From Barb Sabyan and Memory BC
The Oliver International Horse Show Society was formed in 1969 to provide an umbrella group to organize, manage and promote what had become the largest horse show in the province, and to make it a community day of celebration for Oliver. In 1964, at the request of the Oliver Riding Club (formed in 1949 and later known as the Oliver and District Riding Club), the Kinsmen helped stage the first international horse show. However, the growing involvement of service clubs and individuals made management of this event too difficult for them alone, and the Society was formed. Represented on the directorate were the Kinsmen, the Kiwanis, the Elks, the Royal Purple, the Rotary Club, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Coachmasters Car Club, the Hotel & Motel Owners’ Association, the Oliver Chamber of Commerce, and the Corporation of the Village of Oliver.
The Horseshow was governed by the national rules of Canada, the national Equestrian Federation of Canada, and the Canadian Horse Shows Association. Horse owners from Canada and the United States competed in this annual four-day event. Businesses featured horse-theme window displays and staff dressed in western style. Signs at each entrance to the town proudly proclaimed “Welcome to Oliver, Home of the International Horseshow”. The four-day event included almost every known class of Western and English riding as well as line classes for ten different breeds, cow-cutting, reining, dressage and jumper classes at night (which required that the hockey arena be filled with six inches of dirt and later cleaned up). To round out its largest show in the mid-70s, stables and practice space had to be provided for the no less than seven drill teams each of which had about twenty-four riders. Over a period of fifteen years the Horseshow grew in length to a whole week and to international importance, ranking third only to Vancouver and Calgary among the Western Canadian Equestrian shows.
In 1970 the Horseshow was honored by the Canada Festival of Sports with a four-star rating. It hosted the RCMP Musical Ride in 1977. When several key families left town and the clubs began to feel a drain of energy, the natural result was that the Horseshow became a two-day Quarterhorse show, the last one being held in 1978. The Desert Park Race Track bought the big stable building and set it up in Osoyoos at the track where it serves as a reminder of the great days of riding in Oliver, and meets the needs of today’s race track. Although the Oliver International Horse Show Society is no longer in existence, the Oliver and District Riding Club is still active at Desert Park which is now the centre of riding in the South Okanagan