Call me a traditionalist; I’m interested in our dressage equestrian heritage and history. Small pieces of information that are passed on from generation to generation make up our culture and the etiquette of our sport. So many of these seemingly unimportant time honored traditions hold kernels of useful information and history.
Recently, I read an article from a purported expert on braiding. Perhaps her expertise was in the actual braiding. The braiding in the photo was lovely, but her information regarding the history and tradition of braiding was a little skewed. I grimaced as I imagined my former Pony Club leader Mrs. Corinne Fentress Gray turning in her grave as I read this article claiming that “in dressage” it did not matter which side of the neck the braids are on. For those of us who keep and hold tradition, the correct side would be the right or “off side” (as opposed to the “near side.”) We patiently train our horse’s mane to the right or off side to accomplish this.
Historically, military cavalry protocol and English foxhunting (which produced attire and turnout requirements for eventing) have most influenced our dressage dress, turnout and etiquette. Throughout military history, riders have mounted from the left as swords and weapons were on the left and were drawn into the right hand when mounted. The left side of the mount or carriage was known as the “nearside” and the right of the horse, right of the carriage or the right carriage horse was the “off side.” Everything that might possibly tangle, such as the sword, was positioned on the off side- the right. Manes particularly on destriers of the middle ages were cut or pulled to a standing upright position very short, referred to as “hogged” or were braided on the off side ( right). More recently, the traditions in foxhunting also support this tradition, as anything that might foul the Huntsman’s long whip for the hounds, such as the horse’s mane or sandwich case that is attached to the saddle, is also kept on the right.
You may not be familiar with the “bight” of the rein. This is the loop of rein left over after the rider grasps the reins. The loop that falls from the hand onto the horse’s neck after the rider grasps the reins. The bight always goes on the right, laid under the right rein, not over it. Hence the term: Bight on the Right!
Tell your friends- spread the word- I’ll be at “C” looking for the braids, and the bight on the right.
READ MORE ABOUT AUTHOR BY IDA ANDERSON NORRIS