Side Saddle Clinics now available for booking

Please book in for clinics at the following link on It’s Plain Sailing:

Please note that these clinics are just open to over 18s at the moment, one helper is allowed per rider, both must leave immediately the lesson is over. Secretary will be in touch with lesson times and to arrange a saddle for you if you do not have your own saddle yet. All those taking a lesson must be current 2022 members of Side Saddle Ireland and must take an antigen test the morning of the clinic in order to be able to take part.

Useful contacts if you need help/ training

Midlands/ Laois: Ciara O’Connell 0872266321

Meath: Julie Brindley 0872803990

Dublin: Suzanne and Amie Garrigan 0863729440

Galway: Imelda Lynch 087 6306471

Tipperary: Faith Ponsonby 087 2929449

Roscommon: Jennifer Payne 0863024945

Wicklow: Jennifer Kennedy 0876815817

West Waterford/ Munster: Jennifer Maher 0872565359

NORTHERN IRELAND: Robyn Catterall SSA instructor, 0044 7710199395

*update* Judge’s Day, 5th March

We will run an information and demonstration session for all IPS/ISA etc judges who would like to learn how to judge a side saddle class (in the event of a show being unable to secure a side saddle ride judge). You will learn what to look for in relation to turn out, rider ability, horse turn out, tack, rider’s individual show, ringcraft, which rein to gallop the horses on etc as well as a question and answer session and an information pack. Refreshments will be provided. May we add that gentlemen are also most welcome to avail of the training! It is assumed that you will have already passed a confirmation assessment if you are already on another judging panel so this seminar will be fully focused on the side saddle aspect of the class. You will be added to our side saddle judge list afterward, which is published in the Irish Shows association handbook.

Price: 20 euro

Date: 5th March

Venue: Calverstown, Kilcullen, Kildare. (directions will be text and emailed out to participants after your application form is received).

TIme: 1pm.. If there are sufficient numbers then we will run a second seminar at 3 pm.

All are welcome to attend but only those who are already on a judging panel or who have completed at least two grades of the UK side saddle association exams will be added to our judges list afterwards.

Facilitator: Jennifer Torrance (Payne) who is a former leading rider In England under UK SSA rules.

Please phone Ciara on 0872266321 for any queries.

Click here for an application form which must be returned no later than Friday 26th February with appropriate fees made payable to The Side Saddle Association of Ireland.  side saddle judge training day


Katie Jerram Showing Clinic

Showing Supremo Katie Jerram will be back in the National Horse Sport Arena on Friday 25th March 2016 (Good Friday). There will be a mixture of showing, Side Saddle and Working hunter sessions. The price is €50 for mixed groups. Bookings can be made by contacting Joanne at 0868660262. A non refundable booking deposit of €20 is required to confirm your spot. Alternatively you can book your spot today

Judge’s training/information session

A judge’s training day will be held on Saturday 5th of March in Co. Kildare to train up judges currently on judging panels such as IPS, ISA, etc so that they can be added to the SSAI’s judging panel. If a show runs into difficulty with finding a side saddle ride judge they will then have a wider selection of judges who will be able to step in to judge a side saddle class and know exactly what to look for in terms of rider ability, turn out, tack, the differences between different side saddle classes, the individual show, and all the small details which are so important. There will also be a question and answer session and a mounted display with the trainer explaining all the finer details of the rules and what to look for. There will be a small fee and attendees will be given an information pack and refreshments. Further information from Ciara O’Connell 0872266321.

Tips about side saddle turnout





Side Saddle Riding has a long history on what to wear and how to wear it, below are a few guidelines for how to show both rider and horse.


Bowler hats are usually back and can be worn with any colour of habit. The only other colour, which is acceptable, is brown and then only with a brown or tweed habit and only if worn with brown boots.

In the show-ring in the UK, whatever the class, if a bowler hat is worn, it must be with collar and tie, and hair in a bun, even if this means using a false bun. Silk hats (always referred to as a ‘silk hat’ never a ‘top hat’) are for formal occasions only, and this means that the whole turnout of you and your horse must be formal. Your habit should be back or navy, you should wear a white or cream stock and a spur, and your horse should be plaited and in a double bridle. Although, the old rule that silk hats would only be worn at Royal Shows has been relaxed, they are still only worn after lunch. If you are showing, do check the rules as many shows now insist that competitors in all classes must wear British Standard safety hats with a harness.

Traditionally minded judges do not approve of short dressage toppers for side-saddle. Silk hats should be no shorter than 4.75 inches or taller than 5.25 inches, depending on the height of the rider and overall picture on the horse. The hat should sit just above eyebrows and be straight and level to the ground when mounted.

A plain cream four-fold silk stock and plain white stock shirt should be worn with a silk hat, which should be tied tight enough to stay in place, but still be comfortable, and secured by a plain stock pin placed just under the knot when tied. Cream or yellow gloves should be worn with a silk hat although brown is also acceptable.

When wearing a bowler hat, a black bowler is always considered correct with a black or navy habit and long black boots, a brown bowler can also be worn with a tweed habit and long brown boots. A plain-collared shirt of a muted colour, preferably white or light cream should be worn with a dark tie, tied neatly and tight up to the collar.

Brown gloves should be worn with a bowler hat, well fitted and clean. Black gloves are a major faux pas because traditionally, black gloves signified that you were in mourning and therefore shouldn’t be riding.

Hair should be tied back into a tight, very neat, small doughnut-sized bun, just touching the bottom of the hat. A fine hair net should cover both bun and hair. Riders with short hair should wear a false bun to create the illusion of long hair. There should be absolutely no hair whatsoever escaping from under the hat.

A black veil should be worn with a top hat or black bowler. It is worn crossed over the bun at the back and held in place with hairgrips either side. There should be no creases or wrinkles in the veil. A traditional habit is made up of a waistcoat, jacket and apron.

Habits can be of navy, black or tweed in colour. A light- coloured waistcoat, plain or with light check, should be worn under the habit with the lowest button left undone. The jacket should sit just above the saddle when mounted. It should be straight and have sleeves of a correct length so that when the rider’s arms are stretched, they are not too short.

The apron, which gives the impression of a skirt but in fact only wraps around the front of the rider, should sit straight and level with the ground when mounted. The back of the apron should sit just above the seat of the saddle all around. The length of the apron should sit around one hand on its side above the ankle of the boot.

Underneath the habit, breeches should match the colour of your habit.

Long, well-polished black boots, with a spur on the left boot only, should be worn. It is crucial to clean the underside of your boots, as these are very visible when riding side saddle. A cane is carried in the right hand to act instead of the right leg.

The rider is expected to wear make up under the veil. This should be subtle but enough to define the features of the face. No jewellery whatsoever should be worn.

Traditionally in the hunting field which was a great place to meet a future husband! Unmarried ladies wore a navy habit with a bowler hat, while married ladies wore a black habit with silk hat if they were a subscriber, or a black habit and black bowler for less significant/important meets or while visiting another pack. This rule has now fallen by the way side although some judges still prefer to see a silk hat worn only with a black habit. All of the showing rules originated in turnout for the hunting field.


Your mount should be immaculate with no marks or stains. The horse should be trimmed and plaited and, if needs be, chalked up to brighten white markings. Make up, baby oil and hoof oil can all be used to enhance the appearance of your horse. Tails should be pulled or neatly plaited. Quarter markers can be used and will be different, depending on the size and shape of your horse.
In side saddle classes, horses are generally ridden in a double bridle, although pelhams are acceptable with double reins. All leatherwork should be well-cleaned and oiled, with the bit and visible buckles polished. If you are wearing a silk hat, you should have a double bridle/Pelham with double reins.
However if you a wearing a bowler, double or single reins are acceptable.

A special thank you for Ciara O’Connell, Kalindi Lawrence & Emma Richardson-Steele for providing us with this information. These general comments have been collated with the help of side saddle riding customers; but it is important to note some classes may have specific requirements that vary from the ones listed abov

Letter from Lorna Keogh regarding the ‘Have a go day’

I have always wanted to have a go at side saddle. I love anything steeped in tradition and whenever I watch side saddle showing I always think the riders look so elegant and polished. I’ve never had the chance to have a go until recently. A few weeks ago I spotted an add on the Side Saddle Association Facebook page advertising a ‘Have a Go At Side Saddle’ day at Ardmulchan in Navan Co. Meath. What can I say – I was on the phone like a light to book a place.

The side saddle association of Ireland was founded in 1981 to promote and assist side saddle riders. Patricia Hanson (previous vice president of the UK Side Saddle society) was the driving force behind starting up the association. The association is a voluntary organisation that aims to promote the traditional style of horse riding for ladies in Ireland. Over the years the association has acquired and bought saddles and habits which are rented out each year to members. This hiring system saves members from the cost of buying outright. The association supports ladies and children over the age of eight years of age. The ‘Have a go’ day was an opportunity for the side saddle association to appeal to wider audience. The association had often heard people saying that they would love to try side saddle so the ‘Have a Go’ day was organised in order to provide ladies with an opportunity to try it out either on their own horse or on a horse supplied by the association. The idea of the day was to allow ladies to try side saddle and to ascertain if it is something they would like to continue with in future.

On Saturday the 8th of September  I headed over to Ardmulchan with two friends. The weather was glorious when we arrived and the venue was a stunning mix of rolling grassland and immaculately maintained old stables and buildings. The day had obviously attracted a lot of interest as there were twenty other riders there including some who had brought their own horses. Once registration was complete we headed into the viewing gallery of the indoor arena. Gina Galvin, Chairwoman of the side saddle association,talked us through the correct fitting of the side saddle explaining the fit and function of the girth, over girth and  balance strap.

Several horses had been provided for riders to try side saddle on and the first set of riders were invited to enter the arena and mount up. I adopted the role of photographer as three friends were in the first group. This proved a very good idea as I could watch the session and hear the instruction which was something I learned a lot from. Mounting proved an exercise in agility as riders were legged up from the ground and then instructed on how to sit correctly. Susan Oakes provided advice and instruction from the ground. She advised riders to place the weight into their right leg and onto their right hip. Riders were also advised of the importance of bringing their right shoulder back in order to help the horse to balance especially on the right rein.

My one worry when booking the session was that it may be a little sedate and time on the horse might be quite short. I could not have been more wrong. This really was a have a go session with riders encouraged to get stuck in and challenge themselves from the start. Once all riders were established in walk they progressed to trotting in the group and then one at a time. After this all riders were brought into the centre of the arena and sent out one at a time to try a canter on each rein.

The session finished and suddenly it was my turn. The phrase ‘put your right shoulder back’ struck fear into me as it is the most commonly used phrase in any lesson I undertake on a horse. Due to a C curve scoliosis in my back my right shoulder likes to keep itself up and forward if permitted to and I struggle to put weight into my left leg. Well I need not have worried. Side saddle required me to put my weight into my right leg and hip which I can do no problem. Bizarrely when sat on the side saddle I actually found it easier than usually to argue my right shoulder into going back. When asked what sort of horse I liked I said I didn’t mind as I am used to riding all shapes and sizes. I was assigned to a blue and white gelding who was very handsome. Mounting up was not too bad and once I had myself sat into the saddle off we went walking. While the feeling was odd, once I worked the right side of my body I got comfortable and felt quite secure. While many of the riders had found trotting harder than canter, I loved the trot. For once in my life I felt tall and elegant on a horse and I was happy out trotting along. My lovely mount rode nicely on the contact and was so obedient staying out to the wall no problem on both reins.

Canter was quite another story. I was told the horse had ‘a long stride and a big canter’ and indeed he did! I will admit to feeling a little sea sick at this point and was quite aware of being a lot smaller than the horse! However we managed a canter on both reins and I stayed on so I was quite happy with myself. I was stunned to find out that the horse I was riding is just four years old as he was so calm, patient and willing.

At this point we were asked would we like to do anything else and someone mentioned the word ‘jump’. Susan was more than happy for us to try a fence and asked who would like to jump. Naturally myself and a friend were top of the queue like two excited children at pony camp. I was amazed to be allowed to jump on our first time riding in the side saddle but certainly was not going to refuse the opportunity. The jumping position was explained and demonstrated for us and we were advised to lean forwards and to look and lean towards the horses right ear to maintain balance. Off I set towards the fence. Keeping straight with one leg was a challenge but we got there. The horse flew up and over and I felt like I was jumping three feet high. I suspect I used muscles I did not know I had to keep myself on but I made it and was told afterwards that we had taken quite a big jump over it. I came round again and managed a much smoother jump over the fence. The time came to dismount which was harder than it looked. Unhooking our right leg we were instructed to face away from the horse and slide down holding the saddle. At this point I realise I was quite high up and I was not the most graceful to dismount.

We watched the third and final session which proved eventful as some of the riders negotiated not just a jump but a straight pole too. I was amazed at how many riders had brought their own horses that had never tried side saddle before. The horses really seemed to take to it quite easily and willingly which was very interesting to watch. As the last session finished we said our goodbyes and headed off back home. I left the yard feeling on a high having done something I had always wanted to try. I have to say having experienced jumping a small fence I really have gained a new found respect for anyone who jumps let alone hunts side saddle – these ladies are amazingly brave and balanced!

The side saddle association were delighted with the day as they could see how much we all enjoyed ourselves and they had not expected such a high level of interest. The side saddle association would like to thank the Galvin family for the use of Ardmulchan and also to Liz Sanford who fitted the saddles onto the horses that were present on the day. As a result of the success of the day, a follow up session and more ‘have a go’ days are being planned. The association are planning some hacks in Mount Juliet in October so I may just find myself heading on another adventure.

For anyone interested in trying side saddle I would definitely recommend to contact the side saddle association.