Why and how?
The first question that ladies are usually asked about side saddle is WHY do you want to ride in this way? And HOW ON EARTH DO YOU STAY ON?!
Our answer is that we are preserving and promoting an ancient tradition, that it makes us feel very elegant, that we really enjoy creating a spectacle and that it is actually very comfortable secure and safe! And sometimes, ladies just love to look like ladies… Anyone who is into horses knows all too well that the vast majority of our time is spent mucking out, cleaning tack and walking around with hay in our hair and smelling like horses so it’s lovely to be beautifully turned out on a shining, fit and healthy horse- in fact in stops people in their tracks and is guaranteed to make them smile in wonder and amazement to see something straight out of the history books brought to life.
The rider sits squarely on her horse with her spine centred over his spine, the shoulders, hands and hips are also square to the horse, certainly not twisted or turned off centre. Only one stirrup is used, for the left foot. The right leg is curved around the upper pommel with the toe pointing down and the calf pressed against the saddle. This grip is called ‘the purchase’ and is what keeps the ladies in the saddle, along with their core tummy muscles- remembering to keep ‘belly button into spine!’. Our ladies imagine that they have a thumbtack under the seat of the near side of the saddle which helps them to transfer more weight to the off side. They must remember at all times to keep their right shoulder and right hip back to keep them straight, to keep their shoulders ‘dropped away from their ears’, and to imagine that they are a puppet being held upright by a string from the top of the head so that they are sitting as tall as possible at all times. It is also helpful to imagine a bad smell under your nose, which will make you carry your head properly! If for any reason the rider needs an emergency grip (for example if the horse spooks or bucks), she immediately brings the left leg up under the leaping head, the right heel back towards the left leg, and the right shoulder back: which has the effect of wedging her into the saddle. A horse who rears should NEVER wear a side saddle, it is just about the only time that a lady can fall off and is extremely dangerous. The rider carries a cane which, when pressed against the horse’s right hand side substitutes as the leg aid which the horse is used to when being ridden astride. It is true that riding side saddle is more tiring than when riding astride, as instead of the work being done by equal sides of the body, it is mostly done with the seat aids and the right leg and thigh in a side saddle.