Horse Saddles in Regency England
Published on April 15, 2015 by L.A. Hilden | Views: 2587

In 18th century, English saddles often sported the high-pommel and cantle styles.  The high-pommel supplied the rider with support and so it was used for a variety of purposes, whether combat, long-distance travel, or cattle work.

As foxhunting grew in popularity in England, a new type of saddle was developed to help the rider complete jumps over hedges and ditches in an effort to keep up with the hounds.  The old saddle was too cumbersome to handle jumps over fences as the high-pommel would get in the way and hurt you.  Thus the low-pummel saddle came into existence, sporting a flat seat and no padding under the legs.

Over time the forward seat was developed, which had shorter stirrups and kept the rider’s legs under them instead of forward.  The waist of the saddle was also made narrower and additional padding was added for security beneath the knee rolls.

The dreaded and completely unsafe sidesaddle has undergone many transformations since its inception.  Ladies could not go about with their legs draped over the sides of a horse, how unseemly, plus her reproductive organs could be damaged from sitting in that manner.  And let us not forget that long skirts, which were the fashion, were not ideal for riding astride.  These were some of the reasons the sidesaddle came into being.  When women first began to ride on their own and not behind a man, they would sit sideways in a saddle, which was more of a stuffed chair with a footrest called a planchette.  These so-called saddles are credited to Anne of Bohemia in the 14th cen
tury.  They had a single pommel in front and allowed the rider no control over the horse.  The horse was led about by another rider or servant, at a slow pace.  It was during the 16th century when a more practical design was created.  Attributed to Catherine de Medici, the second horn was added, between which a lady could place a leg, allowing her to face forward and thus gain control of her own horse, instead of having others lead her about.  There were also many sidesaddles in the bullhorn design, where the right leg would rest. This two-horned sidesaddle remained in various forms throughout the centuries.  But not all women were willing to adapt to the sidesaddle, ladies like Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great of Russia, refused to conform and rode astride.

Around 1835, the sidesaddle came to carry one or two pommels, with one turned up to support the right leg, some had a second, lower pommel called the leaping horn, which turned down over the left leg.  The second pommel was seen as revolutionary as now ladies could gallop and jump.

It was around 1830 that the balance strap was invented, which helped to keep the saddle firmly centered on the horse’s back.  The dip seat was also invented, which was far more comfortable than the previous flat seat.  Today, the sidesaddle is a symbol of days past, although they are still used in equestrian pageantry and disciplines.  There are those who wish to bring the long lost skill of riding with a sidesaddle back to the forefront, the article is below.


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