Andrea here, My current work-in-progress—a fictional biography of Lady Hester Stanhope—has called for me to think about riding a horse—or more specifically, about how ladies of the Regency era rode a horse. Lady Hester was a “neck and leather” rider, which in Regency cant means she was a superb horsewoman who loved galloping at a devil-may-care pace across the countryside.
And that was no easy feat, considering that it was considered scandalous for a lady to ride astride. Lady Hester, who broke most every rule in the book regarding feminine deportment, didn’t pay much attention to that limitation. And the fact that she had a special skill for breaking ornery horses to saddle made the neighboring gentlemen very willing to turn a blind eye on her wearing breeches and boots because she helped them with their difficult mounts.
But most ladies of the era didn’t possess such skills, or such practical neighbors, and so were consigned to perching themselves on a side-saddle. So I thought I would do a quick dive down the research rabbit hole to look at the history of this contraption.