Aside World Magazine
Winter 2022 Issue
Remembering Side Saddle Over the Years
Article by Louise “Lou” Bowling-Steinfort
Growing up, my mom had this big old Martin & Martin sidesaddle that she, my sister and I put on our horses for something fun to do. We had no idea how to properly ride aside. I read a few books and took a mare that we had bred and raised to a couple of local shows, dragging the sidesaddle along. The mare’s name was The Snow Fox, but we called her Bubba. I rode “by the seat of my pants” and did what seemed right from reading the books. This was in the early 1970’s. It wasn’t until 1976 when I was living in Middleburg, VA that I decided I wanted to show in the sidesaddle class at the Upperville Colt & Horse show. This same mare was sold just before the show, and the new owner agreed to let me show her. Back then, it was just one flat class. No USEF rating and no jumping. Entries were plentiful. I’d guess there were at least 20 lady riders in the class. I did not win a ribbon, but I was thrilled to be out there!
In the fall of 1983 I decided to try my hand again showing aside, and entered the class at WIHS, this time on a grey sister of the aforementioned mare. The sister’s name was Brown Sugar. By then the class was a Hunter Hack, which included two jumps after performing under saddle. I remember pinning 4th out of 10 horses. In 1984 and 1985 I took Brown Sugar to Devon and Upperville. In the fall of 1985 I took a small chestnut gelding named Westmoreland, owned by Dr. Susan Brinkley, to Middleburg National, Quentin and Warrenton. We got good ribbons at all
three shows. The next spring I took him to Devon. Back then, entries at Devon were huge! They had to split the classes, offering two under saddles, and two over fences classes. We won one of the Over Fences, and were tied for champion with the other Over Fences winner, a beautiful bay horse ridden by Brenda Madison. It was my lucky day, but not so for Brenda. She forgot to remove her martingale attachment for the hack off, so I was pinned champion. I showed Westmoreland at Upperville, and he was sold shortly after that. At Upperville I was introduced to Frank and Kathy Borsody of Century Oaks Farm, Warrenton, VA. That was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day! They had several really nice horses, and needed another rider to get all the horses entered in the under saddles. Kathy didn’t jump so it was Becky Blair McKinney and me who showed the horses over fences. Our primary horses then were Doctors Orders, Front Page, Dancing Queen and Chinaberry. Later it would be Can We Talk, In Bold Print, The Final Word, and Latest Edition. We went everywhere trying to qualify for The National at Madison Square Garden. Our trainers were Sallie Sexton and Chuck Ackerman. Starting with the Virginia State Fair in Richmond, we went to shows at Devon, Upperville, Blue Rock, Coppergate, Middleburg National, Roanoke, Lexington, Culpeper, Warrenton, Quentin, Pennsylvania National, and Washington International. (I may have missed a show or two in that list.) In 1987 I got my chance to show at the Garden. I rode Chinaberry (another grey mare), and we were champion at this prestigious show. It was my 15 minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol would say.
The USEF recognized the sidesaddle division as we know it today in 1990. I showed the Borsody’s horses and many other wonderful horses throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Truthfully, I have never owned a single one! The generosity of friends has kept me in the saddle and the show ring. My most recent horse is a lovely big chestnut Selle Francais gelding named Honneur, also known as Oscar, owned by Hope Guzzo. I’ve shown him aside and astride for 9 years, up until the Warrenton show in September 2019. In that time span, we participated aside in the hunt field, parades, and demonstration rides at the Montpelier races. Disaster struck in February of 2020 when Oscar slipped in mud coming in from the field and bowed his left front tendon, thus ending his show and hunting career. Oscar has rehabbed to the point that we go slowly cross country almost every day. I still put the sidesaddle on him once in a while. In April he will be 27 years young. Since I’ll be 67 this fall, in three years our combined age will be 100! With a little luck, maybe we will enter a show that offers a “Century” class. You just never know. Time will certainly tell.
Thank you Lou for this enlightening article!
Photo Above of first time Lou Steinfort ever showed at Upperville. Jjune 1976. Photo by Bob Foster. I was Lou Bowling then. We bred this mare and sold her to Mardi Frey right before this show! Then my friend Carolyn Shipe Ten Eyck bought her and took her to college at Sweet Briar.
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