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Discussion on Sidesaddle

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Amy Brachthauser
Username: Horsepix

Post Number: 5
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Sep 30, 2003 - 1:42 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Your sidesaddle information is quite incorrect. As a sidesaddle rider, I would be happy to offer some corrections.

Sidesaddles come in two different basic styles, english and western. Although it really didn't hit its peak until the victorian era, English sidesaddles have been around for hundreds of years. The western looking saddle was purely an American invention created in the 1800s for ladies on the frontier.

You do NOT sit sideways on the horse. This is a very common misconception. When sidesaddles were first invented (in the 1300s), ladies sat sideways. By the 1500s, they were sitting facing forward with both legs on one side of the horse -- just as modern sidesaddle riders still do.

There are some great photos of riders without habits on (so you can see their position) posted here:

It is important to note that from a rear view, you would not be able to tell a sidesaddle rider from an astride rider. Both sit squarly on the horse with weight distributed evenly on each side of the horse. Contrary to popular belief, we don't hang on the left side of the horse.

As far as disciplines are concerned, the only thing a lady can't do in a sidesaddle is rope acow because sidesaddles do not have a horn to which a rope can be attached. Other than that, every other discipline can be enjoyed aside.

For more information, please visit these great sites:
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: Dro

Post Number: 9207
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Wednesday, Oct 1, 2003 - 7:46 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Amy,
I would love to add your personal experiences to what for my wife was just repeating information she researched from elsewhere. I really don't want to argue whether if your legs dangle off of one side of the horse whether or not you are sitting sideways or not. Is saying this a faux-pas among side saddle aficianados?

We were watching Toombstone last night which has wonderful extended scene of a quite acomplished side saddle rider jumping and negotiating quite irregular terrain at a full out gallop: it is quite beautiful and a remarkable contrast to Kurt Russels bumbling in a traditional saddle next to her. As you say from behind it appears she faces fully forward. More like the off side leg may be hooked over the saddle. What other parts of the paragraph do you find in error: I will pass them along to my wife and I am sure all who are interested in this style will find your links helpful.
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Amy Brachthauser
Username: Horsepix

Post Number: 8
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Wednesday, Oct 1, 2003 - 4:02 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi DrO,

Sorry for sounding so defensive. Its just that there is limited information on sidesaddle riding available on the web, so I like for what is out there to be correct.

Yes, it is quite the faux-pas for one to say that a lady sits sideways in a sidesaddle. Sidesaddles actually started out as a sideways facing seat and the lady's horse had to be led around by a groom because she could not see where she going. It was later (1500s) changed to a forward facing seat in which one leg wraps around a horn on the left side. It was not lady like to spread ones legs (necessary for aside riding) and there was also concern that a lady would not be able to have children if she rode astride. Thank god for modern medicine!!

I have seen that scene in Tombstone and she is a very accomplished sidesaddle rider!! I love to watch scenes like that which depict the elegance (and agility) of a lady aside.

The leg is hooked off to the side, as you say, but the weight of the rider remains evenly distributed on each side of the horse's spine. As you can imagine, it is incredibly important then to have a properly fitted saddle (for both horse and rider). With a properly fitting saddle, it is not only safer, but much more comfortable to sit properly (squarely). Saddles that are too big will not allow the rider to sit squarely and thus, they will have a tendency to lean their right shoulder forward throwing them and their horse off balance.

As far as changes, obviously, the sitting sideways thing (in modern saddles, at least). Also, the only thing a sidesaddle rider CAN'T do is rope a cow (there is no horn on a sidesaddle). Other than that, they are very comfortable, extremely safe (much less likely to come out of one) and (I've heard) are excellent for people with lower back injuries/pain who can't comfortably sit astride on a horse.

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Melissa Webster
Username: Mwebster

Post Number: 374
Registered: 5-2001
Posted on Wednesday, Oct 1, 2003 - 4:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have a small photo in sepia from about 1910 of my grandmother seated sidesaddle on a bay horse. She cut quite the figure. From the photo it looks like she had better posture aside than I do astride!...

There's a very elegant lady in our area who hunts aside. She and her mount take all the same fences that the rest of the hunt does... makes it look effortless.


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Username: Skeller

Post Number: 81
Registered: 8-1999
Posted on Thursday, Oct 2, 2003 - 9:45 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks so much for the info Amy. My daughter is interested in trying sidesaddle and this gives her some links to follow. It's interesting to watch them try to replicate sidesaddle with a cutback. (you can swing your leg over, but no stability!). How much do used sidesaddles run?
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Althaea Flicek
Username: Althaea

Post Number: 17
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Thursday, Oct 2, 2003 - 1:40 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Surprisingly enough, I've found some very nice sidesaddles on ebay. One was only $299. Probably not the best there is - but good to see if your daughter likes sidesaddle before investing a ton of money in a super quality saddle.
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Imogen Bertin
Username: Imogen

Post Number: 406
Registered: 4-2003
Posted on Thursday, Oct 2, 2003 - 2:21 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My granny hunted over Irish stone ditches sidesaddle in the 1920s and continued to ride sidesaddle on trails in the bush after emigrating to Zimbabwe right up to her late 70s.

This is a picture of her in about 1915 as a young woman (sorry about the lousy scan) - or some people say this is actually great granny on a particularly good day. Ugly horse but apparently it was a fantastically clever hunter and she preferred it to most humans.

Sidesaddle showing classes are still held at some Irish shows and the sidesaddle class at Dublin show is always hotly contested.

Somerville and Ross also hunted sidesaddle - one of them was also dramatically shortsighted, I can't remember which one, but I can't imagine anything requiring more riding nerve than galloping over stone ditches sidesaddle if you couldn't actually see what was in front of you...

granny hunting in east Waterford

All the best

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Username: Parfait

Post Number: 74
Registered: 5-2001
Posted on Thursday, Oct 2, 2003 - 2:44 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Oooh, I love the smart photo! They look like a determined pair.

One caveat for those who go to purchase on e-bay. Many of those saddles are not properly stuffed for safe riding. For the saddle to stay on the horse upright, the right panel should be full, and the left panel should be flatter. This allows for the weight of the riders right hip, as your weight is not distributed precisely evenly. You also must have the horn placement correct or you end up having to pad it and if the leaping horn is off, you won't be secure in the saddle. It's best to be quite sure that you know what you are getting into.

Also, many antique sidesaddles were treed for mules and such and are not appropriate for today's horses. On the whole, it is a safe and secure way to ride. I have read that cavalry men used to break horses this way as the seat is secure. :-) I enjoy trail riding this way on my Arabs and they are certainly "interactive" with the environment.

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Amy Brachthauser
Username: Horsepix

Post Number: 9
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Saturday, Oct 4, 2003 - 6:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi all!! I'm glad to see there is some interest in sidesaddle on this board! This is great! What a wonderful treasure to have photos of your grandmothers (or great grandmothers) riding sidesaddle. That is very neat!!

Be VERY careful about buying sidesaddles on eBay. The cheap ones ($300 or so) are usually not made correctly (they're missing essential straps, extremely narrow trees, etc). Plus, they very rarely fit horses (most have twisted tress) and rarely fit riders (most have very small seats, the pommels are not shaped correctly, etc.). In short, I would NOT recommend purchasing one of those off eBay. Most of the sidesaddle you find on eBay are not sound for riding -- they're conversation pieces.

Having said that,, you can occaisionly find good used sidesaddles on eBay and other places around the web. Unless you have a custom saddled made new for your horse, there are NO mass-made sidesaddles produced which will not require at LEAST $1000 in reworking before they are sound for riding.

Sizing in sidesaddles is also different. The size of the saddle (for the rider) must is based on the distance between the back of my rump (when seated) to the back of my knee. For me, that distance is 22" -- so I take a 22" seat in a sidesaddle, whereas I take a 17" seat in a regular saddle. So you see...there are some important difference to point out.

In most cases, the age of the saddle you'll want to be looking for is 50-60 years old. The used brands you want to look for are Mayhew, Champion & Whilton, Whippy and Martin & Martin. If you find one of those on eBay -- BUY IT. These are all English brands and english styled saddles. These used saddles in sound working condition will usually put you back about $1500, and then you have to have it reworked to fit your horse. Its not unusual to spend $3000 to purchase a sidesaddle and then have it fit for your horse.

Unlike an astride saddle, a custom fit sidesaddle (whether purchased used and reworked or custom built based on your horse) is truly essential for safe riding. If it isn't properly balanced, it will slide around the horse's back leaving the lady uncomfortably off balance. Also unlike regular astride saddles, sidesaddles are NOT evenly padded. This is a big mistake made many people make when they buy a used sidesaddle -- they take it to a saddler who is not familiar with how a sidesaddle should fit a horse. It must be built up diagonally in order to compensate for and evenly distribute the ladies weight.

There are a lot of links on our website ( to regional sidesaddle clubs. If you're in a region without a sidesaddle club, there are also online resources. The HLA has a Bulletin Board on there site where you can post questions. There is also a sidesaddle yahoo email group which is quite active.

Happy Riding!
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Username: Horsepix

Post Number: 18
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Thursday, Jan 1, 2004 - 9:47 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Just a note to let everyone know that the Hoosier Ladies Aside will be hosting their 3rd Annual Sidesaddle Clinic on May 1-2, 2004. The clinic will be held in Lebanon, IN (just 20 min up the road from Indianapolis). We will have rental sidesaddles available!!

Please visit for more information.
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Christine Holmes Bukowski
Username: Canyon28

Post Number: 44
Registered: 8-2003
Posted on Friday, Jan 2, 2004 - 11:37 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello, I am also a sidesaddle rider. I am in the Frontier Bells Sidesaddlers, of Grand Junction, CO. We are one of the only two known performing drill teams to ride in sidesaddles. We have been a club since 1954! We ride in matching colorful copies of victorian sidesaddle outfits, complete with hats, gloves,and riding crops. We have 7 different outfits. Most of the ladies in our club have their own sidesaddle,but the club also owns 7 or 8 saddles for newcomers to rent. The Frontier Belles perform at rodeos and parades all over the western states. At times we have up to 20 sidesaddlers! We are actively seeking members to ride in 2004. Come join us!
pictures and more info at
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Holly Z.
Username: Cowgrl

Post Number: 20
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 - 12:42 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Although I don't ride sidesaddle I find it so elegant and graceful and admire anyone who keeps the old days alive by preserving this tradition.

My husband and I got married on horseback and I borrowed a sidesaddle from a friend who had his grandmother's and his great grandmother's side saddles and was restoring both. It fit my mare pretty well and I felt very secure, even when she spooked at something. I never felt like I was going to come off and was extremely comfortable. My only tendancy was to slouch instead of sitting straight. My horse was a trooper and didn't seem to mind.

Hat's off to all of you riding sidesaddle. Way to go!
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Shari Robertson
Username: Srobert

Post Number: 95
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Friday, Jan 6, 2006 - 11:15 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Amy: My 17th year old daughter is very interested in taking up sidesaddle with her arabian. I have read your posts with great interest and wonder if you have any updates to share - especially in terms of where one might find a saddle.
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Username: Dyduroc

Post Number: 244
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, Jan 7, 2006 - 9:54 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Shari, here's a link to the ISSO (International Side Saddle Organization) web site.

I'd like to learn how to ride sidesaddle myself so please keep us posted!

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