In April of 1961, a small group of Morgan owners from Orange, San Diego, and Los Angeles counties decided to get together to discuss the formulation of a new Morgan Horse club.
This first meeting was a pot luck supper held at the home of Bill and Phyllis Matthews in Vista, CA. There were 17 people present a this first meeting and they represented some 64 Morgan Horses. A desire was shown, by those present, to have a Morgan Horse Club in southern California, but no boundaries were to be set as it was felt that a club of this nature was going to grow and be able to sponsor Morgan classes where ever needed. The decided name for this new club was MORGAN HORSE BREEDERS & EXHIBITORS ASSOCIATION.
The first order of business for this new club was the creation of its By-Laws. A committee of four, Bill Mattews, Les Avant, Bob Riding and Frank Waer were appointed to under take this task.
In May 1961, the first officers were elected for the club. President, Bill Matthews, Vice President and Secretary, Bob Riding, Treasurer, Freida Waer, Business Manager, Les Avant, and Parliamentarian, Mrs. Avant. Board of Directors: Frank Waer, Glen Frances, Dick Mears, Jim Robinson and Eve Oakley.
Incorporation of "Morgan Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association" came on November 18, 1961.
The first all Morgan show sponsored by the Morgan Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association, now known as M.H.B.E.A., was held on October 21, 1962, in the Carnation Ring on the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds at Pomona, California. This first show featured a total of 24 classes. Not a bad beginning for a club just starting out. In 1963, the classes were to increase to 37 and continue to climb until 1969 when the show had almost doubled to 60 classes. 1969 also saw the renaming of the show to MORGAN MEDALLION CLASSIC.
In 1970, because of increased costs at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds, the show was moved to the State Fairgrounds in Ventura, CA. The show ad increased to 83 classes and it became necessary to go to three days of showing.
In 1971, a new arena was built at the Ventura Fair Grounds. This new arena was named the "Justin Morgan Arena" honoring the versatile Morgan Horse. The dedication and placement of a bronze plaque was made on August 21, 1971, by the Junior Members of M.H.B.E.A. I believe that Morgan Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association is the first club to cause such an honor on the local level here on the West Coast.
Since the first year of incorporation, M.H.B.E.A. has continued to grow into a club that is known not only here in the west, but on the National level as well.
M.H.B.E.A. has developed a fine Junior Club, the Jr. Blackhawks, which was the first 100% Junior Membership with A.M.H.A. in the nation. They have successfully put on their own open shows in order to raise their own funds for the many activities they wish to undertake.
M.H.B.E.A. has sent its Junior members to participate in the first Grand National Morgan show held in Detroit in 1973. They participated as the official color guard of the show as well as taking an active part in the show itself.
Also participating in the first Grand National were two Morgans owned by M.H.B.E.A. members who captured several of the top honors to be awarded. "Star-Vue Cassiopeia", owned by Bob Reichers and shown by Adele Reichers, was the first Grand National Western Pleasure Champion, National Western Pleasure Ladies Champion, National Western Pleasure Jr. Exhibitors Champion, National Western Pleasure Amateur Reserve Champion and Top Ten Western Trail. "King Stetson", owned by John Cummings and ridden by Marge Riding, was 1st Grand National Jr. Exhibitor Pleasure Driving Champion, driven by Laurena Bell. National Western Trail Reserve Champion, National Western Pleasure Reserve Champion and Top Ten in Amateur Western Pleasure and Jr. Exhibitor Western Pleasure, rider under 18. It's fantastic to think that these two horses were able to come away with more than half the top ribbons offered in the Western division. Our hats come off to these members and their fine Morgans.
The M.H.B.E.A. can also count among its members a Director of the American Morgan Horse Association in the person of Mrs. John Bee, better known to us as simply Polly. She is also National Chairman of the Youth Program which is growing fast and accomplishing much for the youthful Morgan enthusiasts across the nation.
Time and space has allowed me to mention only a few of the highlights which have caused the Morgan Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association to stand out as a progressive club. As this club continues to grow, so will its pages of historical activities. Each and every member is invited to contribute any and all items that will help to record the many activities of this fine club. In so doing, we will help to keep alive the original idea that this club has no boundaries in accomplishing its goals.
Arthur L. Perry, Jr.