Friday, December 28, 2012

Backwards in high heels: riding sidesaddle

I found this photo in the book The Horse Woman: A practical guide to side-saddle riding. That title is an oxymoron if there ever was one ('practical' and 'sidesaddle' should not appear in the same paragraph)! But, when I read it, I was filled with awe for the women who went careening around the countryside in this compromised way. It reminded me of the comment about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, but "backwards in high heels."

If you think that the women of the era were delicate passengers on their kind and tolerant horses, read this book. Quite the opposite, as Miss Emmie Harding shows us in the photo. Side-saddle, long skirt big, dangerous, airy fence, and look at her position. The horse even looks happy. You go girl.

This next photo shows a similar jump but a bit earlier in the jumping phase. The rider has the good sense to release the reins, and while her body position is a bit further back than might desired today, the horse looks perfectly happy.

These must have been remarkable women.


13 comments:

  1. I do not get how they did that. Those women have amazing balance. There's just no way I could do it.

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  2. They still are remarkable women - the world record for side saddle indoor high jump was set last Summer at Aintree in the UK at 5ft8!

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  3. Good side saddle riders are amazing. Riding for Ladies by Nannie Power O'Donoghue
    is a great book also available online. Her story about hunting the rogue with no brakes who jumped into a farm yard and had to be led out through the kitchen had me rolling on the floor.

    Changes in the saddle trees and accepted leg position (and resulting stirrup length) altered the over fences position from the backward seat to today's forward seat. But back then even men used the backward jumping seat.

    Riding side saddle is every bit as secure and comfortable as riding astride provided you have a well made saddle which fits both the horse and rider.

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  4. Rode sidesaddle a bit myself. It's actually more secure than it looks. But I never quite mastered the jumping. The sidesaddle rider I admired leaned forward over the fences in a much more "modern" style than these pictures. It's not easy getting the right balance over a small fence let alone one like those. Impressive.

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  5. I've dabbled a bit in sidesaddle as well. Not as hard as it looks, but not easy either. I'm hoping to find an affordable sidesaddle soon....

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  6. JUST Fascinating! I can't even imagine.

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  7. ...jumping wire? Oh my goodness.

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  8. How in the world did that horse see the wire!?

    Besides that, they have some guts. I prefer my legs astride my steed.

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  9. I am so impressed by this I showed my (non-horsey) husband. Even he was impressed! (And then to my great shock he proceeds to say, "yeah, they show a lot of that on Downton Abbey.") Come again?! haha, so incredible! I'd love to see video. And I love how this throws modern theory for a loop- we really can jump not in two-point and have a happy horse and a successful clearance.

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  10. Sidesaddle Championships Poland High-jump 'puissance'

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58lfYyfA_WE

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  11. I have foxhunted with folks that still rode side-saddle. They told me you either love it or hate it, but it is more secure than it looks. My problem would be feeling odd not being able to give off-side cues with a leg.

    And, in regards to jumping wire ... my horse jumps my electric fence gate between the paddock and riding area all the time. Granted, it is white and more of a 1/2" rope than a wire, but it is still impressive that he clears it. He thinks he's built to be a grand prix jumper. I keep telling him he is going to have to start paying for his joint supplements if he keeps doing that.

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  12. Ooooh, that wire jumping bit makes my innards curl up. NO THANK YOU, not even 1' high and astride!!! Just all KINDS of wrong. But boy, she sure had guts!

    Riding aside has long been on my equestrian bucket list. When I was a kid in NJ and attended our local, still-prestigious AAA show as a spectator, there was a lady showing in the AO Hunters riding aside. I've never forgotten her gorgeous, classy ensemble complete with top hat and face net (I'd have to wear a helmet now myself). I don't care what breed of horse I get to ride, I just want to try English sidesaddle!

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