Type to search

Low Riders


Amy Cattell Magee clears a fence.

Women’s sidesaddle racing is an intriguing return to tradition.

by Jim Graham

More than most sports, riding to the hounds is all about tradition, bespeaking a time of vast estates, gamekeepers, manor houses and proper attire. So should anyone be surprised that some ladies of the hunt are now riding sidesaddle while tearing across the countryside after the fox—a form that was routine for their great-grandmothers but later rejected by their grandmothers?

 “There is a bit of resurgence in riding aside instead of astride,” says Kirstie Grabosky, co-chair of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds’ Point-to-Point Races, who has been riding sidesaddle for the past few years.

Riding sidesaddle, common until about a century ago, was predicated on various myths about female physiology and the reluctance of men to recognize that their wives and daughters could ride tall in the saddle as fast and as well as they could. Sidesaddle riding was eventually abandoned so that today, the ability of women no longer challenged, some see fun and charm in returning, at least part of the time, to the past. “Our inspiration has been the women of Ireland, the Dianas of the Chase,” Grabosky says. 

The Side Saddle Association of Ireland was officially formed in 1981, and the women have been racing and jumping ever since. Sidesaddle races have also started recently in Virginia’s hunt country.

In riding sidesaddle, a woman usually sits on the left side of the horse, her left foot in the stirrup and her right leg folded somewhat into the saddle and side of the horse. The saddle has two pommels, a fixed head and a flexible racing head, for more stable riding. 

The sport is not inexpensive. Grabosky points out that a custom English-made saddle costs between $2,000 and $4,000, not to mention a new wardrobe with flowing skirts. 

“People seem to think that sidesaddle riding is more precarious,” says Grabosky. “But I haven’t found that to be the case.”

The Willowdale Steeplechase hosts the Side Saddle Race at 1 p.m. on May 14.






Amy Cattell Magee and Mclane Hendriks 


The Buchanans 


Becca Barker


Amy Cattell Magee


Judith Gartland

Three Magical Spring Weddings from Around the Main LineThese nuptials incorporated elements of the season while maintaining personal flair.
Meet the Women of Steeplechase RacingThese female owners, trainers and riders are blazing trails in the traditionally male-dominated sport.
Have Subscription Services Taken Over Our Lives?From entertainment to dining, there's a subscription for everything.
What Questions do You Have About the Coronavirus Pandemic and Mental Health?Dr. Paula Durlofsky will answer your questions during Main Line Today's Facebook Live event.
5 Local Artisan Candlemakers That Will Help Make Your Home CozyThese locally-poured candles will infuse any space with heady scents.
This West Chester Doctor Tackles Mental Health and Identity in Her Newest YA NovelDr. Ilene Wong, a surgical specialist in urology, brings diversity to teen literature.
Look Inside this Merion Station Home’s Garden OasisThe landscape architect and interior designer collaborated to create a harmonious design.
5 Local Museums with Online ExhibitsExplore art, history and more while at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
How to Shop Small Businesses During the Coronavirus LockdownMany area boutiques are offering remote services with delivery or curbside pickup.
Staying Sober During the Coronavirus PandemicWith in-person meetings largely off the table, alternative online resources have been established.
Q&A: Arden + James Owner and Designer Bri BrantThe Chadds Ford fashionista shares her style.
11 Local Fitness Studios and Gyms Offering At-Home Workouts During the Coronavirus Pandemic Just because you can’t leave home doesn’t mean you can’t keep to your exercise routine.  

You Might also Like