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Horse riding for pleasure

Occasionally 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 on a special day out. 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.

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.

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