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Horseback Riding for Girls/Women

Rabbi Jonathan Blass30 Shevat 5763
3230
Question
My questions concern the halacha of girls & women horseback riding and also, what was done historically? I started my girls, ages 10, 8, and 7 riding SIDESADDLE, for reasons of Tzniut, though I’m aware of frum girls riding asride. I know of one such girl whose mother believes she must switch to sidesaddle before becoming Bat Mitzva. Now an acquaintance of mine (not a Rabbi) has told me I’d better check further, as she thinks the Halacha specifies only riding on camels or donkeys for girls, not horseback riding at all, even sidesaddle. She said she believes girls/women can drive horses pulling carts, but not ride horses whatsoever. Please clarify a both a halachic position and historic framework on this matter. I find it hard to believe things were as my friend believe historically in Europe. Also, would you please address the issue of "showing" horses sidesaddle in riding events.
Answer
Rashi (Exodus 28,6) describes the attire used by women riding horses in his explanation of the “Ephod” worn by the Cohen. From his description it is clear that the attire protected the Tzniut of the rider (who was not riding sidesaddle) by covering her from considerably above the waist and downward. Women would not ride camels sidesaddle as the height made this dangerous (Pesachim 3b) but it was the custom for women to ride donkeys sidesaddle except when the terrain was mountainous (in which case this too was dangerous). From the above one learns that it is permitted for a woman to ride a horse- which is both faster and higher than a donkey- in the normal way as long as she is careful to dress so that Tzniut is not sacrificed. There are books and pamphlets describing what clothing is required for Tzniut. These demands are not diminished when she is riding.
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