Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sidesaddles at the Carriage Museum

I made my first ever sidesaddle in April. Usually a new tack item means a week or more spent in the research and pattern development stage. This time however, I cheated. Instead of doing all that work myself, I used the patterns and instructions from Carrie Olguin's Modern Sidesaddles English and Western book. The saddle turned out fine, but I was slightly dissatisfied with the process. I never really felt as though I knew enough about sidesaddles to be making one. Almost as soon as it was done, I sat down and spent a day googling sidesaddle pictures. I was determined to be better prepared before I started sidesaddle #2.

So, I was absolutely delighted to see a number of sidesaddles up close and in person at the Carriage Museum in Colorado Springs last weekend. Pictures are wonderful, but there is nothing better than looking at the actual item. This first sidesaddle was my favorite and it was also the best documented one of the collection. This was Julie Penrose's personal saddle. It was made by Crate Saddlery in London, England around 1885.
I really like the way this one has a skirt--that's the piece that covers the top of the stirrup leather where it attaches to the saddle--similar to that of a regular English saddle. Most of the sidesaddles I've seen just have a little flap. This looks far more elegant to me.
Close up of the horns.
The view from the rear. Like many sidesaddles, this one has fabric covered panels.Unfortunately, the rest of the sidesaddles in the collection did not have any real documentation. This one was most similar to the Crate sidesaddle.
The offside of the above saddle. The slit at the top center of the flap interests me. Does anyone know what it's for?
Front view showing the panels.
Sadly, this Western style sidesaddle was not in very good condition.
I wonder if you could use those little Turkish rugs that are so popular with the Arab costume makers to simulate the tapestry seat?
Again, pictures of the saddle's offside lead to questions. I wonder what exactly is the purpose of that hook?
I don't make very much tack to keep, but sooner or later I'm going to have to make myself a sidesaddle. I've really come to appreciate them over the past couple of months!


  1. I don't know for sure, but the slit at the top of the off-side flap could be to keep a pair of gloves in?? Some side-saddles have the girth billets on the off-side coming out and over the flap, so it could also be for that but it looks a bit too high.

  2. I bet you're right about it being for the gloves. That makes sense and the slit is just about the right size for that.

    Thanks Lauren!

  3. I think the hook on the bottom one is for packages! Like panniers on bikes these days, haha.

    Also Jennifer, I love how you have so many artist blogs on your page! I've found loads of new fun blogs to watch by going through them.

  4. Hi Erin, I wondered about that but it seems like that's a secure attachment. The panniers on packsaddles hang over the saddletree but also have a lash cinch that goes under the belly to keep them from bouncing off. Seems like you'd need the same on a saddle...

    I have more artist links on my "Blogs I follow" list on my profile page. The ones I feature on my blog are generally those of the artists I admire most/the artists who post most often/my friends. I need to update that, though, because I think some of the followed blogs deserve an upgrade! Anyway, thanks for telling me you like that. I do like to have one of the most up to date hobby blog lists on Blogspot!

  5. That slit is probably for the overgirth. I actually have a sidesaddle, similar to the "western" one you have pictures with the tapestry seat, that has the original girth as well as the overgirth. :-)

    Des Corbett

  6. When you have time, check out this blog:

    She has tons of great pictures and information about sidesaddle and would be a great source to ask questions!

  7. SolitaireMare, that is a fabulous blog! Thank you SO much for passing along the link. I can see hours of my life slipping by as I sit and read all her old postings!

    Des, I would love to see pictures of your sidesaddle if you have any. Does the overgirth come up through the slit and over the seat?

  8. These are lovely photos, thank you for sharing them! And thank you, SolitaireMare, for the link to the sidesaddle blog. I have a Stone TWH body on the shelf that is now demanding a set when he gets done. LOL

    I can't wait to see your next creation, Jennifer, it's sure to be lovely.

  9. The slit in the off side flap is called a handkerchief slit. It was for a lady to keep her handkerchief handy.

    The hook was likely for a lady's purse, or a small carpet bag.

  10. Re: Crate Saddle-The slit in the side is for the lady's handkerchief or hunt cap money. The skirt for the stirrup indicates it does not have a safety release stirrup. The usual flaps easily open when the lady's leg lifts from it, allowing the safety stirrup to detach from the saddle to prevent dragging.