Horses might be prettier by opinion, tack fancier, transportation and overnight facilities more elaborate and cozier, but horse shows are still all about riding horses, doing the best possible as a mount-rider team, trying to beat the competition, and, when it’s all done, sharing a weekend of fun with family and friends, lasting for a lifetime.
That’s the way those involved in the beginning and throughout the years look at the evolution of the Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association (EKHA) celebrating its golden anniversary this year.
“There were a group of us who were participating in local horse shows and Kansas Western Horseman’s Association (KWHA) events. We decided to form an association for saddle club- sponsored shows east of Highway 81, closer to home, but yet with more set rules, than in local club shodeos, plus have point tabulations for yearend awards,” remembered Marlene Flinn, St. George, who served as the first secretary of the EKHA when it was formed 50 years ago.
With a 50th anniversary celebration set for this weekend at Salina, Marlene and others in the formation, and those involved throughout the long history, shared their reflections of how the EKHA has changed, but yet remained relatively similar in the past five decades.
“It’s always been a family-oriented group with divisions for youth and adults who enjoyed riding horses and competing for weekend entertainment against friends with the same interest. That set our organization apart from breed-sanctioned competitions, where there often seemed to be more tension to beat the other horse and rider,” Marlene clarified.
“Of course, the EKHA riders always wanted to do their best and tried to win, but it was always in fun and for sport,” added Marlene, whose husband Merle served as the first EKHA president. They were members of the Manhattan Roundup Club
“With our children, Wanita and Steve, Merle and I both rode in just about all of the shows for many years. Merle and I served two different terms as president and secretary, respectively, and then I served as secretary a number of years later on. We both also worked on many committees throughout the years,” Marlene noted.
In addition to EKHA, the Flinn family had winning horses in other organizations. Steve became a champion in Little Britches, high school, college and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “His beginning was in EKHA, and we always credited EKHA for being an initial boost up in his competitions,” Marlene said.
Wanita’s daughter Ashley, the third generation, rode in EKHA, and now Steve’s son, Landon, another third generation, will most surely continue the tradition.
Horsemen from a handful of saddle clubs were on the ground floor of organizing EKHA, with a number of meetings to set up by-laws and events.
The one person most broadly recognized as being instrumental in the formation was Rosalie Rezac Clymer, an all-around horsewoman originally from Onaga and a teacher in several school districts over her long teaching career.
“Rosie was committed to helping youth get involved and learn about the benefits of riding and showing horses. Rosie was always anxious to help EKHA in every way she could, and continued to participate in shows until her death several years ago. Rosie seldom missed a show, and in reality probably competed in more EKHA events than anybody, period,” credited Marlene, noting that the popular Rosie Clymer Ranch Horse Pleasure Class at most shows is in her memory.
A member of the Herington Riding Club at that time, Rosie’s recognized horseshow sidekick and lifelong friend Faye Peck Heath was also involved in EKHA’s early stages.
While somebody and some saddle club are surely going to be left out, Marlene recalled that others attending formation meetings were Clyde Scott of the Santa Fe Trail Riders at Council Grove, Harvey Smith of Herington, Raymond Cornelius of Paola, Vern Walker, Herman Taylor and Ray Garten, all of Abilene.
“They and their families all rode in the shows and served in various leadership roles for a number of years,” credited Marlene, who remembered that there were about eight EKHA shows the first year.
Faye Peck Heath rode her ranch horse called Spot in the first EKHA shows. “I’d help look after cattle on the ranch during the week, jump Spot in the back of the truck on Sunday and go to the horse show. He was the only horse I had, so I rode him in everything. We got so we could hold our own in all of the classes,” Faye said.
“Rosie and I never missed a horse show for years and years. I had several different horses later on, and I was lucky they all turned out to be good horses,” said Faye.
Collecting yearend highpoint awards throughout more than four decades of EKHA shows, Faye was riding as recent as five years ago.
“I liked all of the events, but Rosie and I always had a relay team, and we’d usually have two kids on it with us. I couldn’t begin to count the number of different kids who were on our relay teams over the years. It would be several dozen,” continued Faye, with a sadness adding, “I sure do miss Rosie. I miss riding in horse shows.”
Also a member of the Manhattan Roundup Club, Linda Wells Kleiner rode in EKHA shows during the first year. “It was so much fun, and I have so many fond memories of the other kids and their families. We all rode and worked together and helped each other,” Linda said.
“We rode the horses we used on the ranch and hauled them in our farm trucks and trailers. We’d take a picnic lunch for a Sunday show, and if we went for the weekend, we’d sleep in the back of the truck, or sometimes on the ground,” commented Linda, who received the first EKHA youth sportsmanship award.
“It was all in fun,” repeated Linda, whose dad Bernard served as an EKHA director and judged EKHA shows for several decades. Linda’s children and grandchildren, the fourth generation, have continued competing in horse shows.
As members of the Sand Springs Saddle Club at Abilene, Joe Clemence and his four children, Teresa, Bob, Mike and Jon, all rode in EKHA shows from the beginning. “We hardly missed a show and continued until all of the kids graduated from high school.
“We’d take five horses to a show and ride our own horse in every class. We didn’t always win, but over the years we collected a room full of trophies,” Joe said. “We’re thinking about donating them back to EKHA to give to today’s riders.
“Horses might be prettier overall now than they were 50 years ago, but I don’t know if the times are really any faster than they were then,” Clemence critiqued.
Bob Clemence’s daughter Jamie rode when she was in school and now another granddaughter Joy, Jon’s nine-year-old daughter, is riding in EKHA shows; both grandchildren are third generation EKHA participants. “Joy even rides in the English classes, which is good, but something new for us.
“We try to go to the shows to watch. There are so many good people involved with horses in EKHA. Everybody is always willing to help each other. Our family has made lifetime acquaintances and friends. Children who ride and show horses don’t have time to get in trouble,” Joe commented.
Bruce Scott, oldest son of Clyde Scott, a past EKHA president, who was instrumental in organizing the group, rode in EKHA shows for many year. Collecting numerous yearend awards, with reining as his featured event, Bruce also served as EKHA president.
The Howard Langvardt family has been involved in EKHA almost from the beginning. “I rode in open and KWHA shows, and then started riding in EKHA shows as a member of the Chapman Saddle Club. After Ann and I got married, we both rode as members of the Junction City Saddle Club, along with our three sons, Karl, Mitch and Lynn,” said Howard, who served a term as EKHA president, as did Mitch in later years.
“After our family started going to the EKHA shows, my brother-in-law Bob Kamm and his family began competing, too. None of us missed very many shows until our children got out of high school.
“Seven of our grandchildren, the third generation, have competed in EKHA shows, two of them this year, and we have another grandson, just a baby now, who’ll likely ride, too. The Kamm children, my nieces and nephews, have also had their children riding in EKHA shows,” said Langvardt, who attended several shows to watch this year.
Ron Shivers has been a member of Abilene’s Sand Springs Saddle Club for nearly 50 years, and started riding in EKHA shows shortly after it formed, before serving as a director and several offices, including the presidency.
“I rode and then my children and grandchildren participated. For more than two decades, I judged EKHA shows. There was one year that Ray Garten and I judged all of the shows,” reflected Shivers.
Largely responsible for organizing the EKHA yearend awards banquet for several decades, Shivers serves as his saddle club’s longtime treasurer and continues to be active at Abilene’s EKHA shows assisting in bookkeeping duties.
For sure, one rider, Frank Buchman, then of Council Grove and now of Alta Vista, competed in EKHA shows the first year as a member of the Santa Fe Trail Riders, and also rode in this year’s shows, the 50th year.
Showing now as a member of Council Grove’s reorganized Santa Fe Saddle Club, Frank has ridden with a handful of different clubs over the years, as some groups have formed, disbanded, and others even reorganized.
Serving two terms as president including during EKHA’s silver anniversary, Frank, who was a high point division adult man rider five years, said, “When I was a kid, Dad and I rode in the rescue race, and after I got married, my wife, Margaret Mary, and our children, Jennie and Tyson, rode in EKHA shows for many years.
“Our grandson, Wyatt, a fourth generation rider in EKHA, competed a few years ago. I’ve ridden again in the old folks division this year,” Frank added.
There were three youth divisions and one adult division in the beginning and not as many events overall; fewer pleasure classes, generally three or four racing events and a stick relay race.
Other events that have been popular throughout the years, but that are not typically at shows today include tie-down calf roping, breakaway roping, goat tying, sack roping and ring race.
Halter classes, English riding and fence classes, and Western jump are popular EKHA events, now.
Sunday shows have always been common, but when there were Saturday shows in the early years, they’d typically start at 4 o’clock or later and continue often ’til near midnight.
Awards were a very important part of early-day shows to many riders. Large rosettes or trophies were presented to the top four contestants in every class at every show for many years.
The top four point earners in yearend tabulations for every class received trophies, and there were always prizes for division champions, along with traveling awards, passed along to recipient’s year-to-year, often in memory of former EKHA riders, as continues today.
Entry fees have always been $1 to $2 per class, low compared to some associations, but only 80 percent has been paid back to winners in recent years, with the remainder going to host clubs for overhead. Rider and horse fees have also been accessed for club use, differing from original no-office charges.
More than two dozen clubs have hosted shows throughout the years as far east as Paola and Louisburg, north to Concordia, and south to Emporia, with Ellsworth hosting one of the 12 sanctioned EKHA shows this year as the club there has done for several years.
A handful of clubs, west of Highway 81, have hosted shows throughout the years. The yearend finals event called “The State Show” is always the climax for the show year, and this year it was at Clay Center.
As featured previously, Jane Wallace and her children, (Mark Wallace and Sara Prochaska), and grandchildren (Sierra and Brooke Wallace) have competed in EKHA shows for more than four decades and all participated in the shows this years.
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.
“There has been evolution in EKHA through the years, and one of them has been age groups. We’ve had four youth divisions for several years. At one point, all adults rode against each other, but then they were separated into men and women, and also age divisions.
“This year, we’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 is into her seventh decade.
Also riding for the Beloit Saddle Club, Jean Rose of Cawker City was not an early competitor in EKHA shows, but rode for several decades, known especially also for helping younger riders, and only retiring from show participation in the past couple of years.
Noalee McDonald-Augustine, Hays, serves as EKHA president this year, and three generations of her family have competed in EKHA shows. She rides in the 19-to-40-year-old division, her dad Ron McDonald of Ellis rides in the 61-and-over classes, while seven-year-old Tacoma rides in 7-to-9, and Shea, four, competes in the 6-and-under division.
“We all love to ride and enjoy going to the horse shows as a family every weekend. EKHA has always been family-oriented, but I’ve seen even more camaraderie in the past couple of years.
“Of course, everybody wants to win, but they are always willing to help each other and compliment top riders, whoever it is. The potluck suppers we’ve been having on Saturday nights have seemed to bring us all still closer together, even more horse-family friendly, one big happy family. There is an increased interest among both youth and adult riders it seems, and I think this will continue,” Noalee evaluated.
Reminiscing about the changes over 50 years, Marlene said, “Today, riders often have several different horses and quite elaborate trucks and trailers. We had one horse and rode in every class with it, had a pickup with a topper and a stock trailer, while the big goosenecks today have air conditioned living quarters, almost like a home.”
“EKHA always has been a family organization, a great place to improve horsemanship skills, learn about competition, winning and losing, making friends and acquaintances, and getting experiences that you can’t get anywhere else,” Marlene summarized.
“More family togetherness is needed in the world today. The youth and adults who participate in horse shows make friendships that last a lifetime,” she concluded.
Information is available at www.ekhaonline.com.