A Lady Riding-Master: 1893

Mrs Hayes, Equestrienne

Mrs Hayes, Equestrienne

London has a woman riding-master, a Mrs. Hayes, who insists, notwithstanding the traditional supremacy of the Englishwoman’s horsemanship, that you rarely see an Englishwoman sitting gracefully and firmly in her saddle, and that Frenchwomen are really the more graceful equestriennes. Mrs. Hayes teaches in a modest boyish costume without a skirt, and takes a five-foot gate on her lively charger without holding her reins at all. Her theory is that a riding-master can not teach a woman to sit well on a side-saddle, because he does not know how himself, except theoretically. She is taught to rely first and foremost on her reins, when it is not her reins at all that save her when her horse shies or falls. The reins should never be given to the pupil at all until she is perfectly secure in her seat, and has learned that it is the grip on the crutches of the saddle by the muscles of the knees and ankles that gives her the firm seat. The reins are simply to guide the horse. The stirrup should be shortened until the knee presses firmly against the leaping head. It is to teach the position of the legs that Mrs. Hayes rides in the boy’s dress, and when a woman learns to use these members properly, Mrs. Hayes claims that her seat is more natural, more graceful, and more secure than if she rode astride. This lady riding-master is a daring rider, accepting most vicious mounts with fearlessness, and stopping short of nothing, not even a zebra, in her experiments. On one occasion, when they brought her a wild zebra from the menagerie in a cage, she tamed the creature in two lessons so that he was sufficiently subdued to stand, with her on his back, while the pair were photographed.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 January 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is not an equestrienne–the life of a house-keeper does not admit of leisure for the exacting fittings required for a proper riding-habit–but this would appear to be sound advice from Mr Post,  an American author and avid horseman.

The art of riding a horse cannot be learned in half a dozen lessons in the academy on the avenue. It does not lie in the crook of the knee, or the angle of the spine. It does not lie in the make of the saddle or the multiplicity of snaffle reins, nor does it lie in the thirty-nine articles of my lady’s riding-master. But it is embraced in the grasp of one law that may be stated in a line, and perhaps learned in a dozen years,—be a part of the horse.

Dwellers in the Hills, Melville Davisson Post, 1901

Mr Post, alas, did not apparently always follow his own dictum: he was killed in a fall from a horse in 1930.

Mrs Alice M. Hayes, Riding Master

Mrs Alice M. Hayes, Riding Master

Mrs Alice M. Hayes was the authoress of The Horsewoman: A Practical Guide to Side-Saddle Riding, which you may read at this link.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


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