The early days of the MIHA are blurry because no official records exist. However, here is what the historian committee was able to uncover.
In 1968, a group of parents were involved in an equine census around the same time. After realizing that there were over 10,000 horses in Oakland County, Ed Cheyz, Kelly Lawerance, and Carmi Edwards purposed a school sponsored horsemanship program to the Huron Valley School Board. The School Board recommended holding a horse show to determine the extent of interest in a horsemanship program.
In 1972, a horsemanship committee was formed and the first ever “Father’s Day Show” was held. A portable arena and P.A. system were used to hold the show in front of Milford High School. The show was so successful that it brought in 1,200 spectators, 600 entries, and a profit of $1,700. This success justified establishing an educational horsemanship program. Ed Cheyz, Kelly Lawerance, and Jerry Fuller presented a proposal to the Board of Education. At the same time, the Director of Community Schools, Carmi Edwards, and the horsemanship committee requested that the Board of Education designate 20 acres of land adjoining Milford High School to be used for the horsemanship program, the annual horse show, and the interscholastic equestrian team program. The horsemanship program passed.
The first equestrian team competition was held in the fall of 1973 at the Bogie Lake Country Club indoor facility between 5 schools – Hartland, Howell, Holly, Fenton, and Milford, with 30 to 40 riders competing. No one remembers the outcome. They only remember that is was so much fun, they just had to do it again. Meets were held again in the spring of 1974, the fall of 1974, the spring of 1975, and the fall of 1975.
In 1976, due to the expansion of the program statewide, Huron Valley Interscholastic Horsemanship Association became the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association. On May 16, 1976, the first MIHA State Championship was held at Oak Ridge Stables in White Lake Township, with nearly 600 spectators. Winning the State Championship in 1976 was Romeo.
Also instrumental in those early days were Chuck Schoder and Gerald Fuller, the Milford and Hartland coaches. In 1975, Brighton, coached by Wanda Keech, and Pinckney, coached by Virginia Bennett joined the competition. Also joining in 1975 were teams from New Haven, Romeo, Almont, Oxford, Holly, Howell, Fowlerville, South Lyon, Novi, Northville, and Lakeland. Most of these schools are still competing today.
Wanda Keech, served as State Chairman, and Virginia Bennett served as Vice-Chairman, during the MIHA’s early years. Other past State Chairman includes Bob Kibbie, Phil Tietsort, Larry Flanary, and Chris Cook. Click Here to see the current MIHA Leadership.
By 1978, the MIHA had grown so much it was necessary to divide the schools into “A” division teams (with ten or more riders), or “B” division teams (with less than ten riders). At the MIHA State Championship held in 1978 at Mason, South Lyon won the “A” division and Port Huron won the “B” division that year.
In 1983, Jean Husted became the State Secretary and served until 2004. Other long serving executive board members include Annette Thelen (Treasurer, Vice-Chair, and Jr. Steering Committee) and Bill Tingley (Vice President). By 1994, the MIHA had grown to 6 districts with 678 riders competing state wide. By 1987, the MIHA had 11 districts with 935 riders competing on 120 teams. In 1992, a “C” division was added for teams with four or less riders. In 1994, the MIHA had 14 districts with 173 teams and 1,118 riders.
In 2004, the MIHA started a pilot program for a junior division for riders in sixth through eight grade. The junior division became a formal part of the MIHA in 2006. What a great way to prepare our future high school riders.
By 2005, the MIHA had 2,146 riders on 327 teams in 19 districts. The MIHA State Championship had out grown all available facilities, so it became necessary to add a Regional championship to decrease the size of the State show. The first Regional competitions were held in 2005. In 2006, a “D” division was added for teams with 2 or less riders. The MIHA had 2,090 riders on 332 teams in 19 districts in 2006. In 2009, the MIHA consisted of twenty districts with 342 teams, and 1,934 riders competing statewide.
In 2017, MIHA expanded its Junior Division to now also include 5th graders.
Do you have any history, stories, or important dates about MIHA?
If so, please send them to the Executive Board.