The Calgary Stampede focused the international spotlight on the women of racing for three days, as the grandstand audience was treated to three, quarter mile races featuring women in historic outfits racing sidesaddle. To say the demonstration sport was popular is an understatement.
The sidesaddle itself was invented some 700 years ago, and while its heyday was most notably in the 1800s Victorian England among the gentry, it has never completely disappeared. The art of racing in a sidesaddle has been a staple of the Millarville area. It has recently become a popular part of the Guy Weadick Days of High River, and now it has debuted at Calgary to rave reviews.
While the spectacle is part fashion show, it’s all horsemanship with the added twist of maintaining balance while sitting sideways on a horse running flat out for a quarter mile. It’s the kind of race that requires good riders and good horses that can run, handle the difference in weight differential and, of course, the volume of thousands of screaming fans.
Will sidesaddle racing be back next year? Judging from the crowd’s response — you bet, buckaroo.