Sunday, 10 January 2010

Come on museums, do it right!

I'm always pleased when I visit a museum or a historical society (or their website if I am unable to get to the actual venue) and see a side saddle on display. Let's be honest, most people don't ride or have anything to do with horses and we can certainly state that most women have never ridden side saddle so it's nice to see these places exhibiting a side saddle and educating the public about this discipline. Queen Victoria's side saddle shown on the left (currently in the collection of The Museum of Leathercraft in Northampton, England, is one such display that does justice to side saddle riding with the saddle being displayed correctly.

However, there seems to be quite a few museums that don't quite get how a side saddle is supposed to look like and be presented. This is a shame as many people believe that side saddle riding is dangerous and wonder how we ever stay on! Well, all I can say, is it a wonder when saddles (especially the saddles on display for the public to try out) are being displayed incorrectly?

It seems to be the leaping head, what it's for and how it should be positioned, that confuses most people and museums! The most common mistake is having the leaping head turned upside down believing it to be some sort of "leg holder". Such as this western side saddle saddle held in the collection of the Las Cruces Heritage Museum (New Mexico, USA).

Upside down leaping horn on doeskin seated early Victorian side saddle at the California History Exhibit at the Bowers Museum:

A beautiful ornate doeskin covered western saddle with another upside down leaping horn at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center (Colorado, USA) although I have since read that they have corrected the leaping head placement):

The Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas, USA, doesn't seem to have educated the public properly with this western side saddle display that the public are allowed to try out with this lady using the leaping horn as a knee rest....

and this lady using it as a leg rest!

The Bowraville Folk Museum in New South Wales, Australia also needs to correct their side saddle display as well (looks to be a turn of the century english side saddle).

Although the lady looks comfy trying the Bowraville saddle out, can you imagine how dangerous it would be to ride with your leg wedged on top of the leaping horn?

The Manx National Heritage on the Isle of Man, has nearly got it right with the leaping horn on this late Victorian side saddle. They just need to turn ever so slightly to the right!

And finally, the legendary Belle Starr's western side saddle displayed at the Fort Smith Museum of History in Arkansas, USA. The leaping head just needs to be pushed down a little to be perfect!

Come on museums, do it right!

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