Back in the day, girls pretty much wore dresses all the time. In fact, girls wearing pants were considered…risque, loose, or maybe backward. By the mid 1900’s things had changed to a degree, and pants were ok for certain activities. Nevertheless, many girls just didn’t own pants, so they continued to wear dresses for activities we would consider it to be inappropriate to wear dresses for today.
One of those activities was horseback riding. Early on when the women started riding horses, it was considered taboo for them to straddle a horse. People really thought of them as having very low moral standards. That was when the side saddle came about. The big problem with that was that the horse had to be very well trained, because the woman had a lot less control over the horse when it was side saddle. To me, side saddle seems like it would be an extremely awkward way to ride. I think it would feel like you were hanging on a wall…much like a painting.
Then, when people moved out west, they began to leave those civilized ideas of the east behind them. It was a necessity, because many of the horses were wild and then tamed, and people lived on homesteads the were a long way from their homes. And then, of course, was the fact that sometimes you had to outrun the dangers of the region, like Indians, wild animals, and outlaws. Running from danger was no time to be a lady in a side saddle…if you wanted to live, that is. Watching the old westerns, I remember thinking how funny it looked to have those long dresses draped over the back end of a horse.
Now, of course, many women rarely wear a dress at all, much less to ride a horse. Women have found that it is far more comfortable to live most of their lives in jeans, so dresses are reserved for special occasions. Nevertheless, there was a time, a very different time, when women wouldn’t have ever considered things like wearing men’s pants or straddling a horse.