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.
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."
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.
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.
From there the side saddle spread to other parts of Europe, then to the Colonies, including Australia.
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.
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.
The crowd was hushed in awe, and the woman, unknown, rode off into history, a legend.