The horseback-riding and showmanship Silver State Gymkhana Club began its 30th year at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on April 27 and welcomed new members and “members that we haven’t seen in awhile,” organizer Jill Fry said.
The founder of Silver State Gymkhana Club is Pam Boyer, a South Lake Tahoe resident, who began the club in 1984 after spending time traveling in and out state to attend other gymkhanas.
“She wanted to start something in Gardnerville that was unique to our area, a club for gymkhana events only,” Fry said.
Thirty years later, the club usually has between 80 to 100 members who compete in events such as poles, barrels and figure eight. Age groups range from what the club calls lead line to age 18 and older.
Lead line is when a young girl, as young as one or two years old, sits on top of the horse while a parent or another adult leads them through an obstacle course.
“It’s just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen,” Fry said.
The club has been around long enough now that it has become a multigenerational tradition for some families.
“One of our riders, Caroline Aikens, came back after a three or four year hiatus (this year),” Fry said. “She rode with her daughters when they were young and now her daughters have come back with their families.”
The club’s continuity can be attributed to its focus on family, Fry said.
“This isn’t for professional horse riders, it’s for everyone,” she said. “You can count on us unless something happens like a fire. We don’t cancel on a whim; we plan our lives around this.”
Along with Fry and Boyer, the club is organized by parents and volunteers who run the concession stand, take times of riders and clean arenas.
What sold Fry on the club when she and her daughter joined in 1992 was the club’s commitment to making everyone feel welcome, she said.
The Frys joined the season late, so they did not participate in enough events to receive awards for events won. But that didn’t stop gymkhana from making Fry’s daughter feel special.
“She received a participation ribbon that was as tall as she was,” Fry said. “She was only 9 at the time and I thought her eyes would pop out of her head. I was so impressed that she was recognized for being a member.”
Recognizing the achievements of its horsewomen is what drew Fry to the club.
“It sold me on the club and I just got more and more involved from there,” she said.
The club’s award ceremony is usually held in February or March and Fry said that they may have something special planned for its 30th anniversary at the ceremony.
The club will hold gymkhanas at Douglas County Fairgrounds throughout the summer. The club’s dates are available on its Facebook page at Silver State Gymkhana Club, or contact Fry at 775-772-5554 for membership information and event dates.
The next event starts at 10 a.m. Sunday at Douglas County Fairgrounds.