My dream is a wreck – literally.

11 Nov

I’ve always wanted to have a pony, everyone knows that! Even though I’m 28, it’s still what I ask my parents for every year, without fail. And specifically, I want to be able to ride sidesaddle.

Why sidesaddle? Because I got the chance to ride in one when I was in Cornwall back in 2006.

Bad position with hunched shoulders, and my right shoulder needs to go waay back!


My lovely horse was Badger, the most patient kind mount who took very good care of me

I thought it was amazing. Also, the history! The costuming! The corsets! The hats! The elegance! And I actually found it very comfortable and secure. I thought that perhaps this was an area I could throw myself into, and be kinda good at.

Turns out that sidesaddles are hard to find, and incredibly expensive. Decent ones were made from about 1880-1930, and after that most got turfed or abandoned in attics. Nobody (yet) makes a new decent, basic sidesaddle because they are hard to make well.

So I’ve been learning all I can about saddles and riding and habits, while procrastinating from studying more important things like medicine.

Sidesaddles are even rarer in Australia and New Zealand. I guess less were made, less were shipped over from Mother England, and our pioneer women didn’t care so much about propriety. And we aren’t very good at looking after our historical artifacts.

I have been keeping my eye on all the second-hand sites, and op shops just in case something turns up. I hear stories of how people find amazing saddles on rubbish heaps or in attics. And since I can’t afford $2500-$3000 for a good saddle down here, I have to consider rubbish ones that might be able to be restored.

The first one I found, the guy wanted $350 for.

It was a very old saddle, probably 1910s

It looked pretty intact, if incredibly dry and cracked

But he couldn’t tell me if the tree was sound or not. The tree is the most important thing, without it the saddle is useless. Leather and flocking can be replaced, but the tree must be sound.

Also, shipping would be around $100. I wasn’t prepared to pay $450 for very sad sidesaddle that may end up being worth nothing. I offered him $50 but he didn’t take it, and it didn’t sell. Que sera.

Then this tattered piece of rubbish appeared.

Oh lordy

What….. on earth……

There’s more missing from the saddle than what remains!


I posted a link to the international SS riders facebook page, hoping someone else would buy it for restoration. And secretly I fell in love with it. I mean, that quilted safe! The design on the horns!!!! And how sad and injured does it look?

Some research uncovered this, from a USA Montgomery Ward catalog from 1895.

Ermergard. It is this saddle! The quilting pattern is exactly the same!


This saddle is over 100 years old! It’s a ‘Somerset’ which is a saddle made for export. Makes sense that if they shipped to the USA they’d also ship to other colonies. It’s not exactly a ‘modern’ sidesaddle, it lacks a cutback head, rides slightly uphill and will be narrow through the gullet. But it does have a leaping horn so it’s not dangerous to ride in like even older sidesaddles.

I found some pictures of other Somersets, they were in the same catalog.

Another Somerset sidesaddle, restored by Lillian Chaudry

This one belongs to a lady in the USA, and is featured in the same catalog


I couldn’t stop thinking about this sidesaddle. And in a moment of sheer lunacy, I thought ‘screw it!’ and used nearly the last of my money to buy it. Yip. It’s mine. I now own the tattered remains of a 1895 victorian catalog sidesaddle.

It’ll cost probably around $2000 to restore. I don’t have that. Hell, I don’t even have a horse!!!!!! But I’m not sure if one of these would ever come up again. The plan is to get it, photograph every detail, rip out all the flocking (which I’m sure is rancid) and spend at least a year cleaning and conditioning the remaining leatherwork.

Then once I have a job and an income, it’ll be off to a professional sidesaddler for an awesome restoration. I think only the tree, heads and the safe will be recoverable. But still I will be riding in a piece of history!




One Response to “My dream is a wreck – literally.”

  1. Theresa November 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM #

    Very, very cool that you were able to rescue a piece of history. Thanks for the lesson, too; I had no idea about any of this stuff, and it’s fascinating (especially as I’m currently about to go read ‘Mansfield Park’ in the bath).

    Keep procrastinating away!

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