Here it is... WAY before it gets published!
A LIFELONG DREAM
by Becky Taggart
It has been a bit over three years since Julie Size decided to learn how to ride her American Saddlebred sidesaddle, a daunting task for any woman and to quote Julie, “much more difficult for a girl over 40!” Her grandfather use to take her to horse shows when she was little and it was there that she not only saw saddlebreds for the first time, but also “witnessed one of the most elegant sights I had ever seen, a woman riding aside! It took my breath away and left such an impression on me, a lifelong dream was born.”
Learning how to ride aside was not the only challenge, also finding the proper equipment, a very patient horse and someone to instruct her were problems. At that time, there were no accredited sidesaddle instructors in her area, certainly none that worked with saddlebreds.
Finding a sidesaddle was the first challenge. Most ladies use restored antique sidesaddles made anywhere from the late 1800’s to 1930 and finding one that fits both the horse and the rider is difficult. Julie’s first was a Champion & Wilton made in 1890. This saddle was totally inadequate for a saddlebred’s high head carriage and trot. “I wish I had discovered that before I had been riding in it for over a year and came very close to giving up, thinking it was me!” Julie reflected. “Now I own three sidesaddles made for 1890 to 1930.”
Finding the right horse was the second challenge. A ladies horse should always be well mannered and patient and the higher a horse trots the more balance and strength is required for the rider. Most ladies opted to go from the walk to the canter for comforts sake. Historical riding books cite that high trotting saddle horses are the most difficult to trot aside, therefore a horse that helps the rider learn is most important. Heaven and Earth, aka Olivier, came into Julie’s life. “He was and is such a blessing to me! He is my forever horse!”
Finding the right instructor was Julie’s third challenge. She started riding sidesaddle with a dressage instructor who helped get her started, but it was when she joined forces with Bluebonnet Farms trainer Sandra Currier in Bellville, Texas, that her sidesaddle riding career really took shape. It turns out that Sandy has won awards riding a half arab in both hunt sidesaddle and western sidesaddle. Julie had another very talented gelding that went into training with Bluebonnet and she and Oliver started lessons. “I know that most trainers would not be interested in helping me fulfill my dream considering it is such a challenge that I may never win a blue ribbon for her. Being a part of Bluebonnet is like being part of a very big family. Sandy and Dora are like my sisters and you cannot imagine how comforting they were when my father was ill and then passed away. I cherish my time at Bluebonnet. Oliver is my forever horse and Bluebonnet is my forever training barn.”
Julie says that she does ride astride as well but it is not her first choice, even when she trail rides at home. She has documented all of her experiences of riding sidesaddle with a blog entitled Riding Aside (www.ridingaside.blogspot.com) from her first lesson, historical research, art and artists and pictures from her shows. Her greatest aspiration is to influence someone else the way that unknown woman influenced her so long ago.