History of Side Saddles

 I happen to be very interested in the history of women riding horses. I designed my own version of a side saddle in 2007, I ripped it off from a 200 year-old English Hunt saddle. It sold well, but is no longer being manufactured, as I am concentrating on my current Colin Poley and Bareback saddle custom designs.

 The Colin Dangaard Commonwealth side saddle

The Colin Dangaard Commonwealth side saddle

 Commonwealth logo brand

Commonwealth logo brand

In Third World countries (so called) women rode anything, because THEY HAD TO. But in most cultures women walked, and the men rode. That is just the way it was for thousands of years. About 300 years ago Britain introduced The Hunt to train military officers for mounted warfare. Chasing foxes over fences with packs of hounds was a jolly good way to get balance -- or buy real estate!

As Oscar Wilde described the hunt: "The mindless in pursuit of the inedible."

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Soon ladies pressured their husbands to take them along. And so they entered the hunt field sitting on special sedan chairs that were mounted (with great peril) on top of a horse, so the lady could sit astride, with parasol in hand, and watch their brave men gallop hither and yon, over fences and through the glens. They did this while sipping Port and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches, their legs together, as was required at all times in public.

 The sedan chair modesty saddle

The sedan chair modesty saddle

 No doubt after a few disasters it was decided that it would be safer for the ladies with something that resembled an actual saddle, so the Side Saddle was born, enabling the rider to be in much better control of the horse, while still keeping legs together, as refined culture required.

 Damemsattle    --- Lady saddle

Damemsattle    --- Lady saddle

 Maria Theresia als Königin von Ungarn zu Pferde

Maria Theresia als Königin von Ungarn zu Pferde

 Madame La Comtesse de Saint Geran riding side saddle in the 17th century

Madame La Comtesse de Saint Geran riding side saddle in the 17th century

From there the side saddle spread to other parts of Europe, then to the Colonies, including Australia.

 Riding side saddle to The Hunt

Riding side saddle to The Hunt

 A Lady in the Hunt Pack

A Lady in the Hunt Pack

 Jumping the fences

Jumping the fences

 Lady on Grey

Lady on Grey

 A Very Proper Rider

A Very Proper Rider

 Fashionable rider

Fashionable rider

 Stepping out

Stepping out

 Lady and dog

Lady and dog

 Modesty and grace

Modesty and grace

 Concours d'Elegance

Concours d'Elegance

 Lady huntress

Lady huntress

 Modern Huntress

Modern Huntress

 Portrait of a European woman riding side saddle in Japan on a rather saucy horse

Portrait of a European woman riding side saddle in Japan on a rather saucy horse

 La Chasse

La Chasse

 In the group

In the group

The first time I saw a lady riding a side saddle was  66 years ago when I was 10 years old and, along with about a thousand other people, stood in cold drizzling rain to watch a lady dressed in black, parasol in hand, a large black hat with black veil covering her face, riding aside, on a powerful black horse. 

 Elizabeth of Austria clearing a fence side-saddle

Elizabeth of Austria clearing a fence side-saddle

She did a circle around an arena built with fallen trees and the crowd roared. For all of them it was the first time they had seen a lady on a horse -- something women did not do in the Outback. White men did it only when they were working cattle. A white man on a horse, not working cattle, just riding through the bush alone, was certainly a person of interest. Anyhow, on this day the lady pointed the horse at a wall of timber six feet high and ran at it full gallop, clearing the fence in perfect style, the parasol maintaining a solid vertical.

 And up and over she goes.....

And up and over she goes.....

The crowd was hushed in awe, and the woman, unknown, rode off into history, a legend.

 Nothing could stop her now.

Nothing could stop her now.