Aside World Magazine
Winter 2022 Issue
Through Pony Club on a Side Saddle
Article By Stacey Rusic of Same Side Equestrian
In Australia, Pony Club is the starting foundation for many riders. Young through to older, horsey background or not - pony clubs are an integral part of ones riding journey here and in many other countries worldwide. Offering practical and theoretical instruction and competition through all the core disciplines of Dressage, Showing, Show Jumping and Eventing its often a place where riders find their equestrian “calling”.
For many, if you’re not exposed to something through pony club or having grown up surrounded by a particular discipline/way of riding not offered at pony club (like western riding), it’s likely you’ll never stray from what you learn there. With so many other disciplines available and riders unlikely to seek them out without active interest or curiosity in them first, how do we get more people involved in these non-core, non-Olympic disciplines? Pony clubs in Australia have come to realize that not everyone wants to do Dressage or wants to Jump and if riders aren’t exposed to alternate disciplines available to them through pony club, how are they going to learn what else is out there?
I have attended many pony club rally days and camps over the years where alternate disciplines were showcased and taught to the riders, giving them the opportunity to trial the disciple and learn about what else is out there and available to them. From vaulting to polo, skill at arms and camp drafting (cow work), pony clubs are embracing all disciplines in the wider equestrian world and side saddle is no exception.
When I first started riding side saddle just shy of 9 years ago, I did all of my riding and competing through pony club. At the time, this was a far cry from something anyone had seen or done and as far as I am aware, I was the first person to actively and regularly ride and compete side saddle through pony club in Victoria (and possibly Australia), requiring special clarification from the association to do so. My sideways riding gained traction and soon enough I was featured in the pony club magazines for it. 2 years into my side saddle journey was the first time I was asked to showcase the discipline at a pony club through a talk and demonstration.
Side Saddle in Pony Club uniform on Tribal Dynasty
What started as a hobby of sharing my love for the discipline to other riders soon turned into a successful, one of a kind specialist side saddle business called Same Side Equestrian that comprised largely of teaching side saddle through pony club rally days and camps. I have introduced side saddle to 100s (if not close to 1000s) of horses, ponies and riders of all ages over the last 7 years all across my state of Victoria and neighbouring Southern New South Wales. My rally days are so popular, I am generally booking out 12-18 months in advance! Something I had never dreamed of.
These pony club rally days start with a whole club theory talk that consists of a brief history of side saddle, parts of the saddle, tree comparisons of a side saddle and astride saddle tree, correct dress/turnout, where you can/can’t ride side saddle in Australia as well as a bunch of fun little quizzes like “What is the current world record for the highest jump in a side saddle?” and a “Guess the age of this saddle” game with my 1901 Champion & Wilton.
The riders then break off into their normal rally groups (generally categorized by riding ability and/or age) and when they come to my lesson we fit a side saddle to each horse/pony and rider combination, teach them to mount correctly, the correct position and emergency grip as well as how to ride correctly through all paces. Some brave riders even give a small jump a go.
Teaching a group of 5 riders at Stratford Pony Club
Many riders start the lesson determined not to even move out of a walk but most very quickly adapt to move to a trot and canter by the end of the lesson. The remarks of surprise from riders and parents alike about how much they could actually do in a side saddle are always fun to hear and generally a highlight of the day.
A few of my Side Saddles
I am very lucky that over the years I have managed to acquire a range of safe and usable side saddles to fit many different horse, pony and rider shapes and sizes so can generally always fit something suitable enough to give the riders a really good feel for this way of riding. The Champion & Wiltons always seem to find their way into my collection but I do have unbranded and refurbished saddles as well as other makes such as a Wendy Tidbold and James Alcock (two Australian saddle makers) and a Rob Jenkins saddle on a Wykeham Pad as well as one of Robs pilches for the real little kids.
One of the most common remarks I hear through these days is “Oh my horse won’t like this!” And I say “Well how do you know if you’ve never done it before?”. Over the years with the amount of horses and ponies I have put a side saddle on, I could count on just one hand the number that really, really did not tolerate this way of riding. Pretty good odds if you ask me!!
What is the return on investment you hear you ask? Well if I am honest, I can’t say its great. But for me, that’s not the be all and end all of why I choose to do this. Even if just one or two riders decide to take up side saddle as more than just a once off go, that is one or two more riders than we had before. Despite doing what I do purely for the love of the sport and the absolute joy I get in sharing it with others, it helps to increase awareness about a discipline that most either didn’t actually know existed or for those who thought it had fizzled out entirely. This awareness brings about opportunity to current and future side saddle riders. It brings more classes at shows to compete in and more hidden away side saddles (and related gear like habits) into the mainstream circulation for those who are considering pursuing the discipline.
So, if you’d like to come along on the journey of teaching side saddle at pony clubs and all the fun sideways things happening here in Australia, please feel free to follow my page Same Side Equestrian on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you to Tammie Conway for reaching out to me and allowing me to share what side saddle things are happening “down under” here in Australia!
Teaching at Mandurang South Pony Club
Explaining correct position to a rider at Corio Moorabool Pony Club
A rider at Balranald Pony Club Camp cantering around for the first time
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Thank You Stacey for updating us on side saddle events in Australia!