Connie Swartz looked around the Brookfield Saddle Club grounds and noted that she could identify just about everyone who came out to test their horsemanship skills.
“A lot of these people that are here, they’ve shown for a very long time,” the president of the saddle club said June 3 at the club’s last show.
It’s an ever-shrinking group of people who come to compete; the cost of keeping a horse puts it out of the reach for many people, and 4-H groups are not what they once were.
But, as long as someone comes, Swartz will be there. John Daniels also has signed up for the long haul.
“It’s the love of the horses, the love of the grounds,” Daniels, the club’s go-to guy, said of why he keeps coming back. “This is what I consider a little piece of heaven on the hill in Brookfield.”
The club operates on a shoestring, but that’s part of its appeal. Although it holds sanctioned points shows, it also offers fun shows, where fancy costume is not required, the horses don’t have to be groomed and training equipment is allowed. It’s a great way to get a new horse – or a new rider – accustomed to a show atmosphere, but with less pressure, Daniels said. Plus, the cost is cheap, a $5 gate fee and $1 for each class entered.
For the points shows, riders pay $10 per horse as a grounds fee and a $5 per class entry fee.
Part of the reason for the manageable entrance fees is that the club owns its own grounds at 698 Bedford Road and doesn’t have to rent fairgrounds, as many clubs do.
“We are the only saddle club that owns its own grounds,” Swartz said, a boast that extends into several neighboring counties.
The club was started by Brookfield horse riders and held its first show in 1947 on these grounds, which were owned by the Brookfield Grange, Daniels said. In 1956, the Grange, which was dissolving, sold the grounds to the club, he said.
For many years, people came from as far as New York to compete in Brookfield, and the club had to build a second show ring to accommodate all the riders.
“The show would go on into the evening,” Daniels said.
Even with fewer riders, the shows go on for the better part of a day, starting at 9 a.m. for points shows and 10 a.m. for fun shows, and taking in 72 classes, based on breed of horse and style of riding.
The grounds sit next to Brookfield School District property, and a trail on school property abuts the club’s grounds; so, many students pass by them.
Still, “People don’t know we’re here,” said Swartz, of Hubbard.
All club shows are free to the public. Money is raised from food sales and a Chinese auction.
There are about 15 members of the club, and only about five participate in maintaining the grounds, said Daniels, also of Hubbard. It takes a lot of work to keep up on the care of the 3.5 acres, cutting the grass, mending fences, making sure the electrical connections are sound.
Considering that the club only uses the grounds a few times a year, officials would like to rent the property for events. However, mere control of the property is not enough to open it up to others.
“Our biggest hindrance on the grounds is we don’t have water,” Daniels said.
The club cannot afford to drill a well and has to transport water for its own events. Anyone who would rent the property would have to bring in their own water.
“We would love to have water on the grounds,” Daniels said. “That would open up a world of opportunities for us.”
Until the club can come up with additional ways to make money, it will limp along on donations and entry fees and the good graces of its devoted members, none of whom get paid for their time or effort.
The club holds its next points show Aug. 18, a “big show,” as Daniels described it, with Brookfield United Methodist Church taking over operation of the food booth and helping with sponsorships.
The five-show season ends with fun shows Aug. 19 and Sept. 15.
“Every year, we keep these grounds going and provide a place for people who love horses,” Daniels said. “We do what we can to keep it going and keep it alive.”
The club can be reached at and through its Facebook page.