For the first time in the history of the National Pony Express Association, women will be among those riding horses along the entire 2,000-mile trail from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif., when the annual ride is re-enacted in 1991.
Clark E. Maxfield, Hooper, Weber County, national president of the organization, said, despite characterizations on the television series "Young Riders," he does not know of any women who actually rode in the Pony Express when it carried mail back and forth along the trail from April 3, 1860, to October 1861."There have been some suggestions that Calamity Jane might have been a Pony Express rider, but the only evidence of her having actually ridden part of the route, through Wyoming, happened a decade after the Pony Express ended. "Even so, there have been so many women interested in riding during our re-enactments that we have decided to let women, as well as men, carry the mail."
Maxfield, 59, a member of the national association since 1978 and former president of the association's Utah Chapter, said he likes the idea of women taking part in the annual reride.
"A few women rode in the Pony Express reride in 1990. Chapters in California, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Missouri voted to allow women to ride this past summer. The other two chapters, in Utah and Kansas, have voted to allow women to ride in 1991."
He said more than 700 men belong to the national organization and at least 35 women rode in this year's mail ride. Three Utah women who have been active in the Utah Pony Express Association are expected to ride next year.
"I'd like to see more and more men and women join our organization, even if they don't want to ride a horse and carry mail once a year.
"The more members we have, the more voice we have in establishing the Pony Express route as a National Trail. Congress got close to passing such a bill this past year, but it got lost in the last-minute budget discussions.
"Our organization will work hard in 1991 to get a similar bill passed. The Pony Express route deserves to become a national trail. It is a unique part of history," Maxfield said.
In its heyday, the Pony Express employed more than 500 of the best horses, selected for their speed and endurance. "Those horses cost $150 to $200 - three or four times the going rate for an ordinary saddle horse," Maxfield said.
"They were outfitted with specially designed jockey-type saddles that weighed less than 13 pounds. The mail pouch, or mochila, consisted of a large leather skirt that fitted over the saddle. It had two large saddle bags on both sides in which the mail was put.
"During the journey, the mochila was switched from horse to horse. Three pockets contained through mail and one had local mail in it and deliveries were made enroute."
The end of the Pony Express came upon the completion of the telegraph. Ridershad made more than 150 round trips covering more than 600,000 miles on horseback.
"The mail was lost only once, one horse died of exhaustion and one rider was killed," Maxfield said.