Horsing around

Trimble County horse riders
find happiness in the saddle

Campouts and trail rides
are part of Horse Club activities

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (July 2005) – Diana Sharber’s love of horses had led her to become a member of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association. Through this horse riding club, she and her family have made many long-lasting friendships.

Diana and Jim Sharber

Photo by Don Ward

Diana and Jim Sharber of Bedford, Ky.,
are active members of the Kentucky
Mountain Saddle Horse Association.

What began as a hobby has turned into a more stable business. Sharber, 41, lives on a 173-acre farm in Bedford, Ky. With her husband Jim, 60, she raises and trains Kentucky Rocky Mountain horses.
Having grown up around horses in Trimble County, it only seemed natural to Sharber to dabble in the horse industry. The Sharbers have been very active in 4-H clubs with their children, Tray and Katie.
When time came to turn a profit with the farm, “We decided we would rather raise horses than cows,” said Sharber. Since 1997, the couple has bred and sold horses, and currently have 19 of their own.
Since 1998, the Sharbers have been members of the local chapter of the Indiana Members of the KMSHA. The best part of the association is “the friendships we’ve developed and the Christian atmosphere,” she said. The Indiana chapter is headquartered in Danville, Ind., southwest of Indianapolis. The national KMSHA is headquartered in Irvine, Ky.
The local chapter has grown to include 60 or more families, totaling approximately 125 members. It stretches from Northern Rochester, Ind., down into central Kentucky. There is a wide range of membership, from ages 9 months old to riders 85 years old.
Sharber credits Milan, Ind., resident George Ellen Gay-Swinford with getting her involved with the Indiana chapter. Gay-Swinford plays host to two trail rides a year, one on Memorial Day and one in mid-October. Sharber went to one of these rides “and we became good friends,” said Gay-Swinford, 70.
Gay-Swinford lives on a 12-acre farm but holds the trail rides on the property across from hers. The 6,000-acre Versailles State Park has lots of bridle paths and plenty of room for the group for their campouts, said Gay-Swinford.
Sharber said the Indiana chapter of the Association is comprised of “a great family-oriented group of people.” In addition to monthly meetings, the chapter has four major campouts and two fun shows a year. The later shows are for adults and kids, and handicap clubs are invited to join in.
When Gay-Swinford and husband, Carl, hold a campout, a meal is eaten at their home and then the group heads for the state park facility. Gay-Swinford’s first husband, Denver Gay, got her interested in Kentucky Mountain horses by reading about another breed, Rocky Mountain Saddle Horses. The couple saw the horses at the Hoosier Horse Fair and were hooked.
Most Rocky Mountain horses and Kentucky Mountain horses are double registered, said Gay-Swinford. The Kentucky Mountain horse has been bred in the hills of Kentucky for more than 200 years, and used for practical reasons. They are similar to the Rocky Mountain horses.
Robert Robinson began a registry for the Kentucky Mountain horse as a way to preserve the horse. Rules are a lot less “stringent on the requirements for the horse,” said Gay-Swinford. Height requirements are lenient and both the Rocky Mountain and Kentucky Mountain horses have the same gait and disposition, she said.
Grouping them together, Gay-Swinford said, “They are the gentlest breed of riding horse you’ll find and the most people-oriented.” Surprisingly, many people with bad backs take up riding on these horses, she said.
Gay-Swinford owns a few horses that are triple registered. She keeps a stallion and a couple of mares to breed on her farm. Even though she rode when she was young, Gay-Swinford did not take up riding as a hobby until she was in her 40s.
The Sharbers will sponsor their own annual campout and trail ride in September. Their first campout was attended by 60 riders. Now in their sixth year sponsoring a campout, close to 200 riders will participate, said Sharber.
Held last year at Midwest Trail Ride in Norman, Ind., more than 150 people participated in the Sharber’s campout experience. The weekend was packed with many activities, including a judging clinic, demonstrations by an equine dentist, campfire stories, lots of good food and fellowship. Many times the group holds benefit rides, to take up a contribution for an ill child.
The group often travels and vacations together, said Sharber of the local chapter. Last year they attended shows at the Hoosier Horse Fair in Indianapolis and the UMH World Show in Harrodsburg, Ky. Other cities they show in include Ashland, Ohio, Edinburg, Ind., and Logansport, Ind.
Sharber said being a member of the local chapter is “a wonderful way to spend our time and enjoy the magnificent animals God gave us.”

• For more information on the Indiana chapter of the KMSHA, contact Sharber at (502) 255-0109. For more information on the KMSHA, visit www.kmsha.com.

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