Side Saddle History
Ladies have been riding in England side saddle since 1382, the famous early advocate of this art was Anne of Bohemia – wife of Richard II. Initially the saddle seat was a padded cushion which also came with a padded shelf called a ‘planchette’ for the rider to rest her feet on. During this early period the ladies sat facing sideways as the horse was led forward by a groom. In the sixteenth century the saddles had changed to have a horn at the front allowing the ladies to face the direction they were being led. Furthermore, side saddles were in regular use by ladies and gained momentum when hunting became a more popular sport in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ladies needed to keep up with the rest of the hunting field, Monsieur Pellier of France was attributed to have invented the leaping head which allowed ladies to leap (Jump) whilst riding. This relevant development enabling ladies to jump fences, and a host of other safety features, makes the modern side saddle a comfortable yet safe option. During the twentieth century it became socially acceptable for ladies to ride astride, but a band of enthusiastic riders keeping the elegant art in practice culminated in the Side Saddle Association being formed in 1974. Ashford Valley Hunt’s originator John Buckland was a keen huntsman with his daughter Betty Skelton riding side saddle when this was the only option for ladies. Betty went on to become the Side Saddle Associations president until her passing in 2006. Side Saddle Riding Now
Over 1,000 people in the UK are members of the Side Saddle Association, children, teenagers and adults alike. The benefits of this association include newsletters, lists of useful specialist contacts, horse performance awards, member rosettes and awards in side saddle classes and the national side saddle show at Addington Manor with over 100 classes only ridden side saddle. Sport Horse of Great Britain has riders/horses registered for their ladies hunter classes, British Dressage, British Show Jumping, British Eventing and Le Trec all allow their classes to be ridden using a side saddle. For many people they choose to ride side saddle because it is an elegant but very effective and safe way of riding, interestingly some ladies only ride side saddle on a daily basis. Second-hand side saddles and riding habits are available to hire especially useful if you change your horse or have growing children! New habits and saddles can be made to your specific requirements, old habits / saddles wear well – they are advertised in magazines / on the internet and are sought after items.
The key to all this is fun and enjoyment, you can be jumping side saddle in one class and wearing a historical costume in the next class. Its easier than you think, you can do everything other riders do but are more secure on your side saddle.
NB. Rebekah’s horse has won the National Side Saddle Performance Awards and is the National Supreme Champion for 2011.