|A sidesaddle from the Regency period.|
The horns are in the 'bullhorn' configuration,
where the right thigh would rest. There is
no leaping horn. The seat is "Sweepy"
The stirrup is a 'slipper stirrup'
And far from safe.
Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a listing of sidesaddle sellers both domestic and foreign, with a details, pricing comparisons and recommendations. These saddles are made for modern horses. I have also provided a number of other sidesaddle-related links at the bottom of the page.
Anatomy of the modern sidesaddle:
|The near-side top|
|The near side under the flap.|
Off-side saddles do exist, meaning that there are sidesaddles where your legs would be on the right side of the horse rather than the near-side or mounting side, which is traditional. Some custom saddlers do make these off-side saddles. Tattersall's for instance has one featured on her website. Scroll down to the link list for details.
There are generally two kinds of sidesaddle seats; a "Sweepy" sidesaddle, where the seat looks much like a traditional English saddle, with the dipped center and higher cantle (or back); and the flat sidesaddle, as pictured above, with a seat that is pretty much a flat surface. Some of these have symmetrical seats, and others have seats that are J shaped to conform to the asymmetrical position of the rider's derriere. Most modern riders will recommend the flat seat over the sweepy seat because the sweepy seat tends to feel 'uphill' and gives the rider the sense of sliding backwards, and having to lean forward too much.
|Position on a flat sidesaddle.|
The saddle I have has a flat symmetrical seat, and a wide tree. Wide trees are hard to find in vintage saddles; considering that most of the older saddles are designed for non-modern horses, which were shaped differently than today’s horses--meaning they had narrower and taller withers. It is unfortunately not wide enough for my rather portly draught horse in spite of its unusual width. Saddle trees, for those of you who don’t know, are the frames on which saddles are built. There are wooden trees, steel trees and all manner of other materials, including fiberglass. They are built to conform to the shape of a horse’s back and withers so that the weight of the saddle is directed to the sides of the saddle, leaving a channel down the center to protect the spine.
So when trying to pursue becoming a sidesaddle rider, ladies need to keep in mind that fit and safety should be the two most important considerations when shopping for a sidesaddle. It is more important than authenticity, I’m afraid. So if you are a die-hard reenactor, I’m afraid it would not be advisable to have a saddle made to emulate the Regency period sidesaddle unless it had modern measures built in to compensate for the Regency design's flaws. In fact, any saddle style prior to the Victorian sidesaddle would not be safe for you or for your horse. Even antique late Victorian saddles, if you can find them, must fit your horse well enough as to prevent any issues, and may require modification. Most saddles available today that are antique or vintage hail from the 1920s & 1930s. Very few older than that exist today, and if they do, they are not the safest saddles to have, except when kept for display.
|Sidesaddle position (from Wikipedia)|
|In the top image, you see the Regency/Georgian sidesaddle has|
has a slipper-stirrup. Here is a detail of an extant one from
The Sidesaddle Museum.
Some things you should keep in mind if you are riding for reenactment, is that most of the features that make your saddle incorrect and modern will invariably be hidden underneath the volume of your skirts. The balance girth on the off side of your saddle, where the small portion of your tack is visible at all, is the only thing that would be out of place, however it is really a necessary evil if you want a comfortable ride for you and for your horse. I haven't heard many good stories of people riding without a balance girth, and I've heard stories of people feeling 'twisted' because they didn't tighten the balance girth enough. Imagine having the two panels on each side of your spine twisting and causing pressure... Poor horse.
Also, there is very little evidence that sidesaddles of the Regency and Georgian period were ever made black leather. Brown or Havana would be your best colour choice. The reason why I say this is that some of the modern saddlers still making sidesaddles are producing some models in black leather. That might be appropriate for someone riding in modern habits doing dressage, but for historic reenactment, it is not appropriate. Having tooled, coloured leathers or suede on the seat and horns is fine, but the flaps and leathers should be brown.
Shopping for sidesaddles on the vintage market? Marti Friddle has written an informative article to help identify what period the saddle was made, and what manufacturer might have produced it. You can use this article to best match the saddle to your horse and your riding needs. This is an excellent and informative article.
Riding habits, boots and more:
I also posted a comprehensive post on Regency period riding habits sometime back so you can learn more about the style of the period, and what women wore when riding aside. It not only offers a number of pattern references, but also shows how you can make a habit from standard spencer and gown patterns, as well as fabricate your own costume items. It discusses footwear and what is the best thing to wear beneath your habit skirts. I will make a post in the future about hats.
Some modern English sidesaddle sellers:
Hundred Oaks, Inc. (US)
Offering several styles of English sidesaddle of exceptional quality, Hundred Oaks, Inc has spanking new beautiful sidesaddles that range from $975 - $2,600 depending on the brand (Elan, Steele and others), style and individual features. These are mostly FLAT sidesaddles. After trying my newly acquired sidesaddle on my horse, I discovered it wasn’t a perfect fit. So, I sold it (it sold immediately and for more than what what I was going to sell my Dressage saddle for) and will be buying a Hundred Oaks, Inc Elan saddle. They have a layaway program, by the way. Six months to pay them off. Just saying! She asks that you use her fitting method to insure that the saddle you are getting is going to fit your horse well. It would be bad to gamble with that kind of money. The Elan is an Asian import, but the quality is far greater than any of the below 'not recommended brands'. The manufacture and development of this saddle has been tightly controlled by the importer.
Bit on the Side Saddle (UK)
Sarah offers an imported, carefully designed, quality entry-level sidesaddle at an affordable price comparable to that of the Elan sold by Hundred Oaks. This saddle also includes a stirrup and balance girth with purchase, and can be further accessorized with English leather items. For about $1100 plus shipping, Sarah will ship to the US. The manufacture and development of this saddle has also been strictly controlled by the importer. This entry-level saddle is not fortified for jumping, but it can be modified upon request for a modest fee. This seller also plans to develop a higher-level sidesaddle for the serious rider, comparable to the Lady England from Zaldi. This is a new brand and has yet to be reviewed by the sidesaddle community. This narrative will be modified when reviews are provided.
Tattersall’s English Sidesaddles (Canada)
I am posting them because they have J-shaped deep seats and the workmanship looks pretty good. They’re custom made, FLAT sidesaddles so they’re probably more desirable than an import for instance--but these are not cheap. They are the high-end of sidesaddles. They are also built on more western-style trees so the shape is a bit different than the standard English sidesaddle, but it's still a wonderful saddle. The basic English style saddle is $2,600. The saddle comes iwth a balance strap, over girth and stirrup leather. You can choose the colour of the skirting as well as the upholstery leather used on the seat and pommels. The latter can be suede or leather. The padded safe is $100.00. She also makes a three-fold sidesaddle girth for $100.00 (which is reasonable).
Zaldi Sidesaddles (Spain)
These Spanish-made saddles look very nice. The used to be sold in Europe and the US through EquusDomus, but that business is no longer in operation. However Zaldi does still sell their saddles both domestically and to the US, but they do so by shipping them individually at this point. I do believe that there may soon be a few US retailers that carry Zaldi products, including their sidesaddles, but at this stage, I don't know of any. The best bet is to go to http://www.zaldi.com/ and to find out for yourself. At present, the saddles are only viewable in their online catalog (pg. 45 and 54 I think), and you can write Zaldi for more information. Their most popular saddle in the sidesaddle community is the Amazona Lady-England, and it looks like a really great contender. The shipping would probably abount to about $230. They are priced as following; $2550 (the Amazona Lady-England); to $2120 (The Amazona-Caza) and the tiny one on the bottom the is about $556 (The Amazona-Lady which appears to be a child's saddle). The Caza and Lady England look both to be J shaped, with a nice breakaway system on the stirrup.. By the picture of the tree, they look solidly made and I've heard only raves about these saddles among the sidesaddle community. One or two ladies I know of have bought one, so I'm waiting to hear the full reviews when they come in. I will modify this post as they do.
These saddles are custom made to order. I'm still not sure about whether he can pull off exports or not, or what the cost would be, and measuring might prove to be difficult since he makes every saddle to order and are made to measure. I am told the photographs do not do his saddles justice. He apparently makes all manner of artisan saddles, including Western saddles. There is no mention of cost on the page, but they're not going to be cheap by any means. They're beautiful saddles nonetheless.
You can obtain newly custom-built or restore an existing saddle. Can't find a tree to fit your horse? They have someone who will carve a custom one for you. No pricing is listed on the website, but that can be quickly solved with a well-placed phonecall.
The Manorgrove saddle has received much acclaim. The saddle sells on ebay stores for about $2600. It's a handsome model. These are custom made saddles. No idea about shipping, but I'm sure an inquiry directly to the store would get you what you need.
Lillian Chaudhary (US)Builds and restores sidesaddles, both English and Western. Has tremendous knowledge of riding aside, and can help you identify any saddles you might find along the way and help you determine if it's worth buying and restoring. She comes extremely highly recommended in the sidesaddle community. Use her email to contact her, in spite of her website being slightly outdated, she is still active and happy to respond to queries.
Another custom saddler with a lovely product. Contact for pricing. Laura will also reconstruct saddles from the tree-up.
For the budget-conscious person, or someone who doesn’t want to go all-in until they’re really sure about riding aside, this saddle sells for about $500 (on eBay, sometimes less), this is a pretty affordable price compared to other sidesaddles, but there's obviously a reason for that. It's not a well-designed sidesaddle. The Hilason is considered a "Sweepy" saddle, so it will sit differently with a slightly uphill position, and your right leg might not be quite as comfortable as it would be in a flat sidesaddle. I do not highly recommend it as I would the above saddles, but I want to make a fair list and let consumers choose for themselves. These saddles are not perfect by any means, but a few tweaks from someone who knows sidesaddles and it could probably work for you. It’s an affordable option, it’s new and it has all of the safety features on it that one requires, and could work as a starter-saddle if you know someone to make the necessary modifications so it won't hurt your horse or be a danger to you.
This is not a recommended model, but it's only fair to put it up here anyway. This is also a "sweepy" sidesaddle. Derby is no longer manufacturing them, but there are a few floating around at different sellers and on ebay and such. At the provided link, their current inventory is: 4 of the 21" medium tree in black, 1 each of the 21" wide tree saddles, in black and brown. That's it. I will say though, in studying the image, that the leaping horn is set quite low from the pommel, and it looks like a symmetrical seat saddle. I can't imagine the quality of this saddle is going to compare to the Tattersall's or Hundred Oaks saddle by any means. The manufacturer would not tell me where they were made, he said "overseas" and when I asked where, in Asia? He replied 'Something like that." That kind of ambiguity worries me. Most (and I use the word most with purpose, not ALL Asian imports are horrid or unfixable) Asian saddles are made by companies that are not at all familiar with the sidesaddle sport. Hilason, Silver Fox and its other name brands, Derby and other Asian brands often design these saddles on astride trees, making them improperly balanced and causing the rider to tilt towards the offside. They also often lack point straps for the balance girth, and have been known to have two balance girth straps. The pommels and horns are in awful places making the rider's position and posture uncomfortable for both them and the horse.
* A comprehensive PDF list of saddlers, manufacturers, exporters, artisans and retailers can be downloaded HERE.
Do you know of other sidesaddle sources that you think should be included on this list? Then comment here anytime with the saddler's name and website, and I will add it on. Thanks!
Lots of links on sidesaddle riding:
- Introduction to Sidesaddle riding (Newrider.com)
- About the condition and the saddle itself (Newrider.com)
- Fitting a Sidesaddle (Newrider.com)
- Hitchcockwoods.org – An article “Riding Aside Demystified”
- A study of very early sidesaddles and an actual medieval sidesaddle project
- Wikipedia (of course)
- Georgia Ladies Aside – another article on sidesaddle history with some nice photos .
- Hoosier Ladies Aside – History and information
- And finally, this delightful page that has illustrations of sidesaddles through time (it may take a while to load, have patience, it’s worth it.