When Colonel Richard Henry Dulany organized the first Upperville Show in 1853, the program listed two classes: one for colts, the other for fillies. 158 years later, the Upperville Colt and Horse Show spans seven days and includes over two thousand horse and rider combinations, 28 awards and eight competitive events.
This year’s event kicks off on Monday, June 6, “Under The Oaks,” 40 miles west of Washington D.C. Since 1853, Grafton Farms has been the site of the oldest horse show in the United States.
How it all Began
Colonel Dulany had the idea to begin the first Upperville Horse Show after coming across an abandoned and struggling colt during the winter of 1853. Determined to encourage surrounding breeders to take better care of young fouls and breed better stock, Dulany hosted the first Upperville Horse Show in June of that year. The show garnered so many entries and interest that a sponsorship club was started with Colonel Dulany as the president. The Upperville Union Club published their first account of the Upperville Horse show in 1857 in The Southern Planter.
By 1902, the organization was renamed the Upperville Colt and Horse Club and sponsored a two-day show in June of that year, expanding to include more classes, entries and events. In the years that followed, the Upperville Horse Show expanded over five days and included entries and riders from all over the country.
Since then, the Virginia Horse Shows Association has voted Upperville the Horse Show of the Year, and its been designated as a World Championship Hunter Rider Show and selected as the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame’s Horse Show of the Year.
Into The Present
Whether you are an equestrian, breeder, exhibitor or spectator, this event showcases the best of the best, as they compete for highly-coveted titles and awards. The competition is fierce, with over two thousand riders and horses ranging from children on ponies to Olympic and World Cup riders and horses.
Riders and horses are either scored or judged depending on the event. In a jumper competition, the main objective is to get the horse to jump over the jump without knocking it down, without concern for form or style while jumping. Grand prix show jumping, the highest level of show jumping, has become a popular and important spectator sport in the United States. Show jumping is also one of the few sports where men and women compete on equal levels, and range in age from 16 to 60.
Horses in the hunter class are judged not only on their ability to get to the other side of the jump, but also on their ease and grace while completing the various obstacles, such as a farmer’s fence, gates, stone walls and posts. The main objective is for both the horse and rider to navigate all the obstacles willingly and effortlessly.
Don’t Miss These Highlights!
Here, we share our favorite events, which we anxiously await each year. Publisher Sonya Bernhardt anticipates the Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter Under Saddle event, which displays women donning old-fashioned Victorian garb as they elegantly perch sidesaddle on their beautifully-bred horses. One of the most formal classes in the event, these women are the epitome of class and grace that represents the Victorian Era. It takes place on Saturday, June 11.
Evelyn Keyes, head of the In Country section, loves watching the Family Classes and the popular Piedmont Foxhounds invitational hack for the “silver foxes” of showing. The event is held “under the oaks” on Saturday, June 11, in the main ring in front of the grand stand.
Daily admission to the show is $10.00 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Gates open at 8 a.m. daily.
For special arrangements, entertainment, reserved parking, or box seat information, please call 540 687-5740 or, during the show, 540-592-3858
For a complete schedule of the seven-day show visit Upperville.com.