SIDE SADDLE 3: THE HABIT

Ladies riding aside wear what is called a habit, which is an outfit consisting of a tailored jacket with what, although looks like a skirt, is, in fact, an apron, being open at the back.

Traditional habits can be tweed, navy, grey or black. It is a moot point that at one time, single ladies wore a navy habit and married ladies wore black. However, it is also thought that single ladies would wear a bowler and veil out hunting, whilst married ladies wore a top hat and veil.

Things have become a bit more muddied these days, so it is pretty much what you prefer rather than what tradition dictates and also what you can find habit wise. Most are only available second-hand, but it is possible to buy new ones.

Most important is that the apron fits you. When you have your right leg in the right position, the seam of the apron should run along the top of your thigh and end at the top of your knee. No sagging or bagging!

The bottom of the apron should hide your right leg totally but expose your left leg just above the ankle and should fit flush. It is correct to wear a spur on the left heel, just above the actual heel, no lower. Remember the old saying “the lower the spurs, the lower the knickers”! It is also unsightly and incorrect to see an apron flapping about or be too big and not sit flush. Indeed, some ladies sew curtain weights into the bottom of their aprons so they sit correctly and do not flap around.

Aprons have a piece of elastic under the right hand side so you can anchor your
right foot and ‘tuck’ the front of the apron under your leg.

Photos to follow showing this.

The jacket is a tailored jacket with a cut away bottom, exposing your waistcoat bottoms. The jacket also has a lower cut ‘neckline’ than a traditional riding jacket. The back of the jacket should sit just on the back of the saddle (cantle) and not ruck up.

The sought for look is one of tailored elegance, not a sack of potatoes!

A silk stock should be worn with a plain stock pin holding the front in place and always pin down the ends of the stock, underneath the jacket, with safety pins.

A false bun can be introduced if one’s hair is short, but, ladies, always double net. Nothing is worse than seeing a lady aside with bits of hair sticking out, and double netting will prevent this and ensure any ‘extensions’ or additives stay in place.

Now, here’s the current day controversial bit: Head wear. Personally, I prefer to see a lady in a top hat, although some prefer a bowler for hunting. Top hats should be silk and higher and narrower than the ones seen worn for dressage. A veil should be worn under the chin and over the brim of the hat which is done up at the back, as would be worn with a bowler hat.

Some county shows now insist that all wear the current standard crash hats, which I personally think look terrible. However, ‘elf and safety and all that.

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