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September 15, 2011

Looking Back On 85 Years Of The Green Mountain Horse Association

Participants in GMHA's horsemanship clinic (from left) Kaffi Browne, Peter Hilgartner, Nina Pastohv, Amy Shoemaker and Twila Barlow, in 1976. Photo by Sumner MacLeish from the Chronicle Archives.

“One of the most dramatic demonstrations of concern and affection for GMHA took place following the flood of 1973,” wrote former Green Mountain Horse Association President Eileene Wilmot in Green Mountain Horse Association, 1926-1990s. “We all met to view the disaster and destruction, some of us with faint hearts. I never will forget Wilson Haubrich, who quietly said, ‘We have 120 children arriving in two days; we must get this fixed.’ Friends and members came down from the hills and up the valleys… In two days we were ready to receive the children.”

Last month, GMHA members suffered even heavier hearts when Hurricane Irene brought disastrous floods to their South Woodstock, Vt., headquarters, devastating the barns and forcing the cancellation of several of the 85-year-old organization’s annual fall events.

A Glimpse Of GMHA

GMHA was founded in 1926 when the Vermont Fair Horse Show Committee announced that their annual show was in danger of cancellation due to lack of entries. The next month approximately 50 concerned equestrians met to form the Green Mountain Horse Association with a goal to “increase the interest in raising and the use of horses in Vermont and to hold an annual show.” Their efforts saved the show that year, and by 1927, ambitions were soaring even higher.

The following is a brief snapshot of this diverse organization’s early timeline.

1927:  GMHA hosted the first in what would become an ongoing tradition of competitive trail rides: a two-day, 60-mile ride begun from the Brandon Inn in Brandon, Vt.

1928: “Committees were formed and the mapping and marking of trails and the designation of luncheon and overnight stops began in earnest,” wrote former President Earle Johnson in GMHA’s 50th anniversary booklet. By year’s end, 249 miles of trails had been mapped by GMHA members.

1935: GMHA achieved a landmark 1000 miles of trail mapping, spanning from the Massachusetts border to Canada and including overnight stops at inns and houses, all of which it published in a members’ guidebook.

1936: The 60-mile competitive ride was increased to 80 miles. Riders had to carry 115 pounds and were judged 60 percent on the condition of their horses and 40 percent on time elapsed. The winners, Sarah Dreibelbies and Town Gossip, received a cup and prizes amounting to $50.

1937: GMHA held its first 100 Mile Ride, a three-day event based on 300-mile rides run by the Cavalry’s Remount Service to train military horses. Twenty-two horses started, 19 finished, and Raymond Hall and Lady Luck emerged victorious.

1950: 10 acres of land were purchased in South Woodstock, Vt., for the establishment of an official headquarters. By 1951, GMHA boasted an office, stabling for 100 horses, a show ring and jumping field.

1951: GMHA members organized their first 4th of July Buggy Ride, inviting participants to stable their horses for the three-day event at GMHA headquarters for a total cost of $1.50.

1956: The Upper Valley Pony Club was founded and headquartered at GMHA’s grounds.

1957: Gen. John Tupper Cole, a graduate of the Fort Riley, Kan., Calvary School and coach of the last military Olympic team, was recruited to lead a “Training Center” in the lead-up to GMHA’s first three-day event. For $100, 48 riders attended the training session and competition, hosted July 5-29, a full two years prior the founding of the U.S. Combined Training Association (now the U.S. Eventing Association). GMHA was one of the first events in the country open to civilian competitors. Events have been held regularly ever since.

Also that year, former Chronicle Editor Alexander Mackay-Smith rode in the 100 Mile Ride, writing, “It brought together a group of horsemen and horsewomen whose fine sportsmanship throughout the Ride was outstanding. It gave them an opportunity to meet each other, to exchange ideas and to see a beautiful countryside. It enabled them to test their own skill and judgment in conditioning, feeding, equipping and riding their horses and ponies over a long and varied terrain and to test the capabilities of their mounts. In the course of it all, they had a wonderful time.”

1960: Based on the popularity of the horse trials, an annual adult horsemanship clinic was launched, focusing on equitation and the correct use of the aids. Twenty-four participants attended the first.

1966: A tax-deductible Youth Center was founded to host Pony Club events, junior horsemanship clinics, 4-H competitions and educational activities.

1970: GMHA hosted their first dressage competition in one small-sized arena. GMHA’s dressage competitions have since expanded in scope and size, including several schooling and recognized shows throughout the year.

1985: Dr. Carlence Perks won his second 100 Mile Ride 43 years after his first. In 1942, he won aboard Lippitt Miss Nekomia. In ’85, he rode her great-great-granddaughter, Dyberry Iva, to victory.

How You Can Help

To get involved with this historic organization, which hosts competitions, clinics and rides across several disciplines each year, and to find out more about upcoming fundraisers, visit the Green Mountain Horse Association website.

To learn more about Hurricane Irene’s damage to the GMHA grounds, including photos and videos, click here.

To donate directly to the GMHA recovery fund through PayPal, click here.  

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