Traci: Where Will You Ride Today?

Yesterday I went to the oldest horse show in the United States. Founded in 1853, the Upperville (Virginia) Colt & Horse Show is an “AA”-rated show and a World Championship Hunter Rider Member event in the heart of hunter/jumper, foxhunting and polo horse country. (It’s the next town over from Middleburg, Virginia, about 40 miles west of Washington, DC.) If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, I highly recommend checking it out as it goes through the week and culminates in Sunday’s premier event, the Upperville Jumper Classic. Although it attracts top riders (Joe Fargis, Scott Stewart and Peter Lombardo were there, among others), the show itself is very low-key and has an old-fashioned charm. The hunter rings are invitingly cool, with large oak trees, patches of green grass and soft all-weather footing, so unlike the hot, intimidating and austere rings we see more often. The jumper rings are in big open grass fields bordered by old stone walls with rolling blue hills in the background. There is a good energy that makes me want to ride there. When I rode my horse, Vinny, in the ring at home and around the hay fields at the farm this morning, I thought about how “where” you ride is equally as important as “how” and “why.” An inoperable bone cyst in Vinny’s stifle ended his jumping career years ago, so we’ve got lots of options on where to ride (jumps need not be included). Yet I can still see a shift in his energy level when I turn from the ring onto the path that leads out into the open fields. The work is the same (we can do leg-yields and lead changes wherever we are), but somehow I think we both feel a little more free and unfettered outside the ring. Like the setting of a good novel, where you choose to ride creates a certain mood and expectation. It’s often said that when your ride isn’t going well, one of the best things to do is to change the scenery. What scenery works best for you and your horse?

Peter Lombardo on Austrian Warmblood, Chapman, at Upperville (the pair was featured on our November 2008 cover).?Traci Donatelli
The hunter ring at Upperville is very inviting.?Traci Donatelli
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