It is a frustrating fact that very few old sidesaddle safety stirrups will fit a modern boot.
So I was very pleased to find TWO large Cope safety stirrups in the bottom of a case of tack

Cope Safety stirrups

Just a minute – two – as in a pair….
Sure enough, on the underside of the tread one is marked “Nearside” and the other “Offside”

Stamp on stirrup tread

Offside stirrup

Stamp on stirrup

Nearside stirrup

Alice Hayes described the opening mechanism of these stirrups better than I can (see a previous blog here), and pointed out that they can only work in one direction – hence the curved part of the tread is stamped “TOE”

Stamp on safety stirrup

'Toe' and 'Heel' stamped on stirrup

If the rider falls and their foot remains caught in the stirrup the inner arch of the stirrup rotates backwards and releases the outer edge of the tread.

Safety stirrups

Stirrup mechanisms open

They are also stamped “B.Cope’s Patent No. 8940″, “Best Reliagine” (probably a tradename for a nickel alloy) and “45297″. Benjamin Cope of Bloxwich patented this stirrup design in 1895 , one can read the full patent description courtesy of Google here

On reflection it seems that these stirrups were intended for someone riding astride, and given their large size (their interior width is 4 inches or 10.2cm) probably a man.

However wouldn’t they be perfect for an ambidextrous sidesaddle rider ?

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Compass on a whip handle
Several years ago I wrote about a whip with a compass in the handle : Read more here

So, I was pleased to find this Champion & Wilton saddle flask with a space in its lid for a compass :

Champion & Wilton saddle flask

Champion & Wilton flask

Champion & Wilton were a prestigious company of saddlers, famous for sidesaddles, but I wonder if this flask was a military officer’s private purchase.
There are more details at http://www.sportingcollection.com/attire/flasks/flask018/flask018.html
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Copes safety stirrup in action

This image attracted me to the Project Gutenberg Ebook of Alice M. Hayes’ “The Horsewoman, A Practical Guide to Sidesaddle Riding” (The whole text can be read here )

The front page of the book tells us that it is the 2nd edition, published in 1903, it was edited by Capt M. HORACE HAYES, F.R.C.V.S. (Late Captain “The Buffs”, Author of “Points of the Horse,” “Veterinary Notes for Horse-Owners,” “Riding and Hunting,” etc.) and that Mrs Hayes was also the author of the intriguingly titled “My Leper Friends”.

The chapter starts:

SAFETY STIRRUPS,
both for men and ladies, have been in existence for hundreds of years.

slipper stirrups
Fig 18 & Fig 19 Capped and Slipper stirrups

Apparently the first variety of this contrivance was the capped stirrup-iron, either simple (Fig. 18) or in the form of a slipper (Fig. 19), which was provided with an arrangement on its sole that prevented the toe of the slipper from yielding to downward pressure, but allowed it to revolve upwards, and thus to facilitate the release of the foot, in the event of a fall. The simple capped stirrup was used by ancient Spanish Cavaliers, and is still employed by many of their descendants in America.”

(The author does not show us these stirrups but I assume she means the Iberian “box” stirrup :

Portuguese Box stirrup
Estribo de caixa – more details here

or Latin American stirrups, sometimes called “Conquistador stirrups”

Brass conquistador pattern stirrups
“Conquistador” pattern stirrups – more details here

or tapaderos :

Monkey nosed tapaderos
Monkey nosed tapaderos – more details here

Back to Mrs Hayes:

“In apparent oblivion of these facts, the Christie stirrup (Fig. 20), made on the same principle, was patented about four years ago.
Christie stirrup
Fig 20 Christie stirrup

Besides its undue weight (1¼ lb. as compared to the ½ lb. of the slipper stirrup), it has the further disadvantage of allowing the possibility of the toe being caught between its bars (Fig. 21).

foot caught in stirrup
Fig 21. A foot caught in a Christies’ stirrup

Latchford safety stirrup
Fig 22. Latchford safety stirrup

Want of neatness appears to have been the only cause of the abandonment of the capped stirrup, which is certainly safer than any of its successors, the first English one of which appears to have been the Latchford safety stirrup (Fig. 22). It consists of two irons; the small one, which is placed within the large one, being made to come out the moment the foot gets dragged in it, in which case it parts company with its fellow, and is then liable to get lost.

Latchford safety stirrup
Parts of Latchford Safety Stirrup – see more about this stirrup here

Scott Safety stirrup
Fig 23. Scott safety stirrup – see an example here

The Scott safety stirrup (Figs. 23 and 24) has not this fault, for its inner iron always retains its connection with the outer one, and can be replaced without delay, if the lady after her tumble desires to remount.

Scott safety stirrup showing release mechanism
Fig 24. Scott safety stirrup open

The Latchford, Scott ordinary, and Cope safety stirrup (Figs. 25 and 26) open only one way, so that the foot, when correctly placed in any of them, may not be liable, as in the event of a fall, to be forced through the outer iron, in which case the lady would almost to a certainty get hung up if her saddle was not provided with a safety bar. In these stirrups, the side of the “tread,” which ought to be to the rear, is generally indicated by the fact of its being straight, while the other side is curved (Fig. 24). This is done in the Scott stirrup, by the word “heel” being stamped on the rear part.

Copes safety stirrup
Fig 25. Cope Safety Stirrup – see another example
here

Copes safety stirrup in action
Cope Safety Stirrup releasing the rider’s foot

The chief faults of so-called safety stirrups are as follows:—

  1. They may catch on the foot, on account of getting crushed by coming in violent contact with a tree, wall or other hard object, or by the horse falling on his near side. When I was living in India, I had a Scott safety stirrup jammed on my foot in this manner, by a horse which I was riding, making a sudden shy and dashing against a wall. The iron was so firmly fixed to my foot by this accident, that it could not be taken off until, after much pain and trouble, my foot was freed from both boot and stirrup. Had I been unseated, I would probably have been killed, because my saddle had not a safety bar.

     

  2. Those which open only when the foot is put into them in one way, are apt to cause a fatal accident if put in the wrong way, which may easily happen from carelessness or ignorance. The methods (straight edge of “tread,” or word “heel”) used with these stirrups, to indicate the proper side on which to put the foot into the iron, may convey no meaning to persons who are not well acquainted with the details of side-saddle gear, and in moments of hurry and excitement may be easily overlooked.

     

  3. Any ordinary safety stirrup which is used without a safety bar may cause a lady to get “hung up,” if she is thrown to the off side and her heel gets jammed against the saddle in the manner shown in Fig. 28.

     

  4. A fall to the offside
    Fig 28. A fall to the offside

  5. If the outer iron is small in comparison to the size of the foot, the rider may easily get dragged.

     

  6. If the outer iron of a Scott’s reversible safety stirrup is large in comparison to the size of the foot (as in the case of a young girl), the rider may get dragged in the event of a fall, by the foot going through the stirrup. Accidents caused by a foot going through a stirrup have often occurred to men from falls when hunting and steeplechasing.

     

Some ladies think it “smart” to ride with a man’s ordinary stirrup iron, or (madder still) with a small racing stirrup, attached to a leather which does not come out. I once saw a lady who adopted this senseless plan fall and get dragged. By an extraordinary piece of good luck she was saved from a horrible death by her boot coming off.

 

All that can be said in favour of safety stirrups, is that they are less liable to cause accidents than ordinary stirrups. The fact remains, that the danger of being dragged by the stirrup can be entirely obviated only by the use of an efficient safety bar.”


 

And so ends the chapter.

Alice M. Hayes sounds like a remarkable woman, and I really want to believe that she posed for those photographs of falls herself…

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Illustration of Greyhound with whip

Thanks to the work of the Gutenberg Project I have been reading “The Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual” , an anonymous 19th Century publication, now available for all to read at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29248/29248-h/29248-h.htm. The book starts :
“The following pages contain a Treatise on the Art of Riding on Horseback, for Ladies, which originally appeared in the Publishers’ well-known Manual of elegant feminine Recreations, Exercises, and Pursuits, The Young Lady’s Book; with, however, various additions to the Text, and a number of new Illustrations and Embellishments.”

It discusses the use of sidesaddles, and remarks on women who rode astride in other countries and other times. I had to remind myself that this book was written when the vast majority of fashionable women would ride sidesaddle “The present graceful, secure, and appropriate style of female equestrianism is, however, materially different from that of the olden time. In by-gone days, the dame or damosel rode precisely as the knight or page”
Interestingly the author points out that Chaucer’s Wife of Bath in the 15th century wore “a paire of spurrés sharpe” , implying that she rode astride.

It goes on to discuss the selection of a horse, stable management, correct riding attire, and much else.
Anyway, I thoroughly recommend reading the book (link above), although possibly not following the whip care suggestion in the illustration above – I suppose it might explain the sheer number of dog-chewed whips that I come across…

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Sidesaddle cane with spur

 
The Swiss Army knife of sidesaddle canes ?
The handle of this cane is both a spur and a hammer (sometimes known as a locksmasher – although it looks a bit dainty to smash many locks…).
I had seen this design in old saddlery catalogues, but was excited to get the chance to buy one.
Sidesaddle canes are carried in the right hand and are used to replace the aids that the offside leg would deliver. In this example one can imagine a rather formidable rider turning the cane upside down to deliver a more forceful message… No wonder the French for sidesaddle is “selle d’amazone”

It is a beautiful object though. It was made by Ashford & Co, a company of whipmakers based in Birmingham in the late 19th century, they held a royal warrant.
The handle is silver plated, the collar is decorated with a fox mask. There is a blank cartouche or shield on the collar.
The shaft or stock is made of red-gold malacca cane. There would have been a keeper or loop of rawhide at its end, I will have this replaced.
Sidesaddle cane with spurSidesaddle cane with spur
 

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