FOR the many women nowadays who ride across saddle, all principles and methods are precisely the same as for men. This discussion, therefore, concerns only those who use the side-saddle.
A horse to be ridden by a woman should accord completely in color, conformation, temper, regularity of gaits, and safety, with the age, build, temperament, social position, and equestrian skill of the rider. It must, at the very least, be well broken, trained to the side-saddle, and wonted to every object commonly met in city or country. It should, in addition, possess two special qualities. The first is that it should go forward freely, without needing continually to be urged, and yet, at the same time, be restrained and directed without too much exertion on the rider's part. The second is that it should be absolutely surefooted at all three gaits. A horse with a long, free, easy walk is preferable. One with any tendency to rear is quite out of the question.
It is by the correct simplicity of her dress, the firmness of hat and hair, that the horsewoman will make possible both her comfort and that elegance which, for the woman rider, takes the place of beauty.
A horse to be ridden by a woman must have been trained to stand absolutely quiet to be mounted, without the need of any second assistant.The rider stands at the left of the animal, facing forward. The right hand, resting on the second pommel of the saddle, holds the reins at the correct length for
feeling the horse's mouth. The single assistant faces the rider, his right foot in front of his left, his body leaning forward and his left hand extended to receive the woman's left foot, while his right hand is either at her waist or just below her left shoulder. The rider's left hand rests on the right shoulder of the assistant.
Thereupon, one or other of them counts — one, two, three; and at the last count the assistant lifts with his extended right leg, bringing forward the left foot beside the right, and supports the woman's weight. She, on her side, taking this support, raises herself, and pivoting sidewise, seats herself on the saddle, both knees to the left. She then removes her hand from the saddle fork, while at the same time the assistant, taking her right boot in his left hand, aids her in passing her right knee over this second fork. When the right foot is in place, he takes her left boot by the heel, turns forward the stirrup, and helps to set the foot in place. In the meantime the rider is adjusting her reins, holding them either with one hand or both. Last of all, the assistant helps with the complexities of elastics and straps, and hands the rider her whip.
All this must be done deliberately and precisely, without either abruptness or hesitation. If the rider's left boot is armed with a spur, she must warn her assistant.
Young pupils in the riding-schools commonly mount from a block. This is a mistake at the beginning, though well enough later, after they have learned to mount from the ground. The fault is that of the riding-master who neglects his duty as a teacher. Boys of fourteen should be taught to assist a lady in mounting; and I do not hesitate to say that this knowledge is an essential part of good breeding.
Some masters advocate giving the right foot rather than the left, as more secure. I have tried out both ways, and find that it makes little difference. The main points are practice, and the skill and strength of the assistant, who must lift the rider without jolt, and with no thrust toward the rear, since this might tear her hand from the saddle fork, or even send her over backwards. The assistant does not toss the rider, but lifts her steadily, in exact time with the straightening of her knee, as if his hands were a step.
A horsewoman can, however, mount by herself, by lengthening her stirrup, and then, when seated, adjusting it again. She can also mount by aid of a stone, tree, fence, or other elevation. For all these, however, she must be assured of the temper and docility of her horse. I recommend all young riders to learn to mount alone. It is good practice, and often very useful both in hunting-field and on promenade.
To dismount, the rider stops her horse, takes all four reins in the right hand, removes her foot from the stirrup, raises her right knee from the saddle, and passes her right leg over to the left side, pivoting on the seat. Her right hand, still holding the reins, now rests on the second pommel. The assistant, standing at the horse's left haunch, takes her left hand in his right, and aids her also with his own left, as she slips to the ground, still helped by her right hand on the second fork. An agile woman can dismount thus without assistance.
Dismounting, like mounting, should be done decisively, but without abruptness.
It is at the act of mounting that the horse first feels the ability of the rider, her confidence, and her skill. Baucher and Fillis always trained their horses before letting them be mounted by their women pupils. I myself often let mine begin with horses that have been merely broken; and I have always been successful.
THE woman rider, mounted, should carry her head straight and free, turning it easily in any direction without affecting the body.
The eyes look straight to the front between the horse's ears, and always in the direction in which the animal is going.
The body above the waist is erect and mobile. Below the waist, it is firm, but without being stiff.
The shoulders are well back and on the same line.
The arms fall naturally, the forearms are bent, and the elbows are held close to the body, but not stiffly.
The wrists are on the level of the elbows, and six inches apart.
Both hands hold the reins, the fingers firmly closed, the nails toward each other, and the thumbs extended along the reins.
The end of the rider's spine is perpendicular to the spine of the horse, and exactly in the middle of the saddle. This contact carries the weight, not only of the upper portion of the body, but also of the thighs and even of the legs below the knees. By the bearing of the end of the spine on the saddle, and by the contact of the inside of the right knee with the second fork and of the inside of the left thigh and knee with the saddle, the horsewoman balances the body and neutralizes the shock of the moving horse.
The right foot falls naturally on the saddle, the toe forward and somewhat down, the outside of the calf against the panel.
The left foot feels the stirrup, but does not lean on it. The toe turns a little inward, just enough to prevent the left calf from pressing against the saddle, since this would tend to pull the entire body round to the left.
Further details of the woman rider's position may be found in my book, The Horsewoman, D. Appleton and Company, New York. This which I have here set forth is the accepted posture. It is easily acquired if the pupil begins young and practices certain calisthenic exercises on horseback. To have a good seat is to be able to retain this position, under all conditions, with the horse in motion. No woman, young or adult, can acquire such seat merely by reading any book. She needs in addition, the help of a teacher, one, moreover, of long experience.
The principles of the reasoned and of the scientific equitation are the same for women as for men, the woman rider's whip taking the place of the man's right leg.