View Full Version : women and horseback riding in the 1860s
09-27-2009, 09:00 PM
At a reenactment this weekend I was watching the cavalry gents warm up their horses before the battle, and I started to wonder about women and horseback riding in the 1860s. This subject is of particular interest to me since I am an equestrian in my modern life.
Did women go horseback riding as a form of recreation? (I am guessing if they did it would have been the more well-to-do women who could afford to a.) be leisurely and b.) have a horse that wasn't just for work.)
If so, what did they wear? At a merchant at an event a few years ago I saw a riding habit, but I'm not sure if it was at all correct. Did women wear special riding clothing, like some women do today? Or did they just wear "regular" dresses? And what about headgear (hats, bonnets, etc.)?
Did women ride sidesaddle? Has anyone ever seen an original, or a reproduction, or even such a thing pictured?
Julio C. Zangroniz
09-27-2009, 09:25 PM
Every year, from as far back as I can remember, there are some women who provide side saddle riding demonstrations at Cedar Creek, an event in Virginia that is coming up in just a couple of weeks.
If you are in the area, I encourage you to travel to the beautiful Shenandoah
Valley and witness their performance, as well as the gorgeous fall colors, something that most of the country doesn't get to enjoy.
In all honesty, I don't know who those lovely ladies are, I don't know why they do their demonstrations (but obviously, sheer joy is a great part of it), but I always have a grand time photographing them.
The ladies are very elegant, they are most accomplished at what they do (I'd probably roll off the equine after its first or second step and probably hurt some of the local rocks with my head) and they are most charming to the admiring public.
I think it's a highlight of the event, even though it doesn't generate many headlines.
09-27-2009, 10:18 PM
I'm from MI and unfortunately do not have either the time or the funds to travel to VA especially with only a few weeks' notice. It sounds, however, like a presentation I would definitely like to see at some point in my life! Might you be willing to give my contact information to the lady in charge of that group when you attend the event? If so, I will send you a private message containing it. Or at the very least, would you be willing to remember the name of the group and send it to me in a private message after the event? I would very much like to correspond with these ladies and "pick their brains" about the subject of ladies and horseback riding.
Julio C. Zangroniz
09-27-2009, 10:53 PM
I would be more than happy to track down the group (if they are there this year, as I expect them to be) and convey to one of their leaders whatever contact information you may wish to get to them. Please send me the info via a private message.
Also, I expect to post photographs about Cedar Creek via my website: http://www.zphotos.smugmug.com, then click on the "9cedar creek" galleries. There should be a year or two of event photos already there, though off hand, I cannot recall if there are any of the side saddle riding demonstrations. My apologies for such a weak memory.
But if the presenters of this particular skill are there this year, I shall be on the lookout for them and I shall do my best to catch them in action and then post them.
09-28-2009, 07:54 AM
I used to own 2 horses as well and so they are a particular interest to me too. I'm hoping someday to be able to have one for reenacting, but that time is not here yet.
Ladies did ride side saddle and did have special clothing for riding (riding habit) however, I would imagine that the ones who did so were the ones of higher social class. You can find period patterns for riding habits. Also check into finishing schools of the 1860's. For some reason I'm thinking that horseback lessons at those sorts of schools were offered. But again that would have been for the upper class.
For the ladies of lower social class, I don't believe they wouldn't ride for pleasure just because of their class status. I would think that any young girl living on the farm would have had fun with the family horses just the same. But they would not have been able to afford a side saddle. I'm sure many that rode on their farms would have rode the regular way or bare back.
As you find more info please post on here. I'd love to learn more as well.
09-28-2009, 07:58 AM
There is an association of side-saddle riders. I will see if we can find the info.
09-28-2009, 08:18 AM
There have been a few discussions of this topic in the distant past. Do a search for International Sidesaddle Organization, and see if Janet Brown is still an active forum member.
Here's what I found. The first is earlier, and the second was part of a longer discussion. From 3/28/2006:
Sidesaddle Camp of Instruction
Victorian Ladies Aside will be having our 3rd annual Sidesaddle Camp of Instruction in Ft. Valley, VA the weekend of June 3-4. The weekend will consist of riding instruction, proper saddle fit, proper riding attire and habit construction. The riding instructor is Jeannie Whited. Jeannie is certified by the International Side Saddle Organization (www.sidesaddle.com). Please see our website - www.victorianladiesaside.com for the registration form.
Victorian Ladies Aside
and from 5/23/2008:
I'm glad to see a representative of the ISSO as a member of this board. My sister, Caroline, has been a member for a number of years. I believe she joined when she studied at Meredith Manor in West Virginia in the late 1970's. She's been friends with Mrs. Neelan (I'm not sure of the spelling of her name), for a long long time.
For a long time, if there was any kind of sidesaddle question on this board, I always tried to steer people to the ISSO, for education, instruction. There are far too many people that have ridden a sidesaddle, and didn't feel comfortable, who then decided it's an unsafe seat. My only experience with riding one was when my sister was active with dressage, and hunter/jumper side saddle, as well as giving lessons. We had been discussing the safety question, and she had me take a few turns around the arena on her old Arab. I was surprised to find that when you sit properly on the seat, it feels more secure than sitting astride.
Bravo the ISSO!
ps: the website for victorian ladies aside evidently no longer works, but the ISSO site is good.
09-28-2009, 01:39 PM
Yes, our sideaddle organization still exists. We will be doing sidesaddle demos at Cedar Creek this year. You can go online at www.sidesaddle.com for basic information. Also try www.victorianladiesaside.com. That website has not been updated in a couple of years, but had some good pictures. Another website for pictures is www.bhsphotography.com. He takes pictures every year of the largest all sidesaddle show in the country. There is a victorian ladies division that will have nice period riding habits.
Women did ride aside from medieval times on. We still ride aside and show aside today. For the 1860's you would definitely need a riding habit of the period. Saddle fit is of the primary importance. Please carefully research saddles before you buy. If you are buying on ebay - it is buyer beware! Most saddles are cheap imports that are improperly made and designed and will not stay on the horse. A good sidesaddle will run you $800 on up.
If I can be of any help at all, please let me know.
President, International Side Saddle Organization
09-28-2009, 04:32 PM
If I sent you a private message with my email address, could we exchange a few messages?
09-29-2009, 01:38 PM
Sure! I'd be glad to help you in any way I can.
09-29-2009, 06:41 PM
Thank you! I will send you a private message in just a moment with my email address.
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