Someone on the Sidesaddle Riders! Facebook group posted a link the other day of an article entitled "Evaluation of the force acting on the back of the horse with an English saddle and a side saddle at walk, trot and canter." which was of research done by the Clinic of Orthopaedics in Ungulates, University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria in 2006.
Although the full article isn't available unless you are a vet, the conclusion seemed to be that a combination of aside and astride riding is beneficial to the horse to prevent back injury and as a training variation (from what I gathered through the technical mumbo jumbo, doing this keeps your horse evened up).
Now, what struck me when I read the article and their conclusion, was the fact that many well to do ladies in the Golden Age of side saddle riding, had near and off-side side saddles, or maybe ladies of slightly lesser means, had the reversible saddles. The thought back then, was that it was healthier for women and growing girls to alternate riding sides to prevent crookedness of the spine but I wonder if unknowingly, it was the horse causing the rider to be crooked or feel crooked by only being side saddle on one side? By alternating saddles, it would have allowed the horse to muscle up evenly on both sides, which in turn, would make the rider not feel crooked!
Betty Skelton herself says in her book "Side Saddle Riding", "In my younger days my mother rode on alternate sides every other day and woe betide the groom who forgot which side it was to be on on any particular day!"
It's probably not such an issue today as most aside riders ride astride sometimes (even I do) and with more modern training techniques available and more understanding of the Equine body available to the average rider, we know more about working horses correctly as compared to equestriennes 100+ years ago whose horses were only often only taught to canter from a walk- no trotting.
I do notice though that since I have been alternating between my nearside Mayhew and my off-side Beck, that my riding has improved, my hip pain in both hips has improved and Hattie is MUCH more even on both also recommended me alternating saddles to keep us both evened up.
Since using both sided saddles regularly, I also find that I'm not collapsing like I did last year like I wrote about in this October 2012 blog post. I do have a slight curvature of the spine but I am much straighter now riding so maybe there was some method to the Victorian madness about alternating saddles to help the rider as well.
The near and the offside, side by side!