Competitors everywhere had been nervous about showing their horses on the hard ground because of the drought. So riders and the show staff who were preparing for the 22nd Piedmont Valley Ruritan Horse Show were literally jumping for joy as several days of rain resulted in nearly perfect conditions last week.

Only two shows each year are allowed to be run on the Upperville show grounds: the famous Upperville Colt and Horse Show in June and the Piedmont Valley Ruritan Horse Show in August.

Two rings were run simultaneously from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All were post entries, so competitors could enter their horses on the day of the show.

This show is known for its casual atmosphere, but all of the horses and riders are very well turned-out. Saturday's classes were part of the "short circuit" show series, which is geared toward local children and adult amateurs. Sunday's classes featured hunters and brought local riders and several professionals on young prospects.

This year's 125 entries were a slightly lower number than in previous years because of the toll on horses that the drought-ridden ground has created and conflicting show schedules. Commonwealth Park held a recognized show last week, the first time the Ruritan Club show has had any competition. At the same time, however, many riders use the Ruritan Club show as a preparatory event for the popular Warrenton Horse Show, which celebrates its 100th anniversary today through Monday.

Despite a lower turnout, the generosity level was high, as usual--the Piedmont Valley Ruritan Club was able to raise funds through the benefit horse show for many of its community projects.

The club helps support local fire departments and rescue squads, as well as Reading Is Fundamental, a nationally recognized program that donates books to schoolchildren. Membership fluctuates annually, and finding new recruits is an ongoing crusade.

"The biggest change over the years has been the refined procedure of running the show, so that things generally run smoothly," said Patty Kortlandt, who has been the Ruritan Horse Show secretary for 20 years.

Kortlandt has witnessed the growth of the competition and feels the club is proud of the clientele and enthusiasm that has embraced the show (all of the help is volunteer). She explained that many of the club members have been involved with the show for several years and that they all work extremely well together.

That's what is so great about the annual event: the rich sense of community and the feel of the show--which is anything but exclusive. A competitor even said the jump crew, busily setting the jumps, had never had anything to do with horses before this show.

Anyone is allowed to compete in this show and to ride under the Upperville oak trees on the famous show grounds. Those who did were treated to an experience many people only dream about.