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Show Management, It's All In The Family

By Cindy Throneberry

River Ridge Horse Show manager Barbara Dunham has never shown a horse, but that hasn't affected her long term commitment to horse shows throughout the United States.

She got involved with horse shows by necessity. When her son's little league team had no uniforms, Dunham looked around to find ways to raise the money. With a young family and not a lot of resources, she had to be creative. As she surveyed what she had to sell, her attention kept going to the shetland pony that her father, Johnny, had bought for her son when he was six years old. Knowing the importance the pony, (aptly named after her father), had to the family, she never thought about selling him. But she did come up with an idea that was inspired by him. With the determination of a mother who wanted to make sure her son had a uniform, she got a rope and made a ring on the ground and her first horse show arena was created. She got her whole family involved in some capacity and charged a one dollar entry fee for every horse and raised the money to buy the uniforms.Thus, her career in horse show management was born.

For years, Dunham juggled family and her full time job at the Scioto County Clerk of Courts Office and Mitchellace, Inc. with her second job of working horse shows. Over her tenure she has been show manager of the Ohio State Fair, River Ridge Charity Horse Show, Portsmouth Charity Horse Show, Morgan Gold Cup, Nebraska Charity Horse Show, Sunshine Classic, and the Miniature Horse Show. Her show secretary experience includes River Ridge Charity Horse Show, Morgan Gold Cup, Portsmouth Charity Horse Show, Delaware Riding Club Horse Show, Blue Ribbon Fall Classic, ASPC/AMHR National Show, Buckeye Morgan Horse Show, KYOVA Morgan Horse Show, Arizona Cutting Horse Association and the Sun Circuit Quarter Horse Show.

The turning point in her show management career came the day she was introduced to Colonel Raymond Strasburger, the long time manager of the Ohio State Fair Horse Show. Colonel Strasburger, known to be a perfectionist, found his apprentice in Dunham and hired her as his secretary.These two formed a working relationship that would create an excellent team for close to 18 years. When Colonel Strasburger retired, Dunham continued to act as secretary under Roger Klamforth until his retirement. Dunham was then given the position of Horse Show Manager and remained with the Ohio State Fair until her retirement in 1997. During Dunham's tenure under Colonel Strasburger and through her retirement, the Ohio State Fair Horse Show was known as the World's Largest All-Breed Horse Show, playing host to 4-H, Reining, Cutting, Hunters/Jumpers, Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales, Shires, Draft Ponies, Appaloosas, Quarter Horses, American Saddlebreds, Morgans, Hackneys, Shetlands, Arabians, POA's and Paints.

Over the years, Dunham has acted as announcer, secretary, and a variety of other show related duties. Because of her commitment to her family as well as to her job, she decided to have the best of both and integrated her family into her management duties. Daughter Dayne Maple has been the show secretary for River Ridge as well as other shows. This mother/daughter team has proven to be a well oiled machine. Their organizational skills are apparent and come from both having backgrounds working in the court system. Dayne currently works for a Judge in the Scioto County court system.

Although Dunham has never shown a horse, she did pass on her love of the industry to Dayne. Dayne and her daughter MacKenzie both show in the hackney/harness pleasure driving classes with much success. In this year's River Ridge Junior Exhibitor Hackney/Harness Pleasure Driving class, MacKenzie placed second with Governor Casey, the pony she owns with her mother.

Dunham is family oriented, and she has established a professional and friendly team that she takes from show to show. In addition to Dayne and MacKenzie, her usual staff includes Jim Kuhlwein, Steve Moody, Andrew Shupe, Guy Morgan, and Gene Wright. They work together to provide each show with the right atmosphere and environment that appeals to the customers and spectators alike. She is quick to add that she has only been able to do this with the support of her husband Bill. They will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next year.

Though diminutive in stature, she is large in personality and enthusiasm. She is well respected and admired by those who know her. Though she is officially retired, her workload is still heavy with her horse show services. She offers show management and secretarial services as well as referrals for judges, stewards, announcers and ringmasters.

When asked what concerns she may have about the future of horse shows she said the only thing that she worried about was the evolution of the show management positions. She is concerned with what seems to be a dying interest in the positions such as judges, stewards, announcers, organists, etc.

“It seems as if the majority of young people involved in show horses aspire to be involved in some way with the horse industry, but that usually falls into two categories; trainers or veterinarians,” she remarked. Dunham believes it would behoove horse shows to involve the younger generation in a mentoring program to help stir up some interest and experience in these other positions. She has even purchased a keyboard for granddaughter MacKenzie to help her learn that part of the business as well.

During a conversation about one of the larger junior classes, when she saw the disappointment on some of the faces, she recalled something she was told long ago, “It took all of us to make him look that good”. She chuckled and said, “You know, when put in that perspective, all of the hard work that each person does is never for naught - what a good attitude to have.” And on that same note, for her staff's work at River Ridge as well as the other shows she manages, “It took all of them to make all of us look good”.

Dunham will be show manager for other shows this show season, with the next one being the KYOVA Morgan Horse Show in Wilmington, Ohio.

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