a firm seat unattainable sideways

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
The girl, who wore no riding-habit, looked around for a moment, as if to assure herself that all humanity was out of view, then dexterously dropped backwards flat upon the pony's back, her head over its tail, her feet against its shoulders, and her eyes to the sky.
[...]
She had no side-saddle, and it was very apparent that a firm seat upon the smooth leather beneath her was unattainable sideways. Springing to her accustomed perpendicular like a bowed sapling, and satisfying herself that nobody was in sight, she seated herself in the manner demanded by the saddle, though hardly expected of the woman, and trotted off in the direction of Tewnell Mill.
[...]
An hour passed, the girl returned, properly seated now, with a bag of bran in front of her.

(Thomas Hardy; Far from the Madding Crowd)

Would you be so kind as to tell me whether it means that it was impossible to sit with both her feet on one side (I think that 'seat' here may mean 'the manner in which a rider sits on a horse'), but it wasn't that difficult to do so after an hour (or, probably, the solution lies in the word 'firm', thus meaning that even though she was properly seated after an hour it wasn't that firm as it could be otherwise)?

Thanks.
 
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  • roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    Forgive me as I never rode a horse. It seems in the second paragraph she didn't properly saddle the horse--the leather moved sideways. She trotted off with the horse to Tewnell Mill. The third paragraph says she was properly seated, meaning that the saddle was correctly done. Maybe someone helped her fix it in Tewnell Mill.

    Here is a website that describes saddling a horse:
    http://www.lovehorsebackriding.com/how-to-tack-a-horse.html
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi Suprun

    Ladies then were expected to ride sidesaddle, with both legs on the same side of the horse. The girl couldn't do that easily and safely with the particular saddle that was on the horse. So what she did (when no-one was looking) was ride astride the horse, like a man.

    An hour later, she came back "properly seated" - riding sidesaddle as a woman should:).
     
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    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Thank you roxcyn and Loob!

    This seems to be what I was thinking Loob, though why it's impossible to be 'properly seated' at one moment, but can be easily done in one hour using apparently the same particular saddle is a little mystery to me (if someone helped her in Tewnell Mill, wouldn't it be more accurate to say 'it was very apparent that a firm seat upon the smooth leather beneath her was unattainable sideways without assistance').

    Thanks.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    There's nothing that says the saddle moved under her; she just couldn't sit "properly" on it. Apparently the bag of bran somehow made it easier for her to ride sidesaddle on a regular saddle. Perhaps she was using it as a substitute for the lower pommel....
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I see it slightly differently, Suprun. I don't think there's anything different about the saddle on the return journey: it's just as unsafe as it was before for Bathsheba to be using that particular saddle to ride sidesaddle. What's different is that she's sacrificed safety to propriety: she's riding 'like a lady' even though it's pretty unsafe to do so. She's presumably decided to do that because she knows people can see her....
     
    Hi Suprun

    Ladies then were expected to ride sidesaddle, with both legs on the same side of the horse. The girl couldn't do that easily and safely with the particular saddle that was on the horse. So what she did (when no-one was looking) was ride astride the horse, like a man.
    [...]:).

    The passage says, "The girl, who wore no riding-habit, looked around for a moment, as if to assure herself that all humanity was out of view, then dexterously dropped backwards flat upon the pony's back, her head over its tail, her feet against its shoulders, and her eyes to the sky."

    This is the first of three positions [referred to in first para quoted] assumed by the girl.

    This certainly does *not* sound like 'astride the horse like a man.' She seems to be on her back [hence 'eyes to the sky'], *her head over the horses tail*. In other words, she's backwards with her feet near the horse's shoulders and her head near its butt; and she's lying, facing up! (A normal way of 'lying' on a horse, astride, puts one's head over the horse's shoulders and one's feet near its butt.)

    ADDED:
    I agree that the *second* position [referred to in the second para quoted] assumed was, 'astride like a man."
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    You're right that at the beginning of Suprun's quote she's lying flat on the horse, benny - it's this part of the quote that tells us that she then sat up and rode astride, like a man:;)
    [...] Springing to her accustomed perpendicular like a bowed sapling, and satisfying herself that nobody was in sight, she seated herself in the manner demanded by the saddle, though hardly expected of the woman, and trotted off in the direction of Tewnell Mill.
    [...]
    ......
    EDIT: Ah, I see you were editing while I was replying. We agree:D.
     
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