Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. A list of corrections is found at the end of the text along with a list of inconsistently spelled words. Oe ligatures have been expanded.
A Practical Guide to Side-Saddle Riding
ALICE M. HAYES AUTHOR OF "MY LEPER FRIENDS."
M. HORACE HAYES, F.R.C.V.S. (Late Captain "The Buffs")
AUTHOR OF "POINTS OF THE HORSE," "VETERINARY NOTES FOR HORSE-OWNERS," "RIDING AND HUNTING," ETC.
Second Edition, revised, enlarged and 133 photographic illustrations added.
LONDON HURST AND BLACKETT, LIMITED 13 GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET 1903
All rights reserved
PRINTED BY KELLY'S DIRECTORIES LTD., LONDON AND KINGSTON.
The first edition of this book was the result of seven years' experience of riding hundreds of horses in India, Ceylon, Egypt, China and South Africa; the most trying animals being those of which I was the rough-rider at my husband's horse-breaking classes. Since that edition came out, I have hunted a good deal, chiefly, in Leicestershire and Cheshire, and have taught many pupils, both of which experiences were of special advantage to me in preparing this new edition; because English ladies regard riding, principally, from a hunting point of view, and the best way to supplement one's education, is to try to teach.
The directions about side-saddles and seat are the outcome of practical work and fortunate opportunities; and I hope they will be as useful to my readers as they have been to my pupils. Although I have ridden, when abroad, some of the worst buckjumpers that could be found in any country, I have never "cut a voluntary," thanks to the adoption of a seat and saddle which gave the necessary grip. Of course I have had "purls," when horses have "come down" with me out hunting; and on one occasion in China, when a horse which I mounted for the first time, reared and came over.
I have taken Figs. 32 to 51, 71 to 78 and Fig. 90 from Riding and Hunting, and Figs. 147 and 148 from Points of the Horse. My husband has written Chapter XXII.
I have omitted the chapter on my Riding Experiences, as I thought it out of place in a purely teaching book.
Knowing the immense value of photographs in explaining technical subjects, I have gladly availed myself of the expert help of my husband and son in that form of illustration.
I am greatly obliged to Miss Harding, Miss Burnaby, Miss Neil, the Rev. G. Broke, the Rev. R. J. Gornall, Mr. Clarence Hailey of Newmarket, the Editor of Country Life and the Editor of The Queen, for the admirable photographs and blocks they most kindly lent me. I regret that I inadvertently omitted to place the names of Mr. Clarence Hailey and the Gresham Studio, Adelaide, South Australia, under the excellent photographs which are respectively reproduced in Figs. 2 and 3.
This edition is practically a new book.
Yew Tree House, Crick, Rugby, 25th March, 1903.
CHAPTER I. BEGINNING TO RIDE 1 to 7
CHAPTER II. HORSES FOR LADIES 8 to 24
CHAPTER III. SIDE-SADDLES 25 to 69
CHAPTER IV. BRIDLES 70 to 88
CHAPTER V. RIDING DRESS 89 to 124
CHAPTER VI. MOUNTING AND DISMOUNTING 125 to 135
CHAPTER VII. HOW TO HOLD THE REINS 136 to 144
CHAPTER VIII. THE SEAT 145 to 159
CHAPTER IX. HANDS, VOICE, WHIP AND SPUR 160 to 184
CHAPTER X. FIRST LESSONS IN RIDING 185 to 218
CHAPTER XI. RIDING ACROSS COUNTRY 219 to 226
CHAPTER XII. HACKING 227 to 232
CHAPTER XIII. RIDING WITHOUT REINS 233 to 243
CHAPTER XIV. NERVE 244 to 247
CHAPTER XV. FENCES, COUNTRY AND GATES 248 to 303
CHAPTER XVI. HUNTING 304 to 380
CHAPTER XVII. RIDING AND HUNTING ABROAD 381 to 393
CHAPTER XVIII. WALKING FOXHOUND PUPPIES 394 to 413
CHAPTER XIX. KINDNESS TO HORSES 414 to 425
CHAPTER XX. CROSS-SADDLE RIDING FOR LADIES 426 to 430
CHAPTER XXI. RIDING DIFFICULT HORSES 431 to 464
CHAPTER XXII. NAMES OF EXTERNAL PARTS OF THE HORSE 465 to 473
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Frontispiece—Alice M. Hayes.
FIG. PAGE 1. Man riding a horse over a fence in a side-saddle 3 2. Miss Burnaby's Butterfly 9 3. Miss Neil's Jackeroo 11 4. Mr. Vansittart's Romance 13 5. Irish mare, Salary 15 6. Polo pony, Pat 17 7. Arab pony, Freddie 19 8. Side view of saddle tree 26 9. Underneath view of saddle tree 27 10. Front view of saddle tree 29 11. Underneath view of saddle tree and its webs 31 12. Grip with improved leaping head 35 13. " ordinary " 37 14. Hook for stirrup leather 39 15. Leaping head too low down 40 16. Side view of a properly made saddle 41 17. Champion and Wilton's extra stirrup case 43 18. Capped stirrup-iron 44 19. Slipper stirrup 44 20. The Christie stirrup 44 21. Foot caught 45 22. Latchford stirrup 46 23. Scott's stirrup 46 24. " " open 47 25. Cope's stirrup 48 26. Foot released by Cope's stirrup 49 27. Scott's stirrup 50 28. Foot caught on off side 51 29. Child mounted 61 30. Child jumping without reins 63 31. Foot caught, on account of its having been put into the stirrup from the wrong side 67 32. "Head" of a single bridle: a, crown-piece; b, b, cheek-pieces; c, throat-latch; d, front or brow-band 71 33. Unjointed snaffle 72 34. Chain snaffle 72 35. Ordinary snaffle with cheeks 72 36. Nutcracker action of jointed snaffle on horse's mouth 73 37. Action of unjointed snaffle on horse's mouth 73 38. Action of a curb as a lever 73 39. Properly constructed curb for ordinary hunter. Side view 74 40. Ward Union curb bridle with half-moon snaffle 75 41. Curb chain covered with india-rubber tube 76 42. Chin-strap unbuckled 76 43. Chin-strap buckled 76 44. Curb reversed by horse throwing up his head, in the absence of a chin-strap 77 45. Cavasson nose-band 79 46. Standing martingale attached to rings of the snaffle 80 47. Lord Lonsdale's registered running martingale 81 48. Maximum length of standing martingale 83 49. Side view of horse's lower jaw 85 50. Angle made by the cheeks of a curb, when the reins are taken up 86 51. View of under-surface of lower jaw 87 52. The Hayes' Safety Skirt open for mounting 91 53. Off side of the Hayes' Safety Skirt 93 54. The Hayes' Safety Skirt closed for walking 95 55. Apron skirt open for mounting 97 56. The apron skirt closed for walking 99 57. Riding dress for child 101 58. Loose riding coat, too long 103 59. Front view of good riding coat 105 60. Back view of good riding coat 107 61. Terai hat and Norfolk jacket 109 62. Pith hat and drill jacket 109 63. Good driving coat 111 64. Top of boot catching on safety bar flap 119 65. Front view of riding under-bodice 121 66. Back view of riding under-bodice 123 67. Foot raised for mounting 127 68. Ready to mount 129 69. Dismounting without help 133 70. " with help 135 71. A rein in each hand 137 72. Single reins crossed in one hand 138 73. " " " " " 138 74. Double reins held separately in two hands 139 75. Holding double reins crossed in one hand 140 76. Double reins in left hand: one crossed, the other hooked up on middle finger 141 77. Reins held in one hand in military fashion 142 78. Off rein taken up by right hand from position shown in Fig. 77 143 79. Position of rider's legs at the walk 147 80. Hooked back leg, the direction of the pressure of which is shown by the fore finger of the left hand 151 81. Seat at the walk 153 82. Length of stirrup 155 83. Correct position of legs 157 84. Leaning back 158 85. Hunting whip 171 86. Thong properly put on 173 87. " " " 173 88. " incorrectly put on 175 89. " not quite right 175 90. A practical bullfinch 177 91. Spur-carrying whip used for high school riding 181 92. Thorough-bred mare at a walk 187 93. Preparing to rise at the trot, with stirrup at correct length 191 94. Rising at the trot, with stirrup at correct length 193 95. Preparing to rise at the trot, with stirrup too long 195 96. Rising at the trot, with stirrup too long 197 97. Canter, with right leg hooked back, and stirrup too long 199 98. Good seat at canter or gallop 201 99. " " " " 203 100. " " " " 205 101. Bad seat; right leg hooked back, stirrup too long, and foot "home" 207 102. Miss Emmie Harding jumping wire 211 103. Maximum amount of pressure on leaping head 213 104. Position of legs in jumping 215 105. Driving horse over jumps 235 106. A cut-and-laid fence 251 107. " " " during construction 253 108. A stake and bound fence 255 109. Post and rails to close gap in hedge 257 110. Posts and rails 259 111. " " " with ditch 261 112. Midland stile 263 113. An oxer 265 114. Wire in front of bullfinch 267 115. Galway bank 271 116. Side view of bank shown in Fig. 115 273 117. Galway bank 275 118. "Cope and dash" wall 277 119. Loose stone wall 279 120. Low bank with ditch on both sides 281 121. View of country between Yelvertoft and Crick 283 122. Grass on each side of the road 285 123. Ordinary five-barred gate 289 124. Bridle gate 291 125. Gate with wooden latch 293 126. " " spring " which has to be drawn back 295 127. " " " " " " " pushed forward 297 128. Double gate 299 129. A puzzle in gate-opening 301 130. Ridge and furrow 317 131. " " " in the distance 321 132. Haystack and gate 329 133. Brook 337 134. Pollard willows in the next field 339 135. The Cottesmore drawing a covert 355 136. Wire board 359 137. Red flag 363 138. "'Ware wire" 365 139. Iron hurdle 367 140. Wire on top of gate 369 141. Pytchley puppy, Mottley 401 142. Front view of kennel coat 403 143. Back view of kennel coat 405 144. Puppies with bicycle 407 145. Pytchley puppy, Monarch 409 146. Riding mountain zebra 457 147. External parts of horse 467 148. Measurements of horse 471
BEGINNING TO RIDE.
Instruction based on experience assists us in the attainment of all arts, and hastens the process of learning. Although a specially gifted individual who has not been taught, may be able to sing in a pleasing style, no one has ever become an accomplished pianist without competent instruction; the former being somewhat in the position of a man, the latter in that of a lady, as regards riding. In all countries we find good untaught horsemen who have got "shaken into their seats" by constant practice, with or without a saddle, which in most cases is chiefly a protection to the animal's back. A side-saddle, on the contrary, is as artificial a production as a musical instrument, and a full knowledge of its peculiarities often cannot be acquired during a lifetime. Here the great difference between men and women is that the former ride the horse; the latter, the saddle. The tyranny of the side-saddle would not be so marked as it is, if this article of gear were of a uniform pattern of the best possible kind. Unfortunately it is generally built according to the fantastic ideas of fashionable makers who have no practical experience of side-saddle riding. Unaided learners have such difficulty in acquiring security and grace of seat and good hands, that many ladies who have ridden all their lives, and have lots of pluck, are poor performers, particularly in the hunting-field. A beginner who is put on a properly made saddle and suitable horse, and is taught the right principles of riding, will make more progress in a month than she would otherwise do in, say, five years. The artificiality of side-saddle riding extends even to the horse, which must be free from certain faults, such as unsteadiness in mounting, that would not render him unsuitable to carry a male rider.
Competency in the instructor is of the first importance. Nothing is more absurd than for a man who cannot ride well in a side-saddle, to try to unfold to a lady the mysteries of seat. Such men, instead of getting into a side-saddle and showing their pupils "how to do it," generally attempt to conceal their ignorance by the use of stock phrases. If asked "Why?" they invariably reply, "Because it's the right thing to do," or words to that effect. I have never heard of women venturing to teach men how to ride.
Davis, a young groom we had, was a rare instance of a man who was thoroughly competent to teach ladies how to ride, because he had lots of practice in side saddles, and had ample opportunities of learning the theory of the art, while I was teaching pupils in a riding school, where I rode and jumped horses without a skirt. Fig. 1 shows Davis riding in a side saddle over a gate, on my grey horse Gustave. The fact of his not hanging on to the horse's head is a good proof that he had a strong seat.
The first lessons in balance and grip should be given by a competent horsewoman, and the riding-skirt should either be taken off or pinned back (for instance, with a safety-pin), in order that the lady instructor may be able to see and at once correct faults in the position of the legs, which is hardly a task fit for a man, even were he competent to perform it. After the pupil has acquired a good seat at the various paces and over small fences, her further education in the guidance and control of her mount might be entrusted to a competent horseman, preferably to a good cross-country rider, and not, as is frequently the case, to an ex-military riding-master, who, having been taught that a cavalryman's right hand has to be occupied with a sword or lance, considers that ladies should also adopt the one-handed system of riding! As a rule, the services of a good horseman are desirable when the pupil is fit to ride in the open, because he is more helpful than a lady rider in rendering prompt assistance on an emergency. Besides, riding men usually know more about the bitting and handling of horses than women, and are therefore better able to impart instruction in this branch of equitation.
It is as impossible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule as to the age at which a girl may be allowed to mount a pony or donkey, as it is to control the spirits and daring of a foxhound puppy. Those who possess the sporting instinct and the desire to emulate the example of their hunting parents or friends, should certainly be encouraged and taught to ride as soon as they manifest their wish to do so. Many hunting women allow their children to occasionally attend meets in a governess car or other suitable conveyance, and the budding sportsmen and sportswomen in the vehicle keenly follow the hounds, as far as they can do so, by the roads. On non-hunting days during the season, it is no uncommon sight in hunting districts to see ladies walking by the side of their tiny daughters who are mounted on ponies, and giving them instruction in riding. In cub-hunting time we may often see the good results of such lessons, when parent and daughter appear together, and the little girl on her pony follows the lead over small fences which "mother" knows can be negotiated by both with safety.
Twenty years ago, infants were often carried in panniers or baskets, one on each side of a led pony or donkey, with the supposed object of initiating them to horse exercise. The pannier training was followed by the little girls being placed on a pilch, and conducted about by a mounted groom with a leading-rein. This leading-rein system is absolutely worthless as a means for teaching horse-control to children, and should be used only as a safeguard with an animal which the young rider may be unable to hold.
At whatever age a child is taught to ride, we should bear in mind that the exercise always entails a certain amount of fatigue, and should be taken in moderation. The many lamentable accidents which have occurred to young girls from being "dragged," show the vital necessity of supplying the small horsewoman with the most reliable safety appliances in saddlery and dress. The parent or guardian often overlooks this all-important point, and devotes his or her entire attention to securing a quiet animal.
Girls who do not possess any aptitude or desire to ride should not be compelled to practise this art, for, apart from the cruelty of subjecting a highly nervous girl to the torture of riding lessons, such unwilling pupils never become accomplished horsewomen. In the same way, a child who has no ear for music, and who is forced against her wish to learn the piano, never develops into a good player.
The same remark applies to older ladies, who, with the usual angelic resignation of my sex, try their best to obey the command of their lords and masters by learning to ride. I fear that success in this art is seldom attained by ladies over thirty years of age, for by that time they have generally lost the dashing pluck of their youth; their figures have become set and matronly; and, as a rule, they find great difficulty in mastering the subtleties of balance and grip. Also, a state of nervous anxiety is apt to add to the general stiffness of their appearance, and to suggest discomfort and irritability.
We read from time to time alarming rumours of "spinal curvature" as a result of side-saddle riding, but I have never known a case of this to occur, either to old or young, although the near-side position of the leaping-head has a tendency to develop the muscles of the left leg more than those of the right leg, a fact which I discovered as soon as I began to ride a bicycle, after having had many years' experience on horses. Riding alternately on a saddle with the leaping-head on the near side and on one with the leaping-head on the off side, would help to save the back and legs of a lady's horse. In cantering or galloping, the animal puts more weight on the leading fore leg, which is consequently more liable to suffer from the injurious effects of work than the non-leading leg; and, as we all know, to canter or gallop comfortably, a lady's horse has to lead with his off fore when the leaping-head is on the near side; and vice versa. Also, the vulnerable side of the back and withers of an animal which carries a side-saddle, is the one which is opposite to that on which the leaping-head is fixed. I am afraid that these practical considerations would not outweigh the dictates of fashion and the expense of having two saddles for one horse. The Young Lady's Equestrian Manual, which was published in 1838, tells us that in the early part of the last century, a plan which was similar to the one in question was adopted of having movable crutches, "in order to afford a lady, by merely changing their relative positions, the means of riding, as she might please, on either side of her horse," and that this change of crutches was found advantageous. I do not think that a side-saddle built on this principle would look neat enough for modern requirements.
HORSES FOR LADIES.
A hunter suitable for a lady should be temperate, sound, strong, safe and clever over fences, and fast enough for his country. As extra fatigue is entailed on a lady's mount by the side position of his rider, he should be quite 21 lbs. above the weight he has to carry. As a rule, he should not be younger than seven, and should have had, at least, two seasons' hunting in which to learn his business. Fig. 2 shows us a typical high-class Leicestershire hunter; and Fig. 3, a good Australian hunter.
Mr. Vansittart's Romance (Fig. 4) was one of the nicest of the many Australian horses I rode, during my sojourns in India, between the years 1885 and 1891. He was thoroughbred and was the winner of several races on the flat and across country. In those days, the idiotic custom of docking horses had not found favour in Australia.
The requirements of the various hunting countries differ greatly. For the Shires, a lady would want a well-bred galloper which can "spread himself out" over his fences, because there is almost always a ditch or a rail on one side or the other of the Midland hedges. Temperate he must be, because the fields in Leicestershire, for instance, are so large that there is often a crowd of riders waiting their turn at the only practicable place in a jump, filing through a gate, or waiting en masse in a cramped space at the covert side, and a horse who displays temper on such occasions is naturally regarded as a nuisance and danger by the rest of the field. Besides, it must be remembered that nothing tends to spoil the nerves of any rider, man or woman, more than attempting to hunt in a big country like Leicestershire on a bad-tempered horse, and especially on a refuser which has a tendency to rear. On no account should a lady ride a roarer, although the artful dealer may assure her that the "whistle" which the animal makes, will be a secret unknown to any one except herself and the horse. In the large majority of cases, roaring is a disease which increases with time, and the accompanying noise is distressing to all lovers of horses who hear it. Kickers, even with red bows on their tails, should on no account be ridden; for they are a danger to man, woman, horse, and hound, and are the cause of many accidents every hunting season. It would appear that ladies—not those of the present day, let us hope—were not sufficiently careful in insisting on this last-mentioned requirement in their hunters; for Captain Elmhirst, writing in 1883, says, "Horse dealers, farmers, and—we are sorry to add—ladies must especially be avoided; for who ever saw a vicious kicker that was not ridden by one of these three?"
Apart from the danger to others, it is obvious that no sane woman would ride a horse which would be likely to kick her in the event of a fall. When I was in India, I had to get rid of a horse because of his vicious tendency in this respect. He was a good-looking Australian, a clever fencer, and had a nice mouth, but so vicious that when we first got him, he used to rush open-mouthed at any one who went near him, except his syce. My husband took him in hand, and he became sufficiently civilised to take carrots from me. When I rode him, I found he was always looking out for an excuse to "play up," or to lash out at other horses. In order to test his jumping, a lightweight gentleman rider one day rode him over a made course. The animal blundered badly at one of the fences, threw his rider, and while the man was lying on his back on the ground the horse deliberately put a fore foot on him, and would have doubtless broken his back, if my husband, who was standing near the fence, had not pulled the vicious brute off. We got rid of him, and I heard shortly afterwards that he had killed his jockey, a native, in a hurdle race at Calcutta, by the adoption of similar vicious tactics. It would have been criminal to have taken such a horse as that into any hunting-field.
A hunter should have good shoulders (long, flat, and oblique) and a comparatively high forehand; for horses which are lower in front than at the croup are uncomfortable to ride, and there is generally some difficulty in retaining the side saddle in its place on their backs. The height of a hunter will depend greatly on that of his rider. For instance, a tall woman with a "comfortable" figure would be suitably mounted on a horse 16 hands or more high, whereas a light girl of medium height would find an animal of say 15-2 as much as she could comfortably manage; for we must remember that big horses, as a rule, take a good deal of "collecting." A small horse generally stays better, can come out oftener, is handier, and not so likely to hurt one if he falls. For the Shires I do not think a lady's hunter should be much under 15-2, and he must be a big jumper and well bred. Hunting women, as a rule, do not pay much attention to the good looks of their horses, for hunting is not a church parade, and the finest performer over a country is always admired and coveted whatever his appearance may be. The same may be said about colour; although, as a grey horse is conspicuous enough to be singled out of a crowd of bays and browns, a lady who is at all "impartial" in her seat would do well to select a horse wearing a less noticeable tint of coat. As rearing is the worst vice a lady's mount can possess, no horse who has a tendency to rear should be ridden by a woman, as from her position in the side-saddle she is far more helpless than a man on such an animal. A lady's hunter should not have too light a mouth, but should go nicely up to his bridle, and not resent the use of the curb, which is sometimes necessary in avoiding danger. He should on no account be inclined to pull. A perfect hunter is like a thorough good sportsman, who regards his share of bangs and blows as all in the day's work. As the majority of hunters have their own likes and dislikes about jumping certain kinds of fences, a lady should know precisely what to expect from her mount and what his jumping capabilities are, before taking him into the hunting-field, which is not the place for experiments. I had many pleasant days out hunting with the Quorn, Belvoir, Cottesmore, and North Cheshire on the Irish mare, Salary (Fig. 5).
In summing up the requirements of a hunter for either man or woman, I cannot do better than to quote the following sound advice from Whyte Melville: "People talk about size and shape, shoulders, quarters, blood, bone and muscle, but for my part, give me a hunter with brains. He has to take care of the biggest fool of the two, and think for both."
To be capable of safely crossing a stiff country, a horse requires at least a few falls—which had best be shared by a man—and much experience, which cannot be obtained without time. Hence, I would advise no lady, however well she may ride, to hunt on a young horse, who will always require a good deal of time in which to learn his business. It is certainly no pleasure to be on the back of a horse who is inclined to drop his hind legs in the ditch on the other side, or to "chance" a post and rails. Many young horses are so reluctant in going at a fence, and in "spreading themselves out," that they are no good except when ridden by a man who can use his legs, which is a feat that a woman is unable to accomplish.
A perfect hack, whether for man or woman, is far more difficult to find at the present time than a good hunter, and when found will command a fancy price. The ideal hack is a showy, well-bred animal of the officer's charger type, which has been thoroughly well "made" in all his paces. Such an animal appears at his best when executing a slow, collected canter, with arched neck and looking full of fire and gaiety, though ridden with an almost slack rein, and intent only on rendering prompt obedience to the slightest indication of his rider. In Germany and France the hacks ridden in the Tiergarten and Bois, for instance, are thoroughly "made," and compare very favourably with the pulling, half-broken brutes on which many ladies appear in the Row. In former times, before the introduction of the leaping-head made hunting possible for women, more attention was paid to the breaking and training of hacks than at present, on account of the great demand for "complete ladies' horses." The advent of the bicycle for ladies has almost abolished hacking as a pastime and means of exercise, and hence the difficulty in finding a well-broken animal for this work. The best substitute is, I think, a good polo pony, because the requirements of that game demand that the animal should be temperate, handy, and capable of being ridden with a slack rein. The polo pony Pat (Fig. 6) is a perfect hack, with a snaffle-bridle mouth, and so steady and clever that he can canter round the proverbial sixpence. He has played well in several polo matches.
Although many ladies in this country have never enjoyed the luxury of riding a high-caste Arab, we occasionally see these animals in the Row and hunting-field. The sight of an "Arabi tattoo" to an old Indian like myself, revives many pleasant memories of delightful equine friends in the East. The Arab is par excellence the most perfect hack for a lady, and I think it would be ungrateful of me in this new edition to omit the portrait of my Arab pony Freddie (Fig. 7), even though the cut of the riding-habit is out of date.
Although a good horsewoman may be satisfied with any animal which is fit for a man, provided he is steady to mount and does not require an unusual amount of collecting; it is not safe to put an inexperienced or nervous rider on a horse that has not been taught to carry a habit, which a groom can do by riding the animal with a rug or dark overcoat on the near side, and letting it flop about. Horses rarely object to the presence of a skirt, though I have known cases in which the animal went almost wild with terror when the right leg was put over the crutch. It is, therefore, wise to accustom a horse to the skirt and leg by means of a groom.
The fact of a lady having to ride in a side-saddle, puts her under the following three disadvantages as compared to a man in a "cross-saddle": she is, as a rule, unable to mount without assistance; she cannot apply the pressure of the right leg to the side of the horse; and it is difficult for her "to drop her hands" in order to pull him together. The judicious application of a crop or ash-plant (my husband, though an Irishman, swears by a Neilgherry cane) may partly make up for the absence of a leg on the off side; but, however well a woman may ride, she should not have a horse which "plays up" when he is being mounted, or sprawls about and requires constant pulling together when she is in the saddle.
The style of hack should be in thorough keeping with that of the rider. A slight lady has a greater range of choice in horseflesh than a portly dame, who would be best suited with a weight-carrying hunter or compact cob. The height might vary from 14-2 to 15-3. I hardly think that even a small woman would look well on a pony which is less than 13-3.
A beginner should be put on a lazy animal, whether horse or pony, that will condescend to trot or canter for only a short distance, which will be quite far enough for its inexperienced rider. Many parents who are supervising the riding instruction of their children, look too far ahead when selecting a mount. Instead of purchasing a steady, plodding, though not unwilling slave, they invest in a second- or third-stage animal, which is absolutely useless to a beginner, because it wants more riding than she can give it. Such a young lady needs a thoroughly steady animal, no matter how old or ugly it may be, and she will probably learn more about riding on it in a month, than she would in a year on a horse which would have to be led by a groom, on account of its unsteadiness. A good donkey is a most useful conveyance for young girls, as he can generally be trusted to take things quietly, and will not unduly exert himself without being called upon to do so.
For the benefit of inexperienced riders, I must not omit to mention that the measurement of horses is taken from the highest point of the withers to the ground. A horse is measured by hands and inches, not, as in humans, by feet and inches. A hand is 4 in., therefore an animal of 15 hands is 5 ft. in height; 16 hands, 5 ft. 4 in.; 17 hands, 5 ft. 8 in.; and one of 17-2—which would be a gigantic height in a saddle horse, but not in a cart horse—would be 5 ft. 10 in. high. A woman of medium height, like myself, who stands 5 ft. 3 in. in "stocking feet"—a height, by-the-bye, which is accorded to the Venus de Medici (we might make use of that fact on being termed "little")—would find a horse of 15-1 or 15-2 a very nice, useful height; though she need by no means limit herself to height with any horse which is springy and active, does not require a great amount of collecting, is easy in his paces, and has a good mouth. The bigger a horse is, the more fatiguing do we find him to ride, if his mouth, manners, and paces are not thoroughly "made." The late Esa bin Curtis, a celebrated Arab horse dealer, in speaking of big buck-jumping Walers, said, "God hath not made man equal unto them," and, however well a woman may ride, it is no pleasure to find herself breathless and exhausted in her efforts to control such animals. On the other hand, many small horses which play up are most difficult to sit, for, although they may not take their rider's breath away by their display of physical power, they are like quicksilver on a frying-pan, and highly test our agility in the matter of balance and grip.
I cannot conclude this chapter on ladies' horses without expressing my strong condemnation of the senseless and cruel practice of docking riding horses, which has nothing in its favour except its conformance to fashion, and which in this case is disgusting cruelty. Thoroughbred horses are never docked, whether they be used for racing, steeplechasing or hunting, and it is a monstrous thing to mutilate unfortunate half-breds, especially mares, and condemn them to be tortured by flies, and to have the most sensitive parts of their bodies turned into a safe camping ground for insects, simply because these poor animals have a stain in their pedigree. In summer time, when flies are troublesome, we may often see a long-tailed brood mare at grass protecting both herself and her suckling foal from these irritating pests by the free use of her tail; but docked mares are deprived of this means of driving away insects, and have been known to unwittingly injure their young by kicking and plunging violently in their efforts to rid themselves of attacking flies. The unfortunate foal is unable to take its natural nourishment in peace, and consequently does not thrive so well as does the offspring of an unmutilated mother. One of the feeble arguments set forth in favour of docking is, that it prevents a hunter from soiling the coat of his rider by his tail; but, as my husband truly says in his new edition of Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners, "This idea is an absurdity, because an undocked horse cannot reach his rider with his tail, if it is banged short, which is a fact known to all military men. Besides, mud on a hunting coat is 'clean dirt.'" The actual pain caused by the operation is trivial as compared with the life-long misery to which tailless horses are subjected, for we deprive them for ever of their caudal appendage, and the ridiculous stump sticking up where the tail ought to be, is as ungraceful as it is indecent, especially in the case of mares. Our friend, the late Dr. George Fleming, says in The Wanton Mutilation of Animals, "nothing can be more painful and disgusting to the real horseman and admirer of this most symmetrically formed and graceful animal than the existence of this most detestable and torturing fashion; and those who perform the operation or sanction it are not humane, nor are they horsemen, but rather are they horse-maimers and promoters of the worst form of cruelty to animals. Let anyone go to Rotten Row during the season, and satisfy himself as to the extent to which the fashion prevails, and the repulsive appearance which otherwise beautiful horses present. The astonishing and most saddening feature of the equestrian promenade is the presence of ladies riding mares which are almost tailless. Surely a plea might be entered here for the use of a fig-leaf to clothe the nude." I feel sure that if my sex had a voice in the matter, this wholesale mutilation of mares would soon cease. Dr. Fleming, writing in the Nineteenth Century over twenty years ago, said: "I hope and believe that when the horse-loving public and the friends of animals begin to realise how cruel and degrading some of these mutilations are, they will not be long in having them suppressed"; but the horse-lovers do not appear to have done much in this matter so far. This writer tells us that "the ancient Welsh laws protected it" (the horse's tail) "from harm at the hands of man," and that "an ecclesiastical canon was issued in order to prevent it from being damaged in the eighth century." Cannot our laws do something to protect mares, at any rate, from the cruelty of docking in the twentieth century? Dr. Fleming, in reviewing the history of docking from its earliest times, tells us that he saw an old print "which represented a very emaciated horse, with a fashionable tail, standing in a luxuriant meadow, his body covered with flies, which prevented him from grazing, and from which he could not free himself; a notice board in the field announced that horses were taken in to graze, those with undocked tails at six shillings a week and docked ones at eighteenpence."
When Voltaire visited this country in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, he was so impressed with our barbarity, especially in the cutting off the tails of our horses, that he could not refrain from giving vent to one of his pungent sarcasms in the following epigram:—
"Vous fiers Anglois Barbares que vous etes Coupez la tete aux rois Et la queue a vos betes; Mais les Francois, Polis et droits, Aiment les lois, Laissent la queue aux betes Et la tete a leurs rois."
Description of a Side-Saddle—Saddle Tree—Covering of a Side-Saddle—Panel—The Leaping Head—Stirrup Leather—Safety Bars—Safety Stirrups—Girths—Balance Strap—Breast-plate—Weight of a Side-Saddle—Shape of the Seat of a Side-Saddle—The Saddle must Fit the Rider—Crupper—Numdahs and Saddle Cloths—Side-Saddles for Children—Saddling a Horse—Prevention of Sore Backs—Cleaning a Side-Saddle.
DESCRIPTION OF A SIDE-SADDLE.
A properly made side-saddle consists of the following parts:—
1. A tree, which is a wooden frame that is strengthened with steel and iron, and is provided with an upper crutch (near head) and webs.
2. A leather covering, which comprises the seat, off flap, and safe, which is the trade term for the near flap.
3. A panel (or cushion), which is placed underneath the tree, so as to protect the animal's back from the hurtful pressure of the unprotected tree.
4. A leaping head, which helps the lady to obtain security of seat.
5. A stirrup leather.
6. A stirrup iron.
7. A stirrup bar for the stirrup leather.
9. Balance strap.
To these ordinary components of a side-saddle, a breast-plate and saddle cloth or numdah are sometimes added. On rare occasions a crupper is used.
The tree (Figs. 8, 9, 10, and 11) consists of two bars (side boards), which are connected together in front by the pommel, and behind by the cantle. The pommel is made up of a gullet plate, which is a steel arch that goes over the withers, and its coverings. The points of the tree are connected, one on each side, to the front ends of the bars and to the gullet plate, and they point downwards. The stirrup bar, which should be of a safety pattern, is attached to the near bar, a little lower down than the leaping head.
The webs (Fig. 11) of a tree are strong hempen bands which cover the open space down the centre of the tree, and are nailed, at one end, to the pommel, and at the other end to the cantle. They are tightly stretched, in order to give the rider a comfortable seat, and to keep her weight off the horse's backbone.
The office of the bars of the tree is to evenly distribute the rider's weight, by means of the panel, over the muscles which run along each side of the horse's backbone, and which form the only suitable bearing surfaces for the purpose in question. No weight should fall on the animal's backbone, because it is very sensitive to pressure, even when the pressure is well distributed. In order to obtain this indispensable condition of evenly-distributed pressure, the bars of the tree of a saddle which is to be made for a particular horse, should accurately fit the bearing surfaces of the back upon which they rest, and should be well away from the backbone; in fact, the distance between the bars should not be less than four inches. When the rider is in the saddle, a fair amount of space should exist between the gullet plate and the withers, so that no injurious pressure may fall on the top or sides of the withers, which are particularly susceptible to inflammation from this cause.
In order to avoid giving an undue height to the pommel, with the object of keeping it off the withers, it should be "cut back" (Fig. 11), although this cutting back need not be carried to the excessive extent that is sometimes practised. In a man's saddle, the pommel is generally straight.
The points of the tree should accurately fit the parts upon which they rest, so as to prevent any "wobbling" of the saddle. The near point of the tree (Fig. 10) is usually made long, with the idea of helping the saddle to keep in its place; but if this is done, the off point should be comparatively short, because, if both points be long, they will be apt to become pulled further apart in the event of the horse turning round sharply, as he would have to do in a narrow stall, or even when refusing a jump.
The upper crutch, or, as it is called by saddlers, the near head, is a more or less upright projection which is placed on the near side of the pommel, in order to give support to the rider's right leg. The slope and bearing surface of this near head should be regulated, so that (as we shall see further on) the lower part of the rider's right leg may extend downwards along the shoulder of the horse, and that the lady may be able to exert full pressure against the near head, by the inward rotation of her thigh (p. 157). The height of the near head depends on the thickness of the rider's thigh, because a fat leg will require a higher crutch than a thin one. If the upper crutch be unduly long, it will push the skirt up and give it a bad appearance. We must, however, bear in mind that if it is too short for its legitimate purpose, it will afford an insecure grip to the right leg, which is a consideration that must not be neglected.
Before the leaping head (p. 33) was invented, side-saddles were provided with an off crutch, which was placed on the off side of the pommel. In a very old saddle which I saw, it took the form of an upright handle, which was placed parallel to the direction of the withers, and which apparently was intended to be grasped by the right hand of the rider in case of emergency. In a saddle of mine, which is about 100 years old, the off crutch projects horizontally to the right. Fifty years ago, the off crutch was almost always upright, and was often placed so close to the near crutch that the rider was able to get a fairly firm support for her right leg by jamming it between these two crutches. As the great utility of the leaping head received increasingly wide recognition, the off crutch underwent a gradual process of decadence, because it is of no benefit to a rider who understands the use of a leaping head. Indications of its previous existence may occasionally be seen, especially abroad, in the form of an entirely useless thickening of the off side of the pommel.
COVERING OF A SIDE-SADDLE.
The seats of good saddles are generally of pigskin, and the flaps of cow-hide. The fact of the seat being of buckskin or other rough leather will increase the lady's security in the saddle, but may somewhat detract from the smartness of her appearance, especially if the leather is white. I can see no objection to the seat of the saddle being of rough brown leather. Formerly, all side-saddles had a "stuffed safe," in which the front part of the near flap is padded, but nowadays it is rarely, if ever, used by smart hunting people. It is evidently the surviving remains of the voluminous pad, upon which ladies used to rest the lower part of their right leg in the days before the leaping head was invented. Ornamental stitching about the seat and safe of a saddle is equally out of date.
It is all important that the panel should be so carefully stuffed, that the rider's weight will be evenly distributed over the bearing surfaces of her animal's back. Even if this is done to perfection, the desirable arrangement will last for only a short time, if the stuffing is of the wrong kind of material. Instead of using fine wool (best flock), incompetent or unduly economical saddlers often employ flock which is largely composed of cotton waste, and, consequently, when they stuff or re-stuff a saddle, lumps, from the absorption of perspiration, are apt to form in the panel, with the frequent result of a sore back. Although the stuffing of side-saddles is too technical a subject to attack in these pages, I would fail in my duty to my readers if I omitted to advise them always to go to a first-class saddler for a new saddle, or to get an old one re-stuffed, which should be done as may be required, preferably, before the beginning of the hunting season, supposing that the saddle has seen a good deal of service. It is often thought that expert saddlers are to be found only in London; but if a saddler is clever at his trade, the fact of his having a shop in a good hunting district, must be a great advantage to him in studying the requirements of riding people.
THE LEAPING HEAD
was invented about 1830 by M. Pellier, who was well known in Paris as a riding master. Its object is to help the rider to obtain security of seat by a fixed surface against which she can press the front and lower part of her left thigh. Before the invention of the leaping head, ladies had to rely entirely on the right leg for grip, and consequently few, if any of them, were able to hunt. Mr. John Allen, who wrote Modern Riding, in 1825, tells us that "the left leg is nearly, if not wholly useless; for though a stirrup is placed on the foot, the only use of it is to ease the leg a little, which, for want of practice, might ache by dangling and suspension."
The following are the chief points to be considered about a leaping head:—
* * * * *
1. Its curve should be so arranged that the harder a lady presses against it, the more will her left leg be carried inwards, so that the flat (inside) of her knee may be brought in contact with the flap of the saddle (Fig. 12). An ordinary leaping head is curved, as a rule, in such a manner that when a rider seeks to obtain support from it by the pressure of her left leg, this limb is carried outwards, and she is able to get a point d'appui only at the extreme end of this projection (Fig. 13). It is evident that the closer the left leg is to the saddle, the firmer will be the seat. Besides, the more the left leg is brought outwards, the more weight will be put on the near side, which, as we shall see further on, is the very thing a rider ought to avoid.
2. The leaping head should be close to the upper crutch (Figs. 12 and 16). The usual plan of putting it much lower down (Fig. 15) tends to bring the weight to the near side, a fact which can be easily tested, especially in trotting, by trying the improvement in question, which was suggested to me by Mr. Ford of Rugby, who is a very competent and experienced saddler.
3. Usually, the leaping head is attached to the tree by means of a screw, which is an arrangement that has the disadvantage of not allowing the leaping head to be placed close to the upper crutch. If the leaping head is riveted on to the tree (as in Figs. 10 and 16), which is the better plan, it can be placed as near as we like to the upper crutch, and it will have no tendency to wobble about, as it would be apt to do, if it was fixed by a screw. As the screws of the leaping heads of cheap saddles are almost always made of annealed iron, which is a form of cast-iron, it is not an uncommon occurrence for the screw of one of these saddles to break, which is more apt to occur at a critical moment, as for instance when the horse is jumping or "playing up," than when he is going quietly. On the only occasion I ever rode over a fence in one of these cheap Walsall saddles, the screw broke, but luckily I "remained."
4. When the leaping head is a fixture, the bearing surface which it presents to the rider's left leg should be in the same direction as the upper part of that limb, so that the pressure on it may be evenly distributed. By placing a straight stick under the leaping head, and holding it in the direction which the left thigh would occupy, when the rider is mounted, we can easily see if the bearing surface is in the proper position.
5. As an aid to security of seat, it is well to have the under surface of the leaping head and the off side of the upper crutch covered with rough brown leather, which, we should bear in mind, is concealed from view, when the lady is in the saddle, and consequently it will not detract from the smartness of her appearance.
The stirrup-leather, which is on the near side, should always be attached to a bar, and not, as is sometimes done, to the balance strap (p. 53); because, in this case, its length will be subject to frequent variation, not only when the saddle is put on different animals, but also when the horse gets slack in his girth from work. When it is fixed to a bar, which should always be of the safety kind, no alteration in the correct length of the leather will take place.
The arrangement for undoing the stirrup-leather is in the most convenient position when it is close to the iron, and not in proximity to the stirrup-bar, as is the case in a man's hunting saddle. If the leather is used in the latter manner, the buckle will be apt to hurt the inside of the lady's left leg, when she brings the knee close to the flap of the saddle; and it will be more inconvenient to alter the length of the leather, when the lady is mounted, than if the buckle or hook was low down. The hook (Fig. 14) is better than a buckle, because it lies flatter and is easier to arrange.
A safety bar is a bar which will release the leather, in the event of the rider falling from the saddle, and at the same time getting her foot caught in the stirrup-iron. To be reliable, it should do this, whether the lady falls on the near side, or on the off side. The best safety bar which has up to the present been put before the public, is undoubtedly Champion and Wilton's latest pattern. It releases with absolute certainty on both sides, and can be fitted in such a manner that it will allow the flat of the left leg to be brought close to the saddle. As safety bars and safety stirrups are the only means for ensuring a lady from being dragged by her stirrup, and as Champion and Wilton's safety bar is more reliable in this respect than any safety stirrup, it stands to reason that it should be used with every side-saddle. With this bar on a saddle, there is of course no objection to the use of a safety stirrup, in order to make "doubly sure." It is usually fitted with a thick flap (Fig. 15), which prevents the left leg from being brought close to the saddle; but this objection can be removed by the adoption of Mr. Ford's plan of greatly reducing the size of the flap of the bar, and making it fit into an opening cut out of the near flap of the saddle (Fig. 16). I have found this arrangement a great improvement on the old clumsy flap, the lower edge of which is unpleasantly apt to catch on the rider's boot, especially when trotting. I shall discuss the failings of safety stirrups further on.
Owing to the position which a lady occupies in a side-saddle, she is often inclined to draw her foot back to such an extent that she would pull the leather out of the bar, if the action of the bar was similar to that of a man's saddle; but a Champion and Wilton's bar is so devised that it will free the leather, only when the pressure of the left leg is removed from the flap of the bar, in which case the lady will have quitted the saddle. Hence, as long as she keeps her seat, she cannot pull the leather out of the bar by drawing back her left leg. The only thing which prevents this safety arrangement from being absolutely perfect, is the liability the leather has of falling out of the bar and becoming lost, in the event of the rider severing her connection with the saddle, in which case the retaining action of the flap on the bar will cease.
For this emergency, Messrs. Champion and Wilton provide side saddles with a small leather case which contains an extra stirrup, and which is attached to the near side of the saddle, so that it is concealed from view, when the lady is mounted (Fig. 17). The weight of the stirrup and case is only half a pound.
both for men and ladies, have been in existence for hundreds of years. Apparently the first variety of this contrivance was the capped stirrup-iron, either simple (Fig. 18) or in the form of a slipper (Fig. 19), which was provided with an arrangement on its sole that prevented the toe of the slipper from yielding to downward pressure, but allowed it to revolve upwards, and thus to facilitate the release of the foot, in the event of a fall. The simple capped stirrup was used by ancient Spanish Cavaliers, and is still employed by many of their descendants in America. In apparent oblivion of these facts, the Christie stirrup (Fig. 20), made on the same principle, was patented about four years ago. Besides its undue weight (1-1/4 lb. as compared to the 1/2 lb. of the slipper stirrup), it has the further disadvantage of allowing the possibility of the toe being caught between its bars (Fig. 21). Want of neatness appears to have been the only cause of the abandonment of the capped stirrup, which is certainly safer than any of its successors, the first English one of which appears to have been the Latchford safety stirrup (Fig. 22). It consists of two irons; the small one, which is placed within the large one, being made to come out the moment the foot gets dragged in it, in which case it parts company with its fellow, and is then liable to get lost. The Scott safety stirrup (Figs. 23 and 24) has not this fault, for its inner iron always retains its connection with the outer one, and can be replaced without delay, if the lady after her tumble desires to remount. The Latchford, Scott ordinary, and Cope safety stirrup (Figs. 25 and 26) open only one way, so that the foot, when correctly placed in any of them, may not be liable, as in the event of a fall, to be forced through the outer iron, in which case the lady would almost to a certainty get hung up if her saddle was not provided with a safety bar. In these stirrups, the side of the "tread,"[46-*] which ought to be to the rear, is generally indicated by the fact of its being straight, while the other side is curved (Fig. 24). This is done in Fig. 27, by the word "heel."
* * * * *
The chief faults of so-called safety stirrups are as follows:—
1. They may catch on the foot, on account of getting crushed by coming in violent contact with a tree, wall or other hard object, or by the horse falling on his near side. When I was living in India, I had a Scott safety stirrup jammed on my foot in this manner, by a horse which I was riding, making a sudden shy and dashing against a wall. The iron was so firmly fixed to my foot by this accident, that it could not be taken off until, after much pain and trouble, my foot was freed from both boot and stirrup. Had I been unseated, I would probably have been killed, because my saddle had not a safety bar.
2. Those which open only when the foot is put into them in one way, are apt to cause a fatal accident if put in the wrong way, which may easily happen from carelessness or ignorance (p. 64). The methods (straight edge of "tread," or word "heel") used with these stirrups, to indicate the proper side on which to put the foot into the iron, may convey no meaning to persons who are not well acquainted with the details of side-saddle gear, and in moments of hurry and excitement may be easily overlooked.
3. Any ordinary safety stirrup which is used without a safety bar may cause a lady to get "hung up," if she is thrown to the off side and her heel gets jammed against the saddle in the manner shown in Fig. 28.
4. If the outer iron is small in comparison to the size of the foot, the rider may easily get dragged.
5. If the outer iron of a Scott's reversible safety stirrup is large in comparison to the size of the foot (as in the case of a young girl), the rider may get dragged in the event of a fall, by the foot going through the stirrup. Accidents caused by a foot going through a stirrup have often occurred to men from falls when hunting and steeplechasing.
Some ladies think it "smart" to ride with a man's ordinary stirrup iron, or (madder still) with a small racing stirrup, attached to a leather which does not come out. I once saw a lady who adopted this senseless plan fall and get dragged. By an extraordinary piece of good luck she was saved from a horrible death by her boot coming off.
All that can be said in favour of safety stirrups, is that they are less liable to cause accidents than ordinary stirrups. The fact remains, that the danger of being dragged by the stirrup can be entirely obviated only by the use of an efficient safety bar.
In referring to this subject, I cannot do better than give the following extract from Riding and Hunting:—
"Girths, while fulfilling their duty of efficiently keeping the saddle on a horse's back, should be as little liable as possible to hurt the surface on which they press. Hence they should be broad, soft, and constructed so that their tendency to retain sweat between them and the horse's skin may be reduced as far as practicable. They can best fulfil the last-mentioned important condition when they are absorbent and open in texture. It is evident that sweat retained between the girth and the skin will have the effect of the moisture of a poultice in rendering the part soft and unusually liable to injury from pressure or friction.
"As a material for girths, wool is superior to cotton or leather, because it is softer, more absorbent, and does not become so hard on drying after having become wet. The only drawback to ordinary woollen girths is that they are not sufficiently ventilated, an objection which has been overcome in specially constructed woollen girths that are sold by many good saddlers.
"The plan of giving ventilation by slitting up a broad leather girth into several narrow straps, or by using a number of cords of cotton or of plaited or twisted raw hide often acts well; but its adoption may give rise to girth-galls, if care is not taken to smooth out, when girthing up, any wrinkles there may be in the skin underneath the girth. It is evidently more difficult for the pressure to be evenly distributed by these cords, than by a broad girth which consists of one piece.
"Great care should be taken to keep girths clean and soft, and to oil them from time to time, if they be of leather.
"I prefer a broad girth attached at each side by two buckles to two narrow girths. The Fitzwilliam girth, which consists of a broad girth with a narrow one over it, is handy with a martingale or breast-plate, through the loop of which the narrow girth can be passed."
In a Fitzwilliam girth, the pressure of the narrow one on the centre of the broad one, makes the edges of the broad girth incline outwards, and thus apparently helps to save the horse from becoming girth-galled.
Girths should always be buckled high up on the near side, in order to prevent their buckles hurting the rider's left leg, by making an uncomfortable bump in the flap of the saddle; and also to allow plenty of space on the girth straps of the off side, for shortening the girths as may be required.
This is a leather strap which is attached to the off side of the rear part of the saddle, at one end; and to a strap close to the girth straps of the near side, at the other end. Before the days of safety bars, its near side end was usually buckled on to the stirrup leather, which was a faulty arrangement, not only as regards the leather (p. 36), but also because its degree of tightness was a constantly varying quantity which entirely depended on the amount of pressure that the rider put on her stirrup. The presence of a properly tightened balance strap helps to prevent lateral movement on the part of the saddle. Also it counteracts, to some extent, the excess of weight which almost every rider puts on the near side of her saddle; this good effect being due to the fact that the off attachment of the balance strap is farther away from the centre line (axis) of the animal's body than the near attachment; and consequently the pull of the balance strap on the off side acts to greater mechanical advantage than the pull on the near side.
The breast-plate is attached at one end to the girth or girths, and at the other end to the staples of the saddle. Its use is to prevent the saddle shifting backwards, as it might do if the girths were slack, especially if the animal was very narrow waisted. Even with a well-shaped horse, a breast-plate is often useful on a long day and in a hilly country. It is much in favour with hunting ladies. Staples are small metal loops which are fixed to the front part of the saddle-tree.
WEIGHT OF A SIDE-SADDLE.
In order to avoid giving a horse a sore back and consequently disabling him for the time being, it is essential to have the tree rigid, so that the weight may remain evenly distributed over the bearing surfaces of his back, which rigidity cannot be obtained without having the tree fairly heavy. The necessary width and length of saddle and strength of upper crutch and leaping head are also questions of weight. Hence if we require a saddle for rough and dangerous work like hunting, we must not entertain the ridiculous idea of having a light saddle, so that it may look particularly smart. A fair weight for a side-saddle is one-seventh of the weight of the rider, that is to say, two pounds for every stone she weighs, with a minimum weight of 18 lbs.
SHAPE OF THE SEAT OF A SIDE-SADDLE.
The level-seated fad which some fashionable saddlers try to impress on their inexperienced customers is an absurdity from a hunting point of view, because no one out of an idiot asylum would care to sit for several hours on a perfectly level surface, whether it was a saddle or a chair. The discomfort which such an attempt would entail, is due to the fact that the nature of our anatomy requires a certain amount of dip in that portion of the seat upon which most of the weight falls. The level-seated idea is purely theoretical, because no saddles are made in conformance with it. For hunting we must have comfort, without, of course, any undue violation of smartness. Besides, a certain amount of dip in the seat, similar to that shown in Fig. 16, is an aid to security. A cutback pommel (Fig. 11) improves the look of a side-saddle without diminishing the rider's grip. The seat on the near side should be eased off, so as to allow the rider's left leg to get close to the horse; and the near side, close to the cantle, should be made a little higher than the off side, in order to correct any tendency there may be to sit too much over on the near side.
The saddles which I used on Romance (Fig. 4), and Freddie (Fig. 7), about fifteen years ago, were not called "level seated," but we may see that they are quite as neat and smart as those of the present time, which fact shows that very little change has been made in the shape of side-saddles since the eighties.
THE SADDLE MUST FIT THE RIDER.
The two great points in this requirement are that the upper crutch and leaping head should be in a suitable position, and the saddle sufficiently long, so as to be about a couple of inches clear of the back of the rider's seat. The right position of the upper crutch and leaping head can be determined only by experiment. If the tree is so short as to allow any undue weight to fall on the cantle, the horse will naturally run the risk of getting a sore back. The height of the upper crutch and the length of the leaping head will vary according to the thickness of limb. We shall see on pages 150 to 152, that the position of the upper crutch which will suit a lady who hooks back her right leg, will not be applicable to one who carries her right foot forward; and vice versa. A saddle which suits a rider's style of equitation will invariably fit her, if its tree and its crutches are long enough. Hence, if more than one member of a family wants to ride and there is only one horse, a saddle which will fit the biggest will suit all the rest.
The office of a crupper is to prevent the saddle working forward on the horse's back, which it will not do if the animal is of a proper shape and the girths sufficiently tight. In ancient days, when riding-horses were more rotund than they are now, and saddles were not so well made, cruppers were generally used, but within the last forty years they have gone entirely out of fashion. A crupper is not to be despised in out-of-the-way parts abroad, when we have to ride animals of all sorts and sizes, and when we have only one saddle.
NUMDAHS AND SADDLE-CLOTHS.
As the principles which regulate the use of these appliances with cross saddles are the same as those with side saddles, I cannot do better than give the following extract from Riding and Hunting, with one or two additions:
"Saddle-cloths are generally made of felt, and their primary object is to prevent the panel from soaking up sweat and becoming thereby soiled and more or less spoiled. The term numdah or numnah, which is applied to felt saddle-cloths, is derived from a Hindustani word that signifies 'felt.' A saddle-cloth should be as thin as efficiency in serving its purpose will allow it to be, so that it may give as little play as possible to the saddle. Although the fitting of the saddle should as far as practicable be limited to the adjustment of the shape of the tree and to regulating the amount of stuffing in the panel; the use of a numdah with a saddle which does not fit the horse or which is not sufficiently stuffed, is often a valuable makeshift when necessity gives no other choice. The employment of an ordinary saddle-cloth is accompanied by the slight disadvantage, that the middle line of the back which is covered by the saddle is deprived of the benefit of air circulating along it, by the fact of the saddle-cloth resting on it. An attempt to remedy this objection is sometimes made by cutting a longitudinal piece out of the centre of the saddle-cloth. Here the cure is worse than the complaint, because injurious pressure will be exerted by the edges of the aperture thus made, especially if the edges are bound with tape, to preserve them from fraying out.
"A saddle-cloth should extend about two inches beyond the bearing surfaces of the saddle, so that its edges may not give rise to unequal pressure on the back, which would occur if the saddle-cloth was shorter than the tree.
"Saddle-cloths made of one thickness of leather admirably answer the purpose of saving the panel from injury; but for hunting and other long-continued work they have the objection of retaining perspiration, instead of soaking it up, as felt ones do. It is a good plan before using a new saddle-cloth, to rub a little neat's-foot oil into its rough (upper) surface, which is much more absorbent than its smooth side. If neat's-foot oil is not at hand, cod liver oil or castor oil may be used. The oily application can be repeated, according as the leather gets dry."
As a substitute for a panel, Messrs. Champion and Wilton have devised a numdah lined with spongio-piline and covered with linen, to be used with a saddle, the underneath part of the tree of which is covered with leather. The chief advantage of this numdah is that a saddle which is provided with two or more of them, can always present a dry bearing surface to the horse's back. A stout numdah of this kind can be used with a high withered animal, and a thin one with a horse which has thick withers. Its inventors claim that it distributes the weight better and keeps the saddle steadier than a panel.
SIDE-SADDLES FOR CHILDREN.
As children are unable to take the necessary precautions against accident, no considerations of fashion or smartness should outweigh those of safety for the little ones. Even the old handle at the off side of the saddle (p. 30) might be a valuable help to a very young beginner. The seat of the saddle and the bearing surfaces of the upper crutch and leaping head had best be of rough leather, and particular attention should be paid to the construction of the upper crutch and leaping head, so that a maximum of grip may be obtained, which is a point that is deplorably neglected by many of the makers of side-saddles for children. Children can ride in any comfortable saddle, supposing that it is not too small. I have taught very small girls to ride in my saddle and jump without reins on a horse 15-3 high. A lady who attended one of these lessons, which were held in Ward's riding-school in London, made two sketches of her little friends which, by the kind permission of the Editor of the Queen, in which paper they appeared, I am able to reproduce. We may see that the small horsewoman is sitting well over her hurdle and is riding with comfort in a saddle that is far too large for her. The lady friend of the two little girls wrote about our work in the Queen of June 17, 1893, as follows: "I made the acquaintance of the authoress of The Horsewoman one morning in Ward's Manege, where I went to see two little friends taking their riding lesson from her. It was a novel and pretty sight. Mrs. Hayes has inaugurated a method of instruction hitherto unpractised, and which must recommend itself to any one who sees the extraordinary progress which accompanies it. The children are dressed in gymnastic costume (Fig. 29) and it was the third time only that they had been put on a horse—a large horse it was too, and as patient and kindly as it is possible to be. The first thing Mrs. Hayes teaches is how to sit. By the pupils wearing no skirt she can see at a glance whether the position of the legs is right, and this is all-important.
"By the time I saw the children they were galloping gaily round and round, with radiant faces and flying hair, sitting better into the saddle, even at this early stage, than many a woman who considers herself a complete rider. They are not allowed to hold the reins; the hands lie in the lap, holding the whip across the knees, which accustoms them from the first to keep their hands low, besides teaching them to keep their seat without 'riding the bridle,' as so many people do. The horse is driven with long reins, like those used in breaking by Captain Hayes, and managed by him with the dexterity of a circus master. After a few turns at the canter, wicker hurdles are put up, and, to my astonishment, the children, without the slightest fear or hesitation, settled themselves down, leaned well back, and popped over without raising their hands or altering the position of their legs (Fig. 30). They had been over the same hurdles at the second lesson, and too much can hardly be said in praise of a system that has such results to offer in so short a space of time. Mrs. Hayes herself, as may be supposed, looks every inch a 'workman' in the saddle. She has ridden in most quarters of the globe; and, as if she sighed for other worlds to conquer, and were blasee about all sorts and conditions of horses, she rode a zebra at Calcutta which was broken within an hour by her husband sufficiently to be saddled and bridled. Her experiences on his back are entertainingly set forth in her book The Horsewoman, which is well worth the reading, not only for its hints on horsemanship, but for the many amusing sporting anecdotes. Her other book is one which one would hardly have expected from a woman whose life has been in so great a measure devoted to horses and sport. It is called My Leper Friends. A friend indeed they must have thought her, with her devoted sympathy and repeated endeavour to alleviate the sufferings from the most distressing and repulsive malady in the world. Another book is now on the stocks, the preparation of which keeps Captain and Mrs. Hayes for the present in England. That done, they will soon start again on their travels, England being a place that never holds their roving spirits long. The curiosities, and beautiful stuffs and feathers, which they have gleaned in many lands will have to disappear into big boxes and be warehoused, until some fresh store of adventures recalls the wanderers home.
"Meanwhile she teaches the art, of which she is indeed a past mistress, in a way which it is a pleasure and profit to see; and I can most conscientiously advise any mother to send her girls to her if she wishes them to at once become perfect horsewomen while remaining perfect ladies."
We had so many charming pupils during our short stay in London, that I shall always regard this teaching period as one of the pleasantest events of my life. I often think about them all, and wonder how they are getting on with their riding, and, as their various difficulties have been present in my mind while writing this book, I have done my best to solve them all as clearly as possible. We put up small hurdles and got our tiny pupils to ride over them, because I saw that they had grasped my explanation and demonstrations of balance and grip, and it made them mightily proud of themselves, and keen on learning all they could about riding, when they found that they could sit over fences with ease. Although the school hurdles were small, our grey horse which they rode was a big jumper, which could negotiate a five-foot posts and rails with ease, so the children who rode him were unconsciously carried a far greater height than they imagined, for we all know that a big jumper makes a fine leap, even over small fences. In teaching children to ride we should always provide them with saddles in which they can obtain the grip that we ourselves require, and should see that the length of the stirrup-leather is correct. We should remember that the young horsewoman, however tiny she may be, requires to be provided with the best and safest appliances in the matter of stirrup, safety bar, and safety skirt, that we can give her; and I may say that if I had a daughter I would never allow her to ride unless her saddle was provided with Champion and Wilton's safety bar, which I use, and unless she wore my skirt or the safe little coat shown in Fig. 57. If reliance has to be placed on a safety stirrup in the absence of Champion and Wilton's safety bar, only the capped stirrup-iron (Fig. 18) or the slipper stirrup (Fig. 19) should be employed. I have no faith in one-sided safety stirrups for young girls, for we cannot put old heads on young shoulders in the matter of careful attention about placing the foot in the safety stirrup from the proper side. A groom may put the stirrup correctly on the foot of his young mistress before starting out with her for a quiet ride, but these men naturally know nothing about the correct length of the stirrup leather, and during the ride the stirrup may come out of the foot and be caught haphazard by the rider, with the result that, should she become unseated and thrown from her saddle by her horse suddenly shying with her, she may be dragged and killed. I therefore cannot too strongly recommend all mothers to see that their daughters' saddles are provided with reliable safety bars, and of course that the children are provided with safety skirts, for a safety bar is useless if the rider's skirt catches on the upper crutch and holds her suspended. In July 1897 a young daughter of a well-known nobleman was dragged by her stirrup and killed while exercising her pony in a paddock. As the stirrup was of a one-sided pattern, it must have been negligently placed the wrong way (Fig. 31) on the foot of the poor girl, who was only fifteen years old. I heard that rider, saddle, and pony were all buried on the same day. I would not be inclined to blame the groom if he were inexperienced, as many are, in the one-sidedness of so-called safety stirrups. Another equally terrible accident occurred in September 1893, when a young lady was dragged by her stirrup and killed while hacking along a road at Kilhendre, near Ellesmere, with her groom in attendance. As far as I could gather from the newspaper report of this sad accident, a butcher's cart driven rapidly round a corner caused the lady's pony to shy suddenly and unseat her, with the result that she was dragged by her stirrup and killed. At the inquest which was held on the body of this poor girl, the jurymen devoted their entire attention to the character of the animal she was riding, and as the father of the young lady, who had bred the pony himself, was able to show that it was a staunch and reliable animal, the usual verdict of accidental death was given. These twelve good men and true absolutely ignored the stirrup, which had been the sole cause of this awful occurrence, and concentrated their entire attention on the innocent pony she rode.
SADDLING A HORSE.
As a horse's loins are ill fitted to bear weight, the saddle should be placed as far forward as it can go, without interfering with the action of his shoulder-blades, the position of the rearmost portion of which is indicated by the "saddle muscle," which is a lump of muscle below the withers. The saddle can be placed about three inches behind it. Instead of putting the saddle on the exact part of the back it is to occupy, it is best to place it a few inches too far forward, and then to draw it back, so as to smooth down the hair under it, and thus make it comfortable for the animal. The front girth is first taken up, and then the next one, which is passed through the loop of the martingale or breast-plate, supposing that two girths of equal width are used. To prevent any wrinkles being made in the skin under the girths, and to make the pressure even, the groom should shorten the girths to about half the required extent on one side, should finish the tightening on the other side, and should run his fingers between the girths and skin in order to smooth out any wrinkles, the presence of which would be liable to cause a girth-gall. As girthing up, when the lady is mounted, will have to be done on the off side, sufficient space for that purpose will have to be left on the girth-straps of that side. After the rider has been put up, the girths should be again tightened, and it is generally advisable to repeat this operation after she has ridden her horse for a short time, especially if the animal has the trick of "blowing himself out." With a Fitzwilliam girth, the narrow girth which goes over the broad one is passed through the loop of the martingale or breast-strap, supposing that one or both of these appliances are used. The balance strap should be tightened to a fair extent, though not quite so much as the girths, because the portion of the ribs over which it passes, expands and contracts far more than that encompassed by the girths.
If a saddle-cloth be used, the groom, before girthing up, should bring the front part of the cloth well up into the pommel with his forefinger or thumb, so as to prevent it from becoming pressed down on the withers by the saddle.
PREVENTION OF SORE BACKS.
The chief causes of sore backs brought on by side-saddles are:—
1. Badly fitting saddles. The fitting of saddles has already been discussed in this chapter.
2. Neglect in girthing up sufficiently tight. As the tightness of the girths diminishes according to the duration and severity of the work, the girths should be taken up after the lady has ridden for some time. For ordinary hacking, tightening the girths after, say, five minutes' riding will generally be sufficient; but this operation should be repeated, for instance at the meet, when out hunting. Knowledge of the necessity of having the girths tight enough, to prevent the saddle wobbling, will enable the rider to take the necessary precautions against putting her animal on the sick list from this cause.
3. Undue weight on the near side, which is generally caused by too long a stirrup, by the leaping head being placed too low down, and by rising at the trot for too long a time.
4. Mismanagement of the horse after his return to the stable, which is a subject I will allude to further on.
CLEANING A SADDLE.
The leather work of a saddle should be kept clean and soft, with the stitches clearly defined, and not clogged up by grease or dirt. No stain should be left on a white pocket-handkerchief or kid glove, if it be passed over any portion of the leather. Beeswax may be used to give the saddle a polish; but it should be sparingly applied and should be well rubbed in, for it is apt to make the leather very sticky. Nothing but specially prepared or good white soap (made into a thick lather) should be employed to clean the leather work, except a little lime-juice or lemon-juice to remove stains. The use of soft soap permanently darkens leather. A small amount of saddle dressing may be put on once a month, in order to keep the leather soft and pliable. The steel work should, of course, be kept bright.
[46-*] The "tread" is the part of the stirrup-iron on which the sole of the rider's boot rests.
Description of a Bridle—Varieties of Bits—Snaffles—Curbs—Pelhams— Nose-bands—Reins—Martingales—Adjustment of the Bridle.
As there is no difference between the bridles used by men and those employed by ladies, I have compiled this chapter from my husband's Riding and Hunting, to which I beg to refer my readers for any further information they may require.
DESCRIPTION OF A BRIDLE.
A bridle consists of a bit, head-stall and reins. The bit is the piece of metal which goes into the animal's mouth; the head-stall or "head" is the leather straps which connect the bit to the horse's head; and the reins enable the rider to use the bit.
Some persons incorrectly restrict the term "bit" in all cases to a curb. This particular application of the word is from custom allowable in the expression "bit and bridoon," in which the bit signifies a curb, and the bridoon a snaffle.
The names of the different leather parts of a bridle (Fig. 32) are as follows:—
The crown piece (a) passes over the horse's poll.
The cheek pieces (b b) connect the crown-piece with the bit.
The throat-latch (c), which is usually pronounced "throat-lash," passes under the animal's throat, and serves to prevent the bridle from slipping over his head.
The front, forehead-band or brow-band (d) goes across the horse's forehead, and has a loop at each end, for the crown-piece to pass through. "Front" is the trade name for this strap.
The head-stall or head, which is the trade term, is the name given to all this leather work.
VARIETIES OF BITS.
Bits may be divided into snaffles, curbs and Pelhams.
A snaffle is a bit which acts on a horse's mouth by direct pressure, and not by leverage.
A bridoon is the term applied to the snaffle of a double bridle, which is a bridle that has a curb and a snaffle. A double bridle is often called a "bit and bridoon."
The best kinds of snaffles are the half-moon snaffle which has an unjointed and slightly curved mouth-piece (Fig. 33); and the chain snaffle (Fig. 34). The objection to the jointed snaffle (Fig. 35), which is the kind generally used, is that it has a nut-cracker action on the animal's mouth, instead of exerting a direct pressure, as shown respectively in Figs. 36 and 37. A chain snaffle should always have a Hancock's "curl bit mouth cover," which is a roll of india-rubber that curls round the mouth-piece, and prevents it hurting the mouth. In the absence of this india-rubber arrangement, we may cover the mouth-piece with two or three turns of wash-leather, which can be kept in its place by sewing.
In all cases a snaffle should be thick and smooth, so that it may not hurt the horse's mouth.
A curb is a bit which acts as a lever, by means of the curb-chain that passes under the animal's lower jaw (Fig. 38). Fig. 39 shows a properly constructed curb for a horse with an ordinary sized mouth. The best curb which is in general use is the Ward Union (Fig. 40). The curb-chain should have broad and thick links, so that it may not hurt the lower jaw. This precaution can be supplemented by a leather guard or by passing the curb-chain through a rubber tube (Fig. 41). A chin-strap (Figs. 42 and 43) is necessary to keep the curb in its place (Fig. 44).
A Pelham is a bit which can act either as a curb or a snaffle, according to the reins which are taken up. Unless a lady thoroughly understands the handling of the reins, she should not use a Pelham, because her tendency when riding will be to feel both reins, in which case the snaffle reins will pull the mouth-piece high up in the mouth, which, as we shall see further on, is the wrong position for the action of the curb. Hence, only one pair of reins (either those of the snaffle or those of the curb) should be brought into play when using a Pelham.
The use of a nose-band is to keep the horse's mouth shut, in the event of his holding his jaws wide apart, so as to resist the action of the bit. To be effective, it should be fixed low down. The cavasson nose-band (Fig. 45) is neat and serviceable.
Reins should be fairly broad (say, 7/8 inch) and moderately thin, so that they may be handled with efficiency and ease. With a double bridle, the curb reins are sometimes made a little narrower than the snaffle reins, which is an arrangement I like, because it greatly helps the rider to distinguish one pair of reins from the other. With the same object, I like the snaffle reins to be connected by a buckle, and the curb reins by sewing.
The only kinds of martingales which we need consider are the standing martingale which is buckled on to the rings of the snaffle (Fig. 46) and the running martingale (Fig. 47). Following in the footsteps of that high priest of Irish horsemanship, Mr. John Hubert Moore, I pin my faith to the standing martingale, as it has enabled me on many occasions to ride, in peace and quietness, horses which without it would have been most dangerous "handfuls." Its great virtue, when properly put on, is to prevent the animal getting his head too high. If he be allowed to do this and is unruly, whether from vice or impetuosity, our power over him will more or less vanish, and besides he will not be able to accurately see where he is going, in which case we will be lucky if we escape without an accident. The famous steeplechase horse, Scots Grey, would never win a race without one of these martingales to keep his head in proper position. When lengthened out to its maximum effective length (Fig. 48), it cannot possibly impede the horse in any of his paces or in jumping. It is, of course, well to accustom a horse to its use before riding him in it over a country. It at least doubles one's power over a puller, and is invaluable for controlling and guiding a "green" animal.
It is a common idea that the chief use of a running martingale is to prevent a horse raising his head too high. We find, however, that when our best flat race and steeplechase jockeys and other good horsemen ride with this martingale, they almost invariably have it so long, that it has little or no effect in keeping the head down. When a horse is prevented from raising his head too high by a standing martingale attached to the rings of the snaffle, he is punished by the tension of the martingale being transmitted to the mouth-piece of the snaffle, if he tries to get his head in the air; but the moment he brings his head down and bends his neck, cessation of the painful pressure will reward him for his obedience. This automatic means of dispensing punishment and reward is so accurate in its working, that a horse soon learns the lesson set before him. But with a running martingale, the rider, in order to reward the horse for bringing his head into proper position, would have to slacken out the reins with a promptness that would be seldom attainable, and with an entire disregard of control over the animal. In fact, with a running martingale, adjusted so as to prevent the horse from getting his head too high, the reins would have to perform the dual office of keeping down the head, and of regulating the speed, which duties could seldom be successfully combined. With a standing martingale, however, the rider can safely relinquish the adjustment of the height of the animal's head to the martingale, and consequently he is not forced to check the horse's speed, when he wants to get his head down. Some good horsemen, on finding that the running martingale did not perform its supposed office efficiently, have discarded it altogether, and thenceforth have trusted to their hands to act as their martingale. In this they were right not to use a running martingale to keep a horse's head down; but they were wrong in thinking that keeping the head down was the only, or even the principal, use of this article of gear. If we closely examine its action, we shall find that the great value of this martingale is to aid the rider in turning a horse by keeping his neck straight, when cantering or galloping, which object is greatly facilitated by the opposite rein exerting a strong pressure on the neck.
In regulating the length of the running martingale, we should carefully guard against making it so short that it would interfere with the horse's mouth, when he is not carrying his head unnaturally high; for such interference could have no good result, and would probably impede the animal's movements. Although it is impossible to determine with mathematical accuracy the exact length of this martingale, we find in practice that it should not be shorter than a length which will allow it, when drawn up, to reach as high as the top of the withers. Lengthening it out another three or four inches will generally be an improvement. The use of a running martingale shorter than the minimum I have just laid down, more or less irritates the horse; because, even when he holds his head in correct position, he cannot escape from its disagreeable pressure. The employment of a short running martingale for 'cross country work is a very dangerous proceeding; for if the rider does not leave the reins loose when jumping, the horse will be almost certain to hurt his mouth, and consequently he will be afraid to face his bit, or will become unmanageable from pain, either eventuality being highly dangerous to horse and rider.
ADJUSTMENT OF THE BRIDLE.
The bit is placed in the horse's mouth, because there is a vacant space (of about four inches in length) on the gums of his lower jaw, between his back teeth and tushes (canine teeth or eye teeth), as we may see in Fig. 49. A mare has no tushes, or possesses them in only a rudimentary form. The tushes of a horse begin to appear through his gums when he is about 4 years old. If horses had not this convenient gap (interdental space) in their rows of teeth, we would probably have to guide and control them by means of reins attached to a nose-band, which is a method practised by many American cow-boys when breaking in young horses. Owing to the fact that their nose-band (hackamore) does not hurt the animal's mouth, and that it gives all the necessary indications, excellent results, I believe, are obtained with it.