Flying Sidesaddle

In my post on my first sidesaddle lesson I mentioned that, in the nineteenth century, women might have been confined to sitting aside (apart from a few eccentrics who rode cross-saddle) but it didn’t stop them from matching male riders on the Fred and Ginger principle. Everything you do but backwards and on high heels, or, in the case of sidesaddle, with a leaping head and a corset. I found a little feminine oneupwomanship: the circus haute école rider or écuyère Blanche Allarty-Molier performing a capriole and a cabrade on her horse d’Artagnan.

I originally included photos scanned from Hilda Nelson’s The Ecuyère of the Nineteenth Century Circus, published by Xenophon Press. I couldn’t find any further photo credits or original sources for the pictures in the book, and have since been asked to remove them by the publisher, who owns copyright in their own scans of these old images. If you want to see the photos you’ll have to buy the book (well worth the price), or alternatively look at the V&A’s image library, which owns an image of the photo of Blanche performing a capriole. You can view it here. You could also look out for a copy of Baron de Vaux’s 1893 book, Ecuyers et Ecuyères: Histoire des Cirques d’Europe (1680–1891) on which Nelson draws, as I have a feeling that that’s where the photos were first printed.

Blanche began her training as an écuyère at the age of 13, and was famous for pulling off the “Voltige à la Richard,” in which she stood on the back of an unsaddled, unbridled horse as it leapt over hurdles. The horse in both these photos is d’Artagnan, whom she trained herself.

If you’re curious about some of the other great écuyères of the nineteenth century, there’s a post on Emilie Loisset here, and Jenny de Rhaden here.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Author of The Age of the Horse: an Equine Journey Through Human History and If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession.

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