Berlin Fashion Week starts today, just to get the edge of New York, Paris, London and Milan. I suggest accessorising with a horse, as this Italian model has done.
Therese Renz of the famous Renz circus dynasty, c. 1895. I’ve seen wonderful pictures of her in action (have you see the one where she and her horse are jumping rope?) but didn’t realise that she was a Berliner, and is buried just up the road from me in St Hedwig’s cemetery in Weissensee. She died in 1938. More essential to know, she used to tame elephants and was known as “the lady in white” when she performed at the Wintergarten variety theatre, which was destroyed by bombs just six years after Therese left this mortal sawdust ring.
Horse Nation have a brief biography, which makes her sound like a tough old bird, despite a difficult life:
Just as Therese was getting back to business, World War I would disrupt her comeback and leave her penniless, begging on the streets not for her own food, but anything people could spare to keep her two beloved elephants alive. After one died of starvation, she sold the second, her prized elephant “Dicky”, to another circus just to prevent him from suffering the same fate. Therese would yet again be starting over.
When the war ended in 1918, Therese was 60 years old, but that wasn’t going to stop her. She joined a troupe in Vienna in 1923, and continued performing well into her seventies on a mare named “Last Rose”, a fitting final partner.
I love this Pathé (propaganda) clip from 1941 of a “sweet sixteen” year old “lady blacksmith” doing her bit for the war effort.
The Mare with a flowing mane, which was never broke to any servile toil and labour, composed an eighth species of women. Those are they who have little regard for their husbands, who pass away their time in dressing, bathing and perfuming; who throw their hair into the nicest curls, and trick it up with the fairest flowers and garlands. A woman of this species is a very pretty thing for a stranger to look upon, but very detrimental to the owner, unless it be a king or prince who takes a fancy to such a toy.
If you’ve come here after reading the Washington Post piece on the revival of sidesaddle in America (now going a little viral on Jezebel.com), here’s a selection from the archives – a little bit of everything from balloonists to tragic heroines, scandalous females and zebras ridden sidesaddle. I also wrote in detail about women and girls who rode in Britain and Ireland in If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession. Photos of the Mrs. George C. Everhart Memorial Invitational Side Saddle Race – the first sidesaddle race to take place in the US since the 1930s are here.
If you’d love to read some primary sources on women and riding in America in the nineteenth century, get thee to Archive.org to read Elizabeth Karr’s American Horsewoman and Theo Stephenson Brown’s hilarious In the Riding-School: Chats with Esmeralda. If you want to see what’s under the side saddle apron, well, here’s Eadweard Muybridge – perhaps NSFW.
As someone with a hip or two that are threatening to be arthritic, I’m glad of the sidesaddle revival as in the future it might be the only way I can ride a horse. Barbara Minneci of Belgium has been flying the flag for sidesaddle in paralympic dressage with her beautiful coloured cob, Barilla. There’s more about earlier para-sidesaddle riders in the list below.
- Women, horses and their contribution to World War One in the UK: part one and part two.
- The daring dressage riders of 19th century Europe: Jenny: NOT The Prix St Georges, and beautiful, tragic Emilie.
- Blanche Allarty-Molier performs the famous airs above ground: Flying Sidesaddle.
- A very genteel lady steeplechaser: Dianas of the Chase.
- Exposed stockings and duelling menfolk: Alice Thornton: A Regency Lady Jockey.
- A (Not So Short) History of Women Riding Astride.
- Sidesaddle at the 1900 Olympics.
- A risqué (and very popular) stage hit involving an actress in a bodysuit strapped to the back of a horse: Wild Horses Dragging You Away.
- A former missionary to lepers strikes a blow for womankind: Mrs Hayes and the Zebra.
- “DVD Extra” for If Wishes Were Horses’ 19th century chapter – quotations, photos: Jeunes Filles Bien Elévées.
- Women who defied the classic stereotype of Victorian invalid lady, a-fainting on the sofa: Para-Hunting.
- A intriguing and mysterious horsewoman of Paris: Who’s That Lady?
- Sidesaddle wardrobe malfunctions: How Should A Lady Dress?
- Anything men can do: Side-saddle Polo.
- Mrs Power O’Donoghue catches a maid trying on her riding gear: Upstairs, Downstairs.
- Sidesaddle as drag – in central London: Veiled Delusions.
- Madame Poitevin, a horse and a balloon: Equine Aviation Pioneers.
- Photos from the 2013 sidesaddle steeplechase held in the UK.
Ever since I wrote about the “Ice Princess” found on the Ukok plateau in Siberia in If Wishes Were Horses I’ve been fascinated by the early cultures of the Eurasian Steppes. Aside from their deep horsiness, they also seem to have had a very egalitarian society, and their womenfolk fought alongside the men. I’m currently partway through Adrienne Mayor’s exhaustive account of the physical, textual and artistic evidence for the existence of these bow-wielding riders, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, and was delighted to read about two depictions of Amazons with cremellos. Since I got back from Versailles I’ve been seeing cream. So here they are: one Etruscan sarcophagus (the other side shows the creams drawing Amazon chariots) and one goblet found in Sudan.