Many folks regard the sidesaddle as a quaint relic to be stored in attics alongside Victorian corsets, but its appeal has held its grip longer than those restrictive female garments.  Although women’s suffrage heralded a transition from sitting aside to sitting astride, the sidesaddle is still a part of our equestrian culture.

Sidesaddle RiderThis historic riding style appears not only in exhibitions, shows, and parades but also in more general-purpose contexts.  Thanks to several modern safety improvements, the sidesaddle is a practical piece of riding gear that works well in virtually every discipline, including show jumping.  It also provides a welcome compromise for riders with injuries or conditions that prevent them from sitting astride.

The typical qualities of the Sidesaddle are:

•    The seat is rather flat and wide enough to accommodate the buttocks and thighs of the rider, who sits with both legs on the horse’s near or left side (this is the standard orientation, although some saddles use the reverse positioning).  Despite the sideward legs, a rider faces forward and distributes weight evenly between the two buttocks.
•    There are two pommels: the standard pommel and a safety pommel called the “leaping horn,” which curves down over the left leg.  This piece provides a brace for the leg to latch onto in case of a sudden movement or leap.  The leaping horn is a relatively new modification that made the sidesaddle safe enough to withstand jumps, and older versions that lack this feature are considered unsafe.
•    There is only one very short stirrup, which buckles halfway down the leather and positions the left knee close to the leaping horn.
•    A long, protruding cantle on the off or right side keeps the rider’s spine correctly positioned on the horse’s back and supports the right thigh.
•    A forward-extending flap on the near side prevents the rider’s right leg and foot from making contact with the horse’s left shoulder.
•    A three-buckle girthing system includes two standard girths and one balancing girth. A European innovation designed for hunting situations, the balancing girth is an important modern addition that protects the rider’s vulnerable kidney area from friction caused by the back of the saddle.

Some riders respect the historical and stylistic value of sidesaddles and seek to preserve the riding practice as a form of art.  This renewed interest has created a niche market for antique and modern versions.  Although manufacturers continue to produce these saddles, they are much less plentiful than other types.  Antique shops, estate sales, and auction houses are good sources for sidesaddles, but older examples may not include safety features such as the leaping horn.  Although modern sidesaddles provide a very secure seat even for vigorous activities such as jumping, antique saddles may be safe only for simple riding on the flat or purely presentational events.

Martin & Martin Sidesaddle Martin & Derby Sidesaddle
Martin & Martin Derby

Sidesaddles Available on ebay

[phpbay]sidesaddle, 3, “47281″, “pad”[/phpbay]

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