Social Success: Horse Riding Hints for Victorian Gentlemen

Following on from our earlier discussion regarding the proper conduct a lady ought to adopt when riding, it seems only right and fair that we should now address this matter for gentlemen as well. It would be rather poor form not to, and Behind The Past would not want any gentlemen readers to feel neglected.

Firstly, before a gentleman can ride out, he must ensure he is fit to be seen. To that end, he should avoid being over-dressed.[1] Patent leather boots would be a particularly unfortunate choice, for example.[2] [3] And it would be better for a gentleman to select a cut-away, rather than a frock coat.[4] A distinction should also be made between the town and the country. Thus, in the country, a gentleman may wear boots and cords.[5] However, if he were to ride through town thus attired, he would be most improperly dressed. Additionally, a gentleman in the country might equip himself with a crop, tipped with a handle made from bone.[6] In town, he might simply use his normal walking stick.[7] He could choose to employ a whip instead, but this whip should be a mounted with silver and be completely free from any air of ostentation.[8]

The second matter to which we turn our attention is naturally that of mounting the horse. Of course, the first duty of any gentleman is to assist any lady among his riding party.[9] Naturally, he must first seek her permission.[10] The honour of giving assistance granted, a gentleman should stoop and offer his hand to the lady in question, that he might help lift her up onto her horse.[11] A gentleman must be very careful in this action. If he is too sudden or awkward in the motion, he might cause the lady to lose her balance and come to harm.[12] It does not need to be stressed how much a gentleman would want to avoid such an outcome.

In mounting his own steed, a gentleman should place his left foot in the stirrup and his left hand on the saddle.[13] He should then be able to spring up onto the horse’s back, throwing his right leg over the saddle.[14] A gentleman should be able to accomplish this feat from either side of the horse.[15] And a gentleman really ought to be able to manage to do so with the use of only one hand.[16] Watching a gentleman scrabble and clamber upon his horse, using both hands, is a sorry sight indeed.[17]

This business of mounting a horse thus addressed, we shall now consider the act of riding said horse. There are some points of etiquette with which a gentleman should be acquainted, and which he should endeavour to observe. For instance, when riding out alone, a gentleman does not need a groom to accompany him.[18] [19] Indeed, a young gentleman should never have a groom with him.[20] When riding in the company of ladies, a gentleman ought to ride on their right.[21] [22]

Furthermore, if a gentleman is riding and meets a lady of his acquaintance who is out walking, then he should dismount and walk as well if he wishes to speak to her.[23] [24] If the same gentleman crosses the path of a friend who is riding in the opposite direction, on no account should he turn and join that friend.[25] [26] That would be most rude. He should only change direction to ride alongside his friend if he receives a specific invitation to do so.[27] However, if a gentleman is in a position to overtake a friend riding in the same direction, then it would be permissible for him to fall in alongside them.[28] [29] Yet while etiquette permits such an action, delicacy will determine if such an action should be undertaken.[30] [31] A gentleman should not push in where he is not wanted.

The last point is a matter of common sense, rather than polite etiquette. However accomplished a rider a gentleman may be, if he is out on the road, he should not ride fast downhill or round a corner.[32] To do so would be very dangerous, and all ladies and gentlemen are cautioned to take care when out riding.

 

Bibliography

Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, (London: Frederick, Warne and Co., 1876[?]).

Anon., The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, (London: James Hogg and Sons, 1859[?]).

Anon., The Hand Book of Etiquette: Being a Complete Guide to the Usages of Polite Society, (London, Paris and New York: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1873-1867[?]).

Anon., The Handy Horse Book, 3rd Ed., (London and Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1867).

Footnotes

[1] Anon., The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, (London: James Hogg and Sons, 1859[?]), p. 195.

[2] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, (London: Frederick, Warne and Co., 1876[?]), p. 79.

[3] Anon., The Habits of Good Society, p. 195.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 79.

[6] Anon., The Habits of Good Society, p. 195.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 87.

[10] Anon., The Habits of Good Society, p. 197.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 87.

[19] Anon, The Habits of Good Society, p. 196.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 88.

[22] Anon., The Habits of Good Society, p. 198.

[23] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 88.

[24] Anon., The Hand Book of Etiquette: Being a Complete Guide to the Usages of Polite Society, (London, Paris and New York: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1873-1867[?]), p. 14.

[25] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 88.

[26] Anon, The Habits of Good Society, p. 198.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 88.

[29] Anon, The Habits of Good Society, p. 198.

[30] Anon., Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, p. 88.

[31] Anon, The Habits of Good Society, p. 198.

[32] Anon., The Handy Horse Book, 3rd Ed., (London and Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1867), p. 51.

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