Riding, fitness, and Downton Abbey - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 03-24-2016, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Riding, fitness, and Downton Abbey

I had an epiphany while driving home from the tack store yesterday. There is so much emphasis on rider fitness, which is as it should be. BUT, how, how on earth did women of Downton Abbey's era and social class ride? Surely they weren't "fit" as we would describe it. Mary couldn't even dress herself or pack a bag, let alone ride in a hunt/ point to point!

Thoughts?
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post #2 of 23 Old 03-24-2016, 05:45 PM
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Not being taught to dress yourself and riding from childhood onward are not mutually exclusive.

People got more exercise on a daily basis back then anyway; even the wealthy. And they were rarely overweight, either.
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post #3 of 23 Old 03-24-2016, 07:17 PM
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The dressing themselves wasn't out of lack of fitness - it was more to do with the tradition of being waited on
Women in those days that were involved in rural sports like riding were in general 'outdoorsy' types so no less fit than we are today
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post #4 of 23 Old 03-24-2016, 08:09 PM
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My great grandmother and great-great grandmother rode every morning after breakfast. It was part of their routine. Foxhunted side saddle too;)
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post #5 of 23 Old 03-24-2016, 08:33 PM
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Don't forget that some of the clothes they wore were also designed to be put on by a maid rather than being put on yourself. So they didn't have an easy way into them without someone there to help.
They also expected it to be done for them ;its like when you get people today who, for whatever reason, refuse to do certain basic tasks; like doing the laundry. It's not that they are utterly incapable, but that they have grown up with the expectation that someone else will do that task and that it is not their task to learn; thus they invest no time in learning and often reinforce that with a determination not to learn it.


Also in those days a horse was like a car is today - ok that's actually an exaggeration as we have way more car ownership than there was horse ownership; but in general those who could afford would have a horse or coach. Thus they would be able to ride, it was just part of life.

With a more physical life in general they would have been generally healthy enough to ride; sure not all of them would have been fantastic riders; nor highly energetic enough to compete; but they'd be able to do what they required on horseback even if it was just basic travel.
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post #6 of 23 Old 03-25-2016, 12:04 AM
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I think just walking around that manor would give them more steps a day than most of us get.
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post #7 of 23 Old 03-25-2016, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, and long walks are so very British!
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post #8 of 23 Old 03-25-2016, 10:57 AM
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I gather many of those ladies walked or rode most every day from books I have read.
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post #9 of 23 Old 03-25-2016, 03:14 PM
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Not sure of all the historical context, but remember women were not expected to be athletes, but were expected to be pretty and graceful at all times. The horses that they rode were bred and trained to meet this expectation, a good ladies hack, pretty light, and a nice mover is/was a great prize.

Ladies, of the 'upstairs' class would come out, be boosted into their side saddle, ride, then be helped off, they had no need to do anything with tacking up or horse care, in some cases the groom would have already ridden the 'tickle' out of dobbins feet for several hours before 'madam' got to ride at all.

Of course there were also great horse women, who could and would hunt, etc, and again in the right social class, without the boring need to actually work for a living, a lady could ride every day if she wished.
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post #10 of 23 Old 03-27-2016, 05:19 AM
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Most started to ride as very small children, they were taught for an early age to ride in a double bridle and very few horses were ridden in anything else.

Young girls started astride and then moved onto side saddle although many women would ride astride on daily rides.

One woman I knew way back actually point to pointed and won, riding side saddle!

Generally people were a lot fitter than modern folk, they walked a lot to get from A to B, although the upper classes ate well it was 'proper' food with very little sugar.

Neither of my parents ever learned to drive, they walked every day, Dad cycled to and from work, very hilly around here. Mum never walked, she marched and thought nothing of taking the dogs out for a six mile hike.

The nearest we got to processed food was fish and chips on a Saturday!

A cooked fried breakfast every morning, packed lunch and a meal in the evening, always home cooked, meat and three vegetables and most of those home grown.
I cycled to work, walked up over the hills to catch the horse and never gained an ounce!
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Last edited by Foxhunter; 03-27-2016 at 05:26 AM.
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