Early christmas

15 Nov

My sidesaddle arrived on the WORST day possible – the day before my awful surgery exam.

The moment the postie pulled up in front of my window, the dwindling motivation I had for study vanished completely.

I was as excited as a puppy! But then the postie pulled out the parcel and uhho……

The ‘She’ll be right’ packaging attitude

I assumed that the seller would ship it in a box. I even asked him to make sure it was well packaged so it didn’t get any more damage in transit…… oh dear.

Enough stamps??? LOL

He’s a junk dealer and I saw he had some stamp collections for sale. All the stamps were from 2010 and 2011 so I think someone’s collection finally got used!

Stamp-o-tastic

And so began the nerve-wracking task of unwrapping the saddle.

Slowly emerging….

He’s wrapped it in an old feed sack, then plastered it with sticky tape…..

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

…. which included wrapping layers of tape directly to the fragile old leather!!!!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEK!

Very slowly and carefully I removed the tape. Luckily the whole saddle is covered in so much dust and dirt, the tape didn’t pull at the actual leather much. And it gave me the first glimpse of what the leather will look like once cleaned.

GAAAAAAAAAH!

The other sort of tape he used did pull layers of leather from the seat, but that doesn’t matter because the leather on the seat is toast anyway. Thank goodness that tape wasn’t on the precious horns.

And more unwrapping

He did have the sense to unscrew the leaping head for shipping (which is probably quite helpful as since I have trouble unscrewing the petrol cap on my car, I would have found it hard work to do this) but look, more sticky tape on leather….. sigh.

Then the overall assessment began.

There was damage to the top of the fixed head, but it didn’t include the embroidered pigskin. Yay!

The nearside of the saddle, my thumb holding up the stirrup cover flap which is as hard as concrete and slightly cracked.

The stuff (and lack of stuff) on the nearside confused me for quite a while. There’s a basic stirrup fitting – not a safety one so I’ll need a safety stirrup, and next to it is one billet, I think. There is the remains of another next to it, sewin onto a piece of canvas and overlying a thick strap of leather. It’s been cut off. I’m thinking this was a sort of girth guard? And the other strap under the stirrup fitting was the 3rd billet? For the balance strap? Hmmm. The leather of the panels at the very base of all this is all wrinkled and hard, from being sat on the floor for many years.

This stuff is all visible because someone has cut off almost all of the flap. SOB. To the extreme right is the edge of the safe, which has become completely unstitched from the flap. Then there’s a narrow strip of flap with the rivet. At the very top of the girth billets is the other remnant of the flap.

Nearside point in it’s pocket

However the tree point on this side seems intact and the pocket is perfect. Win!

AHHHHH NOOOOO WHYYYYYY?????

The shipper had also folded the precious, fragile, cardboard-like embroidered safe in HALF and tucked it underneath itself for shipping. !!!!!!! That crack was probably caused by the folding. I felt like screaming.

*Facepalm.

Luckily it was very easy to pull out – something I did very gingerly!

The unfolded safe

Phew. The tip of the safe is swept upwards from sitting on a floor, and it’s rock hard like that. Will take lots of TLC before it’ll straighten out.

Top of the safe

The only damaged-looking bit of the safe is up the top, where it looks like water or mould has grown.

Under the safe

The whole safe is coming unstitched from it’s backing and the edges are curling but that hasn’t really affected the body of it.

The inside of the safe

The top layer of pigskin was backed with this coarse wool fabric, and the embroidery was done through both layers. Then the leather backing was added, and horsehair stuffed between the fabric and back layer of leather.

The leaping head

There are paint flecks all over the saddle – someone must have been cleaning paintbrushes nearby in the shed it was stored!

Base of the fixed head

The sad thing is, I don’t think most of this damage was wear and tear – just being treated like junk after it was no longer ridden in.

The seat – or what remains of it

And then of course there is the pillaging. A big square of leather has also been cut off the seat, as well as both flaps. Part of me wants to murder the person who did this, but I’ve never lived through a depression and had to resole my shoes with whatever could be scavenged from other things nearby.

So the leather has been cut off, then the material (it’s like sack cloth) has either perished or been eaten by mice, exposing and removing a layer of horsehair padding. Then there’s another incomplete layer of leather, and under that are straps of the fabric, running across the saddle. Under that are layers running lengthways. This, I think, is to support the saddle so it doesn’t collapse when you sit on it.

The remains of the balance strap

And of course the balance strap has been chopped off…

The pocket

… but the lid of the pocket is still there! YAY! And it looks like the body of the pocket has been worn away instead of chopped off.

I forgot to take a photo of the offside billets, but all three are there if as hard as steel.

Underneath the pocket on the offside

And surprise surprise, the offside flap has been hacked off too. This remains of another strap on it confused me for a while, but after seeing a picture of another Somerset from the offside, I realised that they had ‘Y’ balance straps. The balance strap from the cantle met this one coming from the pommel on a metal ring, then continued as one strap under the horse’s belly.

The offside point

The offside point isn’t in such good shape as the nearside. In fact, a big bit got broken off in the post. I’d be really pissed off but it already had a matching piece broken on the right, so needed repairing anyway.

Washing around the leaping head site

Then out came a bucket and cloths, and my friend Erica helped me sponge off some of the thick dirt and dust. The leather just LOVED the tiny amount of water it got. Look at the beautiful chocolate brown of the wet patch compared with the seat!

The nearside after a spongedown

Looking better already! But while doing this we found mouse poo and spiderwebs, and the dust and smell was awful. So before any proper cleaning and conditioning happened, it HAD to get fumigated. If it’s survived 50+ years of neglect in the outback, it can survive another day.

So it was with great sorrow I soaked rags in flyspray and put them in the gullet area, and the whole saddle incased in two big black rubbish bags overnight. At least that meant I couldn’t play with the saddle anymore, and had to return to my textbooks!!!

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