How To Ride Side Saddle

Even though the days of it being socially unacceptable for women to ride a horse in the same way that men did are long gone – many people still like to try their hand at side saddle riding, either to help build their confidence or merely to have a little bit of fun and try something new.

However, just like with all other aspects of horse riding, when it comes to doing something correctly, there usually isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching someone a particular riding skill. Rather, it will ultimately come down to the rider’s confidence and trust in both themselves and their horse. 

Nevertheless, while this may certainly be the case, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to help get you started! That’s why, below, you will find a simple and easy-to-follow guide on how to ride side-saddle – regardless of your experience or ability. Read on! 

How To Ride Side-Saddle: Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Get Your Saddle Professionally Fitted

First things first, before you even think about hopping up into the saddle and trying out riding side-saddle for the first time, you’re going to need to make sure that you’ve taken the time to properly get your side-saddle fitted before. If you don’t get it professionally fitted, then you might find that your horse gets damaged or injured. T

he last thing you want to happen is for the saddle to pinch your horse’s skin or chafe, so even if you’re an experienced rider and horse owner, we still strongly recommend that you get some expert help while fitting the saddle, to make sure that you don’t cause any discomfort for you or your horse.

2. Gently Mount Your Horse And Take Time To Adjust

After the saddle has been properly fitted and you and your horse are good to go, the next thing that you will need to do is mount your horse and gently ease your way onto the saddle.

If this is going to be your first time doing this, then you might find mounting the side-saddle to be quite a strange experience that goes through your balance off, especially given the fact that you’re not going to be swinging one leg over the other side of your saddle.

For this reason, instead of lowering your stirrups and taking the reins in one hand to hoist yourself onto your horse, we recommend taking a step ladder/stool, and then carefully maneuvering your way onto the saddle that way.

Climb up the stool, place one foot in the stirrup, and then very gently lift yourself onto the saddle, making sure to place your second leg over the edge of the saddle for support.

3. Maintain Your Proper Riding Posture

Seeing as this is likely going to be your first or second time riding a side-saddle, your posture is going to be something that will take a little getting used to until it becomes second nature.

Nevertheless, while riding your horse-side saddle it’s imperative that you aren’t placing too much weight on your left hip and collapsing it downward, as this can then mean that your weight is not being evenly distributed across your horse, which can be painful for them.

Make sure that you’re keeping your back nice and straight with your shoulders back, as this will help to make sure that you’re staying balanced while riding your horse side-saddle.

4. Double Check The Stirrup

While riding the side-saddle, you’re essentially going to be relying on just one stirrup for stability, so it’s important to make sure that it has been correctly adjusted.

Traditionally, side-saddle is a riding style that is generally designed for the rider to stay in the saddle for the duration of the ride, so it’s important to make sure that your stirrup isn’t too high up, such as in the way you might place your stirrups if you were jumping or planning on coming out of the saddle for cross country.

Instead, you’ll want to make sure that you are able to place the palm of your hand between the stirrup and the top of your leg, as this will mean that your stirrup is not so short that it will be uncomfortable for you, but not too long that you are unable to place your weight in the stirrup, either. 

5. Begin Riding!

As we have already touched upon earlier in this guide when it comes to any aspect of horse riding, the quality of your riding will ultimately come down to your confidence while in the saddle, as well as how comfortable and at ease, your horse feels with you.

So, while riding a side-saddle, it’s very important to remember that the experience is going to be a new one for both of you, so start off slowly and pay attention to the signs that your horse is giving you.

While riding a side-saddle, you can enjoy a variety of activities including hacking, cantering, and plenty more. However, if you’re planning on galloping or jumping, we recommend sticking to riding English or Western, so that you and your horse will be able to enjoy optimum levels of safety and enjoyment. 

Top Tip

While riding a side-saddle, it’s highly likely that you’re going to feel as though you aren’t doing it right at first. This is totally normal and to be expected, especially given the fact that you’ve likely spent most of your time riding English!

In order to help you nail your side-saddle riding technique quicker, we recommend that you try to place your right heel against your left shin.

By doing this, you will naturally encourage your foot (in the stirrup) to point its toes in a downward direction, which will not only give you a more polished riding appearance but will also help you to feel more confident, comfortable, and secure! 

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