firm seat in the saddle

Let us not forget that my main passion is for the horses. The steeds of my life were only surpassed in my heart by the occasional wolfhound, truth be told.

Unfortunately, I had to give up riding in middle age, due to arthritis. My brittle bones and sore joints.  My many aches that even the prolonged rest cures could not fix.

Before that time, however, I delighted in the speculation that I would one day be thrown. That during a hunt, my mount might stumble and send me bustle-over-sidesaddle, hurling to the earth. My Lady, Marie Festetics, used to pray, “God grant that my beloved Empress return home safe and sound.” Which I always did.

In my halcyon days, there was even a ballad celebrating my exploits:

The bright star of Europe’ her kingdom has left,
And Austria mourns of its Empress bereft.
Firm seat in the saddle: light hands on the reins,
As e’er guided steed over Hungary’s plains:
She has come–with her beauty, grace, courage and skill
To ride with our hounds, from old Shuckburgh Hill.

It is with bitter dismay, I must admit, that I never had the chance to perform at the Olympic games. Sidesaddle jumping–I would have been a shoe-in for the gold!

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