In previous sections, we discussed some of the more popular expressions of classical horsemanship, including riding, work in-hand, the airs above the ground, and mounted martial arts. However, there are a few expressions that do not fit into any of these categories.
Riding with obstacles is an old piece of training the well-rounded dressage horse. Most of these obstacles resemble something one would encounter either by working livestock or on the battlefield. Such obstacles would include gates, bridges, jumps, vertical poles (representing trees or other obstacles), and more. Working equitation demonstrates many of these obstacles in a competitive setting, focusing on the Iberian cattle-working tradition. However, we could also include some of the skill-at-arms obstacles, like lance-and-rings. Jumps became a part of dressage training in the late 19th century, especially in the cavalry. Prix caprilli used to be used quite a bit, which is a dressage test with a few jumps. Unfortunately, there are few prix caprilli competitions anymore. However, the Cadre Noir at Saumur still includes jumping in their classical performances.
Sidesaddle is an art form in itself. Traditionally reserved for women and elderly or injured gentleman, riding in a sidesaddle is an elegant art and vestige of a bygone era. Skilled sidesaddle riders can do almost everything regular riders can, though with both legs to the left (or, rarely, the right). Nowadays, riders of all kinds ride aside. Traditionally, lady equestriennes showed their riding prowess aside in quadrille, though they were less common than their male counterparts. In the late 1800’s, women rode aside to help their husbands on the Western frontier in the US, and European and Eastern US women enjoyed foxhunting aside. Sidesaddle is a rare skill nowadays but is a lot of fun and can even be used in regular competitions. One of the beauties of sidesaddle is that people with physical limitations can ride sidesaddle even if they cannot ride astride any longer. The main downside is that sidesaddles are hard to find with few makers. However, many antique saddles are still perfectly useable if they fit your horse. Learn more about sidesaddle at the American Sidesaddle Association.
Vaulting is also an art form in itself and is even its own sport. In vaulting, the rider performs gymnastics on horseback while the horse moves on the longe, usually at canter. Historically, vaulting prepared riders in balance, flexibility, and other skills necessary for riding. We still use many of these exercises in longe lessons, which are vital for a rider’s position and balance. However, skilled athletes can take these a step further and perform handstands, jumps, flips, and other amazing exercises on the horse’s back without a saddle. Vaulters display their skills artistically, usually with music. Vaulting is also excellent for children to learn balance and gain confidence and have fun. Vaulting is similar to trick riding but uses a vaulting surcingle instead of a saddle.
Each of these can be separate art form in themselves, but they all find their origin in classical riding. Different riding schools give special demonstrations with each of these art forms. These are also seen historically in circus performances, which unfortunately earns them the reputation of being non-classical. However, they have a historical foundation and make classical training diverse and a lot of fun. We offer instruction in vaulting and obstacle work and hope to add sidesaddle as soon as we can get the saddles.
This is the last section in this blog series! I hope you enjoyed reading this series and learned something about the amazing art of classical riding. Join us for performances for a chance to see many of these expressions in person!