Locals Reenact Famous Golden Horseshoe Ride
Two local residents recently took a trip to Virginia to participate in an early settlement re-enactment. Paul Fuchs and Robyn Yeager put on their best colonial garments and rode along with five other individuals as they chartered on rough horse trails in an effort to relive the famous exploration made by Lieutenant Governor. Alexander Spotswood and the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe.
In August of 1716 Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and his brigade of 46 men – including 14 militiamen, four Indian guides, a doctor and a journalist – took off to climb the Blue Ridge Mountains which overlooks the Shenandoah Valley, and claimed all the land in the name of England. The 1700s group packed 70 horses to carry the essential necessities to survive on such a wild expedition. Spotswood, known for improving relations with Native Americans, rewarded his troops at the end of their voyage, by proclaiming them as knights and presenting them with a jewel studded golden horseshoe – forever being known as the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe.
Journals were kept on these past rides and one particular excerpt – from John Fontaine – read, “August 27, 1716. [Monday]. Germanna. At ten we got our tents in order, and getting all of our horses shod. About twelve I was taken with a violent headache, and pains in all my bones so that I was obliged to lie down and was very bad that day.”
The 2016 re-enactment began on Aug. 23 at the Germanna Foundation Visitor Center in Virginia, the site of Spotswood’s castle home, and finished four days later in Big Meadows, Virginia. The modern-day group left from the same location that the original explorers used in 1716 and rode along many of the original trails but had to adjust some trails due to the road conditions. The re-enactment was led and filmed by Tom Seay for a television show called “Best of America by Horseback” which airs on RFD-TV at 2 p.m. on Thursdays (channel 235 for Direct TV Users). Seay is known for his famous re-enactment rides that display various scenic parts of the United States.
Fuchs himself has ridden all over the United States, including Alaska, Belize, and Florida. He also took part in a reenactment of the Oregan Trail. He has ridden on the Best of America by Horseback show almost thirty times now and has been very valuable in helping with the logistics of rides, providing stagecoach and wagon rides, and providing trail safety and first-aid for those attending the rides. He is preparing to recreate the Gettysburg Ride this upcoming spring.
The riders push the issue of making each ride as historically accurate as possible in an effort to get the full experience of what the original explorers went through, and to provide a broader spectrum for the TV audience. In fact, Paul wears garments similar to those of an indentured servant, buttoned up trousers and a long sleeve white shirt to add to the authenticity. Paul rides on his faithful mule “Doc” and is full of knowledge in mules and horses to the point that most would consider him a wagon master.
According to Yeager and Fuchs, horses have to acclimate to their different surroundings and food sources because the traveling takes a toll on them, and they eat so many types of vegetation due to the nature of the variously traveled locations. For instance, the grass in Florida would be completely different than the grass in Alaska. This constant change leads to stress and pressure on the animals, so they are given time to adjust to the vegetation before they take the horses and mules on the reenactment rides.
Many spectators gathered to watch as the reenactors rode from town to town in their peculiar clothing. In fact, there were around 100 people gathered at the summit to watch as the riders made their final push towards the end of the journey, followed of course by celebration and feasting.
“The interaction with the public was one of the best parts about the trip,” expressed Robyn Yeager. “This has been one of the best crews to ride with.”