Updated: Jul 13
This week we caught up with Ally Kelly a keen rider and competitor, but not in the conventional way, as Ally prefers to ride side saddle.
I was 12 years old when I had my first sit on a side-saddle, on holiday in Suffolk, at the fantastic Valley Farm. Fast forward to age 20 when I first met my now long time friend Kathy Hollick-Blee. Kathy herself is a keen side saddle rider and kindly lent me her Champion and Wilton Saddle to try on my veteran hunter, and this was it, my obsession was full steam ahead! I was then taken under the wing of local showing producer Julia Wood and her side-saddle schoolmaster Lenté Le Duc and we took the local circuit by storm. Since then I have produced horses for side-saddle; including my veteran hunter, a loaned maxi cob and plan on starting my young show cob side-saddle at some point this year. Most horses take to side-saddle, so long as their temperament allows it; they typically must be of a polite and quiet nature.
I am forever grateful to my mentor Julia for all the opportunities over the years and her wealth of knowledge when it comes to side-saddle. It is because of side-saddle that I have made friends for life, not to mention an obsession with side-saddle that will never die!
All about side saddle
Here’s a brief history lesson for you;
Before the 1900s a lady was never expected to ride with a leg either side; during medieval times a lady would ride with a “planchette” which is a shelf for your feet and sit literally sideways on a horse - having a leg either side was seen as unsightly, whilst keeping a lady’s legs together was thought to protect their innocence.
In later times women wanted to join their male counterparts on the hunting field and face forwards to see what was going on, and this is what led to the first version of the “modern side-saddle” being born - with one “hook” for a lady’s right leg (now known as the fixed head). Then when ladies wanted to actually go faster than a walk and, dare I say it, jump - the leaping head (second hook) was created so that a rider could nestle their left leg beneath it. These two pommels on the side saddle are essential to riding side-saddle - without them you’d simply be sitting on a horse sideways!
1. It looks elegant. Anyone who’s seen Downtown Abbey will say how marvellously elegant Lady Mary looked riding her horse Side-saddle as opposed to how the majority of us ride, astride - one leg on each side. Well some may say it’s thanks to the recent historical dramas that people have decided to take up the discipline. So what is side-saddle? And why is it still around?
2. You can still compete. Contrary to belief, you can partake in pretty much any discipline side-saddle - obviously unaffiliated (BSJA and BE do not allow sidesaddles in competition) and some riders actually prefer it.
3. There's championship for it. The Side-Saddle National Championships, are held yearly at Addington (except of course this year due to Covid 19) and boy oh boy is it a lot of fun
4. Even men can do it. Yes that’s right, men can ride side-saddle just as well as ladies! After all, back in the Victorian times a lady would never school her own horse, it would be down to her servant of course! There are even men who attend the Side-Saddle Championships and they are actually pretty good and give the ladies a run for their money. 5. The community. The side-saddle community online is small and inclusive - we have riders all over the world, of all backgrounds and of all abilities, so its great fun and it's great to feel a part of such an inclusive community.
Or use the EquiNation App to find instructors in your area.