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Thoughts on Side Saddle Position

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  • Thoughts on Side Saddle Position

    I was going to put this on my side saddle blog, but thought I might launch the question to a larger audience... then blog it. These are the things I think about while sitting at work

    When you are sitting in a chair, do you naturally cross your left or right leg over?

    How do you think this natural tendancy affects your side saddle position?

    For those of you who have the advantage of also owning an off side saddle, do you feel more at ease in on the near side or off side?

    I always cross my left leg over my right. I can go the other way with out pain or difficulty, but it feels a bit awkward. I think this might affect my side saddle position. I'm now thinking I should resist cutting up my yoga mat for saddle shims, and actually use it for yoga again.

    I've only been aboard once, but this weekend, while my husband was helping me adjust my leaping head, I spent some time in the saddle on the rack, and this thought popped up.

  • #2
    Interesting question. I too, always cross my left leg over my right, and my left leg is more flexible. My right side is stronger, but stiffer. In all of the pictures that I've seen of side saddles, the rider "perches" on their right hip (can you tell I know a lot about side saddle?) Why is that the "default" position? I know that many of the traditions of riding astride come from military tradition....carrying a sword on the left hip if you're right handed and so on. But women wouldn't have been carrying a sword or firearm. Do you know why it's set up that way?


    • #3
      Originally posted by Hinderella View Post
      Interesting question. I too, always cross my left leg over my right, and my left leg is more flexible. My right side is stronger, but stiffer. In all of the pictures that I've seen of side saddles, the rider "perches" on their right hip (can you tell I know a lot about side saddle?) Why is that the "default" position? I know that many of the traditions of riding astride come from military tradition....carrying a sword on the left hip if you're right handed and so on. But women wouldn't have been carrying a sword or firearm. Do you know why it's set up that way?
      The reasons for men to mount on the right meant that the horses were all trained that way, to be handled from the near side. So when it came time for a woman to mount up, it made sense to follow the existing method. (I assume.)

      A sidesaddle blogger wrote about a really interesting woman who (IIRC) had scoliosis, so her doctor suggested she have a sidesaddle made to ride from the off side of the horse. She was an interesting person, and rode for a very long distance or some such thing. I will try to look for the blog post if someone else doesn't beat me to it
      The journey is the destination.


      • #4
        Found it!

        The point is that, yes, there is precedent for riding aside to help balance the body.

        Lucky you to be riding aside! So elegant!
        The journey is the destination.


        • #5
          I always cross my right leg over my left. Doing the reverse feels somewhat awkward for me, like yours does for you.

          I have never had a chance to ride in an off-side sidesaddle. I have been on the lookout for one in my size/price range for several years now, as I would like to experience it and see how it compares to the more traditional near-side position, but I have not been successful. Sigh.

          I would think that yoga would certainly help to loosen up the hip for anyone.
          Last edited by SidesaddleRider; Jan. 31, 2011, 07:06 PM.
          Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


          • #6
            Since I put my right leg over my left I don't have that problem.
            I have ridden off-side and for me it does feel odd. Why? Because I have always ridden to the near-side. However an elderly lady told me that it is easier for a left handed rider to ride off-side that for a right handed rider to do so.
            I can understand that.
            I have 2 Western off-side sidesaddle trees in the shop but I have not had the time to make them up. Yet.
            Been too busy with my clients work to take out the time right now to do one of them up.
            I have had clients ask for English off-side sidesaddles but they are very scarce.
            I am glad to hear you finally got on the sidesaddle. Let us know how you are progressing.
            Kind regards, sadlmakr


            • Original Poster

              Sidesaddlerider and Sadlmakr, are you left handed or right handed?

              My left side is actually stronger from years of mounting with my left leg. My right side is stiffer, and I have a hard time controlling my lower right leg. It always swings forward. I don't mind putting it up on the saddle and taking it out of the equation. When I get tense, it shows in my right shoulder which will be a challenge aside.

              I also tend to put more weight on my right seat bone and have to be careful I don't create one sided horses as I sit on the off hind, which translates to favoring the left diagonal and the left lead.

              I will keep you posted. For anyone interested, I'm blogging my experience here: Upon a White Horse. Right now I'm still working out some equipment details highlighted by my first try, and am not ready to ride again, but should be soon.


              • #8
                Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                Sidesaddlerider and Sadlmakr, are you left handed or right handed?
                I am right-handed. I am naturally very flexible, however.

                Where are you located? If you are at all close by, feel free to come over and ride in several of my sidesaddles to see if a different saddle would make a difference for you.
                Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


                • #9
                  Which Side Is Dominant?

                  Smart Alex,
                  Frequently, people have right or left dominance. Most of the time, all of the dominance goes together.
                  Right eye, right hand, right foot/leg.
                  Left eye, left hand. left foot leg.

                  Then there are the folks who may be ambidextrous naturally. They float the hands and feet depending on the task. Most of us have to work quite hard to achieve that. I haven't met anyone who naturally swaps eyes, but I can ask my eye surgeon.

                  Considering how negative western (European background) culture has been until recently, The lefties were forced into doing things as if they were righties. Hence, fewer off side saddles.

                  By the way, horses have dominant sides, too.

                  There is now a body of layman oriented scientific literature about the dominances, if you want to persue the topic further. (It is one of my many interests)
                  Intermediate Riding Skills


                  • Original Poster

                    I remember when the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" came out. That was the first I'd heard of ocular dominance. Ocular dominance does affect your life, right down to what side of the movie theatre you prefer to sit on. When the sun get's bright, and I don't have sunglasses, I naturally close my left eye... don't really need it, I'm right eye dominant.

                    And then there is handedness in horses. I think by and large my horses have been right handed, but my left sidedness meets their right sidedness, and training issues arise. I've had horses who would no longer allow the rider to post on diagonal or the other because one hind leg had been over developed. But I've found that if the rider is consistently aware of their own squareness, that most horses are happy on either diagonal if they don't have to compensate for their rider's clumsiness.

                    I did read somewhere that some of the handedness in horses stems from how they lay inutero. For instance, if they lay on their left sides, then those muscles would have been stretched longer from the beginning, and they would find it easier to travel on the right lead. I know our last foal only circled right the first two days he was turned out. The third day he realised there was a whole second direction.

                    And back to the side saddle application. There was a time when many of the wealthier young ladies had either two saddles, one near sided and one off sided, or a saddle which converted back and forth because it was believed that if they only rode to one side, they would develop scoliosis. I can certainly see an advantage to being trained ambidexterous in riding. I certainly couldn't mount from the off side at this age although as a youngster we did practice it because it was occasionally called for in equitation classes by particularly creative judges.


                    • #11
                      I am right handed. I cross my right leg over my left.

                      I'm perfectly happy in a near-side sidesaddle.

                      Sounds like I'm left-eye dominant though, as looking through a camera viewfinder or squinting, I close my right eye for that.
                      ~ Horse Box Lovers Clique ~


                      • #12
                        I cross my right leg over my left, and I am right handed and pretty left eye dominant.

                        I ride in a near side sidesaddle. I would love to try an offside, just to see how it feels but I don't think my left knee would be able to handle it for very long.

                        I can do some things with my left hand, and recently realized that my mother writes with her right she was probably left handed before the nuns got a hold of her. She threads needles (hand and sewing machine) with her left hand and does other 'tiny' tasks like that with her left.
                        Mighty Thoroughbred Clique - has a Facebook Page!!!!/pages/Mig...80739235378806


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by whicker View Post
                          Smart Alex,
                          Frequently, people have right or left dominance. Most of the time, all of the dominance goes together.
                          Right eye, right hand, right foot/leg.
                          Left eye, left hand. left foot leg.
                          Eh...not always related to anything beyond the hands, though. Every so often someone on FSUniverse starts the clockwise/counter-clockwise poll (figure skaters only spin and jump one direction as a rule.) And there's always an attempt to correlate handedness, and it never works out. The majority of skaters spin counterclockwise, regardless of handedness, and among those of us who are clockwise (like me) there's no correlation, either. I'm right-handed, I shoot right-eye dominant, but I spin clockwise and jump that way, which means I land on my left leg. Generally, there's no attempt to "make" a skater be one or the other--you test it by spinning and see which way feels less awkward.

                          I don't think I have a preference for crossing my legs--probably right over left. Near-side ('normal') side saddle seems right to me, as does riding with the reins in my left hand and the whip or tail ends of the reins in my right.
                          Author Page
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                          Steampunk Sweethearts


                          • #14
                            I am right handed. But I have trained myself to do some things left handed.
                            I know several people who are left handed but as mentioned the nuns in their schools forced them to write right handed.
                            However they do seem to be OK and not warped mentally or anything like that.
                            I have a reversable English sidesaddle from 1892 that I have had for 25 years and still have not gotten it restored. It came off the MGM movie props lot. It was thought that a woman had to change sides to avoid scoliosis and for the horse not to become one sided.
                            Most horses don't see to care either way.
                            In my 45 years of sidesaddle riding I have only had 2 horses who objected to the sidesaddle. Several prefered sidesaddle over astride saddles.
                            The one thing if you are getting into sidesaddle is to make sure it fits you and the horse. Nothing will sour a horse on sidesaddle than a saddle that is too narrow or is packed down for another horse in the panels.
                            Find a saddler who knows and understands how to re-flock a sidesaddle to keep it balanced and riding level.
                            It is an art that few care to learn.
                            Have a great time riding aside. It is great fun and it is wonderful to start conversations.
                            With so many Baby Boomers reachng the Retirement Age and with bodies rebeling at the thought of riding astride, Sidesaddle is an answer. And yes men can ride aside too. There are many examples in history of some very famous men who rode aside in their older years. I have a British book with a chapter in it for the veterans of WWI who may have lot limbs or been otherwise injured to where they can't ride astride anymore.
                            It is only in the last 60 to 70 years that there has become such predjudice against sidesaddles for those who can't ride any more astride.


                            • #15
                              just my humble opinion on this topic!

                              Pretty much....I feel.....that my thoughts on side saddle position are.....that the saddle should be on TOP of the horse. On the side or under the belly? Nope, not doable!!