Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Interests

Lois Greiman

I’ve just developed a new obsession. It’s riding sidesaddle. I’m blaming this latest craziness on research because although I have a book due in ummmm 11 days, a book that just came out a couple weeks ago, and a new book, One Hot Mess, ready to hit the shelves on the 24th of March, I’m writing a Regency fox hunting scene and am absolutely fascinated by what I’ve learned.

For instance: Did you know that Anne of Bohemia was the first woman thought to popularize the art of riding aside? Granted, in the late 14th century, the sidesaddle was little more than a bench set atop a horse, but as the years went by, riding aside evolved and became associated with ‘ladies of quality.’ Gently-reared young women wouldn’t think of exposing themselves to the pernicious evils of riding like a man.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 20th century that women seriously began questioning the good sense of riding perched on a horse’s withers like a tipsy songbird. It was a young suffragette, Inez Milholland, who popularized straddling a saddle (And I mean, seriously, how cool does she look in her long mantle!) as she led 10,000 marchers across New York City. When her ladies were attacked by outraged antagonists, Inez charged the mob, turning the attack until the Cavalry arrived (literally). Hundreds were injured, but the women marched on.

That story kind of gives me goosebumps, and yet the thought of all the women before her does too. The idea of thousands of women too bold to give up their equestrian pursuits just because it was deemed improper to ride like a man, which, believe me, is a much safer mode of transportation, gives me some pride. In essence, if a horse fell, went over backward, or generally freaked out as horses are known to do on a fairly regular basis, the sidesaddle rider was probably NOT thrown clear of the animal. Instead, she was most likely trapped beneath her writhing mount. Nevertheless, women not only rode aside every single day, they jumped that way. They followed the hounds and hunted and traveled that way, clearing six foot obstacles as a matter of course. In short, they were amazing. And even though women’s political rights are associated with riding astride, the entire process of riding aside still fascinates me.

So I’ve decided to give it a try. In fact, I’m hoping to train my boy Sage to be a ‘lady’s mount.’ Right now he’s just MY mount, and believe me, there’s a world of difference there. I’ll keep you apprised.

So tell me, what’s your latest obsession/idea/insanity? Let’s talk bucket lists.


Anonymous said...

We have an annual event in our area called the Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. Pawnee Bill was a showman like Buffalo Bill.
Local people reinact the wild west show every year, and for a time the women in the show rode aside. (I didn't know it was called that. Thanks!)
From what I understand, it's HARD! So hard, in fact, that the women in the show decided to ride in a carriage rather than keep it up.
BTW: I only learned of Inez Milholland in Iron Jawed Angels. (I think that was Inez.) OMG!That's something every woman today should learn about.
Thanks for the education. I want to know more!

lois greiman said...

Susan, where do you live? I've not heard of Pawnee Bill. Here in MN there's a group of women called MOSSY who ride aside. I'm looking forward to getting together with them.

Playground Monitor said...

Since I've only been on horseback once and it was a disaster (badly run stable, horse not saddled properly, horse more attentive to my husband's "Giddyup" than my "WHOA!") I can't say I'm ready to tackle sidesaddle.

Right now all I'm obsessing about is polishing this book to send to NY and not killing my husband over the bathroom we're remodeling.

Love the story about Inez though. What a woman!


GunDiva said...

Lois, I have so much respect for the horsewomen who rode aside and I believe that they were much better riders than the men. They handled horses every bit as fractious as the men's and did it with one knee hooked around what looks to me like an over-grown saddle horn and in gowns that weighed as much as they did. I don't know that I've got the nerve to attempt riding aside - and I ride a lot.

Good luck, and let us all know how it goes.

lois greiman said...

Gun Diva, so true. The women of the past must have been made of steel. I didn't know you were a rider. There are still horse show classes for sidesaddle, but not very many of them. There's one at the World Pinto Show in Tulsa. I'm thinking of going there just to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oklahoma--not too far from Pawnee, where Pawnee Bill had his headquarters. His real name was Gordon William Lillie. His wife was May. She was in his show, too.

amy*skf said...

I love learning new things--especially historical things, I'm going to have to read up on Inez. I just want to wear the outfits, if that's okay.

Can't think of a new obsession--I have so many, but like Marilyn (Playground Monitor)mine now is the book...the hero actually...

Keri Ford said...

Always been verra ( :O)read a scottish yesterday with LOTS of brogue in the dialogue) interested in the idea of sidesaddle, but country girl that I was, I grew up going bareback. All the jumps and racing included. It’s…odd to go from bareback back to into the saddle. The horse always seemed to ride different. Rougher, if that makes any sense.

But my latest obsession? At the moment Hot Tea. I started drinking it a while back, but had problems not boiling it too long. Which means bitter tea. Yuck. Went to conference a few weeks ago, made tea in the coffee pot in the room and have been hooked since. Bought a coffee pot the day after I got home. Even been putting me a splash of milk in my tea. Tell you what, the English know what they’re doing with that milk and tea thing.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh yeah, Keri. Tea with milk and sugar. I've touched base on Facebook with a high school friend and she owns a tea shop in our home town. She sent me samples of about a dozen different kinds of tea and I've just been sampling away. She's going to guest blog for me next month. I mean... what's a good writer without her brew of choice?


lois greiman said...

Marilyn and Amy, I NEED to become obsessed with writing about now. I stayed up till 4 in the morning researching sidesaddles. If I'd do that with my current wip I'd be done. But apparently I need a LITTLE more pressure in order to make that happen.

lois greiman said...

Susan, where in OK? They have a great horse show facility in Tulsa...AND a sidesaddle class. MAN, I need a life.

lois greiman said...

Susan, where in OK? They have a great horse show facility in Tulsa...AND a sidesaddle class. MAN, I need a life.

Michele Hauf said...

You need to be obsessed with writing? You need pressure? Hmm...
And here I thought we'd made a sort of bet right here last week. Something about 80 pages and edits? Hmm, hmm, hmm....

I'm on page 50. What about you?


lois greiman said...

Hauf, I'm insane. But it'll get done.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Lois, what a terrific post! You know how much I love horses.

I love to ride. I got serious about it in college--started taking lessons as a freshman, and I really had to pinch the pennies to do it. But the real proof of my devotion is the fact that I battle a severe athletic disability. It's called lack of coordination. To this day I have to think about which muscles to engage. I'm the one the instructor for any physical activity points to and says, "Your other left."

I've looked closely at those side saddles, and my hard hat is off to anyone who can ride that way. But I've seen you ride, and I'm convinced that you were born on a horse. Which means your mother couldn't have been riding astride at the time.

Kathleen Eagle said...

On a more serious note, I'm putting my hard hat back on. I have one, and I started wearing it religiously a few years back. When I moved out West, I traded the hard hat for a cowboy hat, but recently it occurred to me that protecting the brain might be wise. But I got out of the habit again.

The sad news of Natasha Richardson's death has me thinking a lot about sorts, my particular handicap, and safety. I've been thinking about near misses--the time my older son's toboggan hit a tree, the time Clyde nearly went through a snow fence on the "bunny hill" his first time on skis. And I can relive the two times my horse ran away with me as though with photographic accuracy.

So my hard hat's back on. I don't have flowing locks to show off anyway.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Correction: thinking a lot about SPORTS, not sorts. Unathletic people like me tend to be scaredy- cats, but that doesn't mean we don't try the things we really really want to do. Safety first, fellow two-left-footers!

Anonymous said...

There is no freaking way I could ride sidesaddle. I have enough trouble with both my legs wrapped around the horse's middle and my arms wrapped around the neck trying to hold on as the HORSE WALKS!

Susan Shay - That sounds like an interesting show. Right now, I seem to be into rodeos! Bull riding. Wrangle butts. Macho guys. YES!

Debra Dixon said...

How fascinating! I had no idea you could even get someone to teach you to ride sidesaddle these days!

My latest obsession (besides nursing (g) and working) has been the same for a while now. Quilting.

And now Kindle. Love it.

Oh! And that Playstation dance mat.

lois greiman said...

Kathleen :) thanks. We should ride together sometime, hard hats firmly in place.

amy*skf said...

Oh I forgot--I am obsessed with something--running. My husband and I finally decided we should, I don't know, USE the excersize equipment we own, so our new years resolution was to get healthy.

I started walking on the treadmill and at the activity center and slowly worked my lazy a** up to a run. I now run 3 miles almost every day and my husband runs 5. He's lost 26 pounds and I've lost 12.

This from a woman who swore she would never run...unless someone was chasing her or her children.

Kathleen, I know, it's so sad about Natasha Richardson.

lois greiman said...

Amy, congrats on the running. Training for a marathon I seemed to spend that whole summer doing nothing but. Luckily, some obsessions are easier to recover from than others. :) And you're so right, riding astride is ALL about the clothes!!

Christie Ridgway said...

Keri: My mom's a tea-drinker and we always called tea with milk "calico tea." I don't know why. But it was how you learned to drink tea first. No coffee drinkers in the house I grew up in!

Amy*skf: I've been running more recently too! 5 miles 2-3x a week (the other days I take spin class at the gym or walk up the stepmill). Then I caught this lousy cold thingie and I'm afraid I'll cough up a lung if I run before it goes completely away.

lois greiman said...

I always love the smell of teas, but I'm not a great tea drinkers. In the winter, however, I'll consume anything that's hot.

GunDiva said...

Keri, I did go through a phase two summers ago when I was obsessed with riding bareback. I started with riding around the block and ended the summer with a four-hour trail ride. I still firmly believe that bareback riding is *the best* way to enhance your balance.

I haven't been brave enough to hop on my new baby bareback; she's an old ranch/cow pony and I just know that she's too quick for me to stay on :)

lois greiman said...

Bareback! I'm so with you. My favorite form of riding. I show in bareback equitation sometimes. My parents wouldn't let us use saddles because Mom's cousin was dragged to death when he was thrown and got his foot caught in a stirrup. I can't tell you how many times I walked back to the farm, trailing my horse. It wouldn't have mattered if the animal had stayed around anyway, cuz when I was little I couldn't get back on bareback once I was off.

Betina Krahn said...

I'm not a horse person-- though I sure do admire them from afair.

But I am a major TEA person!:)
I adore tea and all it's flavors and rituals and robustness. I've taken my tea with milk for decades now. . . ever since I was in Toronto in 82 recruiting psychiatrists. They do a lot of "English style" in Toronto and I was with a gal who had lived in Britain during and after "the WAR".
She took her tea milky and I tried a bit. . . and was hooked.

There are millions of kinds of tea now. . . if I had extra money, I swear, I'd invest in Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings. And who makes that brilliant TAZO and the wonderful "Republic of Tea" brands?

Anonymous said...

I'm about 30 miles outside of Tulsa--Cleveland, Oklahoma--The capital of Keystone Lake! LOL!
I'll bet the horse show is at the fair grounds.
Arkansas Cyndi,
I LOVE rodeos. And, oh, yeah! The cowboys! Ummm-hmmm!I bribe my DH to go along to keep me company.

Jeannie said...

Definitely get with the MOSSY girls, and also join ISSO ( I'm guessing you've read that article by O'Rielly and all is utter bull about political rights and sidesaddle and how it was so terrible for women.... At least you have a good head and didn't take it all as the literal truth! It really is a very safe, comfortable and elegant sport if done properly. I hope you get your turn to join the fun! I've been aside for 20 years now, and hope for at least that many more!