History of the Brazos Valley Driving and Riding Club (December 2014)
The long history of the Brazos Valley Driving and Riding Club is one of change and growth. It began in 1976 when local Texan Homer Easterwood wrote to fellow “buggy nuts” to find out whether there was interest in forming a SouthWest Region of the Carriage Association of America. (Easterwood is a past president of CAA.) Only two years later CAA-SWR was recognized by CAA. Current members Jane Anderson, Bernice and John Paul Smith, and Tommy Groth were among the “Buggy Nuts,” so-called by Robert Strange, another early founder of the club that became BVDRC. He hosted one of the first pleasure drives at his home in Gay Hill near Brenham. Robert Strange had a beautiful brick carriage house full of antique carriages. He drove a beautiful Canadian Warmblood 4-up hitch. In 1982 he organized a memorable weekend of driving at Hodges Gardens in Louisiana (complete with picnics and an optional obstacle course competition).
Another memorable drive took place on Texas A&M campus in 1984. Jane drove her Arabian Amyr from Luby’s (now Cafe Eccell) to campus without incident. By the time of the return trip, traffic had increased. The driver of an l8-wheeler stopped traffic to let Jane drive by. A policeman came by and gave her a ticket for interfering with the right-of-way. The following year, Jane organized a pleasure drive as part of the Calvert Tour of Victorian Homes. Later Jane arranged another pleasure drive in Calvert. Other pleasure drives were also at interesting locations such as beautiful Camp Allen near Navasota and at historical Round Top and Winedale.
Public and private parks and member’s places were also headquarters for pleasure drives. The 2004 Halloween drive at the Fuermann’s hilarious with a kissing witch.
In 1983 CAA-SWR held the first ever ADS-approved combined driving event (COE) in Texas at the Stewart Morris family ranch in Wharton. This “Foggy Bottom” event was repeated in subsequent years. In 1985 the Houston Area Carriage Association (HACA), recognized by CAA. HACA continued to sponsor CDEs in Texas. The 2001 Miracle Farm CDE, Brenham, was especially memorable for BVDRC’s work, not only competing but helping to construct and decorate obstacles and serving as “hazard” judges, scribers timers. (Also in 2001 CAA-SWR became Brazos Valley Driving and Riding Club. Both clubs are listed as chapters on CAA’s web site.) Both clubs participated in many driving events such as those held by Tom O’Carroll, Mike McLennan, the Garretts, and others. Some were very competitive and some were mostly just for fun.
HACA sponsored the first arena driving trial (ADT) in Texas in 2001. An ADT is a one-day event, held in an arena, with competition modeled after CDEs – dressage, “cones” course, and obstacle driving in place of a marathon with “hazards.” HACA continued to sponsor ADTs and BVDRC sponsored four.
Our club sponsored three open driving shows at Cedar Trace in the South College Station area. Later the club supported shows that had driving classes such as BAHA and Royal Legend open horse shows. We also supported educational clinics on driving and “despooking,” and a seminar on horse liability. We can’t overstate the influence of Tom O’Carroll on our driving community. Over the years he taught many a drivers and would-be driver in private lessons and clinics one of which was “Teaching Your Horse To Drive” sponsored by BVDRC at Dick Freeman arena 15 years ago. An unusual club occasion was “hilltopping” at Longacre Hunt at Ruth O’Hara’s ranch near Marquez. We participated for two or three years until Jane Hafner’s Standardbred Miss Daisy got ahead of the hunt and we were not invited back.
The major summer event of the club is Equestrian Market Day, inspired by Tommy Groth. The first sale was held in 1992, at the Louis Pearce Pavilion. The second was in 1994 and every year since then, moving to the Brazos Valley Expo Complex in 200X
For some years in the early 2000s BVDRC held its Christmas parties at the Calvert Inn. Over the years, the club held annual Christmas parties at various restaurants and at occasionally members’ homes. These festive occasions gave life to traditions such as the silent auction, gift exchange, and the ruffled red shirt. The shirt tradition started when Lynn Still made Delbert wear a ruffled red shirt, which was subsequently passed to willing husbands coaxed by their wives.
Most of this information came from the club’s newsletters that were very important in communicating our activities and consequently preserving club history. The essential newsletter editors were, chronologically: Jane Anderson (1982-85) Sarah MacNeil Martin, (1986-90) Helen Hogan (1992-97), Kathy Teel (1997), Dorothea Mangum (1997-1999), Vita (1997-2005) with Linda Yutzy designer (2001-2004), Margo Goff 2005.