After a recent NHG blog featuring a picture of Loretta sitting on a sidesaddle (but not on a horse!), we were contacted by a reader with far more expertise in this area than we. Robin Scarborough, DVM, MSFS, is not only a veterinarian, but also a re-enactor, living historian, and sidesaddle equestrian and knowledgeable in the history, horses, and habits connected to ladies on horseback. When Dr. Scarborough offered to write a few words for us, we were honored and delighted to accept.
Sidesaddle riding is alive and well and not a relic of a bygone era. It is experiencing a resurgence, and sidesaddle riders can be found all over the world doing all forms of riding. These ladies are far from the manor born, but are ordinary women enamored with the past. Any Google search will unearth multiple sidesaddle organizations, with a heavy concentration right here in the USA. The members are more than happy to share their knowledge with those who are interested, and there are many clinics and demonstrations that welcome beginners and auditors.
Sidesaddles, habits, and indeed horses in general change markedly throughout history, soresearch that gleans equine details about 1620 will not be accurate 60 years later. Styles of riding, event he horses themselves, changed rapidly depending on the current style of warfare, government, and otter societal forces. The advent of gunpowder in particular eliminated the use of plate armor, resulting in a lighter, more maneuverable, type of horse. And believe me, horse people know if an author has done the research, and we appreciate it when we see it.
Above left: This habit is based on a French baroque style that first came into popularity during the reign of Louis XIV. It is a soft muted color trimmed with ivory and gold, very rococo, and suitable for the musical carousel horse ballets that were popular at court. This habit is designed for court riding, not for hunting or traveling. The photo is of me and Owen, a Morgan horse gelding, taken at the 2010 Horse World Expo.
Below right: This habit is a copy of a Victorian habit from the mid-1880s. It is very tailored and slim-fitting, similar to the dress styles of the day. The habit jacket is not only worn over a corset, but has additional boning both for support and to accentuate the hourglass shape. Habits at this time show a masculine influence with no lace, frills, or trim and were worn with a plain top hat. This hat is an original, dating from 1887. Once again, me and Owen, taken at the Sidesaddle at Woodwind event in 2009.
All photographs copyright BHS Photography, and used by permission.
Please return tomorrow for Part Two!