Riding side saddle is often associated with an era of yesteryear when ladies rode in long skirts and couldn’t possibly be seen astride a horse.
One of the most memorable scenes from the first series of the popular period drama Downton Abbey was that of Lady Mary out on the hunting field galloping, riding side saddle.
The side saddle was designed to allow women to ride a horse whilst maintaining their modesty and also whilst wearing some beautiful but restrictive clothing.
The side saddle itself is a masterpiece of saddlery craftsmanship, a design that has not changed for over a century.
In the 1830’s Jules Pellier designed the side saddle that is still in use today, with previous versions only featuring one pommel.
Jules Pelliers’ two pommel design allowed the rider to stay both securely in the saddle and also control the horse.
One of the pommels sits near the top of the saddle; this supports the right thigh of the rider when it is lying across the saddle. The right leg hangs down and rests on the shoulder of the horse.
The second pommel, sometimes referred to as the leaping horn, lies below the first and is gently curved to fit snuggly over the rider’s left thigh, placing the left foot in the stirrup.
This design allows the rider to be locked in position, enabling participation in every equestrian pursuit from hunting and galloping to jumping.
Today side saddle classes at events and shows are a source of much fascination, with numbers rising in the many classes that now accommodate side saddle riding, with classes for everything from showing to show jumping and even a lead rein competition available, for young enthusiasts.
The side saddle must be fitted by a suitably qualified person who understands side saddle fitting. The seat of the saddle has to be level from the front to the back and from left to right. As well as fitting the horse, the saddle must also fit the rider in order for them to sit in the correct position.
One of the most famous and accomplished side saddle riders is of course The Queen who regularly rode side saddle during Trooping of The Colour, most famously on her beloved horse Burmese.
A well turned out horse ridden side saddle by a rider decked out in traditional fashion is undoubtedly a head turning sight to see.
To find out more information on the Society of Master Saddlers and to find Side Saddle specialists visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact on 01449 711642.