Even fracturing some vertebrae in her lower back several years ago hasn’t kept
Oakes from the saddle. “It was the simplest fall I’ve ever had,” she explains. “My
sister was riding with me, and her horse took off and so did mine. And I just slid to
the side—a really slow-motion fall. When I hit the ground, I had no feeling from
my waist down.”
Despite the fact that her old injury can cause soreness in the saddle, Oakes hasn’t
let it stop her. Luckily, she has an equally adventurous and determined steeplechase
partner in Fort Henry, a bay Irish Thoroughbred gelding owned by Stephanie Boyer
of Grey Lakes Stables in Pennsylvania.
“Fort Henry is one of the nicest, most genuine horses I’ve ever ridden,” says
“Cisero is a difficult horse to ride,” explains Oakes. “He’s very calm at home,
Oakes. “He only had the sidesaddle on twice before our first race. He pricks his
ears at the start and he gallops from fence to fence. He’s one in a million, and I’m
so grateful to be riding him in the races.”
In the puissance arena, Oakes faced a heartbreaking setback last year when
she lost her three competition horses within six months. She’s currently getting
back up to speed with her new Irish-bred horse, Cisero. With 19 puissance wins
last year and a 7' 4" high jump, he just might be the horse to help Oakes beat
her own puissance record. Oakes admits, however, that the pair has some hard
work ahead of them.
but once I get him to the show ring, he’s a completely different horse. He
charges; he’s very strong.” As someone who enjoys a good challenge and faces it
head-on, Oakes doesn’t seem daunted.
KIM KLIMEK is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.
While working toward her goal
of breaking her own sidesaddle
puissance world record of 6’ 8”,
Ireland’s Susan Oakes will travel
to the United States, sharing her
passion for and knowledge of
sidesaddle riding. Here are her
tips if you try riding aside:
1Remember to keep your right shoulder back and sit squarely
in the saddle.
2Your core becomes even more important, so strengthen
it and don’t forget to use it!
3Susan’s secret: “My little tip to everyone is to wear a corset
underneath [your riding gear]. It
really reinforces your core.”
To see a video of Susan Oakes setting the
sidesaddle puissance world record, visit