If you’re a fan of period dramas such as Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice you may have marvelled at the elegant ladies riding side saddle and thought, “I’d love to do that”! Well, we’ve got some good news for you, you don’t have to go back to the Victorian ages to give it a go, as riding ‘aside’ rather than ‘astride’ is having a second coming! We wanted to find out more about how to get involved so caught up with our Regional Sales Manager Steph Hensman who just happens to be a member of The Side Saddle Association, here’s what she had to say…
When did you start side saddle and why?
“In August 2012 I just fancied a change. I love the thrill of the faster disciplines such as hunting and team chasing, and have participated in these since a young age. I guess doing these disciplines side saddle was my next challenge and aim. I started by having some lessons with local legend and instructor "queenie" also known as Emma Brown. I hopped on her school masters and before I knew it I was popping fences both in and out of the ménage.I bit the bullet and bought a lovely vintage Champion & Wilton side saddle (these traditional saddles are becoming quite hard to find now)! And started having a few lessons on my 6 year old Connemara.”
What type of horse is suitable for side saddle?
“Any horse could potentially carry a side saddle, but there's a few things I like to keep in mind. Firstly their age and strength- these old side saddles are notoriously heavy so placing them on a young/unbalanced horse is not the wisest of ideas. Also I prefer a forward thinking independent horse to take me side saddle. It is initially strange for them to not have two legs wrapped round their sides, so one that naturally is forward and brave is always preferred by me when taking on hedges.”
It looks quite uncomfortable at times, is this true?
“It really isn't that uncomfortable! Once your muscles have built up and gotten used to riding a different way it really is a nice way to ride. Trotting for 5 miles on the roads out hunting can sometimes be a little tiring, but finding a verge to canter along helps break it up. I certainly prefer jumping my boy Marley side saddle compared to astride. He is a very independent pony and likes me to just leave him alone. It's easier to do this when you have both legs on one side!”
Is there many competitions you can do side saddle?
“Yes almost all disciplines will allow and encourage you to partake side saddle just check with the organisers beforehand to be sure. The national side saddle show is a brilliant place to compete/ even spectate held this year 4-6th August at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre near Buckingham. With over 75 classes there is something to suit everyone!”
How can I get into side saddle?
“Best thing to do is to contact your local area chairman - you can do this by going onto The Side Saddle Association website. We are a very friendly bunch!”
Steph’s insight in to riding side saddle has definitely left us feeling inspired and it’s great to know that whether you’re interested in competing or just wanting to give it a go for the amazing photo opportunity and the chance to meet Mr Darcy (ok we know that’s farfetched!), getting involved is much easier than you think.
If you enjoyed this blog, then you might also like our Retraining of Racehorse blog.