I had the privilege of connecting with some talented and passionate Recollections customers last year. One of these women, Sarah Mognoni, gave me the opportunity to continue my research into the ongoing effort to preserve the history of sidesaddle. Sarah informed me that the American Side Saddle Association was doing a ride through Gettysburg as part of the annual Gettysburg Remembrance Days in November. I couldn’t wait to find out more!
I had the chance to connect with the ASA’s current president, Maggie Herlensky late last year to learn more about their ride and what she is doing with the organization. Sidesaddle riding is alive and well and it is so exciting for me to continue to learn more about the culture and community.
Are you a sidesaddle rider or interested in the topic? Comment below!
Recollections: Hi Maggie! What is your role with the American Sidesaddle Association and how long have you been involved?
Maggie: I am currently president of the American Sidesaddle Association and am a founding member since it was formed in 2008. I am also president of my regional ASA chapter, Southern Ohio Ladies Aside.
Recollections: When and how did you start side saddle riding?
Maggie: My parents bought me an antique sidesaddle at a swap meet in 1983. I learned to ride aside mostly through trial and error.
Recollections: Why was it important for you to ride in Gettysburg with the association this year?
Maggie: I rarely pass up a chance to ride in a parade and since I love history, it seemed like a good idea. My first Remembrance Day Parade was in 2017. Each year I try to improve my historic impression. I’ve made most of my clothing, as well as clothes for my fiance’, his granddaughter, and several friends. I enjoy learning about history, especially the hallowed ground of Gettysburg. I have a photograph of one of my ancestors from the Civil War era and I resemble her, so it just feels like time travel. Two ancestors fought with Sherman in Georgia. Although none that I’ve found were at Gettysburg, I do enjoy going and remembering those who died.
Recollections: Can you tell me about the route you took and its significance?
Maggie: The parade route started at the Gettysburg Middle School and wound through downtown, then out Steinwehr Avenue. It is an amazing experience. Much of the crowd was in period clothing. Many of the buildings we rode past saw the fighting and bore the scars of bullets and cannon fire. During the battle, one side of the street was controlled by the north and the other by the south.
It was an eerie feeling that where we were had been was the heat of the battle in July 1863. The parade ended at the edge of the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park, where the crowd of mostly reenactors were gathering for the ceremony honoring the dead and the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln.
Recollections: What was your favorite thing about the ride?
Maggie: Getting to spend the day with wonderful friends and great horses. We had 9 off-track standardbreds in the group. Two were fairly recently obtained by a rescue and had never been in a parade before. We also had two standardbred crosses, a thoroughbred, an arabian, a half-arabian, an Icelandic, and two ponies. Horses and riders came from Wisconsin, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Maine. Our youngest rider was 8 years old and our oldest was 74. It was a first Remembrance Day Parade for several of our riders. All of us had spent months getting ready by sewing historical clothing and desensitizing horses to the strange things that can happen in parades.
Recollections: What does 2023 have in store for the American Side Saddle Association?
Maggie: We have many events planned, including the Kentucky Derby Festival Parade, several equine trade shows, showing off sidesaddle at Germantown Charity Horse Show, West Virginia Strawberry Festival, Delaware Ohio All Horse Parade, and sidesaddle clinics around the country.
Want to learn more? Check out these links:
American Sidesaddle Association
American Sidesaddle Association Facebook page
Marybeth Walker: Keeping the tradition of side-saddle alive
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