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August 11, 2014

Connemaras Come to the Virginia Horse Center

Junior Showmanship

Lexington, VA - August 11, 2014 - The native ponies of Ireland were well represented at the American Connemara Pony Society's Region III Show, July 26-27, at the Virginia Horse Center. Pony owners flocked to the Horse Center from Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Washington D.C., West Virginia and Delaware.

The two-day show included dressage classes, jumper classes, in-hand breed classes, hunter classes, a trail class and a lively games section. This year, the show also hosted an Inspection of Connemara breeding stock.

Upholding the Connemara motto, "Connemaras do it all," the classes were well filled, with 57 dressage rides judged by Tracey Smith-Oliver. The final ride of the day was a six-Connemara musical ride done by young riders from Balmullo Farm in Richmond, VA. A new and novel games class, the Champagne Class for vintage riders, asked senior riders to follow the judge's commands while holding a champagne-filled glass; whoever had spilled the least was declared the winner (of the champagne and a ribbon too).

While the performance classes are always important, for the region's Connemara breeders, the in-hand classes are where the competition gets tough. The judge this year, Sarah McRae of Vermont, noted that the quality of the Connemaras was exceptionally high in each class, and that her job was especially difficult. The "Best Connemara of the Day", the chosen label for the In-Hand Champion, was Thurman Sileach, bred and owned by Barbara Byrd of Berryville, VA.

Also included in the show is a division for the Mountain and Moorland ponies. Those are described as the native ponies of the British Isles, and this year, there were Highland, New Forest, Welsh Cob and Dartmoor ponies. The Connemara is also a native Mountain and Moorland breed, but the rules for those divisions do not allow the host breed to compete in the classes. The Mountain and Moorland ponies did enter the performance classes and of course, the trail and games. 

One of the most coveted of the class awards is the Egg and Spoon Trophy, a sterling spoon, with a Connemara marble egg, mounted on a lovely walnut base. This trophy has been hotly contested for the 27 years the show has existed. This year, it took walking, trotting, cantering, and not one, but two jumps to dislodge enough eggs to pin the class!

The competitors loved the feeling at the Virginia Horse Center, utilizing the North (Speed) Arena and an extra warm up arena. The Horse Center's new food truck made its debut, and it received rave reviews from diners. Attendees also took advantage of the catering service, and the horse show hosted a seated dinner for 120 guests in the Mezzanine - a great way for the owners, riders and organizers to spend some time without a pony at the end of the line.

"The food was brilliant. We were so impressed; we are returning to that venue for our ACPS Annual Meeting in October," said Marynell Eyles, the Connemara show organizer. "Our after-show survey was highly complimentary of the good service the VHC provided, and the affair was acclaimed a success. If anyone who reads this is contemplating a show, our experience has been excellent."

 
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