Great State: Side Saddle Sisters

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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA -- If you want to take a ride with Jo Rench, the way she likes to ride, you'll need some time just to get ready.

"There's a lot of straps to a side saddle," she says while walking around a stall.

She likes to use two horses.

She likes to dress them up, and she likes to dress herself fancy too.

"It's just a more graceful way to ride," she says.

It is a nice evening for a ride in rural east Norman.

The Celtic Cross Equestrian Center has a whole group gathered on this Sunday.

But look close and you'll find a different kind of tack.

Jo Rench is not alone. These are the Side Saddle Sisters.

"If anyone wants to show off and dress up a little bit, this is the way to go," insists Rench.

Historically, women rode side saddle out of a sence of modesty.

Traditional period dresses like the one Betty Johnston made are also hard to arrange around a regular saddle.

"This (outfit) dates back to around 1875." she says.

Rench learned to ride on a regular saddle as a kid but her side saddle got more attention and that's what she liked.

She explains, "As a teenager that's kind of important."

She worked up a whole show routine with her horse Snapper, who also seems to seek the limelight.

During our interview with Jo Snapper sticks his head out of the stall and bares his teeth.

"Oh are you going to smile," asks Jo? "What pretty teeth."

In another show routine Rench drives her other horse Figgie Pudding in front, all to music.

Jo and her animal partners are favorites at horse shows and parades.

Just so you know, Jo is 70 and still hunts side saddle.

"Remember. Women have stronger legs than men," she says. "So when we lock our legs around the pommel we're pretty secure."

The Sisters get together maybe once a month to ride.

Some of them can even jump on side saddles.

They are a small minority in the equestrian world, but they get a lot of attention, and these Sisters like it that way.

Jo Rench and some of her Side Saddle Sisters are planning to ride in the Libertyfest Parade in Edmond. They're also planning a trip to Chicago this Fall for that city's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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