How To Ride Side Saddle Like A Victorian Lady
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How To Ride Side Saddle Like A Victorian Lady

August 23, 2019


My name’s Rebecca and today I’m dressed in
period costume from the late Victorian period. As you can see I am riding side saddle on
this lovely Irish Hunter who’s called Kane. Now, side saddles have been around for thousands
of years and originally ladies would sit on the side saddles facing completely to the
side with their feet on a wooden step called the Planchette. It was a brilliant way for them to display
their gowns and all their finery, and obviously to keep them up and out of the mud and the
mire. It was like a mobile platform for the ladies
to go out and watch the gentlemen on a hunting field, but that’s all they did, is stand and
watch. Now there are illustrations of ladies riding in this
way from about the 12th century onwards But literally the ladies sat and faced the side
and had no control over the horse and certainly couldn’t go any faster than a walk, so it’s generally believed that the ladies were led. However we do have a saddle with one of these
which is called a Pommel or a Head which is believed to have belonged to Queen Elizabeth
I. And that enable the ladies then to sit facing
the front and looking forwards as they rode. It meant that they could walk, trot and canter
but jumping on that saddle was still very, very difficult. So, this second Pommel or Head was introduced
which is called the Leaping Head and this is what you can really grip onto the saddle
with to help you get over the fences. And that meant then that ladies could actually take to the
hunting field, go out, jump, and it made them much, much safer and more secure. To ride side saddle, obviously you do not
have a leg on the other side, so in place of your leg, you instead have a cane which
is used to control the horse. We also have an extra strap at the back here,
this is called the Balance Strap and this is the strap that helps keep the saddle central
on the horse’s back, particularly over jumps. So now I am going to talk to you a little
bit about what I am actually wearing and I am going to introduce a colleague of mine,
Karen. We are both wearing side saddle habits but
obviously they are very, very different. Karen is wearing a side saddle habit that
would have been worn in tropical climates, particularly in India and the Indian Raj period. If Karen would just turn around, she will
be able to demonstrate how the skirts work. Now, these would have been considered quite
racy in the late Victorian period but she is actually wearing an apron. Usually for this period, the skirts would
have been completely enclosed and would have been a whole skirt but there was a real danger
in that, if you fell, the skirts very easily got caught on the saddle and there
are lots of accounts ladies actually being dragged to their death by being caught up on the saddles. So we’ve got these open back skirts called
aprons, which are much, much safer for us to ride in. We are both wearing corsets underneath our
jackets and the jackets are also very heavily boned which gives us the right silhouette
for the period with the very nipped in waist. But unfortunately, it does give you a little
bit of a propensity for fainting, particularly if you are going for a nice long gallop.

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  1. Love this video – well done. Especially love the comment concerning the corset and heavy boning of the jackets "gives the right silhouette with a nipped-in waist, but unfortunately it gives you a propensity for fainting, particularly if you're going for a nice long gallop.." So true.

  2. Excellent video! Wonderful to hear someone who knows about the history. Have you had your corset tailored to you, madam? I ride side saddle in both stays (pre-1800 corsets) and Victorian/Edwardian corsets, and one has quite less of a "propensity for fainting" if your corset is not ill-fitted haha! They're actually quite comfortable and supportive if they're fitted just for you. Great job! 😀

  3. I'll be 55 this year, a fan of this style all along, hope to try it. Very good information in this one and what a nice hunter! This explains some things about the habit skirt I had never understood. Ridden many styles in many countries, though disabled. I just don't bite off more than I can chew and it's lovely. Uprated!

  4. Is it just me or doesn't riding side saddle seem awfully painful for the horse? I couldn't imagine the feeling of something constantly tugging on one side of my body. It doesn't look balanced and stable to me. That in mind I don't know much about it!

  5. What a joy to see this explained. I saw a woman in her seventies jumping sidesaddle in Charlottesville, Virginia, but from afar. She was the famous Judith Gyurky on a Hungarian Clover Horse,She went thru forests to protect Hungarian Breed from the Russians and managed to get to General Patton. and rescue and get the remaining to America.

  6. Wow, That was really interesting! I've never really been very exposed to sidesaddle, as I ride saddle seat, but this was really cool to see it broken down.

  7. How does one get into riding side saddle? I would assume that one cannot just simply go into a stable and say "I wanna ride side saddle!". Or could they…?

  8. If you're interested in having a go at sidesaddle, you can contact the Sidesaddle Association who will be able to put you in touch with a local instructor. Alternatively English Heritage run "Have a Go" days at Audley End House in Essex. Our Customer Services team can give you more details if you want to get in touch with them on 0870 333 1181.

  9. Hi MsBarebackrider – thanks for your questions and sorry for the delay with our replies. A saddleblanket is not usually used under a sidesaddle, however they are available online from the website sidesaddles.co.uk.
    A pelham bit or double bridle is considered correct turnout for a lady riding sidesaddle in a dark habit and a top hat, a snaffle bit if she is in tweed. It's most important to always make sure the horse is happy with the bit though.

  10. Our riders do wear correctly tailored and fitted corsets, made to an original Victorian riding corset pattern by a historical corsetry expert. Our ladies have never fainted whilst riding, but there are certainly historical accounts of this happening in the past!

  11. If a sidesaddle is correctly fitted it causes the horse no discomfort or pain whatsoever, indeed, many horses go better, particularly jumping, sidesaddle. The saddle is built in such a way that the rider sits completely centrally on the horses back with their weight evenly distributed. The only extra weight the horse carries on the left side is that of the riders lower left leg.

  12. I love this! I am disabled after a car wreck and cannot imagine not being able to ever ride again! Can I ride side saddle , but on my left hip rather on the right? My right hip is to painful to sit on my left side for long, but I can my right? any suggestions? I cannot imagine never being able to ride ever!

  13. It looks very elegant. I always wanted to do that but never had the chance. Just rode a pony once. lol Cheers from the U.S.

  14. This is going to sound a little silly perhaps but I know next to nothing of riding side saddle is it harder to learn to ride? Is it harder to balance or perhaps for those with less a weaker back from say an injury to learn to cross over to side saddle? If that makes sense?Make them feel a bit more secure in the saddle itself I mean would be a way of putting it.

  15. They are as rare as hens teeth but they did make off-side saddles.

    If you have the money for one they are out there and most sellers will give a trial period to see if it suits you.

  16. As many period films and novels I have watched and read, I never researched how ladies rode side saddle. Thank you for this awesome video. And I'm loving that she's wearing period costume all the way down to the corset. Also, so beautiful and elegant. Thank you, Miss Rebecca. 🙂

  17. Irish hunter horses tend to have such a lovely carriage. Look at that one's ears and proud bearing! Very alert, so pretty.

  18. A very beautiful Irish hunter horse, mounted by a beautiful hot german blonde babe, i am visualizing the picture now,..hehehe,…thumbs up beautiful, thankin' ya for sharin' this interesting video! =)

    p.s. I really like this british chick's accent, don't compare with american accents huh? 😉

  19. I ride hunter/eq and i and i cannot imagine how difficult this may be so i applaud that, though it doesn't seem very comfortable to the horse. The horse looks tense at all times while just standing still. Horses backs are very sensitive and can feel any amount of weight change, i couldn't imagine how uncomfortable it must be for the horse to flat let alone jump with that amount of weight displacement.

    I don't mean to sound harsh or rude

  20. A very well done and articulate video. Unlike many where someone just stumbles through it on the first take. I really like the lady's prsentation!

  21. I like it and all, but if a lady/ man was falling from a side saddle they would most likely be dragged because of the position there legs are in under the pommel

  22. Question: Does the extra weight affect anything? I have heard some saddles are purposely built to compensate…

  23. How does side saddle not damage the horses back? The weight is mostly on one side. Or is it an even distribution of weight? 

    Please don't be mad, I'm not a troll, I am legitimately asking.

  24. I was recently at a horse show where where riders were showing side saddle and a judge would inspect the tack and clothes of the rider. Part of the tack that was being judged was a small bag and it's contents. I was hoping to find out more about what the purpose of the side saddle bag would have been, and what type of items it would contain that the riders would be judged on. Thanks for any help:)

  25. I always wondered if mounting like this wouldn't have caused scoliosis to the women (as if they didn't have enought problems with the corsets). Looks like that everything, back in the old times, was deliberately designed to impaire and restrain women as much as possible.

    Just a critic for the mentality of those old times. This video came in hand for my research and is well-demonstrated – (as much as I could understand, of Jennifer's English) I liked especially the little girl showing how her skirts were cut to mount.

  26. Now I couldn't help but remembering Diary of a Princess 2, when she had to use a fake leg to pretend that she was mounting aside.

  27. love the video! i was so curious about this side saddles, thanks for the historic info, it was a surprise for me that the used half-skirts!

  28. Doesn't riding that way distribute the rider's weight unevenly on the horse's back and make it uncomfortable for the animal?

  29. As a rider who's about to take on learning to ride in a side saddle in a weeks time this was very interesting!!! It looks lovely!!!

  30. I've always wondered if the ladies could mount independently? I'm sure that they probably needed to use a block, but if there wasn't one available, what then?

  31. Really helpful! Thank you for your video. I only wish I could try it myself sometime, but hard luck finding those special saddles

  32. What muscles are being used to grip the leaping head? Are you squeezing your thighs together, or lifting the leg into the curve of the head?

  33. If I couldn't ride astride I wouldn't ride at all. I would have been wearing men's breaches and riding privately if I were of means, very early in the morning so no one saw me.

  34. I do ride sidesaddle with my saddle-bred and he loves it. It's much more comfortable for him, and jumping is still easy. I sometimes do it in full costume which turns heads.

  35. Does the horse need to be trained or accustomed to side saddles? It must feel quite strange for the horse having an unbalanced load on top.

  36. What I want to know is how you get up there and get your right leg over the pommel. I've seen several videos and movies where the woman has someone helping her get up on the horse, but I can never figure out what their legs do because of the skirts….

  37. Just looking at this as I'm writing a Regency romance at present, and my lady is rather fond of riding. Having never ridden side-saddle myself, I do find this intriguing. Just wanted to see how one gallops in such a position, but it's clearly easily done. Thank you for sharing this. Always good to have a visual aid xx

  38. What is the white strap that looks like a "stirrup" for the right foot? I asked a western side saddle maker about why her saddles only had the one (left) stirrup and she thought I was nuts.

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