Thursday, December 3, 2009

A new hennin for the holidays

Part of the ensemble of a well dressed lady is her "hat". Our latest hennin is of the truncated style with a "butterfly veil" of creamy silk; crossed with blue silk, and studded with glass beads and golden pearls. Once again Kat of Kat's Hats in the UK has pulled off a stunning vision of handcrafted, red silk, medieval goodness.

Our hennin is based on Giovanni Boccaccio's Le Livre des clèves et noble femmes MS. Fr.599, f.40 French. fifteenth century. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

We can say that we are pleased with the appearance and should have images up in our attire soon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Medieval Hunting Show

I'm pretty excited. We're starting a new presentation at the local museum. As the title indicates, one on medieval hunting. It looks to be a promising one. We will have ferrets, Italian Greyhounds, and Raptors.

It is an opportunity to dress in the proper 15th Century Fashionista stylings of the Burgundian Court. I will finally get to wear my new hennin and show off my Iggies, Evie and Baby.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Side Saddles: Cautionary Tale

Not all side saddles are equal. Recently, I was having Normandie fit for a side saddle and as my regular status indicated, we had some fit issues with the cantle area or lack of one. Basically it was packing down too much and would slide. Fitting takes time. In any case, I remember someone had mentioned a side saddle on consignment at a local saddle shop. So, Gail, Sue and I took a quick road trip to take a look at the saddle. This is the side saddle up for sale.

If you do not know anything about side saddles or assume that they are fitted like other saddles, then you need to find an expert before riding or fitting one. The pictured saddle is an example of a poorly crafted saddle. Things you can't see in the photo: The tree is twisted and slopes off to the off side, the center line is "off center". The finger billets on on the off side have a huge gap that would allow for the installation of an extra billet, the padding as typically found in most English saddles which makes up for the bars of a western, is practically non-existent and allows the saddle to dig into the horse's back. When a rider is sitting on the horse, their left seat bone is hanging off the side of the cantle. There is no saddle beneath them. This is a poorly made saddle by a maker that clearly doesn't know the first thing about side saddles. Ebayers beware.

Oh, did I mention that the balance girth points in the WRONG direction? It angles toward the back of the horse rather than toward the front. If I can obtain the pictures from Sue that we took, you will see what we're talking about.

A Swing and a Miss!

Well this past Saturday, Gail and Sue made the trip north to try to help find a side saddle to fit one of my horses. After roughly 5 hours, we came close, but there were no carrots to be had. Sigh...these saddles are extremely hard to fit.

We tried a Wayne Steele on Normandie. It was fitted and Gail mounted up for an inaugural ride. Normandie walked off alright, but then got half way down the side of the ring and did a little cow kick, almost like he was swatting a fly. It might have been, but then he did it again...this time in protest. Apparently the saddle rolled a little and it started digging his withers. Normandie is stoic when it comes to a lot of things; however, he is quite expressive when something isn’t right.

Gail dismounted and we headed back for the aisle to try the second saddle, a nice Mayhew. Normandie was learning patience as he stood in the aisle and waited while the balance girth was set and then it was out to the ring for a second test.

This one fit him a little better especially in the withers. Bob helped with a “pony” ride; Normandie followed him allowing Gail to concentrate on fit and feel instead of worrying about what Normandie was thinking. The saddle had new flocking and the packing down caused the cantle to dip low creating an uphill slope on the saddle; back to the aisle.

We took the saddle off and bridle again and Norm stood on the cross ties while Sue, super saddler that she is, took the saddle to her car and opened up the padding and began adding more wool. She stitched it up, and we were off to the ring again for another test ride.

Another swing and a miss; it rode better, but the saddle would still roll to the left as you rode. So, the consensus was to wait and try it out on other horses to see if it was a fundamental issue with saddle or something else.

So, Jenn still has no saddle, but we’re still working on it. Sue is cogitating on the problem and we’ll see what happens.

Since they were up my way and I had heard that there was a side saddle at a local saddle shop, we took a quick road trip and it was quite educational. The side saddle is an example of caveat emptor (buyer beware). I will address this in my next post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pisanello Bit Completed

We've always wanted to have a medieval bit made for presentations and to further our understanding of the medieval riding experience, and to improve the overall impression in the field. After looking at several bits and some of the best renderings from artists of the time period, we settled on the drawings of Italian artist Antonio di Puccio Pisano (aka Pisanello d.1455).

This first image is a sketch that detailing the action of the bit and the horse's mouth. You see faint indications of the shank shape. The mouthpiece appears to be a thick snaffle type. You can also see a very simple leather or fabric "curb" with a 'T' connection that goes through one of the bit rings.

The next image gives a clearer view of the bit's shape, purchase, and connections. It also shows the almost ubiquitous bosses. You can also see another example of a curb "chain". In this case it looks like a leather/fabric type that has chain on the ends. You can also see the two types of reins and where they are connected.

When working with the professional bit maker here in the US, I submitted outlines and original images and after a brief exchange of functionality, a price was agreed upon (this is a custom bit). Within a day of the final drawings being submitted, the bit maker sent the next photo. It details the shank lengths and he was offering me a choice of which length I wanted to go with.

The original bit was supposed to be 8" inches to fall more in line with Normandie's 7 shank Myler. However, the image that we provided suggested that the bit in the original art was a little longer. So, after a quick discussion, we decided to go with the longer shanks.

This is the result, the complete bit.

From the time that we designed, discussed, and had the bit in hand was 3 business days. One of those was the shipping.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Side Saddle Fitting

Looking forward to having Sue and Gail up to do a saddle fitting and a lesson. I'm sure that Normandie won't appreciate having a "ladies" saddle on him, but we'll see. There are a few candidates and hopefully I will walk away with a saddle so that I can pick up my side saddle riding where I left off. I think we're trying a few models on him. Sue thinks that the STEELE "ENGLISH PLEASURE" will be the one. I can't recall if we're trying a Circle R on him. I'll be sure to have some pictures taken of the process. This is very exciting.

Pisanello Bit

In the process of examining medieval tack, I decided to focus briefly on bits. I'm currently having a 15th century style bit made for educational purposes and for historic interpretation. The design is based on examples of bits in the drawings of Antonio di Puccio Pisano (aka Pisanello). I'm also currently designing a Medieval style headstall for use with the bit. I hope to post pictures once the bit and headstall are finished.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Advice on a horse for the Good Wife of Paris for the pleasure of Hawking

While researching numerous equestrian oriented topics, a work that I came across, but had only heard of in regard to culinary pursuits was The Goodman of Paris (Le Menagier de Paris, 1393), a domestic guide book that was written for a fifteen year old bride of a wealthy, bourgeois, Parisian man. Like many marriages of the middle ages, the man was no doubt many years, if not decades her senior, so at times the document might sound condescending, but I tend to think of it as more of a fatherly tone as he advises a daughter about life and the management of a household.

Having received Eileen Powers version, much to my dismay, the section regarding the care and selection of horses was not included. Greatly disappointed, but not deterred, I went in search of Le Menagier de Paris. And what should I find but a newly printed work by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose titled The Good Wife's Guide. It contains a similar translation with the major difference, it was complete and contained the portion that was of keen interest to me, mainly that dealing with Horses, which I will not go into any detail here.

My primary goal for this entry is the gentleman’s advice on the pleasures of hawking and the type of horse required.

3.2 Hawking Treatise

1. Item, To complete what I earlier promised you , my dear, I place hereafter what I know about being an austringer and the art of hawking, so that in the hunting season you can divert yourself with this pursuit if you so choose. To begin with, you must know that, for the season, a good austringer readies 9 dogs and three horses for hawking, if he wishes to continue and perform well the duties of the occupation....I will treat later when I speak of hunting with hawks. But here in the beginning, I will first deal with dogs and then horses,...(pg. 233)

5. Item, you must be equipped with a small horse, easy to mount and dismount frequently, calm to ride, and not too lively, does not squirm, or buck, or bolt, or do anything to hamper the sparrow hawk’s return to the gauntlet. The horse must remain quiet and immobile when waiting for its master to mount or dismount. (pg. 235)

Some might recall my earlier entry regarding the Fatal Ride of Mary of Burgundy. She was hawking. I don’t know what manner of horse she rode, but the outcome of her hunt was tragic. Her horse shied and Mary fell from the horse's back and was trampled. She died several days later from the wounds that she received. Was her horse spirited? I'm not certain, however, it did buck according to the accounts.

It seems that then, as now, ones level of horsemanship and the activity in which one wishes to engage, must be evenly matched. I suspect that given his young wife’s age and most likely her level of horsemanship might have something to do with the advice on a “less spirited” horse. Recognizing the potential for danger, even today, we train our horses, so that no matter the discipline or activity, they stand quietly and calmly for the mount.

Books references:
The Good Wife’s Guide by , 2009 (complete translation in English)
The Goodman of Paris by Eileen Powers, 2006


Monday, February 9, 2009

Habit Forming Revisited

My "Woodvylle" hennin for the Fair Lady Aside.

This hennin was hand crafted by Kat of Kat's Hats in the UK. It is a lovely flowerpot hennin made of antique gold colored silk with goldwork and pearls. The edge is lined with black velvet and a lovely silk veil drapes over the wire supports.

The photo doesn't really do it justice, but it just another step closer to the proprely attired lady.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Six more weeks...

I would have been happier if they'd left "Phil" in his tree stump. Six more weeks of winter? (expletive deleted via self censorship). I have a wall of snow and ice walling the front of my house, courtesy of the town highway department, that can be seen from space. Six more weeks is NOT what I wanted to hear.

Ah's to another six weeks.

A season?

The medieval humors would have me listed as "melancholy". While not really sad or depressed, I'm feeling a little solemn and reflective. 45 minute drives will do that to you, especially when you turn the radio off and your brain goes into thought overdrive.

I'm not sure how many readers are familiar with the "A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime", below is a run down...

"When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.

Then people come into your life for a SEASON because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you must build upon in order to have a solid spiritual foundation. Your challenge is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

Recently I've been giving it a lot of thought. I've known many people who have been transitory in my life, but recently, a friend who I had thought would be there for a lifetime has me rethinking that and I wonder if it is becoming more of a "seasonal" thing.

During a recent visit, it seemed that topics of conversation or at least ideas, seemed to be dismissed with only cursory thought. It's something that I noted a few years ago, but thought that it might be just one of those sojourns we all tend to go on when evaluating the sum of our lives thus far. One of the things, and it's probably silly, was that we were discussing a movie that was on TV, and I'd made some comment that I'd thought was innocuous, and they'd just muttered under their breath, loud enough for me to hear, "It's just a stupid movie".

I can't say why, but it really bothered me. It was like my opinion had no validity. I've noticed this more and more since they'd tested and were accepted into the top 98 percentile society. If you don't know what that means, look up the word "table" in Latin.

Things like this have been occurring for a while and it just makes me think that we've drifted apart over the years and that our ideological/religious, socio-political, and personal paths are only going to drive us further apart until one day, we'll just stop talking.

I thought about discussing it, but am not sure how I'd approach something like it. I just don't know. It just something that was really eating at me yesterday and I just needed to voice it to the ether.

End of rambling...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marie de Bourgogne: La Chevauchée fatale

I had read many years ago that Marie de Bourgogne, daughter of Charles the Bold, had been involved in a tragic riding accident, and until yesterday, I really had no idea of the magnitude of her injuries. I didn't even know that an examination had been made of her skeleton. As I sat and translated the few brief passages, an involuntary chill swept through me and I was moved, almost to tears by a woman I had no connection with, who had died over 500 years ago; a young woman who's life was tragically cut short in her twenties.

It was March, 1482. Marie and her husband, Maximillian of Austria, were the guests of the duke of Clèves. Their host had arranged for a bird hunt. So, the royal party set off toward the woods and marshes. Maximillian and the other men set off ahead to flush game. Marie, with hawk on hand, had soon taken a heron. She had sighted another when tragedy struck.

The accounts vary as to what caused Marie's horse to shy and buck violently - a ditch or a tree across the path - what is known is that Marie fell to the ground and she was trampled. Marie was taken to a nearby house. She was tended to by physicians, but the injuries that she had sustained would painfully and eventually end her life.

The forensic evidence supports the accounts of her injuries. She had suffered not only injuries to her hands and arms, but to her ribcage as well: four broken ribs.

It serves as a reminder that no matter how innocuous the trail, how much we trust our horse, and how well we ride, in a glimmer of an eye, we can be taken by surprise.

A woman we knew where we stabled our horses before had made an almost prophetic observation. One of our horses has often been called "bomb proof". She said, "He's so calm and good natured that the one time he actually does spook, you're really going to get hurt". Six years later, that comment manifested into stark reality. Fortunately for my husband, he lived through it with "minor" injuries.

Ride safely.