Tribune-Courier features editor
More than 45 years ago Holland and Frankie York started what would soon become a family tradition. Not just for their family, but for their friends, neighbors and almost anyone who shares the passion of showing and competing horses.
The West Marshall Riding Club has been providing family entertainment for equine enthusiasts on U.S. Highway 348, about seven miles outside of Benton, since 1970.
“It’s always been geared toward children and family,” Frankie York said.
“We raised both of our kids here and now their grandkids,” added Holland.
In the early days, wire was used to mark the outside of the riding club’s stomping ground, or show ring, and competitors competed in 15 different classes. Since then the club has grown by leaps and bounds. They now have over 54 club members, 31 different classes, contributions from sponsors and plenty of participation.
“We start the show at 3 (p.m.) and sometimes don’t leave until 11 - 11:30, “ Anita Washburn, President of the club said.
There are two prominent class variations, the pleasure horse class and the contest class. Pleasure events are more for show, while contest events are all about speed. Events in the pleasure class include trail class, beginners walk trot, open halter and ranch horse. Events for the contest class include barrel races, pee-wee, youth and adult, pole bending and spear racing.
“Spear racing is where you start near the outside of the ring, with your spear and you collect the plastic rings that hang down,” Washburn explained, “It’s one of our biggest draws and I’ve never seen it been done anywhere else.”
“Each class receives a prize, whether it be a blue ribbon or a belt buckle,” Washburn said. “We try to keep the classes equal in competition, that way the same kids won’t keep going home empty handed.”
The winner of each event earns points that collect throughout the season. At the end of each season the club awards a saddle to the youth and adult participant who has earned the most points.
Membership in the West Marshall Riding club is only $25 per person per season or a family can join for a fee of $30. Each class entry is $8 and $10 for non-members. There is no gate fee and spectators can participate in events such as the boot scramble, sucker race, egg toss and a sack race.
The club hosts a show every third Saturday of the month. The next show will be held this Saturday, August 17 at 3 p.m. For more information contact Anita Washburn at 270-556-6167.