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Regency Horses


Hunter. Carriage horse. Race horse. Town hack. Horses were more than just a part of everyday life in Regency England. They were fashion statements and sporting trends. By the start of the 1800's one of the biggest innovations in horse fashion had arrived--the Thoroughbred. Three founding stallions--the Darley Arabian "Manak," the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerley Turk--had been brought to England in the early 1700's. When these light, fast Arabians were bred with the larger, cold-blooded English mares, the cross produced a horse with size, speed and stamina.

With the Thoroughbred established as a breed, horse racing also became a more popular, and a better regulated, sport. In 1711, Queen Anne had established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot. Gentlemen also organized races for themselves, often "matching" particular horses against each other, and by 1727 a Racing Almanac began to be printed. Around 1750, the gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket started the Jockey Club. By 1791, the Jockey Club had issued the "General Stud Book", and by the early 1800's Jockey Club stewards attended every racing meet and race, including the Derby, first held in May of 1779, the first Derby was held. Racing now became a fashionable and expensive sports.

Assize-week was the time for races, for that was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials and selling harvest. Meets sprang up, and still run, at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only. Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, "Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them. The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment." Some women--such as the infamous Letty Lade, who reportedly swore like a coachman--rode and drove to please themselves, and made their own fashion statement by bucking the trends for demure ladies.

Womans side saddle
But racing could be a ruinous expensive sport, as stud fees increased in price for the most successful sires. Before the Prince Regent quit the racing scene in 1807, his racing stud farm cost him an estimated 30,000 pounds a year.

The less wealthy, however, could still enjoy equine sport through presence fox hunting. For while expensive Thoroughbreds hunters might also be seen in the hunt field, farmers also rode their heavier draft horses, such as the Suffolk Punch, and children might well be mounted upon handy Welsh Cobs or Welsh Ponies. Irish hunters--often a Thoroughbred crossed with a sturdy Irish draft horse--were much prized in the hunt field for the solid bone and endurance. In the hunt field, jumping ability and stamina mattered more than speed.

November to March was, and remains, fox hunting season, starting after the fall of the leaf, when the fields lie fallow, and ending after the last frost, just before the first planting. The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is considered to be 1810 to 1830. During this time, there were as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray--with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters. A gentleman could hunt six days a week with the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley, and to do so would need at least two mounts every day to keep pace with the master and the pack of hounds.

Between late 1700's to about mid 1800's, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side saddle, ladies were more likely to be advised to "ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite."

Another side saddle
While most chose to ride to the hunt, a few would follow, followed the hunt in their carriages, keeping to the roads and lanes rather than going cross-country.

Specific breeds of horses were also developed and used in harness, for the ideal carriage horse had a showy, high-stepping action--not a very comfortable ride. Fashionable carriage breeds included the Yorkshire Trotter, the Norfolk Trotter, the Hackney Horse, the Hackney Pony, and the Cleveland Bay, which is still one of the most desired of harness horses. Ponies were often used for smaller vehicles, and prints of the era show ladies driving matched teams of cream ponies.

According to Captain Gronow in his Reminisces, Lord Barrymore drove, "…four splendid greys, unmatched in symmetry, action and power." While Lord Petersham's carriages, "…were entirely brown, with brown horses and harness." Gronow accredits Petersham's affectation as being due to his love for a widow named Mrs. Brown. Regardless, the color soon became his trademark signature.

Well past the Regency, the horse remained a symbol of style and a means of fashionable sport. The horse provided those with ability to show off their skills, and thereby improve their place in society. They also provided a means by which the rich could display their wealth, in terms of being able to afford the finest horses that could be bred.

KarenSide saddles2003-02-20
Does anyone know when did the use of side saddles became less popular?
Mary AnnBreeding2003-02-21
I wonder-- does anyone know whe breeding horses for specialized tasks began? I'm not thinking of the basic draught/riding division, but beyond that to different sorts of riding. (I imagine that specialization in types of draught work is more a matter simply of size and training, but what do I know?) Or did they do career assessments for horses?
Shannonhorse breeds2003-02-24
Breeding of horses for specific tasks is as old as every other type of human endevor -- as soon as humans got around to domesticating horses (instead of just eating them), they also started breeding them. Draft horses are bred for their size and strenght. Riding horses were being bred as far back as known records--and Arabian horses have petigrees that go back more than a few centuries.
Shannonside saddles2003-02-28

Women started to ride astride (instead of aside) with the popular adoption of clothing that allowed them to -- namely split skirts, and then trousers. It was a slow adoption from about 1900, and by the '20's and '30's the fashion is predominantly astride--it sort of went along with the entire bob your hair, smoke in public, get the vote, equallity movement.

Interestinglly, side saddle is again becomeing more popular as its elegance is rediscovered -- www.sidesaddle.org and www.sidesaddle.com are two sites that promote riding aside.

CatherineLadies Riding Fashion2004-06-13
I was wondering if anyone knew what ladies riding fashion was like in the 1700 and 1800's?
ShannonRe: Ladies Riding Fashions2004-07-11
Fashions changed drastically between 1700's and 1800's so you're covering a wide range there in terms of even riding fashions. In the 1700's much of the riding fashions (habits) tended towards a military style--you'll see patintings of women in tricorns and habits cut to look like calvary outfits. Very sharp. As you go later into the 1700's the waistlines go up on all women's fashions, riding habits included. From the late 1700's to the 1800's, women's fashions move into the classical design--close to the body, light corsets, short hair. Riding fashions for this era can be military in design, or very handsome coats like a man's coat. All side saddle habits need a skirt that is longer on the left (to make the drape over the side). So most anytime you see a woman in a print carrying what looks to be extra skirt on one side -- not a train behind -- she's wearing a riding habit. Shannon
Audrey CalvoriRegency Horses by Shannon Donnelly2004-07-25
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“Hunter. Carriage horse. Race horse. Town hack. Horses were more than just a part of everyday life in Regency England.”

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