Sidesaddle: A Slice of History

Martha King on Rockstar
Martha King on Rockstar

Devon spectators were treated to a special slice of history as the sidesaddle riders entered the Dixon Oval.  Sidesaddle riders use a special saddle and equipment that allows the rider to side sideways with both legs on one side of the horse.  This type of riding is known as riding "aside."  In comparison, most contemporary riders ride with one leg on either side of the horse, or "astride."  Sidesaddle riding was invented as a necessity back in historical times when women were not permitted to wear pants and horses were a major form of transportation and recreation.  Sidesaddles allowed a lady to travel and even foxhunt while still remaining modest and well-attired in a skirt.

Although skirts are no longer compulsory in our modern world, sidesaddles have continued to be a part of the show ring.  Sidesaddle riders may compete, aside, in regular dressage, three-day eventing, jumper, and hunter classes against their counterparts who ride astride.  Some riders, like Devon Zebrovious, not only compete in a sidesaddle but actually regularly foxhunt aside.  Others horses, like Martha King's Rockstar, compete both aside and astride, depending on the competition. 

At Devon, sidesaddle riders have their own division where they are the stars.  Like all hunter classes, sidesaddle classes are judged on the manners and performance of the horse.  Unlike other classes, turnout is more critical.  The rider may be judged on the suitability of her clothing and saddle, which are often actual antique pieces that have been preserved for decades.  The judges may even peer inside her sandwich case to ensure she has an appropriate sandwich (no red meat, the scent might confuse the hounds).  The type of horse is judged, as the horses in this division should be suitable for a lady to hunt to hounds.  In total, not only must these horses perform on the flat and over fences but everything must be historically accurate.

It was an elegant day in the Dixon Oval as the sidesaddle competitors showed off their skills on the flat and over fences.  The ladies sidesaddle hack was won by Pricilla Denegre on her long-time partner Garnet.  This pair has won the sidesaddle hack several years running and is always a force to be reckoned with at Devon.  The ladies sidesaddle over fences was won by Martha King on her horse Rockstar.  Of course, since the competitors are ladies it was all "glowing," no sweating, as they lined up for ribbons under the mid-day sun.