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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Changing times: fighting for the right to ride side saddle

ABOVE: Stacey Rusic competes in side saddle at a pony club event.

PONY Club is the starting foundation for many riders in Australia.

At rally days and camps, many alternate disciplines are starting to be showcased – from polocrosse to horse archery, camp drafting and more.

Side saddle has been no exception.

Although it has been a help to riders with a disability, a change to setting gear rules at a national level that come in on July 1 will restrict their use.

Currently, gear rules are set by state pony club bodies.

Exemptions will always be granted for people who have physical limitations that stop them from riding astride but able-bodied members who choose to ride side saddle are being restricted.

The new national gear rules this will see the exclusion of side saddle across the majority of pony club disciplines.

It now only be allowed for use in "Group A" activities which include rallies and musters, clinics, camps and training days, trail rides and navigation rides, endurance rides and fancy dress.

Side saddle rider and instructor Stacey Rusic, of Broadford in Victoria, has created a petition to ensure that side saddle can still be taught and used at pony club.

ABOVE: Stacey Rusic competes across a range of disciplines in side saddle.

Rusic started riding side saddle nine years ago and competed side saddle in official pony club and open dressage, showing, show jumping and combined training events, as well as training at rallies in cross country, games, polocrosse and working equitation.

Rusic instructs side saddle and gives demonstrations at pony clubs in Victoria and Southern NSW under her side saddle business Same Side Equestrian.

“Presently, side saddles are allowed to be used for pony club rallies and competition as well as in open sections at competitions/event run under pony club rules,” she said.

“Their allowance within the rules is due to omission and not being explicitly forbidden.

“The use of them has never been an issue – side saddles meet all saddle requirements listed in each states gear rules.

“These rule changes will see Pony Club Australia fall behind every other country with a Pony Club Association who allows the use of side saddles.”

Ms Rusic is calling for side saddles to be approved for use in all of group A, B, C, D, F and G activities within the new rules, meaning that most “mainstream” equestrian disciplines would be open to side saddle riders.

To help garner support for the rule change request, a petition has been started which presently has just shy of 300 signatures of support and growing.

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