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Ladies on Horseback

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Rowan
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Ladies on Horseback

Post by Rowan » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 7:05 pm

I'm currently reading The Devil's Queen about Catherine de Medici. As part of the French court she is invited by King Francois to go horseback riding. I cannot seem to envision the contraption that French women sat upon for riding. Catherine indicates she sits side-saddle, which I am familiar enough with, but it seems that the French ladies sat up higher on something else, which put them in a rather precarious position. They couldn't go faster than a walk. Can anyone show me a picture of what the French women used?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 7:46 pm

Actually, Catherine de Medici was credited with inventing the 'leaping horn' on the sidesaddle because she loved to hunt, and following the hounds through brush and over brake was a dangerous business, sidesaddle, although women did it all the time.
I have found older examples of the leaping horn, so she didn't invent it, but she definitely helped popularize it.
Image Here's an image

The regular sidesaddle had a top horn, over which the woman's leg would hook, but it didn't help her stay on through jumps. With the addition of the second horn, shee could have her trailing leg (the left one) securely jammed between the stirrup and the lower of the two horns, and with the added scissors-pressure from the top leg, stay on when the riding got rough.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Mon April 2nd, 2012, 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ken
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Post by Ken » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 9:25 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Actually, Catherine de Medici was credited with inventing the 'leaping horn' on the sidesaddle because she loved to hunt, and following the hounds through brush and over brake was a dangerous business, sidesaddle, although women did it all the time.
I have found older examples of the leaping horn, so she didn't invent it, but she definitely helped popularize it.
Image Here's an image

The regular sidesaddle had a top horn, over which the woman's leg would hook, but it didn't help her stay on through jumps. With the addition of the second horn, shee could have her trailing leg (the left one) securely jammed between the stirrup and the lower of the two horns, and with the added scissors-pressure from the top leg, stay on when the riding got rough.[/quote]

Well, even though she might have not stayed on for too long, she might have enjoyed the experience! ;) :rolleyes:

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Post by annis » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 9:50 pm

I hadn't realised Catherine de' Medici's role in the development of the sidesaddle till I read a post a while back by Chris Gortner about his research for Confessions of Catherine de Medici

There's an interesting post here about women and riding

Medieval Women Riding and Hunting
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/hgarre ... es/78.html

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Post by Rowan » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 10:36 pm

Thanks for your help. After scanning through the link annis provided, I suppose the contraption used by the French ladies during Catherine's time is whatever it was that Anne of Bohemia invented. The description of a chair-like device is similar.

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Post by annis » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 4:01 am

Just to toss a spanner in the works, this post from Sarah Woodbury which points out that riding aside is a very old custom, with images on antique Greek vases showing women riding this way. A commenter to this post also points out that Empress Matilda was recorded as riding aside in the 12th century and that the Anne of Bohemia reference may be suspect.
http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=348

In this article Anne is credited with introducing the first "functional" side saddle, so it could be that versions of the side-saddle existed pre-14th century but weren't very useful, given that the "functional" version still didn't give the rider much control and her horse had to be led by a male rider for safety's sake! Sounds like Catherine's was the first version that gave a female rider using a side-saddle any real element of independence and control.

A few pictures of side saddles from the 15th century on here:
http://users.tinyworld.co.uk/sidesaddle ... ddles.html
Last edited by annis on Tue April 3rd, 2012, 4:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 4:21 am

Poorer women usually rode astride. They couldn't afford a special saddle only for the lady of the house, and astride is, after all, the logical way for a human to sit on a horse.

Another reason to ride astride, if you are poor and must consider your horse as a valuable family asset, is that it is easier on the horse. However well designed the saddle might be, hanging the greater part of the burden on one side is hard on the animal's spine. I knwo-- I have spent thirty years teaching and re-teaching people to balance the loads so that their pack animal can give its best performance. Even four pounds off from right to left can cause unnecessary pulling on the saddle, and from there, to the skin on the back. The end result of this is saddle-sores.

I think the sidesaddle, like the enormously impractical hoop skirts, was another way to denote class and position---the harder it was to get regular work done with a given item of apparel or equipage, the more it demonstrated that you had money/time/energy to burn.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue April 3rd, 2012, 4:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by wendy » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 2:06 pm

There are some excellent examples of extant sidesaddles at the National Cowgirl Museum, Fort Worth. I was amazed anyone would be able to stay on a horse that way - their balance must have been incredible!
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Post by annis » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 7:50 pm

Posted by MLE
I think the sidesaddle, like the enormously impractical hoop skirts, was another way to denote class and position---the harder it was to get regular work done with a given item of apparel or equipage, the more it demonstrated that you had money/time/energy to burn.
There also seemed to be some sort of strange perception that ladies riding astride could lose their virginity, a valuable commodity amongst the upper classes.

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Post by Carla » Wed April 4th, 2012, 9:26 am

[quote=""annis""]Posted by MLE


There also seemed to be some sort of strange perception that ladies riding astride could lose their virginity, a valuable commodity amongst the upper classes.[/quote]

There might be a biological basis for this belief, if the hymen could be stretched or ruptured by riding astride.
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