The History of Sidesaddle Riding
Did you know that there are multiple ways to ride a horse and different kinds of saddles to support these different ways to ride? One of the most famous and most difficult ways to ride a horse is called sidesaddle riding. It comes with an exciting and rich history that every horse lover needs to know about.
Sidesaddle and the way we ride horses continues to evolve in and out of history books, to film, to being back on the filed. For some, it's coming back into popularity outside of period movies and TV shows and back into horse races and shows. But what is riding sidesaddle and what is its history? Sidesaddle riding is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of straddling the horse while riding, you posterior flat with either leg on either side of the horse, you sit sideways on the horse with both legs hanging off of the same side of the horse when riding. Many think this type of riding was just a tradition followed by women of historic royalty and high birth in the last few hundred years, but it goes way beyond that! Some historians date it back to the 6th century where the god of blacksmiths, Hephestus, has been pictured riding sidesaddle himself.
This type of riding became common for women to use because riding with your legs on one side of the horse allowed women to keep their knees together at all times, which was considered to be more modest, which was important even while riding. Even though it is is much harder to ride this way, it was culturally accepted as the only way a woman could ride a horse for centuries. In the beginning, it was only men who rode horses and women were just their passengers. Women would ride behind their male counterparts, sitting on an attached cushion or blanket, being as modest as possible and keeping both of their legs together. This was also due to the fashion at the time, women wore heavy layers of skirts, and it was impossible to ride astride and maintain their modesty while doing so.
Some say women started riding sidesaddle as early as 1382, and some say it was even earlier. In 1382, Princess Ann rode sidesaddle to marry King Richard II. This style of riding was considered the only way to properly preserve a woman's virginity, so from there on out it was the only way for a woman to ride. Ironically it wasn't until the middle ages that the idea and concept for a specially made saddle for this proper type of riding was even considered. This new saddle would offer support, comfort, and allow them to control and guide their horse better than ever before, and be able to ride without a man.
As the years went on, many saddles were created and invented to help a woman ride more comfortably, but in 1830 with the addition of an additional pummel, the tables turned for women riders. This provided the most security and freedom in their movements than ever before, allowing them to freely gallop, ride for longer periods, and even jump if they wished. They could now hunt, race, and keep up with their male counterparts while still being in control of their modesty. But what about the lower social classes? Of course, they rode out of necessity, but as a form of physical activity and fun and appropriate behavior, it was only acceptable for women of the wealthiest class to ride until as late as the 1850's. It took almost until the 1880's for a specific riding outfit to be designed and considered for a woman to ride in. Up until that point, a woman was wearing her normal day wear, which if too long, could prove to be very dangerous for the rider. This fashion quickly changed and by the early 20th century women could wear pants to ride. With this change in fashion and with the rise of the Suffergets side saddle riding slowly began to decrease in popularity. By the time the 1930's arrived, women were finally riding like their male counterparts after almost 550 years.
Today, thanks to the rise in popularity of British TV shows like Downton Abby, the return of sidesaddle riding has come. These vintage lovers are riding again in competition, races, horse shows, and for fun. They are not only bringing back the style of riding, but they are also bringing back the classic period style of dressing along with it too. Some men throughout history did ride sidesaddle, even though it was considered a woman's sport. If they had lost a leg or had other injuries, riding sidesaddle was easier for them. Riding sidesaddle was used when riding camels, zebras, mules, ostriches, and other exotic animals. Of course, some women refused to ride this way. They claimed that they were still very much proper women regardless of riding astride, Catherine The Great being one of these ladies. Also, if they were going to be riding long distances, sidesaddle was deemed impossible.
The next time you are looking for the best horseback riding in Charleston and you find our beautiful paths and stables, will you want to ask about riding sidesaddle? Would you be brave enough to try it? It will give you a whole new perspective on riding, and we guarantee that it will provide quite the adventure. Come see us soon, we can't wait to ride with you!
Famous Horses and Their Owners
Many of us dream of being in the limelight one way or another. Who could have ever thought that horses share that same interest? Or that a horse could help bring their owners into the limelight with their incredible talents and beauty? Here is a little story behind some of the most famous horses and their equally famous owners.
Famous people come to the Lowcountry every day. You can walk down King Street in the summertime and spot a star or two, or while you're sitting at your favorite restaurant in town someone famous could be sitting at the table next to yours. With our beautiful beaches, excellent food, amazing horse riding facilities, and perfect weather, Charleston offers the best of the best. More films and TV shows are being filmed in Charleston every year too, and stars of the silver and smaller screens are becoming a permanent fixture in our beautiful city. Beyond the stars that call Charleston their home or their favorite vacation spot, can you name any horse who has become famous on the big screen? Can you name a famous fixture in history who was known to be an amazing horseman or woman? You might be surprised to know there are many in both categories. Many modern celebrities love their horses or fall madly in love with them while working with them on set, but this list offers a little more than just that!
Many think of this handsome horseman as a TV and movie star. Which is 100% correct! Trigger, a stunning Palimino, was hist faithful horse and companion. To this day Trigger has become one of the most famous horses in film history, and Mr. Rogers was not too far behind him. Trigger stood at 15.3 hands tall, and was born on July 4th, 1943 and died on July 3rd, 1965. A child growing up during Trigger's lifetime knew who he was and that he was a cowboy's best friend. This beautiful horse used his fame to inspire so many, and never let stairs or elevators get in the way of a hospital or shelter visit. When he was born, his name was Golden Cloud. He was sold to the Hudkins Stables of Hollywood when he was three years old. This particular stable supplied horses exclusively for the TV and film industry. He appeared in his first film, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and was ridden by the incredible Olivia de Haviland in 1938. Around the same time, a very handsome young cowboy who loved the movies changed his name from Leonard Slye to Roy Rogers. He chose the name so he could sound a little bit more like the cowboy he was. A real cowboy, now staring in his film, needed the perfect horse. That perfect horse was Golden Cloud. Rogers knew he was his match from the very first moment he rode him. Trigger earned his new name when a fellow actor of Rogers' noticed how quick he was, similar to Rogers' quick draw with a gun. So, he suggested the name, and it stuck. When their first movie together, "Under The Western Stars" made its premiere, one of the most important duos of all time was born. Knowing Trigger's popularity would continue to soar, Rogers couldn't bear the thought of someone else riding him or taking him away. So, he jumped into action and bought Trigger for his own for $2500, a mighty big sum at the time. Rogers paid in installments, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. The duo soared to success, making one another more famous than they could have imagined. Trigger appeared in all 88 movies Rogers was in and in all 100 episodes of the Roy Rogers show and was a part of Roger's life until he died. He couldn't bear to see him buried, so he was taxidermied and was on display at multiple museums until the early 2000's when the last museum he appeared at shut down.
Queen Elizabeth and Burmese
The Royal family has been known for their deep love and appreciation of horses for generations. Queen Elizabeth has been one of the most prominent members of the Royal Family who has always loved and dedicated a large part of her life and time to her horses. Thanks to historical TV shows like "The Crown" we have gotten a front-row view of her love of horses and the passion she's had them from the time she was a very little girl. She had her very first pony at the age of three and is still known to ride today at the age of 92. To this day the royal family breeds some of the best horses in the UK, their horses winning almost every race in most recent history. From a very young age, Queen Elizabeth has owned and loved many spectacular horses. The standout of these beauties being Burmese, a stunning black mare that was gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. For 18 years, the Queen rode Burmese in the Troping The Color Parade, a parade given in special honor of her birthday. She rode Burmese next to President Ronald Reagan, and she was also riding Burmese when in 1981, 6 blank shots were fired at her during her birthday parade. The stunning horse stood strong for her beloved Queen, who recovered almost instantly and continued riding with her head held high. Burmese was retired in 1986 and put out to pasture at Windsor Castle until her death in 1990. She is buried on the grounds of the castle, which is an extreme honor and a very unique one. The Queen had a statue commissioned in honor of Burmese's life, and today it stands in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature Building in Regina, Canada. This was the providence that Burmese was born. In the UK's history, the Queen has been ranked as one of the top horse breeders. She has also been ranked as one of the highest-profile horseback riding devotees in the world. Burmese was born in 1962 and was trained by corporal Fred Rasmussen. The Queen rode her daily when she was staying at her country house, not just during her birthday parades. She was a stunning sight to see when she was being ridden and is still remembered as one of the most beautiful horses in royal history.
We can't talk about famous horses without mentioning Mr. Ed, of course! This popular children's show stole the hearts of the nation and Mr. Ed was at the center of that love. The TV show focused around the friendship between Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young) and Mr. Ed, his talking horse (voiced by Alan Lane). Mr. Ed was named Bamboo Harvester off the big screen and was a stunning Palomino. The majority of the show is about Mr. Ed offering his best friend, Wilbert, advice on life. More often than not, he got Wilbur in trouble because Mr. Ed would only talk to Wilbur and no one else. The show was popular around the world, and long after it went off the air in 1966. The show aired from 1961 to 1966, and believe it or not, no one wanted to pick up the show at first. It took a year of private backing before it was picked up, but once it was the show was a smashing hit. Bamboo Harvester was born in 1949 and was trained by Les Hilton. Hilton was able to teach him to move his lips every time his hoof was touched. Peanut butter could also be used to get his lips moving so it looked like he was talking. Bamboo Harvester died in 1971 after an incredible life and career. No one knows exactly how he died, many stories are floating around Hollywood about it. The most probable story of them all is that he died from heart failure. A little known fact about the show, one of the most famous film cowboys of all time, Clint Eastwood, was on the show too!
There you have it! Some of the most popular horses and their celebrity counterparts of all time. Historically hundreds of horses could be added to this list. Horses have been used from the dawning of time to help conquer, protect, and build civilizations. They have journeyed from building the world to creating a world on the big screen. Who is your favorite TV or Film horse of all time? You never know, the next time you come take a ride at Middleton Equestrian Center, you might be riding the next big star Charleston will ever see!
Middleton Place Team