Sunday, April 29, 2012

New England Frugality

When I was eight, my mom's parents, Clayton & Peggy Blake, were working at the Balsams in New Hampshire. My dad's parents went with us for a visit. At that time the resort was selling off it's trail-riding horses and my Carter grandparents, Dick & Lyndell, got a great deal on a pony for $50. Now Patches wasn't some wimpy little Shetland pony. He was really the size of a small horse and sturdily built. They bought him for their grandkids. At that time, it was me, my sister, Lorna age 6, and cousins Becky age 5, and John age 4. Being the oldest, I got to ride alone first. He came with a halter and bridle but no saddle so into the shed went Grampa and he came out with a strange looking saddle. It was not English and not Western (no horn) and had a big oval cut out of the center. He needed to repair the girth and stirrup straps but otherwise it was in good shape.
The Balsams Resort

The saddle belonged to his grandfather, Augustus M. Carter, who used it in the Civil War. That's right, I learned to ride on a family heirloom. Or in my grandfather's mind, why buy a saddle when there was a perfectly good one in the shed that wasn't being used? No thought was given to sentimentality or the value of the saddle as a family heirloom. I've never seen another saddle like that and had a bit of skepticism about it being used in the Civil War. However, when I was at the NH Historical Society Museum in Concord  this weekend, I saw the exact same saddle design in a Civil War exhibit. It wasn't in as good shape as the one I learned to ride on - it was missing all the padding and leather on the seat but it was definitely the same design with the large oval opening in the center.
Civil War saddle - NH Historical Society Museum
Now this might seem very uncomfortable but as it happens, the opposite is true. The oval makes you sit correctly in the saddle and you actually feel less discomfort after riding all day. I know because I switched over to riding my uncle's horse in my teens with a regular western saddle. It had lots of padding but still wasn't as comfortable as the saddle with the opening. I'm not sure where our Civil War era saddle is today. The last time I saw it was in my grandparents' shed. It might still be there. I think I should try to track it down this summer. I'm quite certain Augustus would appreciate that it was used and not kept as an heirloom. Why pay for another saddle when you can use the one just hanging in the shed?

I have some great memories of riding that pony and I will write about them in another post because otherwise this one would be too long.

T. Richard "Dick" Carter & F. Lyndell Cotton
Clayton Blake & Linona "Peggy" Yates

1 comment:

  1. I just read this blog post and in the background the NH channel 9 news was reporting on an auction selling off artifacts from The Balsams to fund a new renovation by the new owners. I had a good chuckle over the timing!