My pretty little Victorian park saddle

When I saw this saddle advertised at a very cheap price, I knew that I should snap it up, as side saddles in Ireland are few and far between! It is a victorian park saddle (not reinforced for jumping, literally just for riding around the park looking elegant!), it was narrow fitting, without a cutback head, and with a roller bar fitting for a stirrup leather.

I arranged to meet the seller at point to point races outside of Dublin, luckily my friend Susan was racing at the same venue so I got to ‘kill two birds with one stone’

The saddle had been sitting in a tack room for the best part of 30 years without being used so you can only imagine what 30 years of accumulated dirt and dust had done to it. I like cleaning tack so as soon as I got home I took out a new sponge and set to with hot water.

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I spent over an hour wiping, wiping and wiping some more with the sponge before I ever took out the saddle soap! The leather was absolutely filthy and quite dry, so I had a real job on my hands. My arm got so tired that I eventually called it a day and decided to soap it the following day.

What a difference the saddle soap made! I spent another hour soaping it over and over again. The leather drank in all of the treatment and came up buttery soft and looking gorgeous:

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I know this saddle is very old fashioned as it was originally built without a balance strap and you can see where the balance strap was added on at a later date: Image

It also has only two girth straps:

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so it needs a special side saddle girth with attached short balance strap like this one :

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Due to the fact that the stirrup fitting is a ‘roller bar’ , the saddle needs a special safety stirrup like this which will break apart if the rider is unfortunate enough to fall off.

safety stirrup

safety stirrup2

If a normal stirrup is used with this type of fitting then the rider’s foot would be liable to get caught and she could be dragged.  More modern saddles have a safety fitting which means that the whole stirrup leather will fall out if enough pressure is put on it.

The saddler told me that it’s a beautiful little saddle with exquisite hand stitching and made all of pig skin which is now a very expensive leather to work with. As well as tidying it up a bit and making sure that the girth straps were renewed and safe he said that it should only be used for very light riding as it is very very old (approx 130 years old!)  and the panels will need replacing at some point, but that I should hold on to it as the craftsmanship is fabulous! it should be at least kept as an ornament if I decide not to use it  🙂

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