Some Fun on the Side


Or, in other words, some of my side saddle adventures:-)

I have been riding since I was 8 –  and although I did some show jumping and cross country work in my teenage years, I was always more interested in doing things a bit differently – loved hacking and covering distance – going on  long trails was always welcome!  In the Uk, I spent a few years riding for a cavalry regiment for the English Civil War Society –  swashing my sword and firing carabines from horseback was by far much more interesting!


at the battle

I have tried some horseback archery and Roman riding with a group Comitatus – great fun!


doesnt show, but have just thrown a plumbata at a poor bloke with a big shield…

Nowadays I mostly hunt in Devon and Somerset, riding lovely thoroughbred horses blessed with amazing stamina – going up and down those hills there for 6-7 hours sometimes is by no means a mean feat!


at the meet – immaculately turned out and clean. 7 hours later, at the end of the day – not so much…

But I have always wanted to give a side saddle a go – to canter through the fields as a real lady would, all style and elegance. Well,  in the recent years SS seems to have been enjoying a come back – and so an opportunity arose one winter, a few years ago, when I was introduced to Michelle who hunts sidesaddle on Exmoor.


Michelle on her Joseph, all elegance – and me on Zeberdee, warmly wrapped up agains one of the coldest winds ever – more of a wild west hussy than a lady…!

The first lesson went well, and I rode a few times under Michelle’s tutelage – but alas, it turned out to be pure torture! my right knee was in agony after about 20 minutes. and so I thought that my wonky knees were not really designed for side saddle.  I didnt know much about it then and it wasnt till I met Becca Holland, currely working at Audley End House, who suggested that maybe the saddle was just too short for me.  Michelle is petite – me – not so much!


the first time…

Spirits were raised and i was determined to give it another go. As i just got engaged at that time, i wanted to ride side saddle after the ceremony – so I also had another excuse to learn the skill!

The first lesson was a success – the saddle was bigger and I was really comfortable in it – no knee problems! The mount, lovely, grumpy Henry, was gentle and understanding, and Becca is simply a superb teacher…


still a bit insecure…

I also discovered that turning to your left can end up badly – my first fall was even captured on the camera ( almost, before hubby turned it off and rushed to rescue – unnecessarily asmy bowler hat was made of sturdy stuff an survived the impact… )video here .

but after a few more tips, I was much more confident and the canter/trot transitions were coming along nicely  


yupee! cantering on a very sleepy Henry, it seems…

After that lesson weather worsened and all I was able to do is to plod around on the frozen grounds, modeling my growing collection of habits.

Here at a show and tell event,  sporting a 1785 riding habit in wool – double wool vest , wool skirt and jackets meant I was not frozen!


out in style… with becca keeping an eye over me:-)


Audley End in its wintery glory


and a view of the habit, getting ready in the stables:-)

  And another one,  this time 1910 habit…


wool habit and lovely Jack at the ready


close up of the habit

But then the spring came and we started training more – and after a few more lessons, and no more falls, I was allowed to go outside and play in a bigger field.

Soon it was time to try something else – jumping! and to make sure I do it properly i was asked to do it without a bridle…video of the first very awkward jump here



As my jumping progressed, we started to add toys – at one lesson i did a lot of jumping and throwing speers at boars – at another i was piercing balloons with a sabre – endless fun!


our toys…

In the end, i was able to do Becca’s favourite trick – jumping over a table and snatchign a glass of champagne  while flying over – here is my practice run!



We also included a dress rehearsal before my wedding – just making sure if the Victorian undergarments worked. they did – though I must say we naver had so much audience as when doing the dress rehearsal training!



and a bit more ladylike trot around…

Alas for my wedding henry had an injured tendon, so I was using one of the hunters – poor boy had a saddle only once before, but luckily it fitted, and  despite the owner’s fretting we were able to canter away just after the ceremony! vids here and here


cantering away, with my new husband!

Since then another habit was made… this time 1885, in blue wool, with elaborate frogging


a new habit and a new boy – Jimmy!

We have also had the pleasure to witness the first side saddle point to point since 1921 –  a few piccies here…


Becca flying over the fences on a borrowed pony


the winner, Susan Oakes and Lizzie Harris – not competetive at all… 🙂

This spring i hope to continue the training so that next season I am able to do some hunting  aside – fingers crossed.

in the meantime, have a look at Beccas Video: How to ride Sidesaddle like a Victorian Lady

or visit the blog of  the Flying foxes –


following huge interest in the habits: they are made by me! check or our facebook page🙂



there are also articles how to make them available on amazon:

the 18th century one

the 1810 one..

and the most asked for, the blue , 1885 habit


04/2014 update – a few more  habits and ss adventures happened:-)

a nice training session at Thurleigh Equestrian Centre, sporting my blue habit…





and a Steampunk shoot too  ( from the Steampunk Amazones Collection)




 Then a green habit for a customer – love the colour choice here! 🙂

Devon Riding Habit-1 Devon Riding Habit-9

and the newest, 1860(ish) habit – a stock item the shop:-)

1860s Riding Habit-1 1860s Riding Habit-5 1860s Riding Habit-13


10 thoughts on “Some Fun on the Side

  1. I loved this post. I’ve been riding for many years but never tried a side saddle because it was not just something you could learn where I used to ride. Nice work and beautiful wedding!

  2. Pingback: Steampunk Asylum, Lincoln, September 2013 | A Damsel in This Dress

  3. Fabulous! I just started riding aside. I am loving it! I must learn some cool tricks one day… If I’m brave enough! Your habits are lovely.


  4. Pingback: The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them! | A Damsel in This Dress

  5. I’d always thought sidesaddle riding was extremely dangerous, but I’m having to revise that idea. Do you need help getting on and off or can you do it unaided?

    • it is just as dangerous as normal riding, nowadays – though i feel saver jumping in side saddle! mounting – help is always welcome, though it is possible to get on without help – in moder stuff, in skirts, it is rather tricky!

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