Wednesday 10th of April 2024

Hobday’s bit on the side for charity

Visitors to the Blenheim International Horse Trials on Thursday can enjoy a demonstration with 4* eventer Ben Hobday, who is being given a side saddle lesson by ‘on the wonk’ doyenne, Ginny Oakley Pope at 11am in the Attractions Arena in aid of two charities.


Ben Hobday & Willberry

Ben Hobday & Willberry

Ben, who will be riding national side saddle reserve champion Ashton Flight, is helping to raise money for 2 charities close to this heart: the late Hannah Francis’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity of which he is a patron, and is also being supported by the event’s high jump competition and blood cancer charity, Blood Red.  Barclays Bank Northampton are matching every pound that is raised so do pop along and support Ben if you can.

If you’ve been tempted to try riding side saddle but aren’t sure how to start, Ginny Oakley Pope shares some useful and inspiring advice so why not give it a go.

coco pic royal

A Bit on the Side

Riding side saddle is something most ladies never think that they will have the opportunity to do. The picture that forms in ones mind is one of extreme elegance, beautiful women riding beautiful horses and undoubtedly carrying a bottomless purse.

The latter seems to be the main factor that discourages the average person from having a go. However nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of teaching many different people and horses all varying in shape, size and ability. It is never too late to start for human or equine but let me first put your mind at rest as to what this is going to cost you and, dispel any thoughts of taking out a second mortgage! There is no need to invest in a habit, bowler, veil or side saddle to begin. After all, we do not don our full show gear for a lesson or a hack in the country. As long as you follow the basic rules of safety, a British Standard safety hat, jodhpurs and boots and find a qualified instructor you are ready to begin.

As for you personally, as with any sport, general fitness does help and even if you ride a lot astride you will discover new muscles when you enter into this form of equitation! As with anything new “slowly does it” and most find that half an hour is more than enough to begin with.
Now for the all important questions, will your own horse suit the job? Very few horses object to this change in career; however certain factors will make your life easier. For obvious reasons a wild, unschooled runaway would not be my choice of mount for a novice side saddle rider! Conformation can also play an important part in finding a saddle that sits straight and stays still with the rider mounted. Cobs, with broad shoulders and little wither, are perhaps the hardest to fit but are certainly not impossible. Indeed the side saddle horse comes in all different shapes and sizes and does not need to be a winning show hunter!

A bit on the side ireland

Before breaking your own horse to side saddle you can always start by receiving instruction on a trained side saddle horse. Not only will this give you confidence but enable you to discover if you like doing it! With health and safety laws and expensive insurance, gone are the days when an instructor can offer you a trial ride on their own trained horse. There are several centres around the country who offer this facility and they can be found by contacting The Side Saddle Association. This organisation will also guide you towards the many qualified instructors should you wish to start out with your own horse. Most instructors offer “have a go” days or private lessons where they are happy to use one of their own side saddles on your horse for you to experience the feel.

There are various different directions that you can take once you and your horse have mastered the art of side saddle riding. One of the more frequently seen classes is the Ladies Hunter held at County Shows. This is a pure showing class so conformation of the horse and its way of going, including those all important manners, are to be taken into account. The two top finals are held at the Royal international Horse Show in July and the Horse of the Year Show in October.

For those of us who do not have a show horse, there are many classes held under the governing rules of The Side Saddle Association where conformation is not a contributing factor to the final placing. Equitation classes are judged on the rider’s ability and the turn out of horse and rider. There is no doubt that a polite, well schooled horse or pony provides the rider with an easy passage, however conformation is not taken into account so lumps and bumps or acquired marks on horses legs are not taken into consideration.

Over the season, riders taking part in these classes, amalgamate points towards the championship show held the second week of August by The Side Saddle Association Show Committee. There are three main categories, Novice, Intermediate and Open. At the championships riders may combine their equitation class with a show jumping round. The highest placed four riders go through to a “ride off” where they are judged riding four strange horses. The overall winner is crowned “Rider of The Year” an immensely prestigious title.

The Concours d’ Elegance class is immensely popular where again the odd blemish is not a problem but a more showy type horse is likely to be placed higher. This class is judged on the overall picture that is created between horse and rider and that the judge deems to be the most elegant. This class can also be seen in a costume form where the clothing may well be chosen to suit the type of horse been ridden. In this class the less showy animal may come to the fore again and indeed this is a popular class with the juniors and native ponies.

There are many other classes that attract all types of horses and ponies. Area competitions also have encourage newcomers where is some classes a habit is not necessary.

Many horses are taking on a second or third career when being ridden aside. This is a perfect avenue for those with a horse who would like a slightly quieter life as most classes are not requiring massive “engagement” from the equine partner.


Jumping side saddle is an option that many enjoy. Indeed there is a side saddle team chase team led by the well known hunting lady Miss Emma Brown who is often seen crossing the country whilst out hunting with the Quorn in Leicestershire.

Like all jumping, practice makes perfect, and a green horse would not be ideal to learn to jump side saddle on. As with flat work, most horses are happy to jump side saddle as long as the rider remains balanced and the saddle is of a correct fitting.

Correct rhythm to a fence and harmony between horse and rider are two of the more important ingredients. Good side saddle jumping should hardly look any different from astride jumping, gone are the days when ladies looked as though they were about to fall off backwards!

Side Saddle riding can provide a new lease of life for both horses and riders who are looking for a new direction and a fun and different form of equitation. With so many different options of classes there is something to suit everyone from handy pony to higher level dressage. Indeed I have never been refused an entry whilst riding side saddle in ordinary dressage competitions.

Steeped in history and etiquette all riders remark on how special they feel when dressed in their habits. The complete picture with the veil and silk hat is enough to make any Mr Darcy want an introduction!

Ginny Oakley Pope

For more information contact:

Ms S Lane, Hon Secretary, The Side Saddle Association 01455 208345 or email: or Ginny Oakley Pope 07970 076122 or email:

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