For many families, Labor Day means packing up for the last beach trip of the summer. For the Kevin Griner family of Metter, Labor Day packing is a little more complicated than lounge chairs and beach towels. They load up their horse trailer, gather all of the necessary tack, and even put together special equestrian attire to head to the Georgia Federation of Saddle Clubs State horse show at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia. When the 2019 show ended on September 2, the Griner family returned to Metter with three state champions!
The State show in Perry is the culmination of a season of horse shows in which the competitors participate for months accumulating points to earn a spot on the show’s roster. According to Kevin Griner, Georgia is divided into 10 regions with clubs located throughout the state. The Griners are members of the Coastal Empire Regional Club. Each Regional Club is divided into local clubs. The Coastal Empire Regional Club is made up of four or fi ve local clubs located throughout Southeast Georgia. The Bulloch County Horsemen’s Club is the Griner’s home club even though they live in Candler County. “Each club sponsors shows,” explains Griner. “Points are accumulated based on how riders of various ages place in the shows. To participate in the State show, a rider must qualify.” The top six point earners in each age group in the Regional Club move on to compete in the Georgia Federation of Horsemen Show.
Griner, a lifelong equestrian or horseman, says that the entire family is interested in horses. “It’s a family hobby,” he states. The breed the Griners raise and show is Appaloosa horses. The Appaloosa is an American horse breed that is known for its colorful spotted coat pattern. The breed was developed by the Nez Perce indigenous people of the Pacifi c Northwest of the United States. The Griner family’s Appaloosas were in the pleasure or judged events at the recent show. According to Griner, “The State Show is a competition for exhibitors and horses to demonstrate their abilities in Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship, English Pleasure, English Equitation, reining, racking and halter.” Western and English styles of riding are similar with the major difference being the tack, or equipment, used. A western saddleis larger and heavier than the English saddle. This difference is due to the difference in the purpose of riding. The English saddle gives the rider close contact with the back of the horse. Equitation is the art and practice of horsemanship and horse riding. Another difference in the competitions is the wardrobe for each style. The dress for competing in English disciplines is low-heeled knee-high black boots, tan or khaki colored jodhpurs or breeches, a tightly fi tted blouse or top, and a helmet with a short bill. Western riders wear heeled cowboy boots, jeans, and a Western shirt topped off with a cowboy hat.
In this year’s State competition, nine year old Ben Griner was the champion in the age 12 and under western horsemanship category and fourth place in youth showmanship for the same age group. His mount was “Charlie’s Miracle”, who also goes by the name “Lucky.” Sixteen year old Findlay is the 2019 State Champion in English Equitation and fi fth in English pleasure for female riders from the age of 13 to 19. Her mount for the show was “A Frosty Melody,” who also goes by the name “Jack.” Dad Kevin Griner, riding “A Powerful Scotch,” a horse that also goes by the name “Echo,” is this year’s Champion in Western Horsemanship and Reserve Champion, second place winner, in Ranch Pleasure. Winning State Championships is not new business for the Griners. Five out of the family’s six members have won State titles. That includes older son, Ben, and Kevin’s wife, Stacy. Kevin Griner says, “Our youngest child, Madeline, is only six years old and is not old enough to compete.” At the State Championships, Madeline was helping out and cheering on the rest of her family while observing and learning for the time when her days of competing in horse shows begins. In addition to competing through the Georgia Federation of Saddle Clubs, the Griners regularly show in the NSBA, the National Snaffl e Bit Association, World Championships held in Ohio in October and the Appaloosa World Championships held annually in Texas. “We had good luck,” says Griner, as 2019 has been a very good year.