A side saddle is completely different to an astride saddle - the seat is broad and flat
(and no it doesn't sit on the horse's spine - there is a gullet just as with an ordinary astride saddle)
as you can see the right leg hooks round the top or fixed head, while the left leg, supported by the stirrup fits under the leaping head. And note: only ONE spur is worn!
And to prove how secure side saddle can be....
Mrs. Esther Stace riding sidesaddle and clearing 6'6"
at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, 1915
Note that Mrs Stace is not leaning forward or "folding" as you would when jumping riding astride. One hand on the rein, one hand out (and usually down) creates a better balance, keeps you in the saddle and is actually safe and secure. Look at most oil painting of Victorian ladies out hunting. They are upright, not folded. The right hand by the side also means you can grasp the baance strap or saddle if you need to.
The western side saddle often included a "purse" on the offside to hold the lady's incidentals such as coins for tolls, a handkerchief, and possibly a small pistol for protection.
Side saddles are beginning to be used in various disabled riding programs. As was the case after the wars, especially WWI, riders who for any reason cannot ride aside, can enjoy their horses side saddle.
In Victorian England, the hunting field was a place to meet a future husband. Unmarried ladies wore a navy habit with a bowler hat, while married women wore a black habit with silk hat if they were a subscriber, or a black habit and black bowler for less significant/important meets or while visiting another pack. Brown gloves should be worn with a bowler hat, well fitted and clean. Black gloves are a major faux pas because traditionally, black gloves signified that you were in mourning and therefore should not be riding.
There is certain 'etiquette' for the turn out of horse and rider for side saddle riding:
Bowler hats are usually black and can be worn with any colour of habit. The only other colour, which is acceptable, is brown when worn with a brown or tweed habit and only if worn with brown boots.
In the show-ring in the UK, whatever the class, if a bowler hat is worn, it must be with collar and tie, and hair in a bun, even if this means using a false bun.
When wearing a bowler hat, a black bowler is always considered correct with a black or navy habit and long black boots, a brown bowler can also be worn with a tweed habit and long brown boots.
A plain-collared shirt of a muted colour, preferably white or light cream, should be worn with a dark tie, tied neatly and tight up to the collar.
Brown gloves should be worn with a bowler hat, well fitted and clean. Black gloves are a major faux pas because traditionally, black gloves signified that you were in mourning and therefore should not be riding.
Hair should be tied back into a tight, very neat, small doughnut-sized bun, just touching the bottom of the hat. A fine hair net should cover both bun and hair. Riders with short hair should wear a false bun to create the illusion of long hair. There should be absolutely no hair whatsoever escaping from under the hat.
Silk hats (always referred to as a ‘silk hat’ never a ‘top hat’) are for formal occasions only, and this means that the whole turnout of you and your horse must be formal. Your habit should be black or navy, you should wear a white or cream stock and a spur. Your horse should be plaited and in a double bridle. Although, the old rule that silk hats would only be worn at Royal Shows has been relaxed, they are still only worn after lunch. If you are showing, do check the rules as many shows now insist that competitors in all classes must wear British Standard safety hats with a harness.
Traditionally-minded judges do not approve of short dressage toppers for side saddle. Silk hats should be no shorter than 4.75 inches or taller than 5.25 inches, depending on the height of the rider and overall picture on the horse. The hat should sit just above eyebrows and be straight and level to the ground when mounted.
A plain cream four-fold silk stock and plain white stock shirt should be worn with a silk hat, which should be tied tight enough to stay in place, but still be comfortable, and secured by a plain stock pin placed just under the knot when tied.
Cream or yellow gloves should be worn, although brown is also acceptable.
A black veil should be worn with either a silk hat or black bowler. It is worn crossed over the bun at the back and held in place with hairgrips either side. There should be no creases or wrinkles in the veil. The rider is expected to wear make-up under the veil. This should be subtle but enough to define the features of the face. No jewellery whatsoever should be worn.
It is also acceptable to wear a safety helmet (at British Standard) if you so wish. You should not be penalised in the show ring for this - although the more traditional hats do look more elegant.
I usually wear a safety hat when doing any jumping.
A traditional habit is made up of a waistcoat, jacket and apron.
Habits can be of navy, black or tweed in colour. A light-coloured waistcoat, plain or with light check, should be worn under the habit with the lowest button left undone.
The jacket should sit just above the saddle when mounted. It should be straight and have sleeves of a correct length so that when the rider's arms are stretched, they are not too short.
The apron, which gives the impression of a skirt but in fact only wraps around the front of the rider, should sit straight and level with the ground when mounted. The back of the apron should sit just above the seat of the saddle all around. The length of the apron should sit around one hand on its side above the ankle of the boot.
Underneath the habit, breeches should match the colour of your habit.
Long, well-polished black boots, with a spur on the left boot only, should be worn. It is crucial to clean the underside of your boots, as these are very visible when riding side saddle.
A cane is carried in the right hand to act instead of the right leg.
The hunting field was a good place to meet a future husband! Unmarried ladies wore a navy habit with a bowler hat, while married ladies wore a black habit with silk hat if they were a subscriber, or a black habit and black bowler for less significant/important meets or while visiting another pack. This rule has now fallen by the way side although some judges still prefer to see a silk hat worn only with a black habit. All of the showing rules originated in turnout for the hunting field.
Your mount should be immaculate with no marks or stains. The horse should be trimmed and plaited and, if needs be, chalked up to brighten white markings. Make up, baby oil and hoof oil can all be used to enhance the appearance of your horse.
Tails should be pulled or neatly plaited.
Quarter markers can be used and will be different, depending on the size and shape of your horse.
In side saddle classes, horses are generally ridden in a double bridle, although Pelhams are acceptable with double reins. All leather-work should be well-cleaned and oiled, with the bit and visible buckles polished.
If you are wearing a silk hat, you should have a double bridle/Pelham with double reins.
However if you a wearing a bowler, double or single reins are acceptable.
Side Saddle Makers
There is some excellent information about the history of the London UK side saddle makers
on BHSI Mr Nick Creaton's website
CHAMPION & WILTON
Established in 1786 in Oxford Street London
F.W. MAYHEW & Co.
F.W. MAYHEW & Co.
Frederick William Mayhew who began trading in the early 1880’s from Bryanston Square, London.
OWEN & Co.
Founded before 1839, trading from Mount St, Berkeley Square, London.