Just How Uncouth Was Riding Astride for Women Prior to Early 1900's?

Feb 2019
836
Pennsylvania, US
I know this is a rather obscure question / topic, but I'm curious is someone knows more about the cultural aspects of this...

It seems like in the 14th C., Princess Anne of Bohemia rode a horse aside - rather than astride - in order to keep her virginity intact. That seemed to be the event that set the fashion for the next couple of hundred years. By the 1830's you have the two pommel design that was revolutionary - so women could ride aside even at a canter or gallop. It seemed like side saddle was the lady-like way to ride...

But for the average to lower class person, how practical was it? For those who didn't have the money to buy a second saddle - who, when pressed, probably rode their heavy, draft horses who were usually employed on their farm - how strict were the societal pressures for women to ride aside? I always assumed it was the height of uncouth behavior - but then I started finding images of women riding astride...

side saddle 3.jpg
This is an illustration from Harper's Weekly in 1863 of their take on "Agent 355", the unknown Culper Spy Ring member who was supposedly a woman...

Maybe there was the assumption that in American women were more or less rubes in the 1700's, or that being a spy required some borderline male behaviors...

But then there are images of women riding astride, like this one of Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia...

side saddle 1.jpg

Apparently Catherine the Great forbade anyone in her court from riding aside on a horse - and though she is painted riding aside in her youth, rode astride, she later commissioned a painting of herself riding astride in what appears to be a men's style uniform. Marie Antoinette also supposedly rode astride...

How unladylike was it to ride astride? Was it something more associated with a certain amount of affluence (to buy said side saddle and have a male attendant) - or was it that certain echelons of society were exempt from side saddles - either by monetary restrictions or higher social power to choose?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,732
SoCal
Please pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is the difference between riding a horse aside versus astride?

Also, I would imagine that riding a horse while wearing a dress would have been a huge pain in the butt (pun intended).
 
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Feb 2019
836
Pennsylvania, US
Please pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is the difference between riding a horse aside versus astride?

Also, I would imagine that riding a horse while wearing a dress would have been a huge pain in the butt (pun intended).
Riding astride is how people typically ride horses today (with a leg on either side of the horse's flank/body/what have you)... riding aside is riding with both legs on the same side of the horse.

I think there was a pretty high rate of casualties from dresses becoming caught in the saddle or stirrup of sidesaddles and the rider being dragged to death. Riding habits slowly shifted towards a skirt that buttoned on either side, or like a sort of apron over breeches... but if you aren't willing to suffer for fashion, what's the point? (< Kidding.)
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,732
SoCal
Riding astride is how people typically ride horses today (with a leg on either side of the horse's flank/body/what have you)... riding aside is riding with both legs on the same side of the horse.

I think there was a pretty high rate of casualties from dresses becoming caught in the saddle or stirrup of sidesaddles and the rider being dragged to death. Riding habits slowly shifted towards a skirt that buttoned on either side, or like a sort of apron over breeches... but if you aren't willing to suffer for fashion, what's the point? (< Kidding.)
Thanks for clarifying. :)
 
Feb 2019
836
Pennsylvania, US
Oh; OK. Got it.

I could now imagine why riding astride could have been seen as being threatening to a woman's virginity.
It seems like when it came to royal issue, there was no "take my word for it" on virginity (not that Anne had any children). But if it took travelling across Europe essentially sitting on a horse like a chair with a board for your feet and no means of balance to seal the deal... I guess that's what you have to do.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,732
SoCal
It seems like when it came to royal issue, there was no "take my word for it" on virginity (not that Anne had any children). But if it took travelling across Europe essentially sitting on a horse like a chair with a board for your feet and no means of balance to seal the deal... I guess that's what you have to do.
Riding in a carriage seems much better, no?
 
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Feb 2019
836
Pennsylvania, US
Riding in a carriage seems much better, no?
Yeah, you'd think so - but I guess you are more reliant on there being established roads of some sort. Otherwise, I can't imagine why you'd subject yourself to all that. I'm not sure!
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,732
SoCal
Yeah, you'd think so - but I guess you are more reliant on there being established roads of some sort. Otherwise, I can't imagine why you'd subject yourself to all that. I'm not sure!
Were carriages incapable of moving well in areas without established roads?