Historical Texts

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Over the centuries, side-saddle has been written about extensively. ISSO has compiled electronic versions of many of these texts. This section will lead you to books from 1793 through the early 20th century, most dealing exclusively with side-saddle riding. There are many other texts that deal only in part with riding aside. You may find many of these via Google BooksProject GutenbergThe Internet Archive, and other internet sources, in addition to book dealers. Much of the advice in these texts holds true today, while some is quite dated. Together, they paint a picture of the path we rode from antiquity to today.

Lectures on Horsemanship, Wherein is Explained every Necessary Instruction for both Ladies and

Gentlemen, In the Useful and Polite Art of riding with Ease, Elegance, and Safety, by T.S., 1793.
Riding instruction manual, mentions the amble as comfortable but unsafe compared to trot, adjusting skirts, and extensive notes on proper stirrup use. “The stirrup should be such length as when the lady sits upright and properly on her seat, with the knee being easily bent, the heel kept back, with the toe raised a little higher than the heel so that the heel, hip and the shoulder, are in a line and as upright as when walking along, for if otherwise it is unjust and not agreeable to nature....”

L'écuyer Des Dames: ou, Lettres Sur L'équitation, By L. H. de Pons d'Hostun with illustrations by Horace Vernet, 1817. In French..

Principles of Modern Riding, for Ladies; in which All late Improvements are applied to Practice on the Promenade and the Road, by John Allen, 1825.
“A Lady's Saddle requires particular exactness in fitting, or the horse will be cruelly galled by it. It should be very deep in the points, and should sit close from the top of the bearing to the extreme ends of the points.”

The Young Horsewoman's Compendium of the Modern Art of Riding, by Edward Stanley, 1827.
Riding instruction manual . “When a Lady sits square, with her shoulders back, the weight of the body is brought down in the Saddle, and she becomes firmly seated on her Horse, and enabled to accompany him in all his motions.”

The Young Lady's Equestrian Manual, by Anonymous, 1838.
Riding instruction manual from pre-leaping horn days, including habit advice and numerous sketches. “Although hanging by the left crutch of the saddle, over the near side, is not only inelegant, but objectionable in many important respects, the near crutch, properly used, is a lady's principal dependence on horseback. The right knee being passed over the near crutch, the toes being slightly depressed, and the leg pressed against the fore part of the saddle, the pommel is grasped, and the rider well secured in the possession of her seat.”

Equitation des Dames, by P.A. Aubert, 1842.
Riding instruction manual, mentions the introduction of the leaping head. In French.

The Habit And The Horse; A Treatise On Female Equitation, by Mrs. J. Stirling Clarke, 1857.
Riding instruction manual, including jumping and habit advice with color plates. “In teaching to leap, a bar or hurdle from two to three feet in height, and a ditch from two to four feet in breadth, are all that is called for; it not being necessary with the majority of ladies to incur more risk, by increasing the size of the leap.”

The Lady's Equestrian Manual, by Willis P. Hazard, 1854.
Instruction manual, includes backing at the walk. “Riding on Horseback is, confessedly, one of the most graceful, agreeable, and salutary of feminine recreations.”

The Lady and Her Horse; Being Hints Selected from Various Sources and Compiled into a System of Equitation, by Maj. T.A. Jenkins, 1857.  Brief instruction manual from mounting to leaping. “If the lady be light, and dexterous, she may dismount without assistance.”

The Barb and the Bridle; A Handbook of Equitation for Ladies, and Manual of Instruction in the Science of Riding, from the Preparatory Suppling Exercises on Foot, to the Form in which a Lady Should Ride To Hounds, by Vielle Moustache, 1874.  “[I]t has been always clear to me that, if a man cannot acquire a true and firm seat himself on a side-saddle, it is impossible he can teach a woman to ride. He may teach her to sit square and upright on an old horse that has been carrying women for years, but "going about" on such an animal is not riding—my idea of which, as regards a lady, is, that on a horse still full of courage and action (though not too fresh or short of work) the rider should be able, by the application of aids sound in theory and practice, to render the horse thoroughly obedient to her will.”

Ladies on Horseback; Learning, Park-Riding, and Hunting, with Hints upon Costume, and Numerous Anecdotes, by Mrs. Power O'Donoghue (Nannie Lambert), 1881.
“Accustom yourself from the beginning to the use of a properly constructed saddle, made as straight as a board, seat perfectly level, and scarcely any appearance of a pommel upon the off-side. A leaping-head, or what is commonly termed a third crutch, is, in my opinion, indispensable. To procure a saddle such as I describe you must have it made to order, for those of the present day are all made with something of a dip, which is most objectionable.”

The American Horsewoman, by Mrs. Elizabeth Karr, 1884.
Instruction manual including information on tack, habit, horse, and problem-solving issues like shying. “The secret of secure and graceful riding is a correctly balanced seat in the saddle, one perfectly independent of reins or stirrup, and without exaggerations of any kind, whether the carelessness or indifference of the instinctive rider, or the affected, pedantic stiffness of the antiquated haut école.”

Hand-Book for Horsewomen, by Henry L. de Bussigny, 1884.
Riding instruction manual. “It is with regret that I see the riding-whip becoming superseded by the handle of the English hunting-crop, as this is neither rational nor practical, being too short and light to replace the right leg advantageously, or to give efficient punishment if it is needed.”

L'amazone au manège, à la promenade: traité de l'équitation des dames, by François Musany, 1888.
Thorough riding instruction manual, including school exercises, pirouette, jumping, and riding problem horses. In French.

In The Riding-School; Chats With Esmeralda, by Theo. Stephenson Browne, 1890.
Riding advice written as letters or “chats” with a young female student, includes musical rides, riding outside the school, and habits historical and modern. “There are crimson velvet and dark blue velvet and Lincoln green velvet habits without end in fiction, and in the records of English royal wardrobes, but, beautiful as velvet is, and exquisitely becoming as it would be, you would better not indulge your artistic taste by wearing it. It would cost almost three times as much as cloth; it would be nearly impossible to make a well fitting modern skirt of it, and it would be worn into ugliness by a very few hours of trotting. Be thankful, therefore, that fashion says that woollen cloth is the most costly material that may be used.”

Riding For Ladies, by W.A. Kerr, V.C., 1891.
Instruction manual including advice on habits, written by a former second in command of the 2nd Regiment Southern Maharatta Horse. “But, as a rule, the left should be the bridle hand, for if the reins be held in the right, and the horse, as horses often will, gets his head down or bores, the right shoulder is drawn forward, and the left knee, as a matter of course, being drawn back from under, loses its upward pressure against the leaping-head, and the safety of the seat is jeopardized.”

How Women Should Ride, by C. De Hurst, 1892.
Instruction manual starting with a word to parents on the hazards of letting girls ride before age 16, covers basic position, trouble horses, habitry, and two chapters on jumping. “Above all things, a girl should not lace nor wear her habit bodice too tight, as no benefit can possibly be derived from riding with the lungs and ribs compressed.”

A Girl's Ride In Iceland, by Mrs. Alec Tweedie, 1894.
Travelogue of a riding trip through Iceland, where the author rode astride. In the preface, she discusses side-saddles. “I strongly advocate the abolition of the side saddle for the country, hunting, or rough journeys, for three reasons—1st, safety; 2nd, comfort; 3rd, health.”

Through Persia on a Side-Saddle, by Ella C. Sykes, 1898.
Memoir of a Victorian Englishwoman's travels in Persia, including through remote areas. “The side-saddle is by no means an ideal invention in my eyes. It is difficult to mount into it from the ground; it is dangerous in riding among hills to be unable to spring off on either side in case of accident; the habit is very apt to be caught on the pommels if the rider falls, and the position in which she sits cramps her much if persisted in for many hours at a slow walk, which is the usual thing in hilly and stony countries.”

The Horsewoman, by Alice M. Hayes, 1903.
Riding instruction manual including tack and habit advice. The source of the image of a woman (Mrs. Hayes) riding a zebra side-saddle. “It ought to be a better one, seeing the trouble I took to make my obstinate mount stand still; but he seemed to regard the camera as in infernal machine destined for his destruction, and flatly refused to pose nicely for his portrait.”

Riding And Driving For Women, by Belle Beach, 1912.
Riding (and driving) instruction for side-saddle and astride, copiously illustrated with photographs. Belle Beach was a top show rider, and also wrote Riding Astride For Girls. “The side-saddle certainly ensures a stronger seat, especially in all cases of pitching forward, as, for instance, with a stumbling horse or a kicking one, or on landing after a jump.”

L'Amazone : quelques mots sur l'equitation de femmes, by P. de Vaucottes, 1912.
28-page riding instruction manual, no illustrations. In French.