The Lady’s Horse- Part II

The Lady's Horse- Part II

In the second installment of The Lady’s Horse, we will take a look at another source for equestrian wisdom in the Victorian Era, and see what it has to say about the nature of the horse appropriate for a lady:

Park riding with some remarks on the art of horsemanship, written by J. Rimell Dunbar, Professor of Horsemanship, 1859.

Those of you who read Part I will be relieved to know that this post will be much shorter, as this particular author says much less about the proper horse for the lady rider than Matthew Horace Hayes.

So much less in fact, that Dunbar’s thoughts can be summed up by the following:

“Horses with bad habits are never fit to carry ladies.”

That and his ‘Golden Rule’ which is that “a lady ought never, if can be avoided, chastise her horse: let someone else undertaking the breaking him of any vice”, which explains why the horse must not have bad habits. If a lady is not supposed to chastise her mount, then it had better behave for the entirety of her ride.

He discusses the issues of the equestrienne in the chapter titled ‘STYLISH RIDING’.

From the title we have chosen for this division of our work, the reader may discover our intention to confine it to that branch of riding, practiced by gentlewomen, thoroughly instructed in the equestrian art, in which we see displayed those inimitable beauties that have carried horsemanship to the highest pitch of perfection; and although we feel bound to admit that perfection in the art of riding, as in every other art, is the limit to which improvement can be carried, we trust we shall be excused for maintaining that perfection itself may be rendered more pleasing and agreeable by the aid of style, and where style is required, in how infinitely greater a degree do we sometimes find it in the female than the other sex. An accomplished horsewoman rides with elegance, propriety, and a good grace, united to a noble boldness, beautiful yet modest, which never fails to command attention and excite admiration.

Ah yes. The gentleness and style of the female rider. Very important.  On to the horse.

We will assume that a lady having selected a horse for her own use, before she purchased him, took an opinion, as to his qualities and ability to suit her, from a competent judge, and that he was found in all respects what a lady’s horse should be—wellbroke. No lady should ever attempt to ride a horse which does not in every particular answer this description.

Yup. That’s basically it. Dunbar writes more, but it’s to give instruction on riding, not in regard to the horse itself. I think that this book is probably a little more typical an example of Victorian views (‘the horse must be well behaved as to not distress the lady’) than the one written by Hayes; but I believe I prefer Hayes’ more progressive confidence (comparatively speaking) in the ability of a lady to ride well.

5 Responses to “The Lady’s Horse- Part II”


  • So Dunbar’s key to riding is your man selecting you a prefect horse. I can see how that would work. As you say, it was no doubt the typical point of view at the time. Thanks, your horse posts have been very interesting.

  • perfect. not prefect. blah.

  • Thanks! I’m glad you like them! :)

  • I like this idea of horse-as-magic-carpet for ladies. What lazy thinking! Victorians with their segregation and little boxes for everything were so funny.

  • Many thanks for your posts, Hope.
    I’m writing a story (based on truth) about a fairly wealthy London family (business people, not aristocracy – they owned a shipping line and plantations in the West Indies). They had 5 children and lived in a terraced house in Nottingham Place in central London, 1820-1840, with a mews at the back holding their carriage and I presume all the family’s horses. I’m looking for information about learning to ride and hope that you can maybe suggest some sources.
    Did boys and girls learn to ride at the same age? What age?
    Who would teach them?
    Would they learn in the city streets or be taken elsewhere, eg Hyde Park (would it have been embarassing for a child of wealthy parents to be seen to be incompetant?)
    With many thanks and all best wishes from Australia
    Peter

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