In the summer of 1979, a group of Howard County parents decided the quality of horse shows in Howard County was not acceptable. At many of these shows the footing was often hard and rocky, courses in the rings were unmeasured, jumps could be anything from loose barrels to straw bales, jumps were set improperly, many judges lacked qualifications, schooling areas were rarely provided and safety was not a priority. They headed to Carroll, Montgomery, and Baltimore counties where the horse shows were a vast improvement.
In January of 1980, Ann Cockrell and Tricia Scarcia called a meeting of local horse people and suggested forming a Howard County Horse Shows Association. Many attendees voiced their doubts that an organization could be formed and a schedule activated on such short notice. Not to be deterred, a few believers went to work. Within a month, the HCHSA was established with a membership of 55. It was founded with the goal of providing safe, enjoyable, high quality local horse shows.
Eddie Jolles served as the first President, with Gretchen Mobberley as Vice President, Candy Jolles as Secretary, Tricia Scarcia as Treasurer, and Regina Willoughby as the keeper of the points. The first show was held at Maple Springs Farm on Burnt Woods Road. Other shows held that summer included the hunt clubs at Howard County and Taylorsville Hunts, Howard County Fair, Turf Valley Country Club, and Bobby Cook’s farm on Gorman Road. The first banquet was held at Toby’s Theatre in Columbia. In 1983 the banquet was held at Turf Valley in Ellicott City, an annual tradition that has endured for the past 35 years. The banquet continues to offer beautiful ribbons and prizes and many historic perpetual trophies.
Over the years, with input from the membership, improvements have been implemented as the Association changes and grows. New venues have been added, and divisions dropped or added according to interest and participation. The shows are rated by the Maryland Horse Shows Association as Regional shows. Junior and Adult Medal classes were followed by Pony, Children and Short and Long Stirrup Medals. An exciting Medal Finals day is held at the end of the season. A hunter derby was added in 2012 and is now known at the Home Run Hunter Derby. The Junior Achievement Scholarship began in the 1980s, awarding $500 to a junior rider who exhibited excellent horsemanship as well as strong academics. In 2016 this Scholarship was renamed the Gretchen Mobberley Achievement Scholarship and now awards $3,000 to a high school or college student.
In keeping with technology, the Association has transitioned to a paperless environment. Exhibitors may register as members, complete entry forms, and check their point standings online. Hopefully, members old and new will appreciate how HCHSA continues to accommodate its exhibitors.