“Grandma sure is proud.”
There’s double significance to the comment as history has repeated itself.
Grandma made the complimentary comment about her granddaughter more than six decades ago, and now the granddaughter, as a grandma herself, says exactly the same thing about her granddaughters.
That’s four generations of horse-engaging family members.
“I learned to ride from my grandma, then my husband Don and I rode horses, our son and daughter rode horses, and now in the horse shows, my granddaughters ride right along with me, and my daughter and my son, their dad,” said present-day grandma Jane Wallace of Beloit.
“I really am quite proud that the family tradition has carried on so long,” she added.
Four generations of dedicated enthusiastic horseback riders is a story in itself, but that grandma, her son and daughter and her two granddaughters all compete in the same horse show at least a dozen weekends every summer is even more notable.
Now they’re often in different classes and age categories, but sometimes all five compete even against each other.
Now, “more to the ‘unique’ horse tale,” grandma is into her seventh decade, while a number of that “maturity” are incapacitated, or quite limited in their physical abilities.
“I’m fortunate to have my health, and it is in my genes, but I’ve always kept active, and liked to ride horses ever since I was a kid. It takes on more meaning when you’re riding with and against your children and grandchildren,” Jane admitted.
Childhood fascination for horses developed from her paternal grandmother continued when Jane married Don more than 50 years ago. “He had a horse, and bought me a horse, and we both rode, brought them to our farm when moved here from Missouri,” she reflected.
Riding from a young age, their son, Mark, competed in his first horse show as a third grader, won a prize, and insisted on going to another show; the horse show tradition sprouted.
“Of course, our daughter, Sara, three years younger than Mark, wanted to ride, too. So we let her ride, and then needed two horses. It wasn’t long before Don and I and our children were all riding, we traded the big truck for a trailer and were hauling four horses to the shows,” continued Jane, quickly inserting: “The rest is history.”
But, it’s definitely not that nonchalant. Before delving into “those family horse stories,” it’s significant to air the Wallace family ties to the Eastern Kansas Horsemen’s Association, which has sponsored sanctioned horse shows for 50 years.
“We competed in open shows and Kansas Western Horseman’s Association (KWHA) competitions at the start, but then heard about the EKHA and started riding in these, and have been ever since, about 45 years I guess,” Jane remembered.
Now serving as EKHA treasurer, Jane admitted, “I’ve been in about all offices, most of them more than once, and our children have been in leadership roles numerous times. We ride in open and other shows occasionally, but our family horse show emphasis has been EKHA.”
“The EKHA Golden Anniversary banquet is set for Salina on October 19. There’ll be a lot of reminiscing,” Jane assured. Information is available at www.ekhaonline.com. Yearend EKHA standings show all of the five Wallace horse family will collect numerous awards during the evening affair.
Key to riding horses is the “mount,” and of special significance to all of the family is that “We have trained our own horses,” Jane pointed out.
Added to that many of the horses have been raised right on the farm, and several of their mounts today go back several generations of Wallace horse family genes. “We’ve had our own stallions through the years, and bred them to our show horses to raise more show horses,” Jane said.
“We’ve had and do have registered horses, but it’s more important to us how the horses perform. I grew up when you had one horse to ride in every class, and that’s what we raise our horses to do today.
“We show our horses in every division English and Western, pleasure events, jumping and run in every speed class,” Jane verified.
Of all the “great horses,” owned and shown by the family, the “most famous” has to be the sorrel gelding called Flint. “We got him when he was six-months-old, I did all of the ground work, and Mark, then a seventh grader, started riding him,” Jane said.
Flint was ridden in every event. “He was always accident prone and lost a left eye when just a three-year-old, but went on to win whatever we rode him in. He especially loved to jump and run in the keg bending. I’m not being prejudice, but Flint was one of ‘the best’ keg bending horses there’s ever been.”
All of the family rode Flint, including the grandchildren in their beginning years, as did neighbor children on occasion. “Flint was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ horse and is buried right here on the farm,” Jane said.
Each reflecting other horses with enviable show records they’ve ridden over the year, Jane, Mark and Sara collected EKHA division titles in every event and yearend high point tabulations for a number of years, before the children moved away from home.
“Don and I continued to ride at some shows, but there wasn’t the urge like when our children were going,” Jane admitted.
After only being away from the arena a few years, Sara started competing again after her daughter DJ began showing. Then, in 1996, Mark’s oldest daughter, Sierra, who was just four- years-old, showed in a lead line class.
“Of course, her little sister Brooke had to be like big sister and was soon riding, too. I then started competing again, and we were all riding as one big happy family,” said Mark.
Today, Don and Jane have three horses at their Beloit farm they’ve retired from and rent most cropland out, but still “put up hay for the horses,” of course.
Mark and his wife, Julie, have three horses at their place near New Cambria, while he continues his profession as a collision technician manager at Salina. Sierra is a senior at Baker University in Baldwin, where she was a homecoming princess over the weekend, and Brooke is a freshman at Kansas State University.
Sara Prochaska, who lost her daughter in a tragic car accident several years ago, has five horses and four St. Bernard’s at her place near Ellsworth, while doing upholstery work, as her husband, Robert, is in the construction profession.
When summer weekends roll around, there are three trailers with as many as 11 horses tied around them, and the Wallace family gathers together early for every EKHA show.
Today, grandma and each of the granddaughters are riding in their own respective age groups, but Mark and Sara complete in the same division.
“There has been evolution in EKHA through the years, and one of them has been age groups. At one point, all adults rode against each other, but then they were separated into men and women, and also age divisions.
“This year, they’ve combined the men and women, but divided them out into three age groups, including 61 and over, for us senior citizens,” related Jane, who noted that Don has also competed at horse shown in recent years, on limited basis due to continuing back ailments.
“Mark and I are both in the same division now competing against each other. I asked him if that would create a problem, and he denied any concern. Yet, Mark called me up this spring, and wondered if he could ride one of my horses. It probably was to try to beat the other one I’ve been riding. It’s all in good family fun,” Sara said.
No end to stories the horse-showing Wallace family can tell.
“I guess horses are a sickness, and we evidently all have it,” Sara pointed out.
Again, horses are what make it all possible. “We’re all very competitive. We all want to win. But, in recent years, I’ve become as concerned about making every ride better than the one before. I want my horses to be the very best they can be,” noted Sara, reflecting that some horses have been trained for others, but mostly just for family use.
Acquisition of a new stallion for mating to proven show horses, and cow bred horses to take showing a slightly different direction, involvement with horses will surely long endure for the Wallace family.
“Sierra and Brooke have continued to show, while they’ve been in college, and will likely want to show as they pursue their life’s goals. I still like to show and probably will, too, if they do, along with Mom and Sara,” Mark evaluated.
Despite being knocked unconscious and having a broken leg with serious healing complications a few years ago, Sara still sees no slowdown in her horse show schedule, looking to improve her mounts with every ride.
“I don’t have the nerve to go as fast as I used to, but I enjoy riding, especially with my family, at the horse shows. I’ll go as long as I’m able,” Jane surmised.
Never underestimate the competition when the Wallace and Prochaska names are announced over the loud speaker at a horse show.
“Grandma sure is proud, and great grandma would be, too.”