Slowing Down, Horses Still Important Part Of Life For Well-Known Bennington Couple

When horses get in the blood, it’s impossible to remove, and even seems to thicken after that first horse show.

Elmer and Shirley Brown of Bennington have been regulars in the horse and horseshow world for nay a half century.

Mention the couple’s name, and somebody will pop up a reflection. Likely most everybody at the horse function have affections for the horsey couple.

Regulars in the arena and ringside at South Central Horse Stock Horse Association (SCSHA) shows, the Browns are to be honored in special ceremonies at the Saturday, Aug. 13, Futurity Show in Hutchinson, according to Steve Johnson, SCHSC president.

Smiling either mounted or horses in hand, the popular horse couple will be proudest their daughters Nancy Brown and Jan Stockdale, and great-grandkids Ethan, Spencer, and Caleb Sultz are right with them.

Horses have always been a family deal for Elmer and Shirley Brown, and even more so today. Their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have always gotten first priority on horses.

Daughter Nancy Brown reminisced about the Brown family’s horses and horse show highlights.

Raised in the country near Salina, Elmer and Shirley were around horses growing up.  The first family horse was purchased from a neighbor in 1971 to use gathering their cattle.

Elmer Brown, Bennington, still spends lots of time training and tuning horses at home and before shows, although he’s not been competing much this season.
Elmer Brown, Bennington, still spends lots of time training and tuning horses at home and before shows, although he’s not been competing much this season.

Like many families, and rightfully so, mom, and daughters wanted their own horses.“We joined the Bennington Saddle Club and started riding in parades and grand entries,” Nancy remembered.

“Mom and Jan bought a pair of Palomino mares. The full sisters were in foal, even though the owner didn’t know it. So, we got four horses for the price of two,” Nancy said.

When the family rode with the saddle club at the Wilson Czech Festival, Elmer decided to ride in the rock and roll race at the horse show. “It was hilarious watching grown men get out there rescuing each other on bareback horses,” Nancy still grins.

Family show competition got into full swing with the Palominos, Rainey’s Image and Rainy Day Beauty, in 1975.

The Browns showed in halter, pleasure and trail classes at Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association (EKHA), Kansas Western horseman’s Association, Kansas Saddle Horse Association and registered Quarter Horse shows.

“I remember washing horses in the garage so we could have warm water out of a hose hooked up to the washer hook-up,” Nancy noted. “If there was horse show in the area, we were usually going. Dad was a stickler the horses had to shine when we unloaded from the trailer.”

Another “typical” for horse families, Elmer bought a stallion, Two Eyed Craig, an own son of Two Eyed Jack, in partnership with his brother in 1978.

Standing to the public and for breeding family horses, “Craig” was successful on the registered circuit with a professional showman. “One summer, we had five colts born on our place,” Nancy said.

Diversifying, Elmer got a speed event horse called Fred to ride in racing competition. “Dad rode on a couple of relay teams and partnered with me in the pair sack race,” Nancy related. “Fred was fun to ride. I think Dad really had the most fun doing the races.”

Shirley Brown, Bennington, has collected a number of awards in walk-trot competitions at South Central Stock Horse Association shows.
Shirley Brown, Bennington, has collected a number of awards in walk-trot competitions at South Central Stock Horse Association shows.

“I would have the horses fed when Dad got home from work, and he put a lot of miles riding down the road,” Nancy said. “When Dad took Lisa to the Quarter Horse show in Salina, he rode against the professionals, and everyone thought he was a trainer.Elmer and Shirley shared a bay mare called Lisa in respective pleasure classes.

“Actually, he was. Dad basically finished the training on Lisa, Jack and Duke, the horses we rode in pleasure at the shows,” Nancy said. “Dad and I rode against each other in senior pleasure. We had a little rivalry going between us. I didn’t beat him very often.”

Several early year shows created fond memories. Water bucket prizes won at Junction City are still used, homemade ice cream at Abilene savors taste buds decades later, and that makeshift tarp was great-shade at Kirwin.

Proudest time for Elmer and Shirley Brown is when their great-grandsons Ethan, Spencer and Caleb Sultz of Wichita compete in horse shows. They’re shown with great-grandma Shirley and Grandma Jan Stockdale.
Proudest time for Elmer and Shirley Brown is when their great-grandsons Ethan, Spencer and Caleb Sultz of Wichita compete in horse shows. They’re shown with great-grandma Shirley and Grandma Jan Stockdale.

One time an inflatable mattress for overnight stay was being filled with a vacuum sweeper. “And, it literally blew. We decided a regular mattress would be the better choice after that,” Nancy still laughs out loud.

Anybody who’s ever ridden very much has been bucked off sometime. “Even Dad got bucked off once. We wouldn’t let him get back on, and that mare went to the next horse sale,” Nancy said.

At a show in Hutchinson just a couple of years ago, Elmer’s horse started bucking. “Dad rode him and finished the class. Everybody teased Dad that he could become a bronc rider in his spare time,” Nancy said.

Shirley has ridden different horses, and has been bucked off a couple of times, too.  “It has been a hard road for her to keep getting on a horse. We’d done a lot of searching and finally found Big Zipperman. She trusts Sunny, as we call him, and I’m really proud of how Mom has done,” Nancy credited.

The family has been competing in the SCSHA shows for about 16 years. “Mom rides in the walk-trot class. There’s stiff competition, but she’s won three highpoint buckles.” Nancy said.

Still wearing the EKHA buckle collected years ago, Elmer was especially pleased to win the yearend men’s Quarterbred trophy, Nancy insisted.

“Dad hasn’t been showing the last couple years, because he didn’t have a horse ready to show,” Nancy said. “However, Dad has a new horse that he is working with to be ready by next show season.”

It’s especially pleasing for Elmer and Shirley that their grandkids Bobby and Heather, Jan’s children, showed in horses and now their great-grandchildren are in the show ring.

“Bobby and Heather used to visit from Ohio in the summers and go to and compete at horseshows,” Nancy said.

Bobby Buxton now lives in Akron, Ohio, rides when he can and is planning to get a horse for his two-year-old son, Bryce.

Heather’s sons Ethan, Spencer and Caleb Sultz of Wichita are now showing with great-grandpa and great-grandma. “Ethan actually got on his first horse when he was three, and participated in lead line with ‘Grandpa’ Elmer,” Nancy said.

Elmer worked for the Salina International dealer for more than 20 years with the concluding years as a traveling parts salesman.

Shirley work 32 years for Planters Bank, and retired to be a teacher’s assistant at Sunset School.

With most enviable, commendable horse endeavors, Elmer and Shirley have slowed down in the last few years, but are still generally at the horse shows.

“Part of what has kept them young is they keep on going,” Nancy acknowledged.