Two Astounding Women and their Sidesaddle Jumping Records

When I first started riding as a youngster in Arizona, like so many, I began with a good old Western saddle. But that didn’t last long. I had a fascination with the English style of hunter/jumper. My mom was surprised hut decided to indulge this temporary fad of mine — which wound up lasting a decade before I switched back to Western because, well, my boyfriend at the time was a cowboy. No judging, okay 🙂

While people probably think of jumping horses as eloquent and graceful, like dressage, and not as rough and tumble and difficult as Western, jumping tall fences and walls is, in fact, quite hard and requires a lot of skill from both the rider and the horse. So, when I recently stumbled upon this story about Esther Stace, an Australian woman who set the sidesaddle jumping record of 6’6” in 1915, I was naturally intrigued. Especially when I learned her record stood for an impressive 98 years until October 24, 2013.

Susan Oakes, the woman who eventually broke the record, is an Irish equestrian who trained extensively for her event. Susan not only broke the record, she beat it by two inches, clearing a wall 6’8” high. Wow! I mean, how does an animal weighing 1200 pounds get that much air?

It wasn’t until months later that The Guinness World Records contacted her to say they wanted to verify and recognize her record. Fortunately, Susan had her jump videoed and photographed and several officials presents. She is now and still the proud holder of the record these past five years. Let’s see how long she can go.

Myself, I can’t imagine jumping a 6’8” wall, much less in a sidesaddle. My hat off to these incredible women — and their horses. What an amazing accomplishment.

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Cathy McDavid has been penning Westerns for Harlequin since 2005. With over 55 titles in print and 1.6 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world seven years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

26 thoughts on “Two Astounding Women and their Sidesaddle Jumping Records”

  1. Amazing. I can’t imagine riding sidesaddle. It must have been so uncomfortable. To jump while sidesaddle is an incredible feat. Brava to both women.

    • Yes, Denise. I read Susan’s account of her training, and she talked about how she went in thinking how easy it would be and was amazed at the difficulty.

  2. I have seen a sidesaddle and while I think I would enjoy trying to ride sidesaddle, I certainly wouldn’t try jumping with a sidesaddle!

  3. Wow!!! I can’t imagine how hard jumping from that high would be on a horse’s joints. Dang! He could go lame so easily.

    Fascinating stuff, Cathy!

  4. WOW! That is amazing! Sidesaddles always seemed so dangerous to me anyway, but to see women jumping that high is amazing! The horses are amazing too, of course. Thanks for sharing this snippet of history, Cathy!

  5. Wow! I can’t imagine trying to do that at all, much less in a side saddle. I didn’t know side saddles were even still a thing. One of my sisters rides both Western and English but she’s never jumped anything that high, thankfully.

  6. Riding sidesaddle always looks dangerous to me. Even though I have seen pictures of women riding that way in fox hunts I can’t imagine intentionally jumping six feet high and more. I think it took much more skill for a woman to ride sidesaddle than men to ride straddle.

  7. Wow, what a great post, I had no idea women who rode side saddles could jump that high at all! So very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Wow! Hats off to these 2 amazing women! I’ve barely even sat on the back of a horse! Jumping while riding sidesaddle seems to be taking your life into your hands & I don’t think I’ll attempt it while I’m alive. Truly incredible!

  9. I can’t imagine doing much riding sidesaddle, let alone trying to jump. Sitting like that for any period of time would put a strain on your back and side muscles resulting in muscle spasms and cramps. Also, to me it would be hard to communicate intentions and cues to the horse if you were not sitting astride.

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