After a 20-year hiatus from showing horses, an 85-year-old Tiffin native was awarded the Century Club award from The Dressage Foundation Saturday.
Elinor Spellerberg (Elli to her friends) and her horse became just the third team from Ohio and the 98th nationally to achieve the honor.
Spellerberg's horse King Solomon, also known as Johnny, was purchased from a farm in Connecticut four years ago. He is 20 and combined with Spellerberg's 85 years, the team qualifies for the Century Club.
Elinor Spellerberg competes Saturday in Delaware, Ohio, in her bid to join the Century Club.
The Century Club requires horse and rider to have the combined age of 100 years or more and to perform a test that is judged.
"The horse and rider team must ride any level dressage test at a show.
"Dressage judges score the test on a range from 0 percent to 100 percent. Because dressage is an ongoing learning process, a score of 100 percent isn't exactly attainable," Jenny Johnson, administrative director for the Dressage Foundation, said. "For the purposes of the Century Club, a certain score is not required. We really just encourage the team to get in the ring and have fun."
Spellerberg received a 62.75 percent on her test. Besides rain, ice and cold, the show went very well, she said.
She was presented with the Century Club ribbon and wall plaque that she has displayed in her home.
"I am absolutely thrilled. It was great fun," Spellerberg said.
"Most of all, my life with horses and kids has been wonderful and after 20 years not being able to show, there I was, down centerline trying out for the Century Club," she said.
Spellerberg has been riding horses since she was 6 on her grandfather's farm in Indiana.
"I learned to ride on work horses while my grandfather plowed," Spellerberg said.
When her family began moving often while her father fixed up Dust Bowl farms, Spellerberg didn't get to ride often, she said.
Spellerberg went to Ohio State University for a medical technology degree.
"I then met and married Tom Spellerberg, who was attending Law School at Ohio State and had five children, I never used the degree," she said.
In 1950, Tom and Elinor moved to Tiffin after Tom graduated from law school and passed the bar.
"Tom and I were driving around northwest Ohio and liked how Tiffin looked," Spellerberg said.
"Tom bought me my first horse, Mica, after my children were born," she said. "Mica taught all my kids how to ride."
Spellerberg first heard about dressage 40 years ago from an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The article was about a dressage demonstration sponsored by Laddie Andahazy, former director of Lake Erie College's Equestrian program. Andahazy, who died in 2002, created the program in 1956.
As defined by the Dressage Foundation dressage is derived from the French verb "to train." It is an Olympic level equine sport based on classical principles of horsemanship. It involves tests designed to gauge the training level of horses.
"I went and became fascinated. I wanted everything I could get to be involved," Spellerberg said. "I went to every judge's forum and clinic imaginable."
"At a clinic I learned under Gabor Foltenyi. I drove 150 miles north of Detroit every week to take a lesson," said Spellerberg.
Foltenyi, a former cavalry commander in Hungary, was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in April.
Spellerberg was a 4-H leader, worked on the State 4-H Horse Committee, ran the 4-H English Division of the Ohio State Fair, wrote the 4-H Dressage Manual and workbook, wrote "The Test," a book containing dressage training lessons to get a horse started, and became a dressage judge.
In her free time, Spellerberg likes to paint, knit, read and give the occasional dressage lesson.
Spellerberg also was responsible for Hope on Horseback Handicapped Riding Program, the first 4-H handicapped riding program in Ohio.
The program was an all-volunteer, non-profit organization under the Betty Jane Therapeutic Center and 4-H umbrellas, Spellerberg said.
"We did Hope on Horseback for 18 years. I don't think you can do programs like that anymore, too many rules and regulations," she said.