Side-saddle riding revival

By Annette Lambly

Fascinated by the art of side-saddle riding, a Whangarei woman is hoping to persuade other Northlanders to learn this particular style of riding and to form a specialised riding group.

Hazel Squires says it was something she always wanted to do and after getting her first "side" saddle a few years ago she has tried out several horses to find a suitable mount.

Already an accomplished "astride" rider, Ms Squires says while she sees side-saddle riding as "a bit of fun" and "something different to do with her horse" she is determined to master the art.

She finds her current mount, Kabo Kauri,- a big, black, warmblood Clydesdale cross horse, who is a well-schooled dressage horse with good manners, smooth gaits and good balance, ideal for side-saddle riding.

"Riding side saddle is extremely good for your posture because it requires a lot of 'core' strength," she says.

While she admits side-saddle riding is probably not suited to beginner riders and not all horses "like it", it can be learned by riders of any age and she has instructors willing to come to Whangarei to teach it.

She says finding a saddle which properly fits her horse has been hard, saying while restored saddles are available, both horses and riders have gotten larger and taller over the years and many of the traditional saddles are too small. "However, the effort has been well worth it," she laughs.

She is delighted she has recently been lent a beautiful, fully restored 1870 side saddle, formerly owned by well-known Northlander Phyllis Clement and she is currently having this repacked to fit Kauri.

"I can't wait to start riding in it - it is such a lovely saddle," she says.

Her aim is to compete in dressage competitions riding side saddle and while hand surgery has prevented her from riding for a period she is now back "into it".

Side-saddle riding is enjoying a revival - growing in popularity again around the world, it has been actively promoted in New Zealand since the formation of the New Zealand Side Saddle Association in 1981.

Originally founded in Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, the New Zealand Association now has followers in both islands with some of the larger A&P; shows now holding speciality competitions.

We've all seen the period movies with elegantly dressed ladies riding side saddle - the picture perfect image of feminity, modesty, propriety and beauty matched to a suitable equine partner. As to when it became the accepted style of riding for women has been much debated and, while examples of women riding with both legs on one side have been found on 5th century Oriental artefacts, it is generally accepted Anne of Bohemia, who married King Richard II of England in 1382, developed the first version of a side saddle.

Since then the style, comfort and safety of the side saddle has developed much over the centuries before finally losing favour somewhere around the 1920s-'30s.

Anyone interested can contact Hazel Squires on 09 433 8855 in the evenings.

- Northern Advocate

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