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Side Facing Saddle
15th - 17th Century
leather, metal

One of the earliest forms of saddle used by women for riding was the side-facing saddle. Previously, in medieval times, women had ridden behind their menfolk on pillion pads; when they rode independently, their saddles were little more than stuffed platforms, sometimes with a hand hold. Those with a foot rest (planchette), were reputedly introduced into England by Anne of Bohemia in the fourteenth century. These early fourteenth-century saddles were not made on a tree, but were like a padded pillow underneath and could therefore be fitted on either side of the horse. Later more chair-like saddles were developed. This style of side-facing side-saddle lasted well into the nineteenth century, built by such companies as Thomas Newton of Walsall, who were still producing this type for ladies into the 1870s, mainly for export. Side-facing saddles for children continued until at least the First World War.

The side-facing saddle pictured here is probably late eighteenth to early nineteenth century in date, and would have had a planchette hanging below the decorative quilted front flap. The back rail and eaved seat are likely to be doeskin, and the back of the saddle would have had a crupper and quite possibly a breeching strap. This particular side-facing saddle is an offside one, not that unusual for the time, as contemporary pictures often show ladies riding on the offside; however, the majority of such saddles were made to face the nearside, with the lady holding the reins in her right hand if she wasn't being led (this being a customary practice), and usually not travelling faster than a walk (See: for more information.