In The Saddle with Anita Marsh: Discovering a whole new way to ride

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A while ago I posted an old black and white photo of a beautiful slim lady posing side saddle on her horse, remarking how stunning she looked and that it was amazing to think that back then we rode like this with no hat or head protection.

The post which can be found on my Facebook (‘In The Saddle - Anita Marsh) page was shared far and wide, across the UK including as far as America, Australia with general thoughts of how talented riding side saddle is.

I had some lovely followers post beautiful photos of them riding their horses side saddle, with one person in particular sharing some really insightful history on the photo and side saddle itself.

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I loved speaking to this interesting lady, Leila Marvin, who told me she had been riding astride now for 36 years and 16 of those has been side saddle.

Riding side saddle is Leila's passion.Riding side saddle is Leila's passion.
Riding side saddle is Leila's passion.

She first tried riding this way after her parents got divorced when she was just 10 years old.

She moved into an apartment building which had locker rooms in the basement to store belongings.

The one they had contained all the toys left over from previous tenants. One of the toys was a pink Barbie side saddle which kickstarted her interest in side saddle riding.

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As a young girl she started to read more about horses and naturally this led onto taking riding lessons, sat astride in the normal way, but her interest in side saddle was still a passion and she read everything she could about it.

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Leila has been riding side saddle for many years.Leila has been riding side saddle for many years.
Leila has been riding side saddle for many years.

As a teenager she was lucky that a fellow rider had a side saddle and let her try it on the riding school horse. That was it. She was hooked on riding side saddle.

Her passion continued, buying her first side saddle off eBay and armed with a book, she taught herself to tack up and ride. It was a lot of trial and error involved a few falls along the way, but this didn’t deter her.

Hattie, her thoroughbred, really excelled at it and together they went on to do literally everything side saddle; jumping, dressage, showing, hacking. You name it. They did it. They even went hunting and used to compete in Western competitions on an 1880s western side saddle she imported from America.

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After Hattie passed away, she found a lovely mare called Harriet, who she discovered was also super talented in this sport.

Leila was fascinated by riding saddle after inheriting a Barbie toy - and learnt to ride in a whole new way.Leila was fascinated by riding saddle after inheriting a Barbie toy - and learnt to ride in a whole new way.
Leila was fascinated by riding saddle after inheriting a Barbie toy - and learnt to ride in a whole new way.

Harriet is a 20 year old 16.2 ex eventer Thoroughbred / German Warmblood cross. A sharp and forward horse, by no means an easy ride but a pleasure to own.

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Leila does have a few problems with her right hip and although she rode on the "normal" nearside (left side) for a few years, she swapped to riding offside (right side) in 2009 and continued that way until recently.

However, offside side saddles are quite rare and as her horse had changed body shape she was not able to find a replacement which would fit her horse.

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Leila has a love of history, particularly the Victorian era with women's historic fashion. Naturally her love of side saddle has led her to learn a lot about the 1800 and 1900 riding wear. Which is why she commented on my post and how we got chatting.

In addition to riding, she’s also an historical re-enactor. She’s really talented and her clothing is incredible, with such attention to detail taken from original period patterns and materials both for this and her side saddle habits.

It’s amazing what has transpired since finding that equestrian saddle. It led Leila to into a whole new world, creating some beautiful, outfits both in and out of the saddle and to inspire many other women.

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I’ve included some lovely photos of Leila and her horse to illustrate her talent, not only as an equestrian but as seamstress too. I love that Leila got in touch and I wish her every success with her beautiful horse in the future.