IMEHA Judge's Guide

Sidesaddle is broken up into four different divisions. Huntseat, Saddleseat, Western and Historical Sidesaddle.

Sidesaddle entries requardless of the tack used should display perfect manners. Any horse which appears to be shying, spooking, above the bridle, overly excited, going crooked, or otherwise misbehaving should be strongly penalized. Note: Atabian sidesaddle classes are far more lenient in requirements for appointments, correct attire as outlined under the Modern section or fully-researched historical attire should be given perference, as directed by IAHA Judging Schools.

Modern Sidesaddle

The general rule is that a lady may ride sidesaddle in any class in which she is otherwise eligible to compete. Although some divisions restrict the sidesaddle, enough open classes are available to make any breed or type of horse or pony acceptable. Tack and equipment are strongly traditional, even in open shows, a knowledgable judge may penalize small errors in appointments.

Huntseat Appointments and Attire

Plain English type sidesaddle, may have suede seat and pommels; or two pommels. Girths should be leather, not shaped. A breatplate is optional but preferred. Hunt attire also requires a combined sandwich case/flask which is carried on the offside of the saddle. A full double bridle is strongly preferred, although a pelham is permissable (a snaffle bit is frequently seen in the ring in other than the hunter division, however, a double rein bridle is always preferred.) All leather must be flat and a cavesson noseband is required. Braided mane and tail required. Off-side saddles (with rider's legs on the horse's right side) do still exist, although they are rare. All requirements are otherwise the same.

Fit of the saddle; The near side of the saddle extends farther forward than the right side, with the safe (the near-side skirt) allowing for the rider's right leg to rest on the horse's left shoulder while the off-side skirt is approximately in the normal saddle postion. Girth should be in the normal postion.

Forbidden tack are martingales (in except over fence classes) any boots or bandages. In an appointments class, saddle pad, elastic girth and stirrup pad are not permitted.

Habit should be black or dark blue. Coat is similar to a regular hunt coat, but features a cut-away at the front to allow a smooth line over the rider's thigh. The coat should just reach the saddle. The apron should be smooth, without drape, the hem should be horizontal and parallel to the ground. A hunt top hat is most correct, a derby is sometimes seen is pleasure classes, and a huntcap is permitted is over fence classes. With a tophat, rider should wear a veil in appointment classes. Breeches are of same color as habit. Vest should be white, buff or yellow. Boots black, no tops. Gloves are required. A light hunt whip with thong is required in appointments class. Rider's hair must be confirmed in anet, preferably a bun. One spur is optional; no spur on the right foot!

Saddleseat Appointments and Attire:

Saddle matches requirements for hunseat. Bridle should be accurate for the breed, type and class depicted. Saddle pads are not prohibited but not preferred and should be unnoticeable as possible if used. Colored girths as in cross-saddle classes for the same breed or type are appropriate.

Hsbit should be a color appropriate for the breed, type or class but more conservative colors are preferred. The coat is similar to a regular saddle seat coat in cut and length but may have a cutaway in the front skirts to allow a smooth line over the rider's right thigh. The coat length may reflect the current style. The apron should be smooth, without drape or gores; the hem should be horizontal and parellel to the ground. A derby or top hat as appropriate for the saddleseat style of riding. The rider should wear hunt-style breeches (color matching the apron under the apron.) and hunt boots beneath the apron (regular saddle seat boots are uncomfortable and can be dangerous in sidesaddle saddleseat) Vests, gloves, etc are appropriate for the breed, type and class. A whip is optional, but virtually essential; it should be carried in the right hand and be the same type as used is the equivalent cross-saddle classes.

Western Equipment and Attire

A western sidesaddle is preferred; it will have skirts, a cantle roll, and generally resemble a modern western saddle. Some exhibitors attach a stirrup fender to a standard English sidesaddle, or may use an older Victorian style sidesaddle. A modern Western sidesaddle will have two pommels, often plus a vetigial pommel on the offside of the seat, other models may have only a single pommel. The bit and the bridle as appropriate for the breed, type and class. Rein and romal strongly referred, even in the breeds where split reins dominate. Some divisions allow western riders to carry a whip or a crop in the right hands. Although this is legal, it is not preferred, as it is not attractive and elegant as a sidesaddle turnout should be. A rein and romal is strongly preferred in all western sidesaddle turnouts.

Shirt, vest, trousers, boots, hat, etc., identical to requirements for the breed/type/class cross-saddle rider. Apron must be a closed or button type with belt under loops. The top of the apron should be cut similarly to chaps and be double thickness. Many western aprons are made of chap leather, but seldom of suede. May have decorative yokes as seen on chaps, conchos, and or fringe down the back edge. The hem should be horizontal and parallel to the ground; the apron should be smooth, without drape or extra material.


Ladies have ridden in various forms of sidesaddle for centuries. The original sidesaddle was a kind of armchair mounted sideways across a horse's back. Ladies did not turn to face the front until the time of Catherine de Medici. Equipment and attire varied widely; any historical sidesaddle entry should be supported by documentation. Note that many queens and other noble ladies had formal horseback portraits painted; often the clothing in these protraits is no more appropriate for riding than a formal court dress would be today. An entry depicting this sort of scene might well to be supported by a comment line depicting the source.

UK - SSA Rules


Adult lady:
Habit: with bowler (derby), "restrained hue" (black, navy, brown, grey, rarely dark green or maroon), long boots (black with black bowler, brown with brown bowler), garter straps optional. Blunt spur or spur band on left boot. Apron to finish approx one hand width above spur strap, right foot not to show. Hem of apron to be parallel to ground. Jacket hem to finish above back of horse, preferably clear or back of saddle. Breeches to match habit. Plain or *discreetly* striped shirt with collar and tie, waistcoat in yellow or maroon.

Hair to be worn in small bun (or false bun). Veil to match bowler, fastened at back above or on bun. No jewellery. Brown or tan leather or string gloves, NEVER black. Whip or cane not to exceed one metre.

Safety hat also permitted, in which case no veil is worn.

Safety hat *required* for Riding Club Open Side-saddle, Working Hunter Horse/Pony, Side-saddle Equitation Jumping and Show Jumping classes>p> With silk hat (traditionally only correct for afternoon classes at County and above level, but may be worn in any SSA affiliated classes except where safety hat required): dark (black, navy) habit: long black boots: plain hunting tie or stock with collarless shirt; dark brown, tan or chamois leather gloves: hair, waistcoat and jewellery as above: ladies' silk hat (NOT dressage topper).

Junior female rider:
Turnout as for adult bowler but with safety hat: jodhpur boots for younger children: hair must be tidy and any ribbons plain blue, black or brown. Whip not to exceed 76cm on ponies under 14.2h. Spur/spur band not compulsory.

Gentlemen (YES!):
Traditional Ratcatcher - ie, tweed jacket, shirt/tie, yellow or Tattersall check waistcoat, long boots with garter straps, blunt spurs, plus bowler or safety hat. (NB: 'Ratcatcher" is not a garment but a style of dress in the UK/Ireland)

Junior male:
As above, with safety hat, joddy boots for younger riders, whip and hair as Junior Female.

British hunting side-saddle, linen or serge lined (or Wykeham pad) with safety stirrup fitting/stirrup. Threefold leather or brown lampwick girth with central strap for full-length balance girth (where fitted). Balance girth - full length or sewn to girth - is optional. *Discreet* numnahs permitted.

Bridle with plain brownband/noseband. Double bridle or pelham required with silk hat: snaffle bridle permitted with bowler (flash or cavesson nosebands only on snaffle bridles). Plain, plaited or laced leather reins, must not catch on right foot.

NOT permitted: martingales, boots bandages. (Sandwich cases, gloves etc as per US rules NEVER seen in show ring)

Cruppers permitted on ponies, but must be correctly fitted.

HORSE/PONY Mane/tail must be plaited, except for breeds whose standard calls for a natural m/t.

Photo Credit
DA Ruby Cairo, warmblood mare. Horse, tack and doll made by Karon Grieve and onwed by Karon Grieve.

NAMSHA Rulebook
USFA Rulebook
NEASA Rulebook
SSA (UK) Rulebook

Sidesaddle Reference Links
SSA - UK Based