Introduction: The Side Saddle
Side saddle riding is a traditional style of riding where the rider sits on a saddle that is designed to be used by women. Instead of sitting astride the horse with both legs on one side, the rider sits with both feet on the same side of the horse, with legs draped over the pommel of the saddle. This style of riding was popular in the past, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, and was used by women of all social classes for equestrian sports, hunting, and leisure riding.
The Dress Code of the Elite
The side saddle was initially popular among the elite women who could afford expensive clothing and accessories. The dress code of the time required women to wear long skirts that would cover their legs, making it difficult and immodest to ride astride. The side saddle allowed women to ride with elegance and grace while maintaining their modesty.
The Physiology of Women
The female anatomy played a significant role in the development of the side saddle. Women’s bodies are not anatomically designed to ride astride, and the side saddle allowed them to ride comfortably without causing discomfort or injury. The saddle’s design prevented the rider from bouncing up and down while riding, which could cause pain and damage to the spine, hips, and pelvic area.
The Social Norms of the Time
During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were strict social norms that dictated how women should behave in public. Riding astride was considered unladylike and inappropriate for women of all social classes. Riding side saddle was seen as a way for women to conform to these norms and maintain their reputation as respectable ladies.
The Ideal of Feminine Modesty
The ideal of feminine modesty was highly valued during the 18th and 19th centuries. Women were expected to dress modestly, act demurely, and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as immodest or inappropriate. Riding side saddle allowed women to conform to these ideals, as it was seen as a graceful and elegant way to ride that did not compromise their modesty.
The Equestrian Sport of Hunting
Hunting was a popular sport during the 18th and 19th centuries, and women were not excluded from participating. However, it was considered improper for women to ride astride while hunting. The side saddle allowed women to ride comfortably and safely while participating in this sport.
The Role of Women in Society
During the 18th and 19th centuries, women were expected to be gentle and submissive and were not allowed to engage in physical activities considered ‘masculine.’ The side saddle was seen as a way for women to participate in equestrian sports without challenging their role in society.
The Dangers of Riding Astride
Riding astride was considered dangerous for women, as it was believed to cause infertility, damage the uterus, and lead to a loss of femininity. The side saddle was seen as a safer alternative that allowed women to ride without risking any damage to their reproductive system.
The Evolution of the Side Saddle
Over time, the side saddle evolved to become more comfortable and practical. Advances in materials and design allowed for the creation of saddles that were safer and more comfortable for the rider. However, the side saddle eventually fell out of fashion as social norms changed, and women were allowed to participate in more physical activities.
Conclusion: The Legacy of Side Saddle Riding
Riding side saddle was an important part of women’s history, as it allowed them to participate in equestrian sports and hunting while conforming to social norms and gender expectations. Although the side saddle is no longer used today, its legacy lives on, and it serves as a reminder of the limitations and expectations placed on women in the past.