The elegance of side-saddle

The epitome of grace and style on horseback - the side-saddle classes certainly impressed.

Dani Simpson, Integrities Promise

Elegance and class were on display today in the side-saddle classes at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show.

The first class of the day was the Concours d’Elegance – i.e. turnout – and the first opportunity for the judge Sharon Lewis-Tipping to view the six women with their lovely horses. All were impeccably turned out, but it was win number one for Integrities Promise and Christchurch’s Dani Simpson. Runner-up was Kasey McKenna with About Now, with Sarah Gault and Whoasuga third.

Dani Simpson and Integrities Promise with his fans

The Junior side-saddle (under 17 years) was a significant win to Alexia Nolan with Benmore Alpha. Alexia is only 12 and has been riding side-saddle for three years on her seven-year-old pony.  It was a poignant moment for the family, as it was the pair’s last show together, with the pony having been sold and on his way to his new Wanaka home tomorrow.  Alexia loves doing these classes and intends continuing competing in side-saddle in the future.

Alexia Nolan, Benmore Alpha

The Unity Horse of the Year title class was judged over three sections, starting with the turnout. This was followed by a riding section, judged on the circle.  The final section was side-saddle mount, where each competitor did a workout. Prizes were awarded for each of the sections, with the title going to the best competitor over all three.  It was a grand slam for Integrities Promise and Dani, a clear favourite in the judge’s eyes.

Dani Simpson, Integrities Promise with judge Sharon Lewis-Tipping from Victoria, Australia

Sharon Lewis-Tipping, the judge, has done a lot of side-saddle competitions herself, winning at the Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney Royal shows.  She thought that Integrities Promise and Dani looked lovely together. “They are balanced, happy and relaxed, and the rider is enjoying the ride.”

Dani, aged 24, travelled up from her West Melton (Canterbury) base and stopped to compete in the South Island Side-Saddle show in Marlborough on the way.  She won the South Island title there on ‘Jonty’ and competed in HOY showing classes from Tuesday onwards, placing second in the Gee Wizz class. She has more action to come and was supposed to be in the Paced & Mannered title class, but when the timing clashed with the side-saddle section, she opted to compete “sideways” as she really loves these classes.

Dani Simpson, Integrities Promise with their beautiful garland

“I love the elegance of them. It might be a bit old-fashioned, but I don’t feel like a lady until I ride side-saddle. I’m very traditional!”

Dani has been doing side-saddle for three or four years. “I went to a have-a-go day and loved it and so did Jonty. In fact, Jonty almost goes better side-saddle! I’m now getting some of my other horses going sideways too.”

Only recently acquiring her own saddle, Dani is very grateful to all the South Island ladies who have lent her gear over the years.

Jonty is a nine-year-old Arabian/warmblood who the family bred. “He has been very sensible his whole life; he always aims to please,” says Dani. He was certainly laid-back and enjoying the competition today, and looked a picture, as befitting a Horse of the Year title-winner.

Sarah, Gault, Whoasuga
Kingcroft Maximus, Jacinda Barendregt
Jenny Pearce, True Steel
Kasey McKenna, About Now
Sarah Gault, Whoasuga
Jenny Pearce, True Steel

Results of title class:

1 Integrities Promise Dani Simpson
2 About Now Kasey McKenna
3 Benmore Alpha Alexia Nolan
4 Whoasuga Sarah Gault
5 Kingcroft Maximus Jacinda Barendregt
6 True Steel Jenny Pearce


The photos will be available on Pegasus Communication’s website in due course.