A Side Saddle taster

At the age of 12, I had only ridden a very small amount of times but I went for a lesson with Betty Skelton because I loved the idea of riding side saddle. I did not know Mrs S so had no warning of what I had in store. I should have guessed from the fact she was in her 80s, carried water buckets around and drove at a million miles an hour that I was in for an experience. In my lesson, I was walking, trotting and cantering (quite something for a nervous newbie), she then threw my mum on (who hadn’t ridden for many years) and I was soon being dressed in a habit ready for a show the next day! I came second!

After that whirlwind, I went down the more traditional riding route but side saddle has kept a fond place in my heart. So, I am glad I have got back into it recently.

A few weeks ago, Pie and I went for a side saddle lesson with Shelley Perham and Roger Philpot. I remembered it being much more elegant and effortless – it is hard! Knee down, soft hand, right shoulder back, foot in, head up…. It was not a natural feeling. And then Pie was wondering what I was doing and went a little sideways as a guess that’s what I must want.


pie side saddle training
Learning the basics as Pie listens confused
Then last week, I went to a demonstration by Ginny Oakley. Ginny was a fan of my old horse, Floyd and therefore we became instant friends. Her knowledge of side saddle is impressive and her passion infectious. 

What I learnt

– side saddle is harder than it looks. Definitely think Swan – looks elegant but its legs are working like hell under the water.

– the saddle must be fitted correctly to you and the horse.

– correct dress and tradition is vital. I did get the feeling it would be very easy to get it very wrong.

– side saddle enthusiasts are super welcoming and it does feel like a special little club.

– anyone can do it. Well, not everyone, sorry boys but it’s not for you. But at the demo there was an old horse and older lady (politely referred to!), a lady with an M&M, a partially blind girl and a pony, a dot of a child and an even smaller pony – it was definitely a mixed bag and they all looked great and looked like they were having a marvellous time.

It’s definitely a commitment to start – getting the right kit, training rider, training horse but it sounds like fun. If you are tempted I would recommend going for a lesson or going to a talk and seeing how you feel. 

It was Pie and my 16 year anniversary yesterday – maybe side saddle will be our next adventure….


side saddle lesson
Looking easier than it was

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