2015 Ohio Buckeye Sweepstakes

By Linda White

A map of the 360-acre Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds shows Building 12, the coliseum, looking small and insignificant among the sprawling grandstands, race tracks, and lakes. For Arabian horse people, however, the old coliseum is filled with 52 years’ worth of memories: memories of the Ohio Buckeye Sweepstakes. Examples are endless, but longtime Buckeye patrons treasure the indelible image of horseman Bob Hart, Sr., bursting through the in-gate on *Aramus (Nabor x Amneris, by Amurath Sahib), who wasn’t just white; he was silver. For many, *Aramus remains the most beautiful horse they ever saw.

What about the versatility class at the 1976 Buckeye, when Gene La Croix, in a motor cycle helmet, jumped the *Bask son Bomarc, and Sheila Varian held up a hula hoop, bedecked with paper streamers, to create a private “dressing room” for Gene while he changed into his chaps and cowboy hat! Remembering all those glorious Buckeye champions who went on to become national champions can bring more than a few tears. That was back in the day, but the Buckeye is still held at the same place, over Memorial Day weekend. And the Buckeye is still the show where timeless memories – and national champions – are made.

The Buckeye is as prestigious as ever. Like many Class “A” shows, the Buckeye has experienced fewer entries in recent years, but a win at the nation’s second-largest Class “A” show is still an important stepping-stone on the path to national acclaim. Regional championship shows are now scheduled earlier in the season, creating scheduling conflicts where once, there were none. Undeterred, trainers, exhibitors and breeders continue to bring their finest to Columbus, Ohio the third week in May.

“It’s a spectacular show, with national champion competition,” says Cathy Vincent. “My crew and I look forward to it every year. The Buckeye is also a good barometer for seeing what your horse needs to win at the national level. I’ve brought horses here who have won at Scottsdale, and then gone on to win at nationals. My horses like the ring, and they like the footing.

“I’ve been coming to the Buckeye since 1986, and I judged it in 1987,” continues Vincent, who has owned and operated Adandy Farm, in Greenwood, Delaware since 1967. “This show has a lot of things going for it,” she adds. “You see the best of the best – of both horses and horsemen. You can look at almost any class and see current and previous national champions in there competing.”

“I have shown at the Buckeye nearly every year since 1982,” says Tom Theisen, trainer at Conway Arabians. “The quality of horses shown there is astounding- truly the best of the best. It’s a great show to gauge your horse’s potential at a national level, because if you’re competitive here, you will absolutely be competitive at US Nationals. It’s been proven, time and time again.

“And the show staff, led by Cindy Clinton, is second to none. She communicates directly and frequently with every exhibitor and judge, to make sure the show is run efficiently, and that everyone has a good time. The office staff and barn and stabling staff have always been friendly and cooperative. There are terrific services available, such as pre-bedded stalls, which is so helpful for weary long-distance travelers. The stalls are good-sized, safe, and easy to set up.

“As far as the judging,” Theisen continues, “there are always two Nationals judges, which is great for obvious reasons. I like that the third judge is not one; in fact, the third judge is often a newer judge: a great opportunity for them! I have always said that the Buckeye is my favorite show, and these are a few reasons why.”

Cindy Clinton, the Buckeye’s manager for 15 years, has witnessed the show’s ups and downs in recent years. “We had a few more entries this year than we did last year,” she begins. “Considering that we have lost eight big farms due to conflicting show dates, I was happy with this year’s numbers. Do I wish we had had more entries? Of course I do.

“We would like to have had more western horses, but the Region 9 Championship Show conflicts with our show dates. Several of the largest western barns are in Texas and Oklahoma, which is Region 9, so we lost quite a few there. Our youth participation was definitely up, however, as were our amateur classes. Many amateurs are choosing to show their own horses, rather than have their trainers show them - which meant that, except for the junior horse classes, the majority of our open class entries were down. We have been watching this trend for the past several years. And, with fewer horses being bred, it follows that we will be seeing fewer horses competing. As in the past, however, you can always look out in the ring and see that the quality is still there.”

“That’s right,” agrees Tim Shea. “There may not be as many horses here, but the quality absolutely is as high as it has ever been. When I look at some of these classes - the amateur English and country English pleasure, for example, there are some of the nicest horses out there that I’ve seen in a long time. I saw an English horse that took my breath away! The youth classes had national caliber horses, too. We’ll never go back to the day when a thousand horses would come to the Buckeye, but the quality and excitement are still here.”

Trainer Ashley Roberts has been coming to the Buckeye for years. He wonders about the changes in show scheduling. “The Region 12 show is earlier than it used to be,” he muses. “They’ve moved the Region 9 show, too. Those two Regionals used to be two or three weeks apart, and there was never a conflict with the Buckeye. Now, the three shows are almost concurrent.” He shakes his head.

“The year I judged here,” Cathy Vincent remembers, “we had two days of halter cuts, there were that many entries.” Today….” Fewer halter horses at the 2015 Buckeye reflects the decline in halter entries at Class “A” shows all over the country.

Judging the 2015 Buckeye were Kathy Callahan Smith, of Temecula, California; Martha Murdock-Rattner, of Georgetown, Kentucky; and Michael Whelihan, from Eatonville, Washington.

“My first Buckeye was probably 1984,” states Whelihan. “I just came to spectate; the first time I showed here was 1988. The best classes I saw this year were predominantly saddle seat: English pleasure and country English,” he explains, “and there were many really good horses here this year! The amateur classes were full of nice horses. Some got no ribbon because there weren’t enough ribbons to go around, but I saw a lot of horses who should do extremely well at U.S. Nationals.

“There weren’t a lot of western horses, but the high end of the western division looked extremely good. The majority of the best horses I saw were in the saddle seat classes: very strong. There were quite a few young riders, and the saddle seat equitation riders in the 14 to 18 age group? Almost every rider has the ability to go to Youth Nationals and do very well.

“I had not judged the Buckeye before,” Whelihan continues. “The staff and volunteers were unbelievably helpful, polite and respectful.”

“Cindy Clinton is the ultimate exhibitor’s show manager,” says Cathy Vincent. “Cindy’s first priority is always the horses and the horsemen. She and her crew know what we need, and do their best to see that those needs are met. She believes in the National Show Horse, and makes their District One Championships something to be proud of.”

The Progressive Barn Party, held late Friday afternoon, before the evening classes, is a popular Buckeye tradition. People move from stall area to stall area, sampling delicious appetizers and entrees from many countries, and top off the movable feast with an assortment of luscious desserts. “Everybody seemed to have fun!” notes Clinton. “Usually, the desserts are the highlight, but this year was different. We had a great selection of foods: Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese … and a lot of stables offered complete meals.

“We would like to thank everyone for the trouble and expense they go to every year, to guarantee a good time for everyone. The Progressive Barn Party was definitely a highlight of the show!” Any unusual challenges this year?

“We had major obstacles with the facility this year,” Clinton replies. “The Ohio Expo Center is building another 1,000 stalls, adding another arena, replacing the 1,000 stalls in the building we use; and replacing the lighting, sprinkler system, and making other repairs. It wasn’t easy to have the work going on during our show, but they did bring in incredible new portable stalling, and set it up in the half of the barn we have always used for the commercial vendors, and ‘bounce house’ for children. To make a long story short, we did have some difficulties with unloading, but everyone worked together, and it all turned out fine. We’re looking forward to all the new changes to the facility for next year.

“We have been fortunate not to have been priced out of the facility,” she continues. “Our costs have gone up, but we haven’t passed them on to our exhibitors; we have raised our fees very little in the last 10 years. We’re hoping that with all the work being done at the fairgrounds, they won’t make a huge increase in our costs. That being said, they haven’t brought up raising their prices for next year, so we’re all thinking positive!

“The Buckeye Arabian and Half-Arabian Association’s Board of Directors and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support,” she adds. “We know it’s a tough schedule, with school ending and graduations, but we continually try to improve the show’s schedule, while doing our best to give our exhibitors what they ask for. We look forward to hosting everyone again next year.”

Aslo read: 2013 Ohio Buckeye horse show