It epitomizes elegance and carries forward a tradition that’s becoming a dying art, said Sunfield Inc.’s Susan Sisco. Sidesaddle riding was brought to the United States from England, and was still in vogue as late as the 1920s when discriminating ladies didn’t ride astride.
A clinic served as a fundraiser for the Friends of the Animal Shelter.
Sisco, who is based in Christiana, Pa., was asked to conduct the clinic at Lisa Darden’s covered arena on Stiefel Road. Many of the participants were members of Aiken Ladies Aside.
“I’m here to see if I can give these ladies a few ideas of doing what they’re doing a little bit better,” Sisco said. “Good riding is good riding, no matter what discipline. Some of what I’m telling them is really specific to riding sidesaddle.”
One would think it would be a bit more challenging to ride without being able to use leg aids, but that’s not necessarily the case when riding sidesaddle, Sisco said.
“It isn’t as hard as you might think,” Sisco said. “It is surprising that the horses figure it out. I’ve done this for quite a few years. I think I’ve had two horses in that time that really didn’t like it, and with those horses, part of it was a bad disposition and conformation that didn’t lend itself well.”
However, Sisco has enjoyed great success with a variety of horses, some with more experience than others. When a horse is a good mover, there’s nothing that shows it off better than the horse being ridden sidesaddle, she said.
It takes a different mindset to ride sidesaddle, but good riding is good riding, Sisco said.
“All of my life I’ve been telling people to ride heels down, and you don’t want to put your heels down when you’re riding sidesaddle,” Sisco said. “The reason that we do heels down when we’re astride is to make it symmetrical and to keep weight on both sides. When riding sidesaddle, you only have your left leg, and if you put your left leg down, they’re pulling the saddle over to the side. Your hands still have to be symmetrical. That’s one thing that’s really hard to grasp. If you’re a rider, you should have your heels down. You really have to be thinking no heels down.”
If the rider is balanced and has an idea about pace, the horse is going to have to take care of everything else, Sisco said.
“You want to make sure you’re well mounted,” Sisco said.