RICHMOND, Ohio — Steubenville Saddle Club’s past president Jack Carroll remembers hitchhiking to the club’s horse shows in the 1950s.
“The dues were $5, so you didn’t have to spend too much money to be involved,” he said.
Now, 65 years after it began, the Steubenville Saddle Club will celebrate its anniversary with a special horse show at the grounds July 1.
When the club began, events were held at a racetrack in Steubenville known as Buddy’s Field. Shows continued on the track there throughout the 1940s and 1950s until a fire claimed the track’s barns.
“The barns were never rebuilt, and the track went down,” recalled Carroll. “It’s a subdivision now.”
One of the three Steubenville Saddle Club founders was John C. Bates, a local businessman who owned Central Sewer Pipe and a concrete block and Redi-mix business.
“He owned a farm in the Steubenville area and had three gaited and five gaited horses,” Carroll said. Two other prominent families in the club were the Porter and Miller families.
Saddle clubs were becoming popular throughout Ohio at that time. The first known horse show saddle club in the state was the Trail Riders, which formed in Eaton in the late 1930s.
Although some national breed associations such as the American Saddlebred Horse Association, American Morgan Horse Association and the Tennessee Walking Horse registry began in 1891, 1909 and 1935, respectively, many local saddle clubs began to form during and as World War II ended.
Several national stock horse breed associations were also founded in the late 1930s and 1940s, including the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938, the American Quarter Horse Association in 1940 and the National Cutting Horse Association in 1946.
“When the club left Buddy’s Field, they were down on Alacana Creek for a while, then they were in Wintersville on Two Ridge Road,” Carroll said.
The club purchased its current grounds on State Route 152 near Richmond in 1956.
“We had Tennessee Walking Horses and Saddlebreds, and the parade classes where everyone would bring out their silver saddles,” Carroll said.
“We had a lot of timed events, but a lot of them you won’t see today due to the liability. We did everything from the pick-up race, to musical chairs, to the burlap sack race, ride the hide, shovel race and crawl through the barrel.”
Barrel racing and pole bending, which you see at a lot of shows today, were not part of the club’s shows until quite a bit later.
Carroll remembers showing at the current Richmond show grounds as a kid.
“My brother and I would ride our horses from our home near Amsterdam to the show grounds. Sometimes if the show ran late, we would leave our horses at Red’s Stable, a boarding stable nearby, and pick them up the next day,” he said.
Once, Carroll’s mother’s dinner bell was bartered for transportation.
“We found my mother’s dinner bell under the porch one day, and decided to see if we could trade it for someone to haul our horses home from the show,” Carroll said.
“It was a year later before my mother discovered that her dinner bell was missing, and then we had to fess up.”
Over the years, Carroll has watched the saddle club cycle through flush years and lean years.
“In 1987, the city put a water line through the property and really tore it up. The ground had been stripped, there were boulders dug up and dirt piled everywhere, and the company used our grounds to stockpile fly ash,” Carroll said. “We couldn’t have any shows that year.”
Although the club lost a year of shows, it bargained for the installation of a water tap, which is still in use today.
Club members have made other improvements, including new vinyl fencing a few years ago. In 2011, the warm-up area was re-cut, filled and graded to improve water drainage.
In honor of the anniversary, a mural is being added to the clubhouse on the grounds.
After following the club’s activities since nearly the beginning, Carroll is confident about its future.
“We have a lot of new blood among the members, and it just always seems to keep going,” he said.
The club’s anniversary horse show will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 1. For more information, you can follow Steubenville Saddle Club on Facebook.