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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest Post - Research Tidbits by Grace Burrowes

Grace Burrowes Guest Blog, Author of The Heir

I was warned that the best, most fascinating research results are invariably the ones you can’t really use in your book. In one of my books, I’m going to find a way to show the grooms prancing around on the ladies’ mounts sidesaddle, because this was apparently not an unusual practice. This interesting little tidbit was unable to make it into my debut release, The Heir (in stores this month).

The whole business of riding sidesaddle intrigues me. So much of riding is based on balance and on correcting the asymmetries we carry around as a function of posture and minor congenital anomalies. Who decided it would be a good idea for women to ride like this and would we have put up with it for so long if it weren’t so lovely to behold?

I learned that sidesaddles have never been mass produced, but rather, to this day are built one at time, usually to the exact measurements of the prospective owner. While the sources conflict, some claim a wealthy woman would own two saddles, one built to the left, one to the right so she might alternate to keep her fundament from becoming lopsided. This would require two riding habits as well, since the wrap of the skirt is designed to maximize both modesty and maneuverability.

I also learned that proper etiquette is for the gentleman who gives a lady a leg up to arrange her skirts for her. This is a matter of safety, since the lady might be occupied with managing a lively horse, while her skirts were yet tangled with her boots and stirrup. No doubt, this was the motivation for all those Regency swains to assist their ladies into the saddle.

Riding sidesaddle required a fair amount of skill for the rider and some special training for the horse. As a matter of comfort, a sidesaddle mount would usually be ridden only at the walk or the canter, since posting the trot is made difficult by the construction of the horns the lady hooks her legs around. I’ve been told the convention among the wealthy was that only women rode mares, though a woman might ride a gelding but a man would seldom ride a mare. (I have flouted this convention in more than one book, because good mares are too wonderful to be limited to only the ladies.)

But how was a lady’s horse to be kept in condition if she couldn’t ride for a period of time? The grooms rode the animal, sometimes with a conventional saddle, but also occasionally in the side saddle. There are specific cues for sidesaddle equitation, with the lady’s whip taking the place of her second leg, and the horse must be trained to comprehend those cues. The grooms would also be responsible for this training and for teaching the animal to carry its rider in a side saddle in the first place.

Finally, I came across a piece of side saddle lore that says only royalty rides to the right, while the rest of us ride to the left. On a recent trip to London I toured Buckingham Palace, where the sidesaddle Queen Elizabeth II rode in to view the Trooping of the Colour was on display.

Her Majesty, at least, rode to the left… Now how do I get that into a book?


An Earl Who Can’t Be Bribed…
Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven, is the first legitimate son and heir to the Duke of Moreland. To escape his father’s inexorable pressure to marry, he decides to spend the summer at his townhouse in London, where he finds himself intrigued by the secretive ways of his beautiful housekeeper.

A Lady Who Can’t Be Protected
Anna Seaton is a beautiful, talented, educated woman, which is why it is so puzzling to Gayle that she works as his housekeeper.

As the two draw closer and begin to lose their hearts to each other, Anna’s secrets threaten to bring the earl’s orderly life crashing down—and he doesn’t know how he’s going to protect her from the fallout…

Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific author of historical romances whose manuscripts have so far won, finaled, or garnered honorable mention in Romance Writers of America-run contests in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Florida. Burrowes is a practicing attorney specializing in family law. She lives in rural Maryland and is working on her next book, The Soldier, set to release in July 2011. 

Thank you Grace for sharing some interesting tidbits with us today.Please see my review and Giveaway post too.

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