The Germantown Museum

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey
June 1, 2006

A tradition reoccurs in Germantown every year, the Annual Germantown Charity Horse Show, one of the oldest and largest multi-breed shows in the nation.  The original intent was to establish an event that would be entertaining, involve the community, and return any financial rewards to the benefit of the community.

 As part of the Charity Horse Show’s Golden Jubilee, the late Betsy West provided the following detail of this very popular event.

 Following World War II, a number of Memphis and Germantown friends returning from active duty, met and rode their horses in the Germantown area on Sunday afternoons.  They decided that local interest in horses should be channeled into community-wide participation.

 The Oak Grove Saddle Club was inspired by former MFH (Master of Fox Hounds) Bart

Mueller, who had experienced fox hunting in Maryland and South Carolina and shared this sport with his friends in West Tennessee.

 Former MFH Walter N. (Sonny) Foster, Sr. recalled “the Saturday hunts and Sunday afternoon trail rides led to organization of the Oak Grove Saddle Club in 1946.  On Thanksgiving Day of that year we invited everyone we knew who would like to trail ride to come to a barbecue at the Scout Hut of Germantown High School.  About 75 people showed up with nearly as many horses.  The response sparked the whole idea for a horse show.”   

 The first Germantown Horse Show was held in 1947 at a new privately owned show ring and barn located at present-day 7930 Poplar Pike.  Three gentlemen from Jackson, TN (Guy, Exum, and Haskell) were invited to manage and participate in the show.  Hospitality was called for and a square dance was held in the loft of the barn the night before the show – the first Exhibitors Party.  Tradition was established.    

 In 1948, three events were important to the creation of the horse show as we know it today.  Sonny Foster stated that “with the encouragement of Audrey Taylor and Ray Firestone, the LeBonheur Horse Show of Memphis added Local Working Hunter Class, which drew a number of Germantown entries.”  This brought nationwide recognition of the new sport to the community. 

 Also, in 1948, the Oak Grove Saddle Club became the Oak Grove Hunt Club with Raymond Firestone and Sonny Foster as Joint Masters.  With direction from Bart Mueller’s experience in this area, the hunt soon became recognized. 

 The third event was the alliance of the Oak Grove Hunt Club with the Germantown Civic Club, which had long been aware of local interest in gaited and walking horses.  The Germantown Civic Club contributed and participated in many public needs of the community such as supporting the City of Germantown and Germantown High School.  The two organizations perceived that by joining forces, they would provide the drive that would benefit the whole community. 

 Committees from both groups worked together to stage the 1948 horse show at the Ralph B. Hunt Field of M.C. Williams High School in Germantown.  The official program states that proceeds would go to carry on projects of both organizations. 

 The ten afternoon classes were designed to appeal to novices and youthful riders.  It was here that the traditional Costume Class began.  Three hunter classes were interspersed.  The ten evening classes established the all-breed show tradition by scheduling classes for hunters, jumpers, three-gaited, five-gaited, fine harness, roadster and walking horses. 

 At the conclusion of a very successful show, the Horse Show committee from both the Hunt Club and the Civic Club met to evaluate the 1948 show and plan the 1949 show.  All agreed that benefiting a charity would increase public interest and participation, so Gailor Hall for Boys (later called Boys Town) was designated as the recipient of proceeds from the 1949 show.  The 1949 show saw 140 horses from six states compete. 

 By the time that the 1950 show began, the media was reporting that the Germantown Charity Horse Show Association had been formed and chartered by the state.  John R. Stivers was elected the first President in 1950 and the Memphis Union King’s Daughters sponsored the event for the benefit of the building fund of the Home for Incurables, a King’s Daughters’ project.   Author William Faulkner and his family came from Oxford to see the 1950 show.

 So this was the beginning, and growth would continue.  Come out to the next Horse Show  and see how traditions in Germantown live on.

 

 

apouncey@ci.germantown.tn.us
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