Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tiny note on saddle fit...

My taller, skinnier, younger sister was just here to have me, of all things, repair the butt seams in two pairs of her scrubs which she had split out while crouching down to handle dogs at the vet hospital where she works. I had her sit in my side saddle on the premise that she has never seen one, and she should try it and see how it feels. Secretly, I wanted to see just how big a difference 40 pounds really makes. It fits her skinny butt with inches to spare. In fact, it rather flatters her. I'm sure she would look very elegant. Grrrrr.... I did mention, while I was sewing the seams, that one thing I could safely say I had not done in awhile is split out my pants seams. But it was a hollow victory.

This past week I was reading The Art of Side-Saddle by Rosamund Owens. On page 37 she writes... "The prevalence of 17" or 17.5" saddles (American measurements 21" or 21.5")goes to show that our forebears were, on the whole, rather larger than we are. I was recently offered a Champion and Wilton side-saddle, as modern as they come, scarcely used, but when I inquired the measurements, I was told 19.5"! (23.5" American.. and where is this treasure now?) On asking how large the owner had been, I was told, 'well she was a well built girl'."

I imagine when Ms. Owens says "large" she was referring to the fact that the cultural ideal of a woman's figure has changed over the years, and in the early 20th century, curvier figures were in vogue. I seriously doubt, that in the previous generations, the women were any taller or leggier. I have looked and looked and cannot find any scientific data on the average height and weight of women. But I imagine, on the whole, the 21st century norms are far higher for both.
That outstanding tidbit aside, no pun intended, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It can often be found on used book or auction sites, and no side saddle fancier's library should be without it.


  1. Another thing too is that in the UK, women tend to be shorter here. There are lots of "petite" sections in clothing shops here but not too many "tall" sections which is annoying for me as I need looooong lengths in jeans, etc.

    Even tack shops that stock Ariat riding boots, VERY VERY VERY rarely stock the tall lengths in them (I had to order my field boots off the US Ebay) preferring to stock the "short" and "medium" heights in riding boots.

    Most women here need 16" and 16 1/2" side saddles (my riding instructor who is about 5'4"- 5'5"ish rides in a 14 1/2" side saddle) so I've not really had any trouble finding 17" and 17 1/2" saddles for me as the demand in the UK seems to be for the smaller sizes. If it wasn't for Hattie being an awkward fit, I'd have my pick of side saddles as there are alot of 17"- 17 1/2" ones floating about here (look at how many I've bought from Sandon Saddlery!)

    18" side saddles here in the UK seem to command the lowest prices. At 5'9", an 18" saddle is too big for me but then again, I have stumpy thighs but in the US where women tend to be taller, the same saddle would sell for alot more than it does here.

    That 18 1/2" saddle that I sent you photos of was HUGE even for someone of my height so I can only imagine how big a 19 1/2" saddle is.

    So you can see where Rosamund Owen was coming from with her comments as the demand in the UK is for the smaller saddles.

  2. I just had a discussion with a friend about this the other day. I had read somewhere (wish I could remember WHERE) that the average height of women & men was much smaller than the average today. I believe that the average height of a women ranged from 5'0" to 5'4", a lady 5'6" tall was considered very tall. I think the average man's height was 5'6" to 5'9". I also read that wealthy ladies were also fuller figured as it was unfashionable to be very skinny.
    Anyways Brita, I wouldn't worry too much, you look great in your sidesaddle! :)

  3. I agree with everyone else. I think women were much more curvier and full figured, not sure but I think it might even have been a show of wealth to be a little well padded. Skinny might have meant you were poor. Anyway, that's just a theory. I do know most people were much shorter.

    Don't you just love it, my younger sister has always been MUCH thinner than me too! And she eats anything she wants.

  4. I read that book and really enjoyed it... especially due to the fact that they addressed the difficulty of managing the saddlehorses big trot and hock motion!

  5. Julie, I was amazed... like two pages on the Saddlebred. In British book. A British Side Saddle book. How peculiar. There was also a nice mention of Morgans, but as far as horse suitability, that was about it.

  6. Oh, and my sister inherited my father's metabolism. She also inherited his temperment. LOL!