Top tips for side-saddle

Expert advice from leading show horse producers Kate Moore and Lynn Russell on riding and showing side-saddle

There are certain showing classes which are only open to horses ridden side-saddlesuch as ladies’ hunter classes. These are organised by Sports Horse Breeding (GB) and are open to registered show hunters.

Ladies’ side-saddle classes are organised by British Show Hack, Cob and Riding Horse Association and are open to registered hacks, cobs and riding horses.

You can show a horse side-saddle, in open ridden classes, but you must provide an astride saddle for the judge to ride on.

You may compete side-saddle under British Show Jumping Association and British Dressage rules, but it is not permitted to ride side- saddle in events affiliated to British Eventing.

Finding a suitable horse

Lynn Russell, who rode side-saddle to win Royal Windsor’s overall Horse & Hound British Isles Championship, says:

“Any type of horse can be ridden side-saddle provided it has adequate conformation. It should have a good front and shoulder, but not be too short-coupled or you won’t have enough room for your saddle, which sits further back than an astride saddle.

“You do not want something with a short, choppy or bouncy stride. It must be comfortable because you sit to the trot.

“Your biggest problem with a broad horse, especially a cob, will be fitting a saddle, because they wereoriginally made for narrower Thoroughbred types.

“Never put a side-saddle on a horse which is known to rear because if the horse goes up and goes over backwards, you could be trapped.”

Rider’s dress and turnout

A bowler hat and collar and tie is correct dress for preliminary judging and a tweed side-saddle habit is required for this stage of a ladies’ hunter class.

For final judging and classes held in the main ring of a larger show, a silk top hat and hunting tie is required, but must be worn with a black or navy habit. Black gloves should never be worn.

Lynn advises: “Don’t forget how you look: if you’re broad in the beam, you’ll be wider than the saddle, so it might be an incentive to lose weight. And if you’re well endowed, you’ll need a good sports bra.”

For more information on side-saddle riding and to find instructors and saddle fitters, contact the Side-Saddle Association, Woodlands, Broadbury, Oakhampton, Devon EX20 4NH (tel: 01837 871313) or email

Read the full story in last week’s Horse & Hound (20 June 2002), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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