Search for ‘offside’ saddle to help injured side saddle rider

Her grandmother was instrumental in the side saddle revival, her mother showed side saddle with great success and she herself has introduced many to the art.

So it was with some sadness that Cindy Sims gave up riding side saddle two years ago.

The combined effects of an injury from an old fall and arthritis in her right hip and knee meant it had become painful and awkward.

But Mrs Sims – who is based near Andover, Hants – is hoping to find a rare “offside” saddle, so she can ride side saddle again.

“They are like hen’s teeth,” Mrs Sims told H&H. “But I would love to try one to see if I could do it.

“Side saddle is pleasurable and you are supposed to be elegant. I had neither, so I decided to give up. It hurt, too. I found it agony – really, really uncomfortable.”

The right hip takes much of the weight when riding side saddle.

“If I found an offside saddle, it would be such a help in demonstrations and as a teaching aid,” she added.

Master saddler Laura Dempsey confirmed that offside saddles are “really quite rare”.

She told H&H: “I don’t see them very often, but I sold two to the United States last year – one to a woman who had problems with her right hip.”

Vanessa Hood, chairman of the Side Saddle Association, said offside saddles were only built to order in the last century, hence their rarity.

“Lady Leigh, whose family owned the Stoneleigh Estate, hunted offside in the late 1940s as she had a bad disability,” she said.

“And after World War One, soldiers who had sustained injuries used them.”

Ms Dempsey said it was not possible to make offside saddles because the trees no longer existed.

But side saddle enthusiast Leila Marvin from Wigston, Leics – who also has arthritis in her right hip – said Mrs Sims should not be disheartened.

“It took me a few years, but I did track down an offside saddle,” she said. “The first thing I noticed was the complete lack of pain in my right hip.

My mare was a bit confused at first, but soon got it. She definitely prefers it and is a lot more forward.”

Anyone who has an offside saddle Cindy could try should email her: lucindasims@harroway.co.uk.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (12 January)