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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
writes a weekly news release.

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P.O.S.H. – People Organized to Show Horses

Diane Mitton

In 1974 a small group of girls drawn together by a shared love of horses, having only a basic knowledge about horsemanship and the care and maintenance of their animals found a focus when Karen Raby arrived in town. Roberta Brooks said, “We were a wild bunch” without direction or organization. Karen Raby moved into town with two horses of her own, and a degree as an Instructor’s Assistant from Hunt Lea, West Virginia. She found a place for her horses at Gary Allen’s farm on Potter Hill Road, a short distance up the road from the Village and soon began giving riding instruction and clinics which combined riding with knowledge about general horsemanship, schooling and the care of horses. When Karen and the “wild bunch” met things began to happen. Under her influence, they became a dedicated, organized group of young people with a goal. They would school themselves and their horses for showing – and show they did! This led to the formation of a club known as P.O.S.H. – People Organized to Show Horses. For the next fifteen years from May through October, Gilford Village was the scene of monthly, sometimes weekly horse shows.

The first show was held in the ring at the Allen farm in June 1975. Being all local kids, they rode their horses to the show. There was no room for parking, no money for ribbons and trophies. Raby served as an unpaid judge. But a momentum was started. The desire to show was great and enthusiasm was high. According to Jean Evvard, the girls held car washes, bake sales and spaghetti suppers and before long began to attract new members and the attention of interested adults whose enthusiasm and dedication soon matched that of the girls. Among the founding members were Roberta Brooks, Nancy Hillsgrove, Linda Haskell and Brenda Hamel and Caren Blixt. Jean and John Evvard, Grace and Wayne Herbert and Grace Holdenwere early adult supporters. Like all really good ideas, it grew quickly. The small ring, lack of parking for cars and trailers and the lack of facilities soon became a problem as interest in the activities increased.

About this time Greg Dickinson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen came forward with an idea that could mutually benefit both the town of Gilford and the club. The selectmen offered P.O.S.H. the use of the Wilson Farm property on the southern edge of the village, adjacent to the Elementary School and across the street from the high school, if the club would clean up and maintain the grounds and barn. The Evvards, Herberts and other adult advisors saw this offer as an opportunity for the club to expand. In an article in the May 1981 Northeast Horseman , Dickinson describes the farm at that time as having a large dairy barn, milk room, some unsightly chicken coops, badly deteriorated hog pens, other out buildings, some unkempt acres of pasture, and a very overgrown fruit orchard. As Jean Evvard remembers it the challenge was great but the girls were enthusiastic and work parties were organized. Again quoting Dickinson, “This enthusiastic, hard-working group of youth and some adults tore down no longer useful buildings, cleaned up and repaired the barn, pruned fruit trees, mowed grass and hay, cleaned out decades of accumulated debris.” Evvard adds, “rats scurried everywhere when they attacked the old hog shed and cleaned out the silo”. The club spent many hours transforming the unsightly mess into “an aesthetically pleasing and functional piece of land”

P.O.S.H. was now established on a piece of land well suited to its purpose. John Evvard laid out a new 150’ x 230’ ring, cut posts from his woods and everyone dug post holes.

Baling twine was strung between the posts. This make-shift ring was home to the shows for the next two years. A caretaker’s program was instigated, which allowed 2 members each year to have full use of the barn, pasture and ring in exchange for upkeep which they agreed to perform. In 1997, the first show was held in the new ring. The shows grew in size and popularity. Plenty of parking, paid judges, ribbons and trophies began to attract participants from all over the local area. Entry fees were charged, refreshments were available and the club began to make money. This money was used for continued improvements, upgrading equipment and holding clinics. A dressage ring was added, and more pasture was cleared for caretaker’s horses. Regular meetings were held to educate members in dressage, English and western riding techniques, fitting and showmanship. Spring clinics for all horse owners in the area, regardless of membership status provided opportunities to have their animals receive physicals and shots at a reduced rate. Members and advisors were given tetnus shot by Dr, Mendon MacDonald. The baling wire fence was replaced by a wooden rail fence and a public address system installed. Shows became more professional, more categories were added and the quality of the judges increased including Dr. Van Shaik, a noted dressage judge and Olympic qualifier Nancy Guyotte.

By 1985 the club had 35 active members ranging in age from 8 to 18. Horses and riders were a common sight in the village, tied up at the village store or riding through town. During the week, students were able to ride their horses to school and pasture them in the fenced orchard. A constant flow of horse trailers passed through the village from May through October. It was an exciting time, not just for those who showed horses, but for everyone who ever thought they might like to own a horse, and for those who enjoyed the fun and activity of the monthly shows.

But this wonderful era came to an end in 1989. The town had voted to put an addition on the elementary school and the club was notified that the fields would not be available to them the following year as they would be needed for athletic fields. Although they looked for a new site, none could be found that offered all that the Wilson Farm did and the last show was held in September 1989.

Thompson-Ames Historical Society, at its September meeting will host an AV presentation by Jean Evvard, Greg Dickinson and Roberta Brooks Boucher and Nancy Johnson who will be reminiscing with us about the years when P.O.S.H. was an active part of Village life. Anyone involved with P.O.S.H. is invited to participate and all are welcome to attend. This meeting will be held on Monday, September 12, 2005 at the Meetinghouse, 24 Belknap Mountain Road at 7:30 following the regular business meeting at 7:00p.m. Refreshments will be served. For further information, please call 527-9009.