When Charlie Weaver walked into the main ring at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show today with Mrs. Sylvester Johnson's Super Flash and collected the grand championship trophy and ribbon, he received the oldest and most prestigious honor in horse showing.
The show on the second Saturday in June has been a tradition for 127 years, making Upperville the oldest horse show in the U.S. and the country's second oldest continuing sporting competition. (The America's Cup sailing race was the first, in 1851).
The only thing that has changed in the 127 years is the height of the oak trees at Grafton Farm. They are much taller than they were the day Col. Richard Henry Dulany invited a few neighbors and friends to a competition at Oak Grove Nov. 6 in 1853. This year, over 700 horses competed with the main event -- a $15,000 competition -- set for Sunday at 2 p.m.
After Mrs. A.C. Randolph, grand dame of the show and master of the Piedmont Fox Hounds, announced the jumpers would break tradition and perform in the main ring this year, more than 40 exhibitors presented her with a petition. She said, "What do they know about tradition?" and the show went on as planned.
Weaver and Super Flash amassed 38 points today and are becoming a tradition too. This was their second straight Upperville title, and that accomplishment is rare.
To Reed Thomas, 80, of Upperville, who has been coming to the show "since I was 4 years old," Flash's victory today conjured up memories of Silver Crest, thought to be the greatest hunter in history. The steel gray ridden by Becky Sharp was champion five times from 1919 to 1925. The horse was born at Grafton and is buried here.
For 6-year-old Sarah Pillion, of Boyce, Va., who won the lead line class today, tradition is just beginning.But Pillion is a seasoned veteran. "Her first lead line was right before her first birthday," according to her mother, who says Sarah has a roomful of ribbons.
In the most traditional of Upperville events, the ladies sidesaddle, Anne Mills, on Old Whitewood owned by Mrs. Richard Ohrstrom, prevailed over 22 other bobing veiled women. When Upperville started, it was taboo for women to reside stride.