New equestrian show from April 1st until October 28th 2013
We travel to the 19th century, to a place that is as cherished as the opera: the circus
A show of more than one hour
20 horses – 9 ponies – 1 donkey – 3 vaulters – 8 equestriennes– 1 comedian
We travel to the 19th century, to a place that is as cherished as the opera: the circus
This kind of amusement caters for furore. Having made its appearance at the end of the 18th century, it originally is an essentially equestrian show. Isn’t it a common saying that “The circus show begins on a horse”? Philip Astley, an English military man, is responsible for the dimensions of the ring: its diameter of exactly 13 meters is supposed to facilitate a high-class performance in vaulting.
The 19th century thus brings forward a number of architecturally beautiful circuses in Paris.
“Equestriennes” is evocative of the apparition of the first women on horses in the Haute-Ecole show bits. Those amazons rivalled with the male riders and prevailed. Caroline Loyo was among the first ones. In 1833, at the age of 17, she presented herself in the Cirque de Paris with Laurent Franconi.
“Equestriennes” tells the destinies of women, stars in the ring who were adventurous and did not hesitate to traverse Europe with their horses in order to join the imperial court of Saint Petersburg, where they were hailed. With their formation by old royal equitation masters from Versailles, their equestrian show bits were of great quality and evident influences by François Baucher’s mind-set; the man revolutionized horseback riding through new methods and the invention of equestrian figures.
“Equestriennes” brings us to this epoch in which the great audience of Paris found their passion for those students of Baucher, Pellier or Franconi, those women striving for action without fear of being confronted with neither men nor public.
“Equestriennes” takes us along for a glance behind the scenes of the prearrangement of a show: atmosphere, creative stress, diva disputes … an equestrian show that highlights all the knowledge of Haute-Ecole equitation with the thirty horses and ponies of the Musée vivant du Cheval, trained under the survey of the artistic director Sophie Bienaimé.
“Equestriennes” is a fresco of the time when those ladies were the show queens.
Rosine Lagier Collections
The Ladies’ Riding or the Importance of Propriety
Because of the prominence of the horse for transport in Europe before the industrial age, women, especially those of higher social strata, have always had access to horseback riding. To go on horseback, they could either straddle like men, or let both their legs down on one side of the horse. The latter position was spreading gradually, until it became the only supposable position for a woman to sit on a horse. Originally rudimentary, the ladies’ riding was brought to perfection until the sidesaddle was acknowledged as an equestrian technique requiring specific material, training and clothing.
This development took more than a millennium. In ancient times, women placed themselves on horseback as on a chair, both legs drooping on one flank of the animal. They were limited to walking pace and rode preferably mules or donkeys. In the Middle Ages, the women – still with both legs on one side of the horse – were placed behind a rider they were holding around the waist, or they sat on a kind of packsaddle that was more or less padded, the “sambue”, with a board to put their feet on. A man on foot or horseback then conducted their mount. It’s from the sixteenth century on that something begins to emerge that later on turns into sidesaddle riding.
Clothing has undoubtedly played a role in the choice of riding with both legs on the same side. Indeed, the wearing of trousers has long been forbidden to women apart from cases with special permission, and their dresses, long and often very large, made the overlap difficult and uncomfortable. But it is mainly because riding astride was considered a masculine practice that women could not do it without violating the proprieties. It was only in 1930 that the use of riding astride became commonplace among female riders.
History of the sidesaddle
In the fifteenth century the ancestor of the side saddle appeared in France and Italy, with an additional so-called “saddle horn” (butt-end or side. The story has it that Queen Catherine de’ Medici is the cause of this invention: rather than keeping both feet placed side by side on the footrest, she placed her right leg over the pommel of the saddle to reveal her ankle or her calf that she knew was very beautiful. This saddle allowed the rider both to stay on and to control her own horse as she was no longer sliding to the left and thus able to even trot and canter. In the early eighteenth century, other refinements were made to improve the balance of women on their mounts.
Thus, some models had a handle that could be seized in case of loss of balance, a stirrup was substituted for the board to be later replaced by a stirrup that was closed at the front, called stirrup-slipper. However, the comfort of the riders stayed limited: despite improvements, the saddle still tended to turn and the stability of women on horseback remained precarious.
The most important invention was that of the third pommel in 1830. Giving support to the left thigh of the rider, this addition to the sidesaddle procured a strength that allowed to accept not only the shaking of fast paces, but also side leaps, refusals and jumps. The lighter saddles were further ameliorated with mobile pommels, safety stirrups (to prevent tilting over), billets to obviate the slide of the saddle…
At the end of the nineteenth century, the posture of a woman sitting in the sidesaddle (called “Amazones” in French) corresponded to a rider sitting astride, not too far forward, the right hip moved back in order to place the shoulders in the same line, the right leg fell naturally on the front of the saddle while the foot did not project beyond the horse’s left shoulder, the left leg was bent and resting on the saddle. A whip in the right hand replaced the action of the right leg. This is the position of a woman in a sidesaddle today.
Horseback Riding in the 19th Century
By the mid-nineteenth century, under English influence, the equestrian sport underwent a significant change: it turned away from the academic equitation practiced in the arena and more towards the pleasures of an outdoor riding based on risk-taking and speed. Walks, galloping, jumping sparked an infatuation in women as in men, although the Englishwomen were reproached to thus appropriate the male role and to expose themselves to rolling on the ground like steeplechase jockeys. The Bois de Boulogne became an obligatory meeting place: in good weather, crowds of horsemen and Equestriennesgathered there. The first horse shows were held, some contained courses reserved for sidesaddle riders (women). Even though the height of obstacles remained generally modest, this did not prevent exploits such as that of the Australian Esther Stace, who in 1915 jumped a height of 1.98 m in a sidesaddle.
This contrast between outdoor riding and horsemanship is reflected in the academic words “amazone” and “écuyère” (equestrienne): “Amazone” described a woman who rode a horse with sporting taste, who was walking in woods, followed the hunts, while “écuyère” meant rather a fan of high-school work. The distinction between the two terms was not limited to equestrian specialization: the Amazones belonged mainly to the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, the equestriennes, they belonged rather to the “demi-monde” (illusory world) of actresses, dancers and circus performers.
The nineteenth century also saw an increase in female equestrian practice. Until the 1850s, riding – together with dance – was the only physical activity tolerated, if not encouraged, for girls and women of the elite. Subsequently many other practices were added: lawn tennis, golf, fencing, canoeing, sailing, cycling … still considered exceptional, the “sports women” competed for elegance on the grounds, not without coverage of the worldly newspaper topics.
Texts from Catherine Tourre-Malen
Maître de conférences (HDR) Anthropologie
Université Paris Est Créteil
Chercheur à l’IDEMEC (Aix en Provence)
Representation Dates 2013
Equestriennes (“Ecuyères”) at 2.30 pm, Horse animations at 11 am
April : 1, 4, 7, 11, 14, 21 et 28
May : 1, 5, 8, 9, 12, 19, 23, 25, 26 and 30
June : 2, 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, 23, 27 et 30
July : 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 et 28
August : 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 et 18
September : 1, 8, 12, 15, 19, 22, 26 et 29
October : 6, 10, 12 (at 9 pm), 13, 17, 20, 24, 26 (at 9 pm) et 27
Chantilly Passport including animations (castle + park + Grand Stables & presentation “Horse Party”, “The Ponies Have Their Show” or “Public rehearsals”)
Children (4-17yrs): 7,50€
Chantilly Passport including the horse show, only valid on show days
(castle + park + Grand Stables + equestrian show “Equestriennes” or “The Horse, a Dream and Poetry”)
Children (4-17yrs): 16€
Equestrian Show “Equestriennes” (Grand Stables + show)
Children (4-17yrs): 14€
Grand Stables and equestrian presentation “Horse Party” at 2.30pm
Children (4-17yrs): 4,50€
*reservation fees: 1,70€
Information & Reservations
Tel: 03 44 27 31 80
Getting to Chantilly by car: at least one hour away from Paris
Northern Highway (A1)
•From Paris: exit Chantilly N°7 (sortie Chantilly)
•From Lille: exit Senlis N° 8 (sortie Chantilly)
Getting to Chantilly by train: Paris-Chantilly (station Chantilly-Gouvieux)
•From Gare du Nord, SNCF Grand lignes (24 minutes)