Attracting large numbers of horseback riders to historic Mount Harmon Museum Farm on the Sassafras River has drawn national attention to this rural tourism destination site and earned its owners the Kent County Cup from the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club.
Steve and Holly Isaacson from the Friends of Mount Harmon have been recognized for adding horse activities to the estate’s many tourist options. “At a time when museum farms face dramatically declining visits by younger Americans, the Isaacson’s have provided U.S. historic preservationists with a new “best practice” option, says Dave Turner, founder of Chestertown Horsemen’s Club in Kent County, Maryland. “Horseback riding definitely enlivens such sites. “It’s tragic when museum proprietors fail to promote horseback riding at their sites,” says Turner, “or, worse when they ban horses from properties where horses were a key feature for hundreds of years.”
In particular, the 269-year old estate hosts a wintertime “paperchase” event. More than 150 equestrians ride trails and jump obstacles along a path laid out by Mount Harmon organizers. In addition, Friends of Mt. Harmon offers special Equestrian Memberships to the public, which allow people to ride at the estate between May and October. “Such rides add to the spectacle for regular tourists,” says the group’s President Steve Isaacson. The Friends host regional and national military re-enactments that feature dragoons (Calvary units). “This year’s Paperchase raised $4,500 for the group,” says Isaacson, who is also a local farmer. “The Paperchase is my wife Holly’s brainchild.”
Friends of Mount Harmon, Inc., is 21 years old and is credited with restoring and maintaining the colonial Georgian home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The group has approximately 900 members, a number of whom participate in the unique Equestrian Membership option. The group depends on fundraising to keep the site available to the public. Like a growing number of other museum farm, Mt. Harmon provides river kayaking, nature trails for birders, and opportunities to help with locating Native American camps, slave cemetery sites, and slave dwelling footprints. Currently, Mt. Harmon has located one such locale and is in process of rebuilding the slave house. The effort is to show visitors a hands-on replication of an 18th century tobacco farm in the mid-Atlantic region. The Tockwogh Tribe inhabited the area when Captain John Smith visited in 1609.
Future equestrian projects for Chestertown Horsemen include assisting with the development of a full-scale equestrian park in the vicinity, a Heritage Horse Day Celebration in cooperation with the Historical Society of Kent County, and the establishment of a riding trail alongside Kent County’s railroad tracks. A course on Chestertown’s recreational horse activities was offered in this season’s WC-All curriculum. The group’s Kent County Cup is maintained in the council chambers at Chestertown Town Hall. Previous winners were Mr. Harry Sears and Master of the Foxhounds Ed Fry.
For information about joining Chestertown Horsemen contact Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.