Faculty from several departments at Eastern Kentucky University were instrumental to the passage of a Kentucky Law naming the official horse saddle of the state of Kentucky.
Kentucky House Bill 212 was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin on March 15, 2019. The law declares the Minihan Spring Seat Saddle the official saddle of Kentucky and mentions the EKU Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work specifically.
The saddle is named for the late Eugene Minihan, a 17th-century Owingsville saddlemaker famous for developing the saddle.
The University’s involvement with the law is a long story.
Work began in 2017 with the release of the documentary “A Quilted History: The Kentucky Riding Saddle,” produced by EKU faculty Stephanie McSpirit, foundation professor in the sociology program; Neil Kasiak, oral historian in Special Collections and Archives; and Chad Cogdill, assistant professor in the Department of Communication. The documentary follows eastern Kentuckians dedicated to preserving the art of quilted saddle-making.
Inspiration for the project first struck while McSpirit was researching trail towns in the eastern part of the state. After wandering into a local saddle shop, she met Dan Grim, a saddlemaker who would later be featured in the documentary.
“I talked with him for about an hour and learned much about the Kentucky quilted riding saddle,” said McSpirit. “I promised him, the next time we meet, I was going to bring a camera crew.”
She kept her promise. The documentary aired on KET and WYMT in 2017, and is available to watch on YouTube.
“This truly was an institutional initiative,” said McSpirit. “We didn’t receive outside grant funding for the documentary. But the three of us were committed to this project.”
The law isn’t the only thing honoring Minihan — after it was completed, a group of Owingsville citizens, including a documentary collaborator and EKU alums Jessica Tallarigo, Kailynn Eggett and Kerie Steele, have been working to place a statue of Minihan on the grounds of the Bath County courthouse, not far from Minihan’s original shop. According to McSpirit, a statue prototype has been completed, and the group is continuing to fundraise.