Sidesaddle at the Olympics

I promise I’ll write about something other than sidesaddle soon, but I couldn’t resist these two snippets:

1) The brilliant Italian écuyère Elvira Guerra competed sidesaddle in the “hacks and hunters combined event” (photo of her here) at the 1900 Paris Olympics – a non-Olympic event, to be sure, but it wasn’t until 1952 that women were allowed to ride at the Games proper, and then only in dressage, when Lis Hartel of Denmark took an individual silver at Helsinki. Hartel was also the first paralympic rider. At the time she was paralysed below the knees – the last remnant of a severe polio attack she’d suffered eight years earlier at the age of 23, when, to cap it all, she was pregnant. She also took silver at the next games. Read about Lis and the foundation in her name at this link, and see photos of her at Simply Marvellous.

2) During my sidesaddle lesson, my teacher, Sarah Walker, explained that each sidesaddle was made to fit an individual rider and horse, and that the name and measurements of both were usually written on the saddle tree. Blogger Sidesaddle Girl investigated her own late-nineteenth century saddle and discovered not only where it was made, but also a portrait of its owner, a glamorous socialite. Read all about it here.

3) And via Sidesaddle Girl, here’s a young woman trying eventing aside:

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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  1. I, too, have evented sidesaddle–in the 1980s and 90s. We went up through the Training Level Championships here in the US. Great fun! The horse never had a cross-country jumping fault. There was even one event in which my safety stirrup flew off at the third XC jump–we finished XC with no stirrup–had to do stadium without as well, since there wasn’t time to go back for the stirrup–and he won!

      1. Definitely still allowed in the US (although not in the UK for recognized eventing). Interesting, though, that I’ve been through three rule-change rotations… Originally, whips were not permitted in dressage, “except for a lady sidesaddle.” That phrase was dropped (I’m sure their collective mind said, “Nobody events sidesaddle!”) leaving me with no right “leg” aids–I wrote in and pointed this out, and was provided with an official letter to show the tack checkers until the rule was changed back the following year. And it has come up twice since then!

        My favorite comment came after a clean stadium round, from someone who had fenced-judged XC. She said she had seen a great many awkward efforts over her fence, which had a challenging line. She remembered our going through–remarked on how smooth and “together”–but at the time had not even noticed we were aside, just saw the overall picture!

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