…at least, according to The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual from 1838.
The manual begins by stating that “No attitude can be regarded as more elegant than that of a lady in the modern side-saddle.” But will young ladies today ever learn the “rational and innocent delight” of sidesaddle riding?
The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual‘s got you covered, with plenty of dos and don’ts for the beginner lady equestrian.
Don’t ride the wrong-colored horse.
“Of all colours presented by the horse, none is so rich, and, at the same time, so elegant and chaste, as a bright bay; providing the mane, tail and lower parts of the legs, be black.”
“But much white, either on the face or legs, whatever be the general hue, is quite the reverse of desirable.”
[flickr: Janis Baiza]
“Nothing can be more detrimental to the grace of a lady’s appearance on horseback, than a bad position: a recent author says, it is a sight that would spoil the finest landscape in the world…She ought to be correct, without seeming stiff or formal: and easy, without appearing slovenly.”
Don’t let your hair embarrass you. And definitely don’t wear a bonnet.
“The hair should be plaited; or, if otherwise dressed, so arranged and secured that it may not be blown into the rider’s eyes, nor, from exercise, or the effect of humid weather, be liable to be so discomposed, as to become embarrassing. To ride in a bonnet is far from judicious.”
Don’t beat your horse–it’s ungraceful.
“Ladies certainly ought not to ride horses which require extraordinary correction…a lady should never be seen in the act of positively flogging her steed: such a sight would destroy every previous idea that had been formed of her grace and gentleness.”
Always ride with a man to shield you if your petticoats start to show!
“The only inducements for a gentleman to ride on the left of a lady, would be, that, by having his right hand toward her, in case of her needing assistance, he might, the more readily and efficiently, be enabled to afford it, than if he were on the opposite side; and, should any disarrangement occur in the skirt of her habit, he might screen it until remedied.”
“No lady of taste ever gallops on the road.”
Just say no.
Don’t harass your horse.
[The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual]
“The lady, in all cases, should recollect that her horse requires occasional haltings and relaxation…it is always better, if the pupil err in this respect, to do so on the side of brevity, than, by making her lessons too long, to harass her horse.”
Though most of all–don’t ride a horse who is anything less than perfect.
The Lady’s Horse: “The beau ideal of this kind of horse is superlatively elegant in form, exquisitely fine in coat, and unexceptionably beautiful in colour; of a height, in the nicest degree appropriate to the figure of the rider; graceful, accurate, well-united, and thoroughly safe in every pace; ‘light as a feather’ in the hand, though not at all painfully sensitive to a proper action of the bit; bold in the extreme, yet superlatively docile; free, in every respect, from what is technically denominated ‘vice;’ excellent in temper, but still ‘though gentle, yet not dull;’ rarely, if ever requiring the stimulus of the whip, yet submitting temperately to its occasional suggestions.”
So, young ladies out there–now you know how to ride with propriety, without scandalizing your family name.
The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual is far past its copyright, so it’s free for download through the Gutenburg Project. At 194 pages in the EPub format, it’s a fairly quick read and fun to see what riding instruction was like back in the day.
Go Riding (aside or astride!)