Celebrating Equestrian Life
Virginia is Horse Country. Plain and simple. Equestrian culture is the lifeblood of the Middleburg and Loudoun County areas, where traditions of hunting, breeding and racing date back to the Revolution. Just as entertainment is the industry and culture of Hollywood, so it goes for horses and the Piedmont. Just walking through Middleburg, there is no mistaking the town’s deep-rooted affection for all things equine, as storefronts like the Red Fox Inn, Journeymen Saddlers, Middleburg Tack Exchange and the National Sporting Library and Museum line its main street.
The surrounding area is home to the longest standing equestrian traditions in the country, from annual sporting events to hunt clubs and breeding. For more than 150 years, horse enthusiasts from across the world gather in Upperville for the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest of its kind in the country, and one that has broken a lot of ground in its lifetime. Founded in 1840, the Piedmont Foxhounds in Virginia was the first foxhunting club in the United States. There even are records indicating that while the earliest politicians were settling matters of our government’s foundation, they once interrupted their proceedings to mount their horses and join the chase when a hunt coursed through.
Of course, there is the world famous Gold Cup steeplechase race at Great Meadows in The Plains, which just took place on May 4 to a crowd of some 50,000 attendants. The competition’s six hurdle and timber horse races as well as its Jack Russell Terrier races are anticipated equestrian events worldwide (they are well known testing grounds for future Olympic champions), and draw countless vendors, tents and tailgaters.
KESWICK HORSE SHOW
May 14 – 19
Around Charlottesville, south of Middleburg and Upperville, The 109th Annual Keswick Horse Show will be held again at the historic Keswick showgrounds from Tuesday, May 14 through 19, 2013. The events this year include the Eastminster Dog Show on Wednesday night, May 15, and the “Getting Centered” dinner and silent auction to benefit the Senior Center of Charlottesville on Thursday. The weekend starts with the USHJA National Hunter Derby followed by dinner under the tent Friday night.
Saturday is always a special gathering for the entire community as the Jumper Classic is a beautiful evening that has become a Keswick tradition. Finally, Sunday’s Down Home Fish Fry on the porch will be a relaxing conclusion to a wonderful week. www.KeswickHuntClub.com
54TH ANNUAL HUNT COUNTRY STABLE TOUR
MAY 25 – 26
Trinity Episcopal Church will host its 54th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour in and around Upperville on Memorial Day weekend, May 25 and 26. A self-guided, countywide tour of all things equestrian, farms, stables and training tracks throughout the county will open their doors for visitors to offer a rare glimpse into the life and industry of the world or horses. The Country Fair at Trinity Church, on the grounds of the church, will also feature horse-themed arts & crafts in conjunction with the event, serving ice cream, treats for dogs and cats and more.
“The Stable Tour is a unique opportunity for the farmers to finally get their barns painted and show them off and teach people about what goes on at each farm,” says Betsy Crenshaw, of Trinity Episcopal Church. “And visitors are not otherwise allowed on these farms—these are privately owned farms and businesses. But this weekend, guests can enjoy these beautiful facilities, pet horses and feed them carrots, and enjoy this beautiful exchange. It’s also a day in the country—a chance to ride on some dirt roads, get your car good and dirty, and see what makes our area tick—which is the horse.”
Among the tour highlights is the Middleburg Training Track, an early-bird special for true horse lovers. This stop is an opportunity to stand rail-side and see Thoroughbreds condition and train. “This is where horses all around Virginia are trained to be race horses,” says Crenshaw. “If they are born here, they learn to be racehorses here.”
Horses are sent here as yearlings to be broken and begin their preliminary training before proceeding onto national and international tracks. Horses are conditioned year-round and ship out on race day from the track to compete. Built in 1956 by Paul Mellon, the facility features a 7/8-mile track with a four-stall starting gate, eleven barns, a tack room, bunk rooms and a veterinarian’s office. The demonstration is Saturday morning only from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. So, don’t be late.
On Saturday, May 25, The Piedmont Coaching Club will provide a demonstration, and on Sunday there will be an exhibit of traditional hunting attire. www.TrinityUpperville.org
UPPERVILLE COLT AND HORSE SHOW
JUNE 3 – 9
The Upperville Colt and Horse Show is the nation’s oldest horse show, dating back to 1853. Previous to the initiation of this national event, horses and stallions had been exhibited for prizes at country and state fairs, but it is widely accepted that the proper horse show we know today was introduced on the American sporting scene at Upperville. From the first year, there were so many entries and interest was so keen that a sponsoring club was immediately formed, and at the turn of the century, Upperville expanded its mission to become a five-day exhibition with a wide entry list of the finest equestrian talent in the world.
Featuring Hunting, Jumping and Breeding categories, our country’s oldest horse show features rider events from children’s competitions to Olympic and World Cup riders and horses. The event’s beautiful, grassy showgrounds, nestled in Loudoun’s rolling foothills, offers visi- tors a packed schedule of daily events steeped in the equestrian tradition, and involves over two thousand horse and rider combinations.
Around the world, horses are bred to jump, and at Upperville, many breeds are represented in the jumper competitions. The European horses, which are generally larger and heavier than most American breeds, are bred both in Europe and the United States specially to be used as sport horses, or riding horses. Grand prix level horses are the most talented jumpers in the show world a successful grand prix horse often has a price tag of $500,000 or more. Young prospects are usually broken to ride at two or three years of age and after training and experience over fences, make it to the jumper show rings. A horse could make it to the grand prix ring at the relatively early age of six or seven years, and continue to compete through its late teens.
The goal of many riders is of course to compete as a member of the United States Equestrian Team and ultimately the Olympics and there is no better place to test the waters than the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. www.Upperville.com
FRIDAY NIGHT POLO AT EDEN GLEN
Eden Glen is a small community just outside of Middleburg, known for its longstanding adoration of all things equestrian. Founded in 1787, the community is the year round center for fox hunting, steeplechase racing and polo on the East Coast. Surrounding the park is nothing but grazing land for horses, woods and rivers there is nothing to hear but the sweet songs of nature. A mile and a half from Eden Glen is one of the best riding facilities in the area, Fox Chase. This is the place to go for all riders, with events for children and adults of all ages, where guests are also welcome to board horses. Their most popular event by far is Friday night polo at Great Meadows, which gives spectators an opportunity to see the sport like never before.