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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

A Woman's Seat
by Peter Horobin
Introduction by Mary D. Midkiff

Dear Horse Friends: I just returned from Equitana Asia Pacific in Melbourne, Australia and wanted to introduce you to a friend and business associate. Peter Horobin and I have known each other for a couple of years and find that our thinking and our vision for the female rider are following similar tracks. I got a chance to see all of Peter's new saddles and to sit in the specifically female designed "Amazone." The Amazone was being premiered at this show and Peter was anxious to get my feedback.

I sat in the saddle and in several others for comparison and was impressed at how the Amazone contours to my pelvic support needs. Peter continues to study the female biomechanics and the pressure points of the pelvic structure in the saddle and has designed a soft giving crotch panel along with an upper thigh cushion instead of a stiff leather skirt. He is on the right track and I think all girls and women will benefit from this design consideration. I am looking forward to trying the saddle in motion on a horse and will let you know my thoughts when I get this opportunity.

Until then, I thought you would enjoy Peter's most recent article on the subject of the female rider's seat and saddle fit.

Sincerely, Mary (December 2001)

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A Woman Rider's Seat
by Peter Horobin, Master Saddler
December 2001

Riding horses has for years been a pastime where both sexes are able to compete on equal ground, although many women have been disadvantaged when it came to the saddle. Since women began to ride astride at the turn of the century, not a lot of design changes have been made specifically for the woman rider. Men design saddles, and then when saddles are made, men mostly make them. Research into the design of saddles, and the experience of women riders, show that the majority of saddles are not designed to suit the female pelvic area. This problem is that the average measurement between seat bones on a male pelvis is 100 mm, whereas the average female seat bones are 130 mm apart.

Taking things a little further, an intensive study was done of the rider's discomfort. Data was taken from 71 sportswomen, including riders, and non-riders such as dancers, cyclists, and martial arts experts. Amazingly, 93% had uneven weight distribution and found that riding caused more pain than any other sport, including cycling and martial arts. With some of the non-riders, excruciating pain was felt in the seat bones, some also suffering from chaffing around the pubic bone area because of a relatively high or broad pommel and a deep and narrow seat.

On the other hand, some of the experienced riders seemed to be immune to this type of discomfort. As a result, many had seemed to acquire awkward positions and tended to get pain higher up in their backs, probably from trying to get a little more comfortable.

I'm sure a lot of women have been introduced to riding, and after riding in the wrong saddle, not suited to the width of their seat bones and coming up against the pommel, have soon after decided to give this "pleasure" sport a big miss!

The other downside is that if the rider is uncomfortable, she will compensate by shifting her weight. This will then have a direct effect on the horse which will have to adjust accordingly.

The obvious solution is to design a saddle specifically for women. In the past I have modified saddles, but now I make a saddle designed with the female pelvis in mind and providing the appropriate width seat and comfort for the pubic bone.

Often riders would tell me that they felt like they were sitting on a fence rather than a saddle. If the female rider has wider seat bones and she is sitting in a saddle that is too narrow, she will be forced to sit on her crotch and not her seat bones.

The changes are in the design of the tree and when the saddle is finished it just looks like any other saddle. The rider is not forced into a deep seat, wedged between a pommel and cantle. With the rider sitting more comfortably, she will find herself falling into a more natural, elegant and effective position - without using force. In a saddle that is actually built for a woman, then riding really will be a pleasure.

Peter Horobin Saddlery has over 50 years of combined custom saddlemaking experience. He specializes in Pony Club, eventer, show jumper and dressage saddles but also features a racing saddle line.

Peter Horobin is a master saddler and can be reached at 106 Watt Road, Mornington, Victoria 3931 Australia. Phone (03) 5975 1055 or 1057, FAX (03) 5975 0401, e-mail

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Mary D. Midkiff's new book, She Flies Without Wings: How Horses Touch A Woman's Soul (Random House, Delacorte Press) is now on preview at Amazon.com

female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

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