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The Dressage Foundation Century Club

Horses and riders are recognized for competing together through their golden years.

By Kara L. Stewart | May 27, 2014

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Capt. Charles Chapin
Capt. Charles Chapin became Century Team #9 in 1999 with Touche, a Quarter Horse x Arabian born, raised, and trained by Chapin at their farm. Perhaps equally impressive is that Capt. Chapin was able to wear his WWII Marine uniform.
In 1996, The Dressage Foundation formed the Century Club to recognize horse and rider teams whose combined ages total at least 100 years.

The instigator of the Century Club was none other than Dr. Max Gahwyler, who, after coming to the USA in 1952, helped found the American Dressage Institute, the predecessor to the US Dressage Federation. In addition to writing three renowned training books, he has taught riders from children to professionals at the FEI level, and he’s an "S” judge, with experience officiating at U.S. and international championships.

The first Century Ride in 1996 was completed by Lazelle Knocke and her teammate Don Perignon (age 26). That same year, Dr. Gahwyler and his horse Prinz Eugen (age 34) became team #2 in the Century Club. He also earned recognition as team #23 in 2002.

To date, 166 teams have joined the elite group. In addition to meeting the minimum combined years, the team must perform a dressage test, of any level, at a dressage show or event and be scored by a dressage judge or professional. The team only need to ride one test to become a lifetime member in the Century Club.

According to Jenny Johnson, executive director with The Dressage Foundation, "the club has grown exponentially in the past few years. We expect to have at least the same number of teams join the Century Club in 2014 as we have in the past couple years. In 2012, 29 teams earned the coveted black and gold ribbon and award plaque, and 34 did so in 2013.”

Riders’ reasons for becoming Century Club members are as varied as the teams themselves.

"I think the Century Club has been a great source to help mature riders get involved, and stay involved, in riding dressage and it gives us the encouragement we need,” said Colorado-based rider Ginny Wegener (teams #21 and #70). "As we grow older, the bond with our horses becomes even closer and we are fortunate to have more time to ride and enjoy our horses.”

Charles Chapin, from Illinois, has ridden Century Rides on six horses as teams #4, #5, #9, #11, #18, and #26 between 1997 and 2003. "My first two rides were on wonderful old horses, and I realized that each time after that, I could ride younger and younger horses, since I was helping us reach the 100 year age minimum all by myself,” said Chapin. "I rode four more horses that I owned during those years, and one of them was my daughter’s horse. My last team member was still a teenager at age 19 when we became team #26.”

Chapin’s wife Nancy shared that he probably won’t be riding another Century Ride. "Charles said he found it a bit challenging to catch a pastured horse, clean him up, saddle him and then ride, but not until after about age 89.”

Zeb
Carole Nuckton has been editor of the Century Club News publication since becoming team #52 in 2008 with her beloved Arabian gelding, Zeb. Carole and Zeb have been together since 1996.
Carole Nuckton, editor of the Century Club News publication, got her Arabian gelding Zeb the same year the Century Club was founded in 1996. She and Zeb, at age 27, became team #52 in 2008.

"We performed Training Level Test 3, cheered on by my two horsey daughters and other friends. Afterwards friends had planned a party for us, which Zeb thoroughly enjoyed—especially the grapes and tortilla chips,” she recalls.

Nuckton submitted her bio and was asked to edit the five other teams’ bios that year. She has been the newsletter editor ever since.

"I love reading about each new team and seeing the variety of tests chosen,” said Nuckton. "Some teams stick with Intro tests, while others have ridden Prix St. George and higher tests.”

She enjoys talking to riders when she’s finalizing each bio. "There’s one conversation I’ll never forget,” she said. "The rider’s husband answered the phone when I called to ask a few questions about her bio. Not only had he never heard of the Century Club, but he didn’t even know his wife had a horse!”

Johnson believes that as more people hear about the Century Club, they will be inspired to keep riding and set their sights on completing a ride to join the elite Century Teams.

Added Wegener, "Riding keeps me young and my passion alive. I love it.”

Century Club Fun Facts
  • Oldest horse: General Lee, an Arabian x Thoroughbred cross, was 35 at the time of his ride, team #135.
  • Oldest rider: Ruth Peckham (team #29) was 94 at the time of her ride in 2003, and sadly passed away the next year.
  • Rider with most Century Club rides: Charles Chapin from Illinois currently holds the record for six Century Club rides.
  • Most popular Century Club breeds:
  • Thoroughbreds and Thoroughbred crosses: 44
  • Warmbloods (various breeds): 35
  • Arabians and Arabian crosses: 33
  • Quarter Horses and Quarter Horse crosses: 21
How to Become a Century Team
Horse and rider perform a dressage test of any level, at a dressage show or event, and are scored by a dressage judge or professional. There are no fees or dues required to become a Century Club member.

Before riding the dressage test, fill out the application on The Dressage Foundation website, www.dressagefoundation.org/century-club/. After the application is accepted, The Dressage Foundation will send a beautiful black and gold ribbon to be presented to the team at the show. Many teams hold parties back at the barn to commemorate this milestone.

Following the test, the score sheet and several pieces of information are sent to The Dressage Foundation. Once they are recorded, the team will receive a Century Club Award plaque bearing the names of the rider and horse, the year of their ride, and their team number.

For More Information
The Dressage Foundation
1314 'O' Street, Suite 305
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508
(402) 434-8585
www.dressagefoundation.org/century-club/
info@dressagefoundation.org

Like this article? Here's more on keeping senior horses active:
Riding and Training the Senior Horse
5 Tips for Buying an Older Horse
Video: Aged to Perfection


Kara L. Stewart is a Colorado-based freelance writer and editor and lifelong horse owner. She shares life with Eddie, a 25-year-young Arabian gelding, and a very mature donkey Serena. As a writer for Horse Illustrated for more than a decade, she’s covered everything from reining at WEG to native island horses, and her book, "Advanced Western Riding,” 2nd edition, was recently released by i5 Publishing. www.kstewart.com

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Reader Comments

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

5/27/2014 11:05:05 PM

That is pretty cool!

d    d, GA

5/27/2014 7:17:46 PM

c

Pat    Great Falls, MT

5/27/2014 7:05:13 PM

Horse and rider, keeping each other alive.

Amanda    Victor, NY

5/27/2014 2:11:29 PM

I really loved this piece. Truly inspirational for riders of all ages!

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