Little Steps to Gathering Aside: How MoSSY got its start.
It was a dark and stormy night…. No seriously, it was a cold and wet spring day, and riding just didn’t look fun. The horses were already wet, so I was surfing the net, catching up on some of the sidesaddle group lists, while also making plans for some summer camping trips with the family, which includes the horses.Over the summer months we take several of these trips, for long weekends, at a variety of State Parks with horse trails.So, back to the side saddle groups.There was much discussion at this time, about clinics being held only in certain areas of the country and how the people in the other areas needed to organize some clinics of their own, but how few were willing to do this hard work.
I desperately wanted to meet up with other aside riders and I knew that there were some in my state, but I didn’t know who, or where, they where. I did not think that I was capable of organizing a clinic for an unknown group of people. However, I am not one to stare at obstacles, when I can look for solutions. I could not put on a clinic, nor were there any in my area for me to attend. So I went back to planning my camping trips and then I started to ponder….
What if I invited other sidesaddle riders to join us on our camping trips? Invites could be posted on the yahoo sidesaddle groups, and in tack shops and feed stores. Heck, I could start a Minnesota Side Saddle group on Yahoo. Posters of the invite could be e-mailed to shops throughout the state, and maybe some would print it out and hang it up for me.This would be slow to get moving, but it could work. Later that day I asked my family and they were all for it. So we did all those things. A few days later with help of my youngest daughter, we also built a web site for the new group.
MoSSY was born!
We choose a park that was not central to my state, but did have easy access to Iowa and Wisconsin as well. I knew that there were aside riders in these two states and hoped that we could draw them too. This park was also very well known for it’s fantastic trails and a surprising lack of bugs. The park manager was consulted, and gave his approval for the gathering to be held there.
One by one, contacts were being made. Ladies were finding the website and the Yahoo group.
We took everything we had that was sidesaddle related on that trip. A variety of saddles, habits, aprons, books, literature, and catalogs. We even had door prizes that other side saddle groups, clubs and retail stores had generously sent.
That first gathering was a success, just not in the way expected. We camped and rode aside a few days prior to the gathering, and with the parks blessing we put up invite posters around the huge campground. Many other campers expressed interest, and some amazement, at how we rode aside without reservation, galloping and jumping logs on the twisting, steeply hilled and wooded trails. We did have a lot of people from the campground come over. They asked many questions and some did get up and try a test ride. One lady was particularly interested. She drove home and back in the evening (60 miles) just to bring and show us her sidesaddle. “It’s a western type” she told me. It was so exciting to be able to tell her that she had no ordinary western sidesaddle, but rather, she had an S.S. Gallop original. It was also a privilege that she let me put it on my Morgan mare, so that I could ride it for a few minutes. Wow, bliss!
We were also joined by a reporter for “Horse & Family”, a regional (Minnesota and Wisconsin) horse industry magazine. The reporter took many photos and asked if I would write an article for the magazine, to go with the photos she had taken. This I did, and so the word about MoSSY spread again.
Many people will have read that article, but two groups made contact about it. These two contacts have led to the planning of two small clinics. One for a 4-H club with about 26 attendees and the other for an Eventing Stable.
Little by little we grew.
Now we also had found a small group of ladies at the N.E. corner of the state, and we had no plans for Labor Day Weekend. With their help in scouting out a location, MoSSY Gathering 2 was held close to them. What a fun weekend. We talked, we ate, we rode, we ate, we tried every saddle on every horse and we ate. I sold a saddle to one member, which another, who could not make it, had sent with me. We shared, we laughed, and did I mention that we ate? We also planned and plotted for more gatherings next year. I could see this “Labor Day Up North” becoming an annual event.
MoSSY was growing some more.
Some where during that summer, a parade my Drill Team was scheduled to ride in was cancelled due to heat. My girls and I decided to see if we could represent MoSSY at our local “Pioneer Park / Museum”. They were having an “Old West Days” event and with a quick OK from the powers that be, we were in.We spent the day riding about the town there in our habits, giving demonstrations, answering a million questions and giving “try it” rides to the other horse riding re-enactors that were present. One of those ladies that we mounted up lives out in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and is in charge of a three day “Spirit of the West” festival. This event has national ranking and demonstrators, participants, re-enactors, and showmen from across the country join in. Before day’s end, she was so interested in riding aside that she had invited MoSSY to participate in that year’s festival!Sadly no other members of MoSSY were able to arrange their schedules to join us, and so my family represented the group at this spectacular event.We did manage to rope in one family friend to help out, however. Thanks Larry!
MoSSY was making connections and getting exposure!
Each day of the “Spirit of the West Festival” we gave a demonstration and a presentation. We also participated in the main event each day, which was a Wild West style show. We certainly dismissed any notion that sidesaddles were for slow and delicate walking only. We showed that we could gallop, jump and spin, just like the other riders. Again we answered many questions and talked about the many topics of aside riding.We were very well received and were eagerly invited back next year. As we have more lead-time for this year (September 2007), I am sure that other MoSSY members will be able to join us.
And so, MoSSY was born and has started to grow. We have now traveled to join in with SOLA (Southern Ohio Ladies Aside) to ride in the Kentucky Derby Parade.
But bigger than all these, the members of MoSSY are pulling together to do presentations, demos, and plotting to run a booth at the Minnesota Horse Expo in spring 2008. This has not been confirmed at this time, but we are trying. Last year 49,000, yes, 49,000 people attended this three day event. They came from a minimum of five states and Canada. If funding and or sponsorship can be secured, then this venture will be huge for us, this has also lead to contact with the organizers of smaller horse expo’s around Minnesota.
During 2007 we added in some parades to our events, and this gave us just enough money to print a very nice brochure, business cards and to publish a more professional web site. Every month we seem to have another side saddle event to go to. Through this we have managed to formalize our membership and to approach other, larger horse events in Minnesota. We have educated, and found friends, what can be better.
And so we will continue to grow.
The message I want to send here, is to those who live away from the core side saddle areas of the country, who want to gather with other aside riders: Don’t look at the obstacle, rather seek out a solution. Little by little, step-by-step, people will come together. I started out only knowing one other aside rider in my state, now my little book is up to 21. Now, go out there and find some one!