A bit on the side - side saddle jumping at Blenheim | An Eventful Life

A bit on the side - side saddle jumping at Blenheim

      Stylish and effective in side saddle

The Side Saddle Association is the largest organisation of side saddle riders in the world and at the Blenheim Palace Horse Trials a selection of members displayed their skills. Crowds gathered as the ladies came out and demonstrated the art of side saddle jumping in fabulous 19th century attire.

“We have some of the most skilled riders in the country to jump side saddle,” presenter Ginny Oakley announced.

Ginny took the time to explain the difference between jumping in a side saddle as opposed to jumping ‘astride’.

“The canter and the quality of the canter is important to any type of jumping but particularly to side saddle,” Ginny said. The whip is used as a right leg and is held in the right hand at all times. “Having a forward moving horse is absolutely essential.” The placement of the pommel on the saddle means that riders do not have the ability to get as much of a forward seat as usual. “So the timing and the balance over the fence is a little bit more tricky.”

“When you’re jumping side saddle it is essential that you go forward as much as you can to allow the horse’s back and neck to stretch just as you would astride,” Ginny says. “And jumping side saddle, you will see that there is a little bit of a quicker sit up after the fence.”

 The legs are to the left side so the rider has to fold over the fence with the left shoulder coming to the right knee. This means that it is the right leg which keeps you on the saddle and keeps you in balance.

“Jumping off the right rein is far easier than off the left rein because on the left rein the rider is forced to feel the diagonal much more strongly,” explains Ginny. “When you’re riding astride you follow your shoulders with the horse’s shoulders, when you’re riding side saddle you’re going to the left, your right shoulder stays back at all times.”

      Where better to hang your apron when not in use?

After jumping a few fences one of the riders, Emma Brown removed her apron and jacket to reveal how one sits in the saddle. Emma was riding a horse called French Connection, or ‘Harry’ who actually competed at Blenheim in the 3* class two years ago. He is now a hunting horse and is used for demonstrations of side saddle jumping. The pair cleared 5ft 8 in a high jump competition at Aintree last year.

With such astonishing heights being conquered it is no wonder that the ladies wear safety helmets when jumping. “You’ll notice that all of our girls wear safety hats, we do love to look elegant in our silk hats and our veils but for jumping we absolutely insist that helmets are worn,” Ginny said. The combinations finished off by completing a course of jumps and continued to demonstrate their skills over the several days at Blenheim with the added excitement of theatre and music. 

Article and photos by Emily Penney

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