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Questions & Answers

Detailed below are some of the most frequently asked questions about riding side saddle. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to help.

How do I start?
The Side Saddle Association (SSA) has details of qualified instructors and events in your Area. SSA Area officials will be happy to help and contact details can be found on the website.

How easy is it to learn?
This depends on how much riding you have already done astride. If you are an experienced rider you can learn very quickly on a well-schooled horse. You can expect to walk, trot and possibly canter on the right rein in your first lesson. You might be a bit stiff afterwards because you will be using different muscles, but this will improve the more you do. Less experienced riders should expect to take longer to learn the basics. Clinics are offered all over the country and abroad to enable riders to learn with others.

Can I learn without a suitable horse/pony?
Yes. Some riding schools and specialist side saddle centres have trained horses and ponies available for people to learn on. Make sure your Instructor has an official SSA qualification and is fully insured. Anyone teaching on their own horse must have a riding school licence. Side saddle clinics, shows and other events are usually open to spectators. Watching classes and listening to instruction at open clinics is a good way to gain knowledge. These events also offer the chance to chat to other people who are interested in side saddle.

How do I know if my horse/pony will carry a side saddle?
Most breeds and types will carry a side saddle and soon adapt to this way of going.

Do I have to be able to ride side saddle to join the SSA?
No. The SSA has many non-riding members, both men and women. They play just as important a role in the Areas as riding members and often enjoy watching and supporting at clinics and events and can help in many ways. Some have time to be on Area Committees, while others help steward or serve refreshments. Many enjoy keeping in touch with side saddle through newsletters and there is a thriving online community.

Do children ride side saddle too?
Yes. Children often love riding side saddle and are welcome to join the SSA from the age of 5. There are saddles and habits available to hire that are suitable for children. Hiring can be more economical for young people who are still growing. Many shows offer special classes for children. Very young children may be led.

Where can I buy a side saddle?
There are a few specialists who make new side saddles, but they are rare and can be costly. The majority of side saddle riders use saddles that were made before 1950. You have to really know what you are doing before buying a side saddle and it is best to ask your Instructor or specialist saddler for advice. The saddle must fit both horse and rider in length and width. Second-hand saddles can be hired or bought and the SSA Handbook and website include advertisements for both.

I have found an old side saddle, will it be any good?
It might be. Your Instructor will be able to check the girthing system and tree, but you need to take it to a specialist saddler to have it made absolutely safe. Very old saddles with dipped seats and without safety stirrup fittings are better kept for historical interest rather than used for riding, because even if made safe, they usually put the rider in a bad position. Remember: a well-fitting, safe saddle is so important for both horse and rider.

How old should a horse/pony be before being introduced to side saddle?
SSA rules do not allow horses younger than 4 years of age to compete in affiliated events. It is advisable to wait until the horse/pony has matured and is fully muscled-up and is carrying itself well because side saddles are usually a lot heavier than astride saddles and riders do sitting trot. You want your horse to be confident and happy in his work astride before you introduce him to side saddle. Another point to consider is that a side saddle that fits a young horse/pony may not be correct by the time he has matured. If the width of the tree was a problem, you would have to look for another side saddle for him. Older horses often enjoy side saddle as a second or third career, and many of the horses found carrying a side saddle are older members of the horse community.

Will my horse and I need to affiliate to the Side Saddle Association in order to be able to compete Side Saddle?
Under Side Saddle rules, there is no registration of horses, and riders may compete in classes without being a member. However, you will not be eligible to receive the Association's rosettes or the points that count towards competing in certain classes at the Association's Championship show or be covered by our Insurance.

Will I be able to compete at Area shows?
The Area shows have classes for all abilities and ages and the Side Saddle Association will help you find out more. It is remarkably easy to enjoy this traditional way of riding in the 21st century. The Side Saddle Association split Britain into 16 areas covering the whole of the country, and each area is covered by an Area Chairman who will have all the details of side saddle classes going on within that area, also any clinics and demonstrations. Events are organised nationwide and the SSA website has details of how to get in touch with your local Area and has an Events Diary which is updated regularly.

Can I ride side saddle in my local show or dressage competition?
Yes. Many riders find this is an excellent way to practise, but make sure you ask permission from the judge first. It is worth writing on your entry form that you will be riding side saddle if you enter in advance. Don't forget to take your astride saddle if you are entering a class in which the judge will be riding; he or she might not want to ride side saddle. You can warm up astride if you want to as well.

Can I hunt side saddle?
Yes. This is becoming increasingly popular. It is essential that your horse is well acclimatised to the side saddle, which must fit well, and your stirrup release must be in good working order. Some hunts hold special meets for side saddle riders.

Do I need special clothes?
Not to begin with. You can have lessons in ordinary astride clothes and Area shows often run novice classes you can enter without a habit, the matching jacket and skirt (known as an apron) worn over breeches to create that elegant appearance. The SSA examinations Grades 1 and 2 can be taken in astride clothes too. However, if you decide to take up side saddle more seriously you will need the correct attire. The SSA Handbook gives details of the turnout required for all types of competitions, along with information on stockists and people who hire out habits (very useful for children). There is also a For Sale and Wanted List and you can find information about this on the website.

I have been riding Side Saddle for a little while now, but I have a habit of gripping up with my left leg. Is this a common problem and can you give me some advice?
This is a very common fault, usually the problem is that the rider is gripping up into the leaping(lower) pommel in order to balance herself, causing her left heel to rise up. It may be that the saddle is not level and the rider is sitting uphill. Check that the seat of the side saddle is parallel with the ground when you are mounted. If it is not then the saddle should be checked by a competent saddler- the stuffing may need to be adjusted. Temporarily, use a numnah and insert a riser pad between it and the saddle to lift the back. Try to ride without the stirrup from time to time, paying special attention to stretching your left heel down. While riding with a stirrup, think about the position of your left heel and make any adjustments necessary.

Can you tell me what qualities judges are looking for in the Novice Side Saddle classes?
At Novice level a judge is looking for a rider who is able to ride confidently in all three paces- walk, trot and canter- who sits straight, is supple and rides her horse sympathetically. The side saddle should fit properly and the rider should be neatly and tidily turned out. Follow our guidelines and rules regarding turnout in our Members' Handbook.

As an adult, do I have to wear a spur at all times?
Yes, it is considered correct turnout for a spur or spur band to always be seen on the left boot. If your horse is not used to a spur you may wear a spur band, or a blunt spur but they must always be worn on the counter seam of the boot.

Is it possible to compete abroad?
Yes, however we advise that anyone interested in competing abroad should contact us in the first instance.



If you need any further assistance please don't hesitate to get in touch with Ms S M Lane via



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We would like to thank you all for attending the 2022 National Side Saddle Show organised by the NSSSG. We look forward to welcoming competitors back in 2023 Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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The Side Saddle Association aims to encourage and promote the practice of riding side saddle. There are a number of categories of membership and application may be made online Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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The Association offers a wide variety of classes, to suit all standards of rider and horse/pony to encourage and give all side saddle riders the opportunity to participate in a range of disciplines Read More... The Side Saddle Association

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