It may surprise some outsiders to know that in the Turlock Horseman’s Club, horses are secondary.
For decade after decade the long-established Turlock club has drew in the ranks of horse and country living enthusiasts, but the real focus of the club, which is celebrating its upcoming 70th year, has always been on the bonds forged between members and families.
“From the beginning the rule has been that if a person was single they could join on their own, but if a person was married and had a family, then the whole family had to join the club,” said long-time member Bobbie Mello. “They didn’t want to have the club taking away from family time. They wanted the whole family to be a part of it and have fun together.”
“Most of us raised our kids out on those trail rides,” added Jeanette Aja, a long-time member who also was elected as the club’s first female president.
The genesis of the Turlock Horseman’s Club started being kicked around in 1944 and had its first meeting in 1945. It quickly became an active focal point of the Turlock community. They hosted competitions, trail rides, dinners, box socials, holiday parties, roping contests, drill teams, campouts and their annual Junior Rodeo contest, which has been drawing in competitors and crowds alike since 1947.
“The Turlock Horseman’s Club has been a part of Turlock’s history,” Aja said. “If there was something happening in Turlock, something being celebrated, we were probably part of it.”
In 1966 the club found their permanent home when they purchased five acres on S. Tegner Road and brought in the Castle Air Force Base maternity ward to serve as a remodeled club house.
“When we first came out here the weeds were waist high,” Aja recalled. “It was an all volunteer effort to get the place fixed up and they hit the ground running. The members have always been the ones to do whatever needed done at the club.”
In its heyday the club had around 200 members and won several championships in drills and roping events.
Patti Souza, who became a member at age 6 when her father joined, now claims the longest running club membership.
“My mom bought my dad a horse when he came out of the service and this was the thing going for the horsemen at the time,” Souza said.
Souza was a member of the club’s championship drill team — the Cavalier Colts. When she married and started her own family, she made it a point to get them active in the club.
“The club was the best thing that ever happened to my kids,” Souza said. “They had a whole group of parents out here.”
The club will mark their entrance into their 70th year with a special dinner Oct. 4 and a renewed focus on family fun and increasing their membership. Riding or even owning a horse is not a requirement.
“I prefer to ride the fence myself,” said Mary Aguiar, the club’s outgoing president.
The event is set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 4 with the dinner of tri tip and chicken being served at 6 p.m. A dance will follow after. Tickets are $10 and must be reserved by Saturday by calling Mary Aguiar at 664-9430.