Women in Saddles
The Etiquette of Horseback Riding Explained
Position and Poise in the Saddle
A question much discussed and disputed in this country is this: On which side of her escort should a lady ride? In England the universal habit of turning to the left places the lady on the left, but here we turn to the right, and so the lady should be on the right. Mr. Mead wonders why some independent American ladies do not set the fashion of sitting on the right side. The Princess of Wales, he says, always does so for some special reasons, and the Empress of Austria, one of the boldest and most graceful riders, as well as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, has saddles made both ways, using them alternately.
The same plan is adopted by noble ladies of England who hunt regularly in the season. However, accepting the present feminine seat as a thing not to be changed, the advantage in this country of riding on the one hand of the escort or on the other are so equally divided that the balance may incline to either side, and a lady is always free to do about it as she pleases, without exciting remark.
Children should certainly be kept on the right, and so should any inexperienced or very timid person: and at all times a gentleman should interpose himself between the lady under his charge and danger of an kind — as, for instance, reckless drivers, rude strollers or a drove of cattle.
A lady's posture in the saddle should be erect, the back slightly hollowed, the breast thrown forward, the chin drawn in so that the neck will be nearly vertical. The lower limbs should rest easily but firmly in their respective places. The seat should be in the middle of the saddle, and the body should not incline to either side. The arms should hang naturally by the sides, with the hands a few inches apart, just above the knee, and as low as possible without resting upon it, the nails turned down, the knuckles at an angle of forty-five degrees with the horizon, the wrists bent inward so as to permit of a little play of the wrist joint at each tug of the horse on the reine. Daylight should not be visible between a lady's arms and body.
Practice alone can give repose in the saddle. Without it, statuesqueness cannot be preserved at the trot, the canter, the gallop, to say nothing of incidental shying and capering. Some suggestions are given. In "rising to the trot" you are told to bear outwardly with the left heel, which will keep the knee close against the saddle and prevent the leg from swaying about. At the same time care must be taken not to rise toward the left. Mr. Sidney, who is quoted, says: "The ideal of a fine horsewoman is to be erect without bring rigid, square to the front and, until quite at home in the saddle, looking religiously between her horse's ears. The shoulders must, therefore, be square, but thrown back a little, so as to expand the chest and make a hollow waist, such as is observed in waltzing, but always flexible.
On the flexibility of the person above the waist, and on the firmness below, all the grace of equestrianism, all the safety, depend. "Nervousness makes both men and women poke their heads forward — a stupid trick in a man, unpardonable in a woman. A lady should bond like a willow in a storm, always returning to an easy and nearly upright position. Nothing but practice — frequent, but not too long continued — can establish the all-important balance. Practice — and practice only — enables the rider instinctively to bear to the proper side, or lean back, as a horse turns, bounds or leaps. It is evidently not simply pounding along the high-road in a straight line on a steady nag which is here meant.
The following advice, given by a lady who is herself an accomplished horsewoman will furnish a clue to the sort of exercise which will be really profitable. She says: "Let the pupil practice riding in circles to the right, sitting upright, but bending a little to the horse's motion, following his nose with her eye; beginning with a walk, procceed to a slow trot, increasing the action as she gains firmness in the saddle. When in a smart trot on a circle to the right she can, leaning as she should to the right, see the feet of the horse on the right side, it may be assumed that she has arrived at a firm seat."
Another excellent exercise is to lean over, now to one side, now to the other, now in front, far enough to observe the horse's action, the motion of his feet and the regularity of his step. — Sacramento Daily Union, 1888
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