Many new readers to my blog are just getting started. If you have the time.. go way back into this blog and read my old posts.. I have been writing about riding aside for about 3 years now. You can also use the side bar if you have a particular interest.. like in saddles, equipment, fashion etc. That will narrow it down for you.
With that said, here is a quick step by step process to try and help you not waste your time or money!
1. Decide first where you want to go with your riding. Do you want to show or just trail ride? Do you want to ride "English" or "Western"?
Those questions will help you in the selection of correct equipment. If you want to show, before you go any further .. make sure the shows you are interested in will accept you riding aside! To my total surprise, American Quarter Horse breed shows do not allow sidesaddle riders to compete in classes with astride riders!
Start looking for an instructor. Just because a trainers "shingle" does not say sidesaddle.. does not mean that they are not qualified to teach it. They may just not have the equipment..or a horse for a lesson. Start calling barns and ask them. Arabian shows are (at least in the US) still known to have sidesaddle riders. Just because you ride a different breed of horse does not mean that they will not work with you. It is true that you may not find an accredited sidesaddle instructor.. BUT, it is nearly impossible to learn this discipline of riding without some help.. Heck - it is nearly impossible to mount a sidesaddle without help!
Next, you need to find a proper and safe sidesaddle that will not just fit you .. but even more importantly - fit your horse! DO NOT...and I repeat myself - DO NOT buy a cheap sidesaddle off of E-bay when you first start out! There are many sidesaddles that to the eye look beautiful.. especially the less than $500.00 price tag; but in the end, you will spend more by having to trash that one, start over and buy a good one! Even if you do purchase an antique saddle off of E-bay, please keep in mind you will likely need to have it restored. I am speaking from experience. I purchased a Champion and Wilton. After restoration .. it is worth about 200.00 less than I have invested in it!
1. Lillian Chaudhary at firstname.lastname@example.org or
2. Sue Tobin at http://www.sidesaddleheaven.com/pages/saleslist.htm or
3. Marti Friddle at http://www.hundredoaksinc.com/home
There are other reputable sidesaddle dealers out there.. but these 3 (all located in the United States) I know are honest and very well respected! They will guide you on how to take a measurement of your horse, work with you to try and find a good sidesaddle that you can afford, that is safe and will support your riding goals!
Next - if the saddle you purchase does not come with a safety stirrup - contact Marti at Hundred Oaks and buy one! To me a safety stirrup is just as important to a sidesaddle rider as a helmet is to a Jumper! This is the one I purchased from Marti. They are new, made of solid brass and run (I believe) about $70.00.
Next - If you are totally smitten by riding aside and start collecting saddles.. finding that you now have one that needs to be restored, contact Lillian Chaudhary at email@example.com She restored my Champion and Wilton. Here are the before and after pictures. I was speechless when I saw my restored saddle. There are no words to describe not only how wonderful she was to work with... but what a great artist she is with these old beauties!!
Once you are on your way, you need to start thinking about sidesaddle riding attire. It could be as simple as a sidesaddle apron, worn over your stretchy riding pants.. or a period costume. If you are not an experienced seamstress, I recommend contacting Cindy at Wildhorse Fashion, www.wildhorsefashion.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org She is VERY reasonable and extremely nice to work with. Those reproduction antique patterns sold over the Internet are a NIGHTMARE to figure out. Cindy is very experienced with these!
Okay - there you go! Please let me know if you are getting started or plan to start..and send me lots and lots of pictures! I just get all giddy knowing that I have inspired someone to try riding aside!!!