WALPOLE — Friends and family of Donna Gawron gathered under a slight drizzle Wednesday night at SmithFields Morgans to watch her mark a unique milestone.
Gawron, 67, and her Morgan-breed horse DaVinci Miami Vice, 33, were inducted into the Century Club, a national program through the Dressage Foundation that recognizes dressage riders and horses with a combined age of at least 100.
Since the club’s inception in 1996, it has gained 402 members, with only one besides Gawron from New Hampshire, according to the Dressage Foundation’s website.
The average lifespan of a Morgan horse is between 20 and 30 years, though Anna Smith — co-owner of SmithFields Morgans dressage, pleasure riding and boarding farm — said early 20s is most common in her experience.
To become a Century Club member, riders must pass a test with their horse, according to Smith.
The test is usually done at a formal show, Smith said, but it was too hot for DaVinci Miami Vice, commonly known as “Crockett,” to compete on Fourth of July weekend.
“I was afraid for the horse; I felt it might be too much for him,” Smith explained. “They said as long as the ring was the standard size, we had a judge, and we did everything the same way we would at the show, it was fine.”
Crockett and Gawron completed an intro-level test on Wednesday, which took five minutes. After finishing, the judge presented the pair with a large yellow ribbon to symbolize their membership.
The Century Club is an achievement Gawron, of Walpole, has had her eye on for a few years, after stumbling upon the criteria in a magazine.
“They wanted to do something to promote and honor the older rider,” she said. “They have a lot of things for kids, which is wonderful, but this is something different.”
As Crockett got older, though, he started having some health complications.
Dr. Roger Osinchuk, Crockett’s veterinarian and owner of Crossborder Equine in Springfield, Vt., said the horse has barely any teeth left. This led to difficulty eating and intestinal impactions.
But, Crockett persevered, and still manages to look not a day over 25.
“[I’ve worked with] very few horses that are his age, and none that are really as healthy as him at this age,” Osinchuk said.
Gawron has had a long history with him, starting when he was just a six-month-old foal. Through their time together, Crockett has served as a registered police horse helping with crowd control, an educational horse for 4-H programs and performed in several dressage competitions.
After Wednesday’s induction, Gawron said the membership isn’t about her, but about Crockett.
“I didn’t really want to do it, but I did it for him,” she said. “He’s such a great horse, and I hope he lives for another 33 years.”