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

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,634
Dispargum
#11
I never considered that side saddles had anything to do with virginity. That's certainly not a concern for a married woman. I had always assumed it had to do with women wearing long skirts which would not spread to accomodate a horse. I've seen photos of Elizabeth II on formal occasions wearing a long skirt and riding side saddle. I've also seen photos of her on casual occasions wearing pants and straddling. The decision to straddle or not straddle seems to have been driven by the fashion imperative of the moment.

As far as how did common people ride, most common people never rode. Horses were very expensive and only the wealthy ever rode. Plow horses were usually not broken to saddle, only to harness.

If Princess Anne of Bohemia was afraid of losing her virginity by riding a horse the wrong way, that sounds like something one crazy person would think up, not something that everyone believed or practiced.

Is there any truth my belief (probably pulled out of my butt) that Victorian girls were raised to never let anything come between their knees? Which would include a horse. There's your threat to female virginity - Girls, never let anything come between your knees. :)
 
Last edited:
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2019
310
Pennsylvania, US
#12
Were carriages incapable of moving well in areas without established roads?
A carriage without a road would be tough to maneuver - imagine an average car driving through the woods or over rocky ground. Mt. Vernon has a 1700's "riding chair" (a single seat on a 2-wheel cart with wide-set, large wheels) which would have been better at negotiating rougher terrain, but this was a couple hundred years after Anne's ride.

A carriage could be quite dangerous - they still are, if anything goes wrong (man, I have a story about a wasp nest and a carriage...). Also it would be impossible to fit down a path if it weren't wide enough, and if the terrain were too rough, you'd have a terrible, bone-shaking ride and possibly damage the carriage (bad), and spook the horses (really, really bad). Even in the 1800's when they had things like hand brakes for hills, established roads etc., carriage crashes and "overturnings" sounded terrifying. Once something like that happens, the horses panic and try to run, with what is like blinding fear. Here's a video of a carriage collision - the pair of spooked horses just plow into another cart and keep going...
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2019
310
Pennsylvania, US
#14
I never considered that side saddles had anything to do with virginity. That's certainly not a concern for a married woman. I had always assumed it had to do with women wearing long skirts which would not spread to accomodate a horse. I've seen photos of Elizabeth II on formal occasions wearing a long skirt and riding side saddle. I've also seen photos of her on casual occasions wearing pants and straddling. The decision to straddle or not straddle seems to have been driven by the fashion imperative of the moment.

As far as how did common people ride, most common people never rode. Horses were very expensive and only the wealthy ever rode. Plow horses were usually not broken to saddle, only to harness.

If Princess Anne of Bohemia was afraid of losing her virginity by riding a horse the wrong way, that sounds like something one crazy person would think up, not something that everyone believed or practiced.

Is there any truth my belief (probably pulled out of my butt) that Victorian girls were raised to never let anything come between their knees? Which would include a horse. There's your threat to female virginity - Girls, never let anything come between your knees. :)
I'm thinking it's somewhat realistic to believe Anne was avoiding any chances of breaking her hymen. For that sort of marriage where she would be producing heirs, there couldn't be any question of legitimacy... she had to be a virgin beyond any doubt. That's what I think is implied there.

I think the sidesaddle was purely fashion. Those huge skirts really would be the only thing that would be full enough to drape over either side and cover your ankles (gasp!) and lower calf (GASP!). Regency era fashion was a little more form fitting - as was that late Victorian Imperial bustle look... not sure that would work... But the majority of women's styles would be as modest astride as aside.

Sidesaddle made the dresses look very lovely... it seems like women love to cite the sidesaddle as some sadistic male invention, but you had better believe that women saw how beautifully their copious skirts draped side saddle and that was that... also, who wants to dismount and have yards and yards of wrinkled skirt (when ironing is no small task)?

Don't get me started on Victorians. :rolleyes:
 
Feb 2019
310
Pennsylvania, US
#17
As far as how did common people ride, most common people never rode. Horses were very expensive and only the wealthy ever rode. Plow horses were usually not broken to saddle, only to harness.
Would the average person truly not train their horse for riding and driving? I think alot of those Netherlands breeds are considered dual purpose (heavy pulling and riding)... as were Morgan horses? Though those would have only been a handful compared to single purpose breeds (drafts, warmbloods, etc).
 
Likes: Futurist

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,634
Dispargum
#18
Would the average person truly not train their horse for riding and driving? I think alot of those Netherlands breeds are considered dual purpose (heavy pulling and riding)... as were Morgan horses? Though those would have only been a handful compared to single purpose breeds (drafts, warmbloods, etc).
For most of history, the common people rarely traveled except maybe to take produce to market and then a wagon is better than a saddle. Absolutely many horse breeds can do both saddle and harness. It's a function of training, not physical capability. If you needed a horse to pull a plow or a wagon it was usually a waste of time to also break him to saddle. Maybe someone who knows more about horses can answer this - Is it even possible (or practical) to train a horse in both saddle and harness? There are differences. For instance to make the horse go a rider kicks the horse's sides. A driver applies a whip, or the reins, or perhaps an audible cue like "Giddy up!" You can train a horse to respond to one command. Is it possible to train a horse to respond to both commands?
 
Feb 2019
310
Pennsylvania, US
#19
For most of history, the common people rarely traveled except maybe to take produce to market and then a wagon is better than a saddle. Absolutely many horse breeds can do both saddle and harness. It's a function of training, not physical capability. If you needed a horse to pull a plow or a wagon it was usually a waste of time to also break him to saddle. Maybe someone who knows more about horses can answer this - Is it even possible (or practical) to train a horse in both saddle and harness? There are differences. For instance to make the horse go a rider kicks the horse's sides. A driver applies a whip, or the reins, or perhaps an audible cue like "Giddy up!" You can train a horse to respond to one command. Is it possible to train a horse to respond to both commands?
I know some about training... I just don't know much about historical training.

My horse can both ride and drive... people say it makes a better overall horse, though they never say why (perhaps just a better groundwork for understanding communication with the rider/driver?). The steering is the same (though you can train a saddle horse to learn leg cues so you don't work their mouth too hard)... you just have to get the horse over it's natural reaction to feeling a predator on it's back (basically the same way a large cat would attack it).

When I trained Thor for saddle, he'd never canter because he had only been an Amish driving horse... but that was the only hold over from driving.

He trained me for driving. LOL. I'd yell “gee” and “haw” and he taught me which way each voice command meant. They can learn loads of voice commands... I was teaching him some in Norwegian (he's Norwegian).

The kick or the rein tap are just low-level cues to get them to move forward using their own natural “flight” tendency... you can swing your hand up and down, hit your thigh (that crack noise)... almost any quick or aggressive movement, for better or worse. You try to train that blind flight response out of them with desensitization, but you need that instinct to move them forward - either with you on top or pulling against the traces.

But the main difference is this is a modern horse - he has no job like horses in the past did. Maybe there was a distinct reason why it wouldn't be worth training for both riding and driving in the past.