Contrary to popular belief, riding side saddle is as safe, if not safer, than riding astride. Most equestrian disciplines are open to side saddle riders, and few horses fail to adapt to side saddle. Aspiring side saddle riders find the skills are different, but no harder to acquire. You will find that most breeds and types of horses and ponies are willing to carry a side saddle, but you are recommended to seek specialist advice from a qualified Side Saddle Association Instructor to get your horse or pony properly introduced to side saddle. Seminars and training sessions are run throughout the year to enable our members to continually develop their skills in order for them to take part in a wide range of disciplines including Equitation, Hunting, Hunter Trials, Ridden Hunter Classes, Retraining of Racehorse Classes, Team Chasing, Dressage, Show jumping, Quadrilles and demonstrations to name a few of the activities our members participate in.
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Many people trace the history of the side saddle back only a few hundred years, and so they treat it as a relatively modern invention.
- For women, sitting aside on a horse dates back to antiquity.
- You might think that horseback riding styles fall into two categories -- English or Western.
- As absurd as this may sound, the sidesaddle took hold in the 14th century to protect the virginity of a teenaged princess traveling across Europe to wed the young King of England.
- This is absolutely fascinating and so helpful for my research.
- Sidesaddle riding is a form of equestrianism that uses a type of saddle which allows a rider usually female to sit aside rather than astride an equine.
- I really impressed by your post.
For women, sitting aside on a horse dates back to antiquity. For the main part, men rode horses; women were merely passengers, sitting behind the men, either holding the man around the waist or sitting on a small padded seat or pillion. This was partly due to their long, heavy skirts; it was impractical to ride astride.
The idea of it being indecent for a lady to ride astride can be traced back to , when Princess Anne of Bohemia rode side-saddle across Europe on her way to marry King Richard II. Riding side-saddle was seen as a way to protect her virginity. Soon it was considered vulgar for any woman to ride astride. By the late Middle Ages, it had become obvious that for ladies to ride a horse, a saddle would have to be specially designed to allow the woman to control the horse but still maintain a proper level of decency.
The earliest functional side-saddle was a chair-like construction, where the woman sat sideways on the horse with her feet on a footrest, designed in the late 14th century. Catherine de Medici is said to have developed a more practical design in the 16th century. Rather than keeping both feet placed side by side on the footrest, she placed her right leg over the pommel of the saddle, so as to show off her shapely ankle and calf to their best advantage! Riding this way allowed the rider much more control of the horse and even allowed the rider to trot and canter safely.
Riding at speed, sitting aside. This additional pommel gave women both increased security and additional freedom of movement when riding side-saddle. This allowed them to stay on at a gallop and even to jump fences while hunting and show jumping, whilst still conforming to the expected levels of propriety and modesty.
At this time it was almost exclusively ladies of the higher social classes who rode. Indeed until the s, riding and dance were the only socially acceptable physical activities for girls and women of the aristocracy and upper classes.
Diagram showing the position of the legs when riding side-saddle. By the Victorian era , the posture of a woman riding side-saddle was very much as it is today. The rider sat astride, with the right hip back to allow the shoulders to fall into line.
The right leg was placed on the front of the saddle, with the left leg bent and resting on the saddle and the foot in the slipper stirrup. Before this time, usual day wear was worn for riding. These safety skirts buttoned along the seams and later developed into an apron skirt buttoned around the waist, just covering the legs which were encased in breeches.
In the early 20th century it became socially acceptable for women to ride astride while wearing split skirts or breeches, and the side-saddle began to fall out of fashion.
And so by , riding astride had become totally acceptable and the preferred method of riding for women. However, during the last few years there has been a revival in the art of riding side-saddle.
Indeed, a new British side-saddle high jump record has just been set by Michaela Bowling — at 6ft 3in! The stagecoach was the most popular mode of transport for people and goods in Britain in the 17th, 18th and…. The Epsom Derby will always be remembered for the tragic incident when Emily Davison, a suffragette, threw herself in….
Diagram showing the position of the legs when riding side-saddle By the Victorian era , the posture of a woman riding side-saddle was very much as it is today.
This was initially conceived as a way to protect the hymen of aristocratic girls, and thus the appearance of them being virgins. While on a speaking tour of the west in Los Angeles, she collapsed and died of pernicious anemia in The sidesaddle tree differs from an astride tree, most notably by the structure of the pommels but also due to a much longer saddle point on the left side of the saddle. Nevertheless, these two women were sisters in the saddle. And so by , riding astride had become totally acceptable and the preferred method of riding for women. Hoefnagel, This allowed more security and control, giving the woman the freedom to stay on top at a gallop and to jump fences.
Side saddle horseback riding. I live in Devon
Riding Side-Saddle | Historic UK
One piece of equipment, the sidesaddle, represented this social, political and equestrian domination. And while it is common knowledge that the American suffragettes achieved the right to vote in , what has gone undetected is that these brave women rode into the voting booth as second-class citizens on a sidesaddle, then galloped out astride.
Thus, an equestrian revolution came about due to a second, undeclared and hitherto forgotten, civil war which tore the American nation into conflicting camps. It was conducted between the two opposing female equestrian cultures of East versus West.
Like their brothers, the original Central Asian women riders mounted up in order to participate in travel, sport, war and pleasure. The most famous early example were the Amazons, whose daring exploits in the saddle upset generations of Greek men, as those toga wearing pedestrians quailed at the idea of meeting hard-riding, trouser-wearing women. Nor was the idea of mounted women geographically restricted, for equestrian cultures including the Mongols, Comanche and Hawaiians later took justifiable pride in the equestrian skills of their women.
History, Bjarke says, is about how mounted humans changed the face of the globe. During the s authors such as Chaucer wrote about women who routinely made lengthy journeys riding astride. She rode a pacer astride, carried a whip and wore spurs. Other women also adapted split skirts, or if riding to war like Joan of Arc, donned armour. Yet in an incredible historical irony, it was a woman from Bohemia who caused nearly a thousand years of equestrian repression to transpire.
With the rise of feudalism, and its off-shoot, patriarchal politics, the need to secure a male heir was an affair of state and protecting the virginity of a potential royal bride became increasingly vital. One way to protect the royal hymen, and off-set the accidental loss of virginity, was to prohibit aristocratic girls from riding astride. Thus sidesaddle riding was introduced into England in when Princess Anne of Bohemia travelled across Europe via this new mode of equine transport in order to wed King Richard II.
For those unfamiliar with the history of coaches and carriages, it is important to note that due to the lack of passable roads, driving a coach as a common form of transport would not take place until the dawning of the 19th century. That is why, lacking a road, the virtuous virgin was transported to England in a chair-like affair that was based upon a packsaddle design.
In addition to a padded seat, this new contraption provided a pommel in the front which could be used as a rudimentary handgrip. A wooden plank, wide enough to accommodate both feet, hung along the left side of the placid beast of burden. From routing Greek foot soldiers, once bold women had thus been reduced to the status of packages being delivered to the highest political bidder.
Thus the advent of the sidesaddle can be traced back to the English court and this Bohemian queen. Not all women bought the idea of riding sidesaddle, though the longer the sidesaddle was around and the more it was used by royals, the more society believed it was the proper way for a woman to ride.
For example, public opinion was of no particular consequence to Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia , so she rode astride and demanded that all women in her court follow suit. However a strong implication now dominated the European horse world. An unwritten law stated that only a woman as masculine as an Amazon, as libertine as the Wife of Bath, or as heretical as Joan of Arc, would have dared to ride astride. The sidesaddle began as a flat, padded platform but it soon underwent several mechanical transitions, which, although designed to provide the female rider with more control, ended up entrapping her.
The first great change was the addition of a horn which enabled the rider to wrap her right leg around this projection in order to obtain stability. This improvement allowed the rider to face forward and gain a further sense of security.
By this time the footrest had been replaced with a leather-covered slipper stirrup which housed the left foot. This interim system permitted the rider some stability, at least at slower speeds.
While it was true that certain daring women used this improved sidesaddle to jump their horses more than six feet, and ride to hounds across England and Ireland, what the riding master neglected to mention was this combination of horns also locked these women into place on top of a notoriously dangerous animal capable of immense speed and lightning fast evasive maneuvers. Concessions to fashion ensured that the immense riding skirts, as well as special corsets, kept the rider erect, rigid and uncomfortable.
Additionally, the sidesaddle was labour intensive. A man could mount alone. Yet it took two men to help one lady get onto her sidesaddle. It also handicapped the rider in another way, communications, as unlike male riders a sidesaddle rider could not apply the pressure of her leg to the right side of the horse, nor give her mount any signals with her thighs, knees, or heels. Sadly, if she was involved in an accident, a girl was more likely to suffer serious injuries in a sidesaddle.
When fox hunting men had riding accidents, the small English saddle was designed to throw them free of the massive horse. But when the horse of a female fox hunter fell, the heavy sidesaddle trapped the women underneath the pound animal because she could not fall clear of the saddle. The result was that these women often had their backs broken and were invalids for the rest of their lives.
What the fans, and foes, of the sidesaddle could not have foreseen was that as the 19th century drew to a close, this revered icon was about to become involved in a global equestrian debate which raged through the press and across the world of the Long Riders. After Long Rider Daisy Bates migrated from Ireland to Australia in the s, she rode miles in her sidesaddle across the Outback. Yet while Hayes and Hitchcock worked hard at protecting the equestrian status quo, lady Long Riders were quietly breaking down social and equestrian restrictions on both sides of the Atlantic.
When she ventured to Hawaii in the late 19th century, English Long Rider Isabella Bird learned to ride astride thanks to her Hawaiian hosts. In addition to rounding up the wild cattle imported by the King of that island, the Mexican vaqueros had also taught the local women to ride astride. Bird not only adopted this technique, she used her vaquero saddle when she later explored the Rocky Mountains, Japan, Persia and Tibet on horseback.
Similarly, when Ethel Tweedie left London, she had not planned to forsake the sidesaddle. Yet like Isabella, upon her arrival in Iceland, Ethel discovered that the local women rode astride like their male relations. Riding man-fashion is less tiring than on a side-saddle, and I soon found it far more agreeable, especially when traversing rough ground.
My success soon inspired Miss T. The signs were there for those who understood them. Moreover, these omens carried geographic clues indicating that a host of defiant Western women were no longer willing to acquiesce to New York and London. Meanwhile on the other coast, the Los Angeles Times reported that 25 women had been elected to the prestigious Vaquero Riding Club, whose members were all expert horsemen and descendants of Spanish grandees. The paper also noted that all of these Californian equestriennes preferred to ride astride.
Nor was this new generation of Western women willing to quietly withhold their political and equestrian views any longer. In this diminutive pistol-packing Long Rider made an mile solo equestrian journey across America that took her from Wyoming to Oregon, south to California, across the deserts of Arizona, and on to a triumphant arrival in New York City. Throughout the course of her long journey, Clare publicly stated that she associated her desire to vote with her right to ride astride.
Yet these were individual acts of courage. What was needed was a mounted champion who could turn the tide of equestrian history. And that woman, and her horse, were ready to lead the charge towards political and equestrian equality. Her name was Inez Milholland and it was her destiny to lead an equestrian and political revolution, the intertwined implications of which have never been previously studied.
Like Alberta Clare, Milholland realized that mobility was synonymous with escape from a male-dominated society. That is why, in addition to being a suffragist, labor lawyer, correspondent, and public speaker, Inez Milholland ranks as one of the most important female equestrian leaders in American history, for it was on the back of a horse that she liberated her sisters from the sidesaddle, as well as helping obtain them the right to vote. She did this by making three rides astride which changed the political and equestrian landscape of America in a few short months.
In May, Milholland saddled up a fractious bay and led 10, marchers across New York. Cut off from her friends, and alone in the middle of the howling mob, it looked as if the drunken thugs might pull down the suffragette rider. Instead Inez spurred Gray Dawn and charged the rabble. Thankfully, before her bluff could be called, US cavalry troops galloped in from nearby Fort Myers.
In the ensuing melee, the cavalrymen cantered up the avenue, crashing into civilians and clearing the way for the beleaguered suffragettes. Yet not even the cavalry could fully contain the wrath of the attackers who darted in behind the army, determined to kick, grab, curse, howl and spit at Inez and her fellow protestors.
As the injuries rose, ambulances were called in to cart away hundreds of wounded spectators and suffragettes. But the women marched on. Finally, many weary hours later, Inez and her fellow protestors reached their goal.
The nation was aghast at how they had been treated. Inez, however, had no time to mourn. Two weeks later she was in the saddle once again. This time she led 10, marchers through a peaceful New York. That was her last great ride and it ended at a rally witnessed by , people. Then, like a candle that burned too bright, this mounted symbol of hope and equality died at the age of 30 from pernicious anemia.
American women were finally granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution in The Presidential election of November , was therefore the first occasion on which women in all states were allowed to exercise their right of suffrage. Likewise, even conservative Washington DC reported a simultaneous shift in the values of their equestrian community.
Thus, the fall of the sidesaddle is linked to the rise of female liberty, for it was the dawning of political freedom which brought about the overdue death of this repressive equine invention. The extent of that dramatic social change began to be apparent in the early s when women were offered the option of equestrian equality. They abandoned the sidesaddle in droves in favour of riding astride. Then, when the acclaimed film National Velvet was released in , women old enough to have spent their childhood in a sidesaddle watched the young girl, Velvet Brown, dream not of being a pretty face but of winning the Grand National steeplechase while riding astride.
She too wore a split skirt. However, Nan lived up to her name by shooting up any town dumb enough to try and pass judgment on her sartorial decision making. Havre, Montana — August, There were six young women who competed in the bronc riding competition. The broncos chosen were as villainous a crew of ponies as ever got together. There was no pretense about sidesaddles as all the broncos were ridden astraddle. The mix-ups were so lively that it seemed the riders would be reduced to their high heeled boots.
But there were no serious rents in garments and not even a scratch on any pretty face. Yet what would the New York girl think if she saw the Indianapolis girls in their riding skirts, bare headed and riding astride at a merry clip? You are only more conventional. New York — February, There is nothing particularly new in the wearing of trousers by women and the divided skirt has been threatening us a long while.
However, the tailor-made gown is as near to the masculine fashion in attire as most women ever care to get. Los Angeles — May, For Sale — Smart riding suits for women that combine utility, comfort and trim style. Cowgirl , and first published on Horsetalk.