Learning to ride Side Saddle

I first tried side-saddle at a have a go clinic where about three years ago. Immediately I was absolutely hooked. However, I was secretly about 11 weeks pregnant at the time. So, I knew I would have to put it on the back burner for a while.

I had my second lesson about a year later at another clinic. Again, I absolutely loved it, and decided there and then that I had to learn how to do this most elegant form of riding properly.

I decided to rent a saddle and go from there. Having had a most beautiful saddle fitted to my horse I went in search of a local trainer. To my disbelief there was no side-saddle trainers less than a three hour round trip drive from me. This would mean I would gone from home for a minimum of half a day in order to complete a 45 minute side-saddle riding lesson!

In the past this wouldn’t really have been a problem. However, with a young baby which was still being breast fed it just wasn’t feasible. Getting the trainer to come to me wasn’t an option either due to her time constraints and my budget constrainsts.

I thought to myself there has to be a way to make this work. I really was desperate to learn properly.

This is partly where the idea for Wise Owl Equitation came about. If only there was an affordable way to train with a top class side-saddle instructor at a time that suited me and without the need for travel. Well there wasn’t! So, I decided to create one.

Through the Wise Owl Equitation platform I was able to train via live video horse-training lessons. All I had to do was set up my phone to video me, put in my wireless earphones so I could hear my trainer and off I went. I can also record my own side-saddle schooling sessions and upload the videos to my trainer for expert tips and advice.

I’ve absolutely loved learning to ride side-saddle. I’m still a very long way from being an expert and can’t wait until I am capable of jumping large hedges aside while drag hunting. That is definitely a huge life goal.

You can check out some of our amazing side-saddle trainers here:

Growing up in a non-horsey family

Growing up as a pony mad girl in a thoroughly non horsey family certainly presented some challenges when it came to training.

From as early as I can remember I was completely obsessed with horses and ponies, one of my earliest memories is refusing to go home in the car with my Grandparents after mass insisting instead in getting a lift from their good friend in his pony and trap. He had a grey mare called Dolly and faithfully promised 4 year old me that if she ever had a foal it wold be mine.

Needless to say old Dolly never did go in foal but after years of continuously badgering my parents I was eventually allowed go for riding lessons. A couple of years of further continuous badgering resulted in a pony and my life really and truly was made!

I grew up on a dairy farm so the pony was given a small field which was rarely used and an old cowhouse which served as a stable. I was desperate to be the best pony owner I could possibly be and devoured every issue of Horse and Pony magazine I could get my hands on.

That was about as far as my stable education went. The internet wasn’t a thing in the 90’s and I didn’t really have the transport to take me and my pony to regular lessons, even if I had there were very few instructors in my area and certainly not in a discipline as fancy as dressage!

I often felt a little bit envious of those with “pushy pony club mothers” and beautiful 14.2 showjumping ponies but looking back now I appreciate the valuable lesson I learned by having to work hard for what I wanted, and really I was extremely fortunate to be able to ride at all. Over the years I progressed from ponies to horses and developed a lifelong passion for hunting.

I would as a teenager have really loved to get into showjumping, eventing, or even showing but I just really didn’t have the first idea where to start.

This is the gap that Wise Owl Equitation is designed to fill. Although today there are far more resources and information available to riders than Horse and Pony magazine, there still is a huge number of equestrians who, for a variety of reasons just don’t have access to the training support they would like. 

Wise Owl brings the instructor to you, even if that instructor lives thousands of miles away. The platform brings a wealth of expert knowledge right to your yard or field, the eyes on the ground and the voice in your ear. Now there really is no reason not to try a new discipline or develop your skills so as to progress up the levels. 

All you need is your horse, your phone and a set of wireless earphones. You can literally train anywhere and at anytime. When I think of what 15 year old me would have done with that opportunity?!

Why not start your virtual training journey now to see what you CAN do with the it?

Fund out here


Riding while pregnant

This time 3 years ago my life was very different. I was flying high in the corporate world, had just started a new job in financial services and my life outside of work revolved around my mare April. Riding has always been my sanity, for me there was absolutely no other therapy after a long day at the office than to go straight to the yard. 

I was out competing most weekends through the summer, and drag hunting with my husband every Sunday of the winter. We had just returned from a holiday of a lifetime driving cattle across the Wyoming mountains with the cowboys when suddenly everything changed! 

My mare, my absolute pride and joy came in from the field cut up and lame after getting into an argument with another horse. After weeks of box rest, bute and investigations we discovered she had fractured her Pedal bone and I was left with the decision to turn her away for a year (two weeks before opening meet!) or go for surgery. 

I agonised over what to do and finally made the decision to operate, the very same day I made the decision I realised my period was late (with all the stress I hadn’t even noticed) and figured I had better take a pregnancy test. I was more than a little shocked to see the positive result! 

I knew I had to stick to my decision as it would give my horse the best chance of recovery and figure the rest out along the way. Not riding was not an option, taking a young, green horse hunting for the season (as I had originally planned) was definitely no longer an option either!  

April thankfully had a successful surgery at Newmarket Equine Hospital and her journey to recovery began.  

I did a huge amount of research into riding while pregnant and decided with my midwife’s blessing that I would continue completely as normal until 12 weeks and after that I would avoid higher risk activities such as drag hunting and jumping. The baby is very protected and low down in the pelvis in the early weeks so even if I fell, I knew the risks were low. 

I was so lucky so many amazing friends lent me their horses for days out hunting, all quiet reliable types amazingly as nobody knew I was secretly growing a little bump. I even did my very first side saddle lesson on one of those amazing cobs. Once I’d hit 12 weeks April would be ready to rehab slowly and I would be able to concentrate on that.  

But then we had a setback! The screw which they had inserted to her foot hit a nerve and she became very lame once again! The fracture had healed perfectly but I had no choice but to operate again to remove the screw. More weeks of box rest and finally she was ready to be brought back very slowly into work. My bump by this point was getting more prominent so on vets’ advice we used Sedalin the first few times but she was a complete star and really didn’t put a foot wrong.  

During the months that passed I really felt my bond with my horse grew so much stronger, we had to take care of each other and I took the time to go right back to basics and work on our flatwork which had never been our strong point. I rode right up until the day before my daughter was born and honestly felt it helped me so much mentally and physically. 

A few weeks later we were back out and about jumping and competing again and I can’t begin to describe the happiness I felt sailing over that gate!

I’ve recently just had my second baby. This time thankfully without any major horse injury dramas. Again, I continued as normal for the first 12 weeks, I even hunted side-saddle (albeit only for 1 line, in second field and avoiding any jumps) and stopped all higher risk activities after that. I didn’t ride for as long this time as towards the end I was retaining so much water I could barely get my feet into flip flops let alone riding boots!

Whether to ride or not while pregnant is a very personal decision. Everyone has an opinion about it. For me I trust my horse completely. I minimised the risk when the bump appeared and my babies moved further up into my belly. Lots of women I know continued to jump until much later in their pregnancies and for them that was the right decision. I’m happy with the decisions I made, although it would appear my daughter has inherited my love of ponies so it may well end up costing me quite a bit of money in the future!