By Lois Tomaszewski
For IN|FW Newspapers
COLUMBIA CITY —The philanthropy and community service provided by Shriners nationwide is well known and acknowledged. The efforts taken to raise awareness and funds for children’s hospitals has earned the fraternal organization accolades. This time, a local group of Shriners is celebrating their own accomplishment within the international organization.
The Mizpah Shrine Horse Patrol earned first place honors in the International Imperial Session in Nashville, Tennessee over the July 4th holiday. It competed against nine horse units with up to 80 horses in total.
“At this year’s imperial session, it was an honor to bring home first place and bragging rights for a year,” commented John VanVoorst, drill team captain.
The Mizpah Shrine Horse Patrol has been around since the early 1950s. Members not only take part in the drill team, but maintain grounds to host horse shows throughout the year, with proceeds benefiting children’s hospitals. These show fundraisers have been going on for 65 years.
With the motto, “We Ride So Others Can Walk”, the drill team compete one to two times per year, at the Great Lakes Shrine Convention and the Imperial Shrine Convention. The drill team is comprised of seven members, all of whom ride and own golden palomino horses: Ray Giant, Ed Howard, Jerry Jenkins, Steve Scott, Jeff Wooley, Justin Smith and John VanVoorst.
“Normally we try to practice every week on Thursday night for one and a half to two hours on our competition drill and also parade maneuvers,” Van Voorst said. “Through the years we have traveled the U.S. and Canada for parades, president inaugurations and drill competitions.”
Drill teams are judged on a variety of criteria. This includes tack, spacing on maneuvers, uniformity, horse behavior and a time element, Van Voorst explained.
“We ride in a military form,” he said.
The drill is performed at three gait, a walk, trot and canter. It averages between 15–17 minutes in length, determined in part by the size of the arena.
About 50 members are part of the Horse Patrol unit and are involved in helping with the charity horse shows and other activities. These activities support 22 hospitals for children.
The Mizpah Shrine Horse Patrol is getting ready for its charity horse show on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25. Five different shows take place on the horse show grounds, including the equestrian disciplines of English, Western, Dressage, Hunter and a fun show. Each show has its own judge and focus but all competitors can move from one show to another and try any of the classes offered, according to the show information webpage.
Proceeds from the charity horse show benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. This is one of the largest pediatric sub-specialty health care systems in the world, according to information on the Patrol’s website.
The horse show grounds are located at 965 North SR 9 in Columbia City. Spectators are welcome and parking is free.