. And so men invented The Astride Saddle around 1900. 

This novelty lasted about twenty years until they fell out of fashion and women began using the same saddles as men because they're not completely brainless.

So, we have a type of saddle that was popular for only a few years about a century ago, so uncommon that some saddlemakers have never even seen one. Imagine my surprise when one showed up on an auction site with a starting bid of $25.  I just about lost my mind. I waited until the final hours of bidding before I put in my bid, and I won the auction for the amazing price of $32. 

Wanna see it? 

Of course you do. 

Here it is moments after I pulled it out of the shipping box.
The brass saddlehorn is missing and it's filthy and in need of conditioning.
The fleece on the bottom is patchy and thin.
Poor old girl. Let's get you cleaned up.

Quite amazing what a little saddle soap and water will do.
Someone used zinc roofing nails to replace missing ones.
Those will have to be removed and replaced with proper brass hardware.
The seat is beautifully stitched!
The seat padding underneath -- probably originally wool or horsehair--
was replaced with foam rubber at some point. Ugh.  

After her first rub with conditioner. What a beauty!

Absolutely gorgeous! 
$32. Worth every penny, and more! 
Okay. You guys have been more than patient with my saddle stuff. Next post will be textiles, I promise! 

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