Monday, May. 20, 2024

Upperville Back In Time

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Va.) Wall of Honor, a hall of fame that recognizes people and horses who have contributed to the history of the country’s oldest horse show, which celebrated its 155th anniversary this year.
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This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Upperville Colt & Horse Show (Va.) Wall of Honor, a hall of fame that recognizes people and horses who have contributed to the history of the country’s oldest horse show, which celebrated its 155th anniversary this year.

And, more than ever to me, this year’s seven human inductees span generations, vocations and traditions that when collected together, contribute to the rich tapestry that is Upperville. In addition to great horsemen such as Nancy Dillon, Mo Dana and Robert Kerns, the class of 2008 includes a jeweler, Lee Cross, a caterer, Malachi Grant, a grounds manager, Charles “Charlie” Risdon, and a photographer, Marshall Hawkins.

These people, and those inductees who have come before them, (and no doubt those who have yet to be recognized) have helped Upperville to develop and retain its unique flavor. We may not know them personally, but we’ve benefited from their visions of the future, their work behind the scenes, their dedication and their gifted artistry.

In many ways Upperville stands alone. There aren’t many major hunter/jumper shows in this country that boast a hall of fame and have guarded traditions, such as grass footing, undulating terrain and a wooden
grandstand. And while many people cherish the opportunity to show their hunters under the dappled shade of 200-year-old Oak trees, others don’t find the atmosphere quite as appealing.

This year, in particular, was a challenge, and one that those who’ve spent decades competing at Upperville won’t soon forget. One of the most damaging storm fronts in recent memory blew through the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area on June 4, downing trees and power lines and flooding low lying areas.
  
And because hundreds of thousands of suburban residents and businesses were without power, a
horse show wasn’t the first place the utility trucks were dispatched. So, for nearly 36 hours Upperville operated without power, and many Wall of Fame inductees would have felt right at home with the old-fashioned feel of a horse show without loudspeakers, air-conditioning and the modern amenities we’re accustomed to enjoying.

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Show management and staff went the extra mile, however. They obtained generators to pump water and operate the food stand, while those vendors fortunate enough to have their own generators generously shared their limited power supply with others.

While show management was forced to cancel some classes, they worked hard to shuffle the schedule. Unfortunately, the footing—especially in Ring 2—was devastated by the torrential rains, and many exhibitors chose to scratch their horses rather than show in muddy footing, jumping twice around the outside, or show in the schooling ring.

Unfortunately, wet weather sometimes adversely affects Upperville. Although some people believe the show’s leaders should “get with the times” and install all-weather footing in the show rings, I don’t agree. What makes Upperville so special is also what sets it apart. Some of my fondest memories of Upperville have occurred in the worst weather, and my horsemanship certainly improved over the years as I’ve learned how to balance a horse downhill in muddy footing, choose the correct studs and which products best clean gray horses.
   
One veteran horseman, whom I’ve known since childhood, said to me during the power outage, “This is how it used to be. I’m glad you get the true Upperville experience.” And so was I.

Tricia Booker, Editor

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