HOLIDAYS & FEAST DAYS
riding for pleasure
women rode horses for domestic reasons- travel or taking goods
to and from market or for a purchase in a nearby towns. Many women
in Chaucer's book rode horses for practical reasons, but women
also rode for pleasure.
Women often rode astride as men did,
sitting on saddles the same way most women ride today. As illuminations
from the Manesse Codex of a couple out hawking and the
Duk Du Berry's Book of Hours illustrate- horse riding was
not limited to servants running errands and queens, but was the
passtime of noble ladies as well. The
month of May, pictured at right, shows us noble ladies with garlands
in their hair going a-Maying and out riding with their companions
and dogs. These ladies appear to be riding side-saddle, but not
all women did.
The image at left from a French manuscript, Romance of the Saint,
from the 14th century, shows a woman clearly riding astride like
There are only a few reference to
women's riding abilities, but these include Anne of Bohemia (1366-1394),
Queen Isabella of Spain (1451-1504) and Catherine de Medici (1519-1589).
Certainly if these women rode, it is likely they would have been
accompanied by female staff who rode with them. Anne of Bohemia
is believed to have introduced the earliest version of a sidesaddle.
Although not entirely not like today's saddle, the medieval side-saddle
was a basic chair-like saddle with a small foot rest known as
a planchette. From 1300 up until 1900, side-saddles evolved into
the one we know today.