Since 1971, Chilton County has been home to a place for horseback riders young and old to come and enjoy their sport.
The Central Alabama Horse Club was formed by a “core group of local horse lovers,” Tina Thomas, club secretary, said as a place to come together for shows, competitions and trail rides.
Current Club President Jerry Thompson was a founding member.
“Tina’s father and I used to ride together, and he got talking about it (forming a horse club),” Thompsons said.
Others in the community joined the discussions and became a part of the founding
Thompson’s favorite event to participate in as a part of the club has been rodeo. In his
competition days, Thompson participated in western pleasure.
The current leadership of the club have been involved for several years. Thomas and Tana Petty, club treasurer, said they became
members as children.
“This club is kind of like family,” Thomas said.
Growing up in the club, Thomas and Petty became close friends. Thomas competed in western pleasure and barrel racing.
“My daughter shows western pleasure now,” Thomas said.
Petty was riding by herself at 4 years old.
When she started competing, she chose English pleasure as her starting category.
Later, she started barrel racing.
Western and English pleasures are different styles of showing a horse at events. Both women said the excitement of the sport drew them to barrel racing.
“It was fast, thrilling,” Thomas said.
However, it is her knowledge of western pleasure that Thomas is passing on to the younger riders in the club.
For Petty, as a young person, riding kept her focused on being responsible and helped her avoid getting into trouble.
“Waiting for her name to be called” to start her event was Petty’s favorite part of the shows.
Petty said she also enjoys dressing up for the Fun Day shows that the club hosts.
Thompson started riding horses when he was 14 after working at a camp in Florida that had horses.
“Several of our club members have receive honors in associations that we are members of,” Thomas said. “One of our original club members, Lamar Robinson was honored by being inducted into the Professional Cowboys Association Hall of Fame in 1995 during the finals rodeo. We also have Lamar Robinson, Charles Mims, Betty Robinson and Jerry Thompson that were inducted into Alabama Open Horsemans Association Hall of Fame during the Alabama Open Horsemans Association Championship Horse Show throughout the years.”
Although he no longer competes, Thompson is still involved training younger riders. His granddaughter competes in barrel racing.
“Our Vice President Ronnie Drinkard helps train some girls in western pleasure,” Thomas said.
Three generations of riders make up the 60 or so members of the club.
“We have all ages,” Thomas said. “Out here, we really like to support our youth. We have a pretty good sized youth group right now.”
Each child with an interest in learning is first taught to ride a horse well. Thompson said it takes
hours of practice. As they master riding at slower speed, they are taught how to ride at faster speeds.
Thompson said just how long the process takes depends on the rider.
“Each rider is different,” Thomas said. “They learn at different paces. Some kids may start thinking they want to do western pleasure and decide that they want to run barrels.”
During the spring and summer, the club meets once a month, in addition to any events or shows that they are hosting.
“It is a good place for people to come who are wanting to start,” Thomas said. “You have people that are willing to get out there and work with you and help you gain the knowledge that you need … Our Open Horse Shows offer classes for the beginner all
the way up to professional trainers. We have a variety of classes such as: halter, gaited, pony, English, western and timed events. There is something for everyone. We encourage people in our community to come out and bring their horses and show with us.”
The timed events include barrel racing, arena race, pole bending and stake race. During the stake race, riders maneuver their horses in a figure eight around two stakes.
Fun Day shows are a more relaxed atmosphere than a competition. On these days, the participation rules are a little different.
“We bend the rules a bit because I’m 50 years old, and I ride a pony,” Petty said.
Participants often enjoy dressing up in costumes as their favorite characters on these days. Horses are also often decorated.
Petty said these are social events.
“People don’t have to have the high-dollar show horse to be in a fun show,” Thomas said.
She said it is open to anyone to bring out their horse.
It is also a good way to get introduced to the club.
Club members start attending horse shows in March and continue through August.
There are also a few shows in the fall.
The Club hosts six shows each year as well as an additional two shows as a part of their association.
“Our club is a member of Mid-State Horsemans Association, and we host contestants from all over central Alabama,” Thomas said. “These contestants compete at a local level to qualify for the Alabama Open Horsemans Association State Championship Horse Show that is held in Montgomery, Alabama, on Labor Day Weekend. We have many contestants from Chilton County that show horses with us.”
A lot of work goes into getting the arena ready and buying the needed supplies as well as securing judges for the events. The judges are usually from other areas.
The club will be hosting shows on the following days this year: April 6, May 11, June 1, July 20, and Aug. 3. Each is open to the community to come watch. Shows begin at 9 a.m. with judged categories. Timed categories usually start around 1 p.m. Trail rides have also been a major part of the club’s history. The rides have been used as fundraisers for organizations including St. Jude’s Hospital, The Human Society of Chilton County, DHR Foster Care, Rescue Squad and others.
Membership is $50 per person or $75 per family.
Central Alabama Horse Club is located at 1010 County Road 453 in Clanton.