The seeds of our organization were sown in 1969 when Dr. Carolyn Ziegler secured two Paso Fino classes in the Ohio Western All breed Fall Roundup—the first time paso finos were exhibited north of Atlanta. The horses were very well received and the stall area was crowded with curious and interested onlookers. It was a tremendous change of pace from the all western aspect of the show.
Shortly after the first exhibit in 1969 a regional group was formed. The officers were Dr. Carolyn Ziegler, President and Robert Reis, Secretary/Treasurer.
At this time, our organization was known as the American Paso Fino Horse Association (APF). We managed to secure 10 horses to exhibit during those four days. George LaHood and Cese Figuera came from Valdosta, Ga., bringing Mar de Plata, Bolero and Singer. Kenny Ziegler entered Oasis Z and Sombra LaCE, Dr. Ziegler exhibited La Patrona, Mr. and Mrs. Herb Whitacre brought El Cid and Chapalla, as well as John Moore and Dick Bailey brought horses to that first exhibit. In 1970 we again returned to the Fall Roundup to exhibit.
Within the two years, classes were obtained in many all-breed shows in Alliance, Hudson and Ravenna, Ohio and Bay City, Michigan. In 1971 we were invited to display our horses at the very prestigious Rolling Rock Steeple Chase at Ligonier, Pa. Our horses were stabled in the famous Mellon Barns, a spectacular layout where even the dog kennels were built to look like another house so they wouldn't spoil the landscape. We were supposed to be furnished with our own grooms and sable boys, but shortly after we arrived, they disappeared. Evidently they had decided the group with the Paso Finos were not socially up to par as we had to groom our own horses! A million dollars worth of trophies were displayed in the barn area and all the society of Pittsburgh saw our horses perform during that week.
Things moved rapidly from that point on and during January 1972, the Great Lakes Paso Fino Federation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Ohio by Leonard Reith, Herb Whitacre and Dr. Carolyn Ziegler. The term "Federation" became part of our name through a chain of events at the original meeting. We first chose Great Lakes Paso Fino Association but the President of APF objected to the word "Association," as he felt it would be confused with the American Paso Fino Horse Association (APF). We then decided to use the term of the oldest Puerto Rican organization, which was "federation." We are therefore, the oldest incorporated region in PFOBA. In May of that year we held our first all Paso show and had 21 horses. The show was approved by the American Paso Fino Horse Association. It was a short lived organization formed by some members of APF to actively promote the showing of our horses and in the Summer 1972, most of the people involved in it formed the PASO FINO OWNERS & BREEDERS ASSOCIATION (PFOBA), in Knoxville, Tenn.
Two couples from Great Lakes, Leonard Reith and Dr. John and Carolyn Ziegler, were among those involved in the founding of PFOBA. During 1972 a total of 10 couples, including the Reith's and Ziegler's put up $1,000 each for a total of $10,000 to get the organization off the ground.
The early history of Great Lakes would not be complete without mentioning Kenneth Ziegler of Salem, Ohio. Originally an appaloosa breeder, he saw an article in the Western Horseman about the paso fino by Rosalie MacWilliam and contacted her. While in Puerto Rico, he has her select four paso finos for him—Oasis, a seal brown stallion, son of Batallia San Lorenza; a black mare with her foal; and two other mares, one in foal. These two foals, La Patrona Z and Zorra Z, were purchased then Dr. Carolyn Ziegler.
Ziegler later imported other paso finos and in the late 60s and early 70s had a herd of 25 to 30 paso finos. He was extremely active in our breed and was one of the founding members of Great Lakes. His stallion, Oasis was shown very little, but his influence in the Great Lakes was exceptional. In 1969, he was the APF "Sire of the Year," siring 27 foals that year alone.