In 1960, Willard Deardorff, Joe Hill, Monty Rumgay, Jack Knapp, Dr. Fuisner and Howard Roberts formed what is known today as our Northwest Saddlebred Association. Lyle Cobb was also instrumental in starting the organization and helping to promote the Saddlebred during the NWSA’s early years. It was founded with the American Saddlebred Pleasure horse in mind as well as a Northwest Futurity that would promote breeding of American Saddlebreds. The Association had its first official meeting at the Oregon Horsemen’s Association annual convention. OHA had set a table aside for Saddlebred enthusiasts to get together. Monty Rumgay was elected the first NWSA President. A committee was set up to gather news from other Saddlebred owners in Oregon and Washington. Their goals were to promote the Saddlebred through local horse shows and to fill both performance and halter classes at these shows.
In the late 1960s, a group met at what is now the Congress Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Other meeting places included The Copper Kitchen in Wilsonville and The Ramada Inn in Tualatin. Gene Mace and Gary Holt, both trainers in Oregon, gathered several of their customers for the meetings. Some of the group at that time included Lyle Cobb, Gene and Helen Mace, Joe and Georgia Burgin, Bill and Barbara Blacklaw, Jacquie and Einard Lebeck, Judy Coulson Czyhold, Gayle and Diane Gueck, Ed and Janet Ross and Don Deardorff. The purpose of the group remained simple…to promote the breed through small schooling shows, schedule meetings, decide on the number of Board of Directors, decide on who would serve and to ultimately start a futurity, which would be the focal point of a major horse show that would be produced by the Association. Their owners would be invited to join the Association, as their trainers were predominately Saddlebred trainers. It was not until many years later that Hackneys, Harness Ponies and Road Horses would also be included.
In 1968 and for several years thereafter, the NWSA put on a horse show at the Portland Meadows Race Track in conjunction with a hunter-jumper group. In 1970, the same group put on a major horse show in the Portland Coliseum. Not all of the horse show events were large ones. The early NWSA members have fond memories of the early schooling shows. The shows were usually one or two days. Potluck dinners and baseball games were regular components of these events and everyone pitched in to help. The shows were held in a variety of locations including Canby, McMinnville, Pete’s Mountain Stables in West Linn, McKay Creek Stables, Mt. Solo Stables in Longview, the Old Albany Fairgrounds and the State Fairgrounds in Salem. The Lakefair Classic Show was held at Trails End in Olympia. It was common practice for members of the organization to help run concessions, work in the show office, announce, ringmaster, work the gate and show a horse all in the same day.
Eventually, the three small Spring shows were condensed into one wonderful annual mid-summer show titled “Little Louisville” that was held in Canby, OR. The format consisted of Friday evening classes, Saturday morning classes, an energetic and competitive Saturday afternoon baseball game, late afternoon barbeque, Sunday morning classes and a picnic at noon. Word of the NWSA’s famous hospitality was quickly spreading throughout the Northwest, California and British Columbia.
The first NWSA Fall Classic and Futurity was held in the late 1960s at the Eugene Fairgrounds in the old, old arena, which was small but ample for owners, trainers and a few spectators. A wonderful addition to the Fall Classic in the early years was Pam Liedke Christensen who sang the National Anthem at the beginning of each performance. She also organized activities and projects for the junior members of the NWSA.
In early 1978, due primarily to the efforts of the NWSA, their members in the Willamette Valley and other horse interests in the Eugene area, the Eugene County Commissioners decided to build the present Convention Center and to build an arena (now the ice arena) with stabling for 200 across the parking lot. In later years, NWSA members, among others, were instrumental in obtaining approval for another new arena and an additional 100 stalls. The County realized the importance of bringing major shows to the Eugene area. During this period, the Futurity group had also organized a successful stallion auction as part of the Fall Classic. They were able to increase the amount of money paid out, which in turn, encouraged more Futurity nominations. After several years, the stallion auction was moved to the annual banquet.
As the Association grew, members began looking for ways to communicate with other members. Barbara Blacklaw began writing a monthly publication named “Good Go”. Bill Blacklaw did the printing in their basement using a mimeograph machine. When Barbara, after several years, decided she had too much to do as Secretary of both the NWSA and the Futurity, Ellen Bechtold took over. Following Ellen came Jacquie LeBeck, Sheila Hall Cameron, Edward Morris and Ed and Janet Ross, who continue serving as Editors. Barbara Blacklaw and Jacquie LeBeck also felt that the NWSA needed a yearly membership directory. Together, they started in Washington at Chuck Court’s Stable, and proceeded down to Southern California, stopping at all the Saddlebred barns along the way to get ads and new members for the directory. It was published for several years and added additional members and advertisers each year. These two creative and dedicated NWSA members also published a monthly newspaper called “Saddlehorse West” which covered all Saddlebred activities on the West Coast.
In the 1960s, a notable function organized by members of the early NWSA was the hosting of the national American Saddlebred Pleasure Horse Convention in Portland. Over 200 people from around the country attended including Irene Zane (who was instrumental in promoting the Saddlebred as the ideal pleasure horse) and C.J. Cronan, Registrar in the national breed headquarters.
During the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, the members organized many special events. A progressive barn tour by bus that included delicious food at every stop was capably arranged by Brooke Deardorff and the Futurity Committee. The sires, dams and Futurity prospects impressed the more than one hundred attendees. Dr. Alan Raun accompanied by his delightful wife, Dottie, conducted this Futurity fundraiser, which is still considered to this day to have been the most successful ever held. Many of the events and annual meetings hosted guest speakers including Lillian Shively, Judy Werner and Keith Bartz. During the 1980s, Donna Hall and her daughter, Sheila, organized a riding clinic conducted by Rob and Sarah Byers as the guest instructors at the Eugene Fairgrounds. In Washington, Les Corbett and Mary Zeeb of Marywood Farm hosted a clinic with Jane Bennett sponsored by Jacquie LeBeck and Donna Hall. In addition, Clarissa and Doug Cross organized a similar event with Gayle Lampe. These valuable activities provided for the members were educational as well as instrumental in developing a strong sense of community and involvement throughout the year. The highly anticipated Summerfest Fun Show in the 90s was hosted by Singing Hills. It ran for one and a half days and concluded with a memorable Saturday evening barbeque.
The Silver Circuit Awards program was created in the early 70s by the Board and a committee consisting of Jerry Beghtol, Brooke Deardorff, Ed Ross and Polly Cohan, who was the first High Point Secretary. It was felt that the NWSA as a group should honor those horses and exhibitors who had achieved success in the horse show arenas in the Northwest that featured classes for American Saddlebreds. Awards for Hackney Ponies and Road Horses were added later.
In the mid-80s, Lew Brinegar, President at the time, suggested the idea of a “Hall of Fame” Award to recognize individuals who had contributed significantly to the American Saddlebred industry and to the Association. For ten years, this was the highlight of the annual meeting. After being revived in the past few years, the Hall of Fame has expanded to include our great horses, trainers and individuals.
All of the horse shows, meetings, publications and events would not have occurred without countless hours of volunteer work from many of the members. Early members like Bert Corby, A.J. “Bud” and Betty Tucker, Willard and Betty Deardorff, Gene and Helen Mace, Joe and Georgia Burgin, Lyle Cobb, William and Barbara Blacklaw, Gary and Audrey Holt, Ben and Lynn Langston, Sue Duncan (now Swango), Ed and Janet Ross, Lew and Julia Brinegar, Donna Hall, Sally Spalding, Mary and Jim Zeeb, Jacquie and Einard LeBeck, Ken and Aggie Maxson, and many others truly made the NWSA successful and helped to bring the Saddlebred industry to the forefront in the Pacific Northwest. The NWSA is the only Charter Club in Region 2 that is recognized by the American Saddlebred Horse Association in Lexington, Kentucky. Our membership area has now been expanded to include horse enthusiasts from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Western Canada.