UPPERVILLE, VA., JUNE 5 -- Here in Upperville, women wear stirrups around their necks. You can also find other horse paraphernalia made into earrings, bracelets and anklets. But the human beings are not much more than a supporting cast at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest horse show in the country. Horses are the main attraction and they get the good stuff. They get room and board, new sets of shoes and can see a dentist as well as get a good rubdown and a shower.
Winning the only trophy awarded today, Denice DeRisio, riding Argyle, owned by James Treptow and Newstead Farm, won the first Allen Smith Perpetual Trophy, scoring 30 points in winning all three classes in pre-green hunter. The trophy is awarded to the rider who rode the same horse in all three classes.
"The horse has to go around perfectly but the rider has to get him to the jumps properly," said De- Risio. "But in the end the horse's talent is what really counts."
Competition begins in earnest Wednesday with the Founders Cup open to horses bred and foaled in Virginia.
For the next five days, Grafton Farm, about six miles west of Middleburg, Va., caters to the horse and the horsey set. These are saddle-bound nomads, traveling from show to show around the country, entering as many as three a month. And because of the pastoral setting (the birds don't budge from the fences, even while the horses are jumping over them), this show is one of the premier events in the country.
"Here it's very different. We usually don't show in this atmosphere, the trees, the big field," said Mary Lisa Nicholson, the defending amateur champion and three-time amateur champion at Devon, a major show in Pennsylvania preceding Upperville on the circuit.
"These up and down hills, the horses aren't used to them," said Nicholson, 23, who attended Sherwood High School. "At Devon, it's a completely round ring and it's flat. A lot of the horses get a little wild when they get here."
Mostly for that reason, the show opened today with the schooling classes, warm-ups for better things to come. Most every competitor entered in the 180 events during the week are entered in schooling classes. It gives the horses an opportunity to get used to the surroundings.
The trend in horse shows has been artificial turf, much like in football. It equalizes the competition, said event manager Tommy Lee Jones.
Last year at Upperville it rained and the winning horses were ones who performed well in the mud. However, Jones said, "There was about a 50-50 split with the participants. Some said, 'My god, we need an all-weather surface,' and others said, 'Don't let anyone talk you into anything artificial.' "
The natural surroundings and many other things make Upperville unique. Getting out of the car on the show grounds is like stepping into another world. Greg Ramsay shoes horses much as his predecessors did at the first Upperville show.
"There's been very little change here," he said. "This is another world."
For most of the participants it is a lifestyle they never would choose to relinquish. Nicholson tried to go to college. She lasted one semester.
"I couldn't ever be in an office, closed in all day," she said.RESULTS Pre-Green Hunter Under Saddle
Class 1: 1, Argyle, ridden by Denice DeRisio, owned by James Treptow and Newstead Farm; 2, Satchmo, ridden by Frank Willard, owned by Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Homberg and Fox Knoll Farm; 3, All The News, ridden by Louise Serio, owned by Newsprint Farm and Mrs. D. Scott Doyle.
Class 2: 1, Argyle, 2, The Wizard, ridden by Maryann Steiert, owned by Pine Meadow Farm and Sandy and Ed Minchin; 3, Hemingway, ridden by A. Cone, owned by A. Cone.
Class 3: 1, Argyle; 2, Luminaire, ridden by Scott Williamson, owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Richards; 3, Destination, ridden by Olin Armstrong, owned by Julie Kennedy.Pre-Green Hunter B
1, Time Goes By, ridden by Louise Serio, owned by Carolyn Foster; 2, Tattersall, ridden by Denice DeRisio, owned by James Treptow and Newstead Farm; 3, Mi Amigo, ridden by Chuck Keller, owned by Keli Colby.Three-Year-Old Hunter
Class 1: 1, Conners Crystal, ridden by Patty Elliott, owned by Edith Corning; 2, Landslip, ridden by Henri Prudent, owned by Eve Lloyn Thomson; 3, Do It My Way, ridden by Bobbis Stedding, owned by Holly Horse Farm.
Class 2: 1, Spiff'N Image, ridden by Olin Armstrong, owned by Lysa Burke Horkan and Meadow Bluff Farm; 2, Landslip; 3, Do It My Way. Three-Year-Old Under Saddle
1, Conners Crystal; 2, Do It My Way; 3, Spiff'N Image.