Horse crazy after all these years

I was horse crazy as a kid. I collected statues of horses, books about horses, stuffed animals that were horses and even had a blanket with a horse head on it. Like many little girls who long for a horse, I never got one. We lived in town, end of dream.

As the years went on, I developed other interests but somehow horses were always on my mind. To my delight, when I married, and moved to Brookfield, I discovered that a neighbor was the descendent of one of the founders of a local saddle club.

Bonnie Hrybiniak can remember competing in a Brookfield Saddle Club show when she was only 5 years old. Her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all founders and active saddle club members. She has been kind enough to invite me to a few of their shows, and I can tell you everyone has a great time there.

The Brookfield Saddle Club was started just after World War II, by a group of friends who enjoyed trail riding. They began to have horse shows, initially holding them behind the old Brookfield High School as fundraisers to benefit the Methodist Church in Brookfield. They raised money to buy the church an organ and eventually raised enough money to build a Grange building and to help the Brookfield Fire Department.

The founder’s legacy lives on in Bonnie, her daughter Mindy, Mindy’s daughter Megan and daughter Sheila’s son Joe, who all participate in the Saddle Club and its events.

Over the years, the club has grown to approximately 50 members. They hold a number of shows throughout the year, including two ”fun shows.” Their regular shows can attract as many as 150 entrants from the tri-state area who compete in classes in the three types of riding: Hunter, Western, and saddle seat in this all breed show. The Brookfield show is accredited by the Interstate Horse Show Association.

This year’s regularly scheduled Brookfield Saddle Club shows are scheduled for June 1 and Aug. 18. ”The existing membership is quite enthusiastic about putting on four shows this year, although it will be a lot of work,” Bonnie said. ”We have a new President, Connie Swartz, and we are looking forward to a great year!”

For the fun shows, entrants compete in such riotous events as the egg and spoon race where contestants ride holding an egg on the spoon along a given course and the first one back wins. There is also a boot race. Riders deposit their boots and a pile at the end of the ring, race back and mount their horses, race to the pile of boots, jump off their horses, identify their boots, put their boots on, jump back on their horses and race to the finish.

The fun shows also give amateurs a chance to compete with their horses without the stress of being judged in an ”official” class. There are no restrictions on entrant dress, horse equipment and for one dollar you can compete with your horse for a ribbon. Some of these classes include lead line classes, walk and trot classes for ponies and horses, and bareback riding.

All of the shows are run by volunteers from the club. When I came to one of their shows, I was recruited to be in charge of opening the gate when the horses exit the ring, a small but important job.

A group known as Charlie’s Angels, from the United Methodist Church, will be at the Aug. 18 show, the biggest of the Saddle Club’s calendar. They provide homemade pies and sandwiches or hot dogs from a booth on the show grounds. I can personally attest to the wonderful pies.

The ”fun shows” are scheduled for June 2 and Oct. 12. Admission is free to spectators for all shows, and it is a day of family fun for everyone, especially horse crazy kids like me.

For more information, email or call 724-662-2961. Perhaps you could volunteer.

O’Connor is a Brookfield resident.