First side saddle steeplechase to be held since 1927

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  • Forty intrepid riders are being sought for what organisers believe will be the first side saddle steeplechase since 1927.

    The “Dianas of the Chase” race, planned for February 2013, will be run over two miles and is open to men as well as women.

    It will be held on the same day as the traditional Household Cavalry cross-country ride, near Melton Mowbray, Leics.

    It is being organised by side saddle devotee and jewellery designer Philippa Holland, along with Captain Fred Hopkinson, who is an officer with the Household Cavalry.

    “I wanted to ride in a point-to-point last year, but the rules say you can’t compete in a side saddle,” Philippa told H&H.

    “A friend of mine, Lucy Holland [Thruster of the week, 22 December 2011] rode in the Golden Button side saddle.

    “I also found some 1920s footage of lady steeplechasers riding side saddle – so that gave me the idea of running this race,” she added.

    Miss Holland is sending out 600 invitations to spectators and potential competitors. She will be riding herself and has persuaded several friends to follow suit.

    They include Martha Sitwell, who organised a recent side saddle meet for the Grafton.

    “Philippa is blazing the trail,” she told H&H.

    “So I will take part, but I am not out to win any medals – I’ll just pop through some nice holes that anyone has made for me,” she added.

    And Miss Holland is looking for male competitors, too. Although unheard of today, after the Great War, injured soldiers who had lost limbs would often ride aside.

    One officer who is planning to take part said he wanted to “appreciate the skill and effort that is required by the girls”.

    “I might even win a prize, as it is highly unlikely I would win one astride,” he said.

    “The dress code for the men is still unclear, but I have the top hat and veil and am ready to go.”

    Money raised – through entries, donations on the gate and profits on the bar – will be divided between the Quorn and military charity Forces in Mind, which helps soldiers leaving the Army adjust to civilian life.

    Email philippa@philippaholland.co.uk.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (22 March 2012)

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