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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good 'Ol Boys Club

My recent conversations to the president of the Arkansas Gaited Horse Show Association after being told I can come show but being familiar with my "equipment" that I would not be allowed to use the side saddle to show in the English tack classes. There was a misunderstanding at the local show Saturday night and I had to ask the judge a question, and when I asked to see the rule book because I did not remember reading that, I was told there was not one available at the show (??). Apparently this qualifies as poor conduct and I am a bad, evil person now. I had spoken to Ms. McBride and been told it was not an issue, then that was rescinded and rules were suddenly different. Hmmm...

Please forward this to whomever you wish, especially the President as I seem to have lost the contact info and name and my phone is on the fritz at the moment, not to mention I hate talking on the phone...

"no one is going to get there panties in a wad because your horse doesnt have shoes on or because you ride an english side saddle. You can use the ausi stock saddle as well if you so choose. You wont be tied down at this show due to any tack restrictions or shoeing regulations. I am the show manager so anything else that you need to know feel free to ask." - Lisa McBride

Apparently they sure will...

This all just seems a bit too odd to me. It seems that certain rules can made and changed to suit.

I understand that some things are new and different, but NO WHERE in the CAHSA rules could I find anything prohibiting side saddles. It is still an English saddle, whether the legs are on one side or both. I can ride it, I am safe on it, and it is appropriate for the discipline, it was not a Western side saddle in an English class. When I found out that indeed the class was Western only, I withdrew and forfeited my entry fee. I suspect the only reason the judge even placed me in the Ladies Gaited class is that I was the only one there, he barely looked at me, nor did he speak or acknowledge my presence in any way. When I was asked to line up on the judge he simply turned his back on me and walked away, leaving me standing in the middle of the ring like an idiot.

I understand now, upon further research, that the Slow Gaited class is gaited western pleasure, I had misread that before hand or had it confused with something else, eh, it happens. If I had a western side saddle still, I would have changed it, my bridle, and my clothes and ridden in the class,as the rule states, in western tack and attire, a western side saddle is still a western saddle, just as an English side saddle is an English saddle.

Many people were very inquisitive about my saddle and how I rode in it. I was hoping to have sparked some interest in aside riding. I had hoped to be able to carry it through the season and really get some interest going. Alas, that seems impossible.

I had several good reactions to my choice of tack and several not so nice ones. I was astonished to have some random man tell me that one of the ladies would, and I quote, "take that pole (referring to my riding cane, which, as I tried to explain, replaces the right leg in signaling your horse) and beat me with it if I waved it around (which I wasn't)". Threats of physical violence, how lovely. I also heard two fellow competitors discussing how they thought "that we had changed the rules to keep THOSE kind of people and horses out" referring to me. What the heck? They had just arrived and had never even SEEN me before. It's not like I had her up on stacks with chains and such, she is barefoot and natural. You can understand my frustration and aggravation after these incidents. This was BEFORE anything happened with the questions to the judge.

This sadly very much backs up what I have read on the internet concerning the AGHSA.

I have no idea what was said or what was done by my friend Caryne when she went to ask about the class Saturday. I was embarrassed to learn a few of the comments she had made, but I cannot change them, and she apologized to someone with whom there had been in a misunderstanding.

I suspect this is a simple misunderstanding blown far out of proportion. I also suspect that something new and different is found to be threatening and all possible ways to prevent it from coming around are being made. There are many riders that compete aside in multiple disciplines around the world on national and international levels including saddle seat, western, hunter, eventing, dressage and more. Most Equestrian communities are very open to new things. I think the local horse folks would enjoy bit of exposure to something different, expand the knowledge base a bit, broaden the horizons if you will.

I truly would have hoped that the local horse community would be welcoming to newcomers, new ideas, and to new things. Apparently this is not the case.

Next email to the President after his reply with his phone number.

Sir, I will and have not phoned, because I wish to have written record of all correspondence and it is much easier to put thoughts into words and maintain a cool head when you can look at things before sending. That being said...

If you have read the email forwarded to you by Ms. McBride, you know that I have an issue with the fact that I am being discriminated against for using an ENGLISH side saddle to ride in classes that require English tack and attire. What I use is first and foremost, an English saddle, just like any English saddle (there are many varieties), regardless of the location of my right leg. My attire was entirely correct for an informal English class, a riding habit in subdued, dark colors, white button up shirt, vest, coat, and bowler hat. Had it been a formal show I would have been required to wear a bow tie and top hat.

There was absolutely nothing wrong or illegal with my equipment or attire for the Ladies Gaited class at the CAHSA show, and since no one seems to actually posses a copy of the AGHSA rule book that can be emailed or posted online (of which I am doubtful is the case in 2011) and the only way I can get a copy is to pay Ms. McBride $40 for one, I am somewhat skeptical that it even mentions side saddles as no one around here seems to know anything about them. My bits are legal, if a bit odd looking to folks, it is a Weymouth bridle, used on Saddlebred horses and affords a great deal more control than a single curb bit even though it takes more skill to handle correctly.

My horse was calm, controlled, and well behaved. She was not in pain, stressed, upset or dangerous. My seat was stable and I was in no danger of falling off or injury, I showed her to the best of my ability, even though we were the only one in the class, and was completely snubbed by the judge.

For future reference side saddles come in both English and Western styles, they are shown, excepting Equitation classes where the rider and not the horse is judged, the exact same as an astride saddle of the same type. The horse is the focus of the classes in most cases. If I were jumping I would use a jumping side saddle, as I am riding saddle seat, I am using a pleasure or park type cut-back side saddle, perfectly acceptable for a gaited horse. The "pole" as it was so crudely called, is a riding cane, it replaces the right leg aids when riding aside. It is necessary to communicate to the horse correctly.

Side saddle is making a huge comeback in the horse show world, many women prefer it for showing as it displays their skill and balance as well as emphasizing the elegance of the turnout. There may be a time when it is common in the area, it is part of Southern tradition as well. There was a time, not so long ago, where it was the only acceptable way for a woman to ride.

I again apologize for the terrible inconvenience and misunderstanding that asking questions caused, being new to the area and not having shown in 10 years, I have many questions and was terribly confused. I had been snubbed, physically threatened, and rudely treated that day and was understandably (at least to most people) frustrated. I was more than willing to let things go and enjoy the rest of the show. My friend and I had a blast doing barrel pick-up and I had loads of fun doing the exhibition barrels on my girl who had never seen a barrel pattern before, but who's dam was a champion barrel horse (yes, a gaited ASB was a champion barrel horse).

I had planned to continue to support your organizations by attending shows and promoting the overall fun atmosphere by encouraging fellow equestrians to get out and participate. However, it seems that neither organization is open to new people or ideas and all effort will be made to make them feel unwelcome, even before any misunderstanding arose. So all in all, it is really a moot point since it has been made absolutely clear that my English tack and attire is unacceptable for a class requiring English tack and attire, and that anyone new will be snubbed, threatened, and rudely talked about and generally made unwelcome.

My apologies for inconveniencing you or anyone else. Since I have been informed that I cannot ask questions of members or judges, I have not asked any more. Thank you for your time.

So, if anyone out there cares to weigh in, please email the president and speak your mind.


  1. I think side saddles are great! I personnally havent' ridden in one, but who knows maybe one day I will get the nerve and see if I have what it takes. I ride Arabians and feel snubbed at local shows all the time. But oh well, it's just a training thing for me until my horse and I are good enough for the Arabian shows. Hope you find some shows that are more accommadating for you and your horse.

  2. Was it a rated show? Unrated shows can get away with more rule 'discrepancies' than rated shows can. What does CAHSA stand for?


  3. No, not a rated show.

    Central Arkansas Horse Show Association.

  4. What an absolute shame. I can't believe how rude people are sometimes. What is the big deal if you ride in a sidesaddle? There shouldn't be one. If you put in a good ride, you put in a good ride, no matter what type of saddle you are on. I'm interested to hear what the el-presidente has to say after your email to him...

    I haven't experienced anyone like that luckily; most people are fascinated and beyond impressed that I can do everything they can do but in a sidesaddle.

  5. A small technicality is that the CAHSA states in its rules that it follows AQHA rules unless otherwise stated.
    Unfortunately, AQHA specifically bans side saddles in all classes, something the side saddle community has been trying to change for decades!
    It's no excuse for the manner in which you were treated. This discrimination against riding aside is ridiculous.

  6. here is israel, i asked if i can compete show jumping aside, they said yes, ( and i have lost that precious e-mail) after years of sidesaddle fitting problems and training, finally got my act together and ready to go to a real show, and then ...rules changed, they said to me now:" sidesaddle belongs in hunter jumper class only..." Well, and guess what, we do not have any hunter jumper classes in israel. If i am correct there is no rules against use of sidesaddle in the fei rulebook.

  7. I would like to ditto Robin's comment, re: the ridiculous AQHA rule. I might show once every 2 or 3 years at small local show's for something different to do for the day, but have been challenged by the judge and had to ask for the show committee to show the judge that there is no rule preventing me from riding aside, only then to be ignored by a now embarrassed judge. Sometimes a rule might not disallow a sidesaddle, but will say that a leg must be on each side of the horse. this of course discriminates against the disabled rider or those with a religious reason for riding aside.

  8. So, AQHA bans side saddles? Why? (And it's not 'new and different' and different is women riding astride!

    Side saddles date back at least to the 9th century, although the 'modern' side saddle with the fixed and leaping heads that allow women to do anything you can do astride safely (statistically, safer than astride) didn't show up until the 19th, in both western and English styles.

    Next time, point out graciously that it is good enough for the Queen of England.


  9. And here's a good link for people who think that ladies who ride aside are sissies:

    Stupid rednecks.