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Sports · June 4, 2019

Upperville much more than historic horse show

The average spectator does not really need to understand horse shows to enjoy it here. It’s about the ambience and the hospitality.
— Snowden Clarke, veteran horse trainer
The Event Basics
• What: 166th Upperville Colt & Horse Show

• Where: 9197 John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50), west of village

• When: Monday-Sunday, June 3-9

• Features: A wide range of competition for amateur and professional riders from all over the U.S.

• Horses: More than 1,000

• Distinction: The oldest horse show in U.S., founded in 1853

• General admission: $45 car pass, valid for whole week; other packages available

• Also: Exhibitors, vendors, food and beverages

• Expect: Heavy traffic and delays on Route 50

• Phone: 540-592-3858

• Website:
By Vicky Moon
For FauquierNow

The sleepy northwestern Fauquier village of Upperville, population 793, comes alive this week.

The 166th edition of the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, which opened Monday, will attract thousands of people to the Grafton and Salem Farm Show grounds on each side of John Mosby Highway (Route 50). The “oldest horse show in the United States” will conclude Sunday, June 9, with the $208,200 Upperville Jumper Classic.

The show dates to 1853, when Richard Henry Dulany found a young colt with frozen feet frozen, caught under a split rail fence. That moved Mr. Dulany, who owned a large home and sprawling estate called Welbourne, to encourage improved attention to the young draft horses in the area, especially during the frigid winters.

He gathered friends and neighbors for an event in early June at what he called the Oak Grove at Number Six, also known as Grafton Farm. They formed the Upperville Union Club. With just two classes — one for colts and one for fillies — the show began quite modestly.

Previously, horses had been shown mainly at county fairs. The Upperville classes expanded for competition in riding stock and draft horses. Six years after it began, show attracted more than 80 entries and offered $500 in prize money.

During the “War Between the States,” conflicts took place all around Number Six. Many post-war participants in the show had fought for the South, so organizers dropped the word “Union” from the name. In 1894, the Upperville Colt Club restructured and, in 1902, it became the Upperville Colt and Horse Club.

This week, 1,100 horses from 25 states — including 33 percent of the entries from Virginia and 14 percent from Florida, the winter capital of horse showing —have come to Upperville. More than $500,000 in prize money will be up for grabs. Along with the horses, a small army of trainers, grooms, owners and parents has settled on the grounds.

Snowden Clarke, a trainer from Orange Hill Farm near Marshall, has six horses in the show for various owners and won a blue ribbon Monday. His Jack Russell Terrier named Boo also took part the show.

“I’ve been coming here for 45 years,” Mr. Clarke, 65, said between classes for local competitors.

For owner Bill Wolf of Rectortown, Mr. Clarke trains a 7-year-old black mare, Solana, entered in one of the most prestigious classes this week, The Founder’s Cup.

Traditionally held Wednesday afternoon in the large main ring filled with graceful tall trees, The Founder’s Cup features horses bred and foaled in Virginia. It takes the show to its roots, as founder Richard Henry Dulany sought to improve horse breeding.

Mr. Dulany once happened to meet Louis Tiffany on a train trip. The now legendary designer charged him only for the sterling silver and not his labor to create the original Founders Cup, a trophy whose location remains unknown. Upperville residents Nick Slater, a director emeritus, and Elizabeth Courts, a show board member, own two, later, similar versions of the cup. They probably will bring them to the show Wednesday.

Upperville has become much more than a horse show. The historic grounds feature boutiques, food trucks, hospitality tents along, an art tent, a vintage auto exhibition and more.

“The average spectator does not really need to understand horse shows to enjoy it here,” said Mr. Clarke, who once gave the late Jacqueline Kennedy riding lessons. “It’s about the ambience and the hospitality.”

On move-in day, the horse show offered complimentary lunch, drinks and cookies around to each of the tents where the horses board the week. The grooms, whom Mr. Clarke adds, “make it all work,” get free lunches every day.

For hungry visitors, Joanna and George Bushwaller have traveled from Stuart, Fla., to set up in a 10-by-10-foot food tent called Bushdogs to sell crab cakes and shrimp salad.

Originally from Frederick, Md., where they owned a seafood restaurant, the Bushwallers use the same recipe of 99 percent crabmeat. Each sandwich sells for $15 and they expect to sell as many as 1,000 by the end of the week.

“A friend told me about the show and it made sense to try it,” Ms. Bushwaller, 67, said of her first trip to Upperville. “The weather is beautiful, and so many horses make it just lovely.”

Ouisha McKinney made the nine-hour trip from her home in Lexington, Ky. She had her van filled with ceramics, sweaters and horse-related accessories that she designs and sells. This marks Ms. McKinney’s 39th year with a booth at Upperville.

A lifelong horse gal, Ms. McKinney, 67, went from riding at the show to selling her wares. She offers hand-painted canvas floor-mats, mugs, bowls and plates, along with the sweaters. And of course, they all depict horses, the ever-popular Welsh Corgi dogs and the always feisty Jack Russell Terriers. Prices range from $30 for a mug to $650 for a custom designed sweater.

Those energetic, tenacious Jack Russell Terriers will have their own races at 2 p.m. Sunday, right before the big final Jumper Classic. Mr. Clarke’s Boo might make an appearance.

An author and freelance writer, Ms. Moon lives near Marshall. She recently launched

2019 Upperville Media Kit by on Scribd

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