Laois Hunt at Shanahoe

Sidesaddle riding is a unique form of equestrianism where lady riders sit aside rather than astride their horse. Sitting aside dates back to the Middle Ages as a way for women in skirts to ride a horse a modest fashion while also wearing fine clothing. On Saturday last, Laois Hunt in conjunction with The Side Saddle Association of Ireland hosted a special lawn-meet in Shanahoe to continue this century’s old tradition and many sidesaddle devotees descended on the magnificent setting of Shanahoe House, home to the Connolly family, for this special occasion. In the early 20th century, as it became socially acceptable for women to ride astride while wearing breeches, the sidesaddle fell out of general use for several decades. However, there remained a place for sidesaddle riding in certain traditional and ceremonial circumstances, and aficionados kept the tradition alive until the sport enjoyed a revival beginning in the 1970s. It has since retained a specialty niche in equestrianism and the modern sidesaddle rider may be seen in many equestrian disciplines, including dressage, eventing, show-jumping and of course the hunting field. Saturday’s event was a huge success, with monies raised being donated to local charities and already plans are afoot to make this an annual occasion. Many thanks are due to all the local farmers and landowners for allowing the hunt to cross their lands, including hunt chairman Lionel Foot and Denis and Norma Connolly for the splendid hospitality they provided throughout the day.