One question I am often asked is: Why ride side-saddle? Well, to answer a question with a question: Why not?.
There are various answers as why riders ride aside:
1. a different method of riding;
2. horses who will never be major prize winners in the show ring;
3. riders whose riding ability is good but will never win major prizes but wish to progress further in their horse knowledge and ability.
4. such riders wish to enhance their horses abilities and to increase their horses value
5. many wish to regain some of the elegance of former times; be it by riding in modern habits
5a.. they have seen the beauty of side-saddle costume classes and wish to compete in such events, either in classes which allow the atmosphere and approximation of the period portrayed, or those more historically minded riders, wish to learn more about the development of side-saddles, riding and habits and enter the historical costume classes where accuracy is required - from the skin out!
6. some side-saddle riders wish to compete, others wish to work through the training and examination system to enhance their own professional riding qualifications.
7. some may wish to hunt - when it was allowed
8. some may wish to compete at SSA shows and their National Show, and or at larger, ' hunter classes, event, team-chase, dressage, show-jump, ride across-country -m all aside.
9. there are many who want to learn to ride aside - JUST FOR FUN!! Many who decide to ride aside for fun, get bitten by the bug, and become much more serious, competing when they have stated quite categorically they would never do that.
10. And, return to my answer to the original question, Why not?
Following on from the first question, comes the second - Is riding side-saddle difficult to learn? Again, the answer is multi-faceted. Astride riding is easy - well to sit on and, usually, depending upon the horse, easy to stay on. BUT - to become proficient with any degrees of expertise, elegance and grace - THAT takes work and perseverance.
So, having decided to learn to ride aside - or at least try it out, the next move has to be decided. My advise is that the Side-Saddle Association is contacted. Based in England, the SSA is the foundation of all side-saddle riding, and is the association that all others aspire to. The SSA Panel Instructors, Judges and Examiners travel the country, giving clinics, etc. The Area Chairmen tell you your local instructors and riding establishments offering aside-riding instruction. Ladies - and gentlemen - from abroad visit England frequently to obtain additional instruction and take further SSA examinations to further their expertise. I am an SSA Panel Examiner, and so can vouch for this statement, as I meet up with such candidates regularly. America, Germany, France and Austria have strong groups and associations offering side-saddle instruction and shows, and are very successful.
It best to learn something of the art first - before teaching your horse, as it is very difficult to teach to novices together. Now, what comes first - the chicken or the egg - if the saddle doesn't fit the horse, he/she will not feel comfortable, so will not go well for you. If the saddle doesn't fit you, you will not feel comfortable, so will not enjoy the experience. So, a quick word about the saddle on the next page. This subject can be covered more deeply later.
Next page - the saddle.