Sallie B. Wheeler/U.S. Hunter Breeding East Coast National Championship returns to Virginia Horse Center in August


Some of the best young horses in the country will come together on August 27 at The Virginia Horse Center for the 2016 Sallie B. Wheeler/U.S. Hunter Breeding East Coast National Championship as part of the Virginia Young Horse Festival.

Find the Virginia Young Horse Festival prize list here.

Highlights will include the East Coast Best Young Horse Championship class and a party Saturday night at 5 p.m. in celebration of the Sallie B. Wheeler Hunter Breeding Championship. Several USEF Championship trophies also will be awarded on Saturday including The Dave Kelley Perpetual trophy, which will be awarded to the Overall Grand Hunter Breeding Champion; The J. Arthur Reynolds trophy, awarded to the breeder of the Overall Grand Hunter Breeding Champion; and The Foxwick Farm Perpetual Trophy awarded to the leading Thoroughbred.

On Friday, Aug. 26, the horse center will host a C-rated breeding show as part of the Virginia Young Horse Festival.

Brooke Kemper rides Classifed to win in $25,000 Grand Prix of Roanoke

Brooke Kemper on Classified

The Grand Prix of Roanoke had a new venue and a new champion for 2016, as Brooke Kemper rode her 12-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding Classified to the top spot for the $25,000 prize Saturday, June 26, at the Virginia Horse Center.

Brooke Kemper on Classified

The 12-time winner of the Grand Prix of Roanoke, Aaron Vale, was not part of the field of 11 at the show’s new venue at the Virginia Horse Center.

As a large crowd of spectators looked on, Kemper, of Shadow Pond Stables in Culpeper, Virginia, was clear in her first ride and then clear again in the jump-off with a time of 37.258. She just barely edged out Maryann Charles and FVF Sailorman, who jumped a double clear with a time of 37.279.

Also in the jump-off round was Tyler Smith riding Soho D’Ermisserie, who had a double clear with a time of 41.763, and Gavin Moylan riding Pernod, who had four faults and a time of 35.411.

Brooke Kemper also rode Classified to a win in the Rockbridge Grand Prix at the Virginia Horse Center in 2015. She was third in the George L. Ohrstrom Grand Prix at the horse center in May. Kemper grew up on her parents’ Kemper Knoll Farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia. Her mother, Darlene, is a riding instructor, while her father, Whit, is a full-time farmer.

Tyler Smith and Soho D’Ermisserie were third in the Grand Prix of Roanoke

Related links:

GET YOUR HORSE FIX: Equestrian events this weekend near Roanoke, Va. (April 11-12)

We’ve got the Easter holiday behind us and Spring has taken hold in the region (thank goodness!). Now it’s time for the horse shows to really get into full swing. This weekend is headlined by a horse auction.


  • The Great American Trail Horse competition and horse sale is this weekend in Anderson Coliseum. The annual auction will be at noon on Saturday and is held for trail horses of all breeds and budgets.  Find a catalog here. Photos/Videos of many of the sale horses can be found here. The unique feature of this sale is the $2,000 added, trail horse competition starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. The competition is open only to the horses consigned in the sale. The top 10 horses will be selected to come back Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. for the finals. Friday will also include demonstrations. See a schedule here.
  • In the center’s East Complex, The Lee Jackson Classic (APHC) will be hosted by the Senandoah-Blue Ridge Appaloosa Association. Judges are Tony Burris, David Johnson, & Gayle Matson-Kozak. The Lee Jackson is the only regional Appaloosa show held in Virginia and offers classes for youth, non-pro, games, heritage, over fences and non-pro walk-trot and ranch pleasure. Find a class schedule here. 


The Franklin County Equestrian Club will host its Spring Fling Horse Show at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ginther Farm in Sontag. The show is Blue Ride Horse Force sanctioned. Get a class schedule here. Chuck Nifong will judge.


Sweet Briar equestrian director moving to Lynchburg College

Sweet Briar College may be closing in August, but it’s riding tradition will stay in central Virginia. Sweet Briar equestrian director Merrilee “Mimi” Wroten will join Lynchburg College as director of riding as the college works to expand its equestrian program. Wroten has been head of the acclaimed program at Sweet Briar since 2011 and before that served as associate director since 1999. She will remain at Sweet Briar until the school closes in August.

“It became apparent that a unique opportunity existed to enhance collegiate riding at a local college, provide continuity of instruction for Sweet Briar students and preserve many of the principles of excellence that the Sweet Briar riding tradition was founded upon,” Wroten said in a Lynchburg College news release on the changes.

Mimi is a USEF “R” judge and holds the ANRC top rider rating. She has judged shows from Georgia to New York. Wroten has coached several award-winning teams, including an individual national champion and national reserve champion in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association; multiple Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion and reserve champion teams; and several American National Riding Committee champion and reserve champion teams.

Lynchburg College is finalizing an agreement with Thistledown Farm to host its equestrian program.

See the news release here.

Wroten posted this message on Sweet Briar’s facebook page March 26.

“Dear Friends,
As we all process our way through the shock of the announcement about our beloved Sweet Briar and move toward addressing the uncertainty of the future, each of us has tried to find a path forward for the ideals and culture that have made Sweet Briar riding so special. It was this pursuit of a way forward that led me to take a call from Lynchburg College Athletics Director Jon Waters. During the call and throughout numerous follow up conversations as Jon shared the Lynchburg vision and hope for expansion of their existing riding program, it became apparent that a unique opportunity existed to enhance collegiate riding at a local college, provide continuity of instruction for Sweet Briar students and to preserve many of the principles of excellence that the Sweet Briar riding tradition has been founded upon. It is for these reasons that I have accepted the position as the Director of Riding at Lynchburg College. I will finish out the semester and my obligations with Sweet Briar College before stepping into my new role as the Director of Riding at Lynchburg College.

As you can imagine, this decision did not come without a tremendous amount of soul searching and research about the Lynchburg leadership and it’s commitment to excellence. As someone who has spent more than half my life in service to the students, horses and community of Sweet Briar, I fully understand how the program has impacted lives for generations. However, with the path that has been laid out for the college, the only prudent course at this time is to move forward with this new endeavor and attempt to maintain as much continuity with staff, horses and instruction as possible.

While many of the details of the Lynchburg College riding program future are still evolving, the program is very excited about the opportunity to work out of Thistledown Farm in Lynchburg, Virginia. We will work rapidly to develop this facility into a collegiate riding facility with 22 stalls, 4 large fields, 2 large paddocks, 1 small ring, and we will enlarge & cover a ring that will be approximately 120’ x 220’. Lynchburg College is working to acquire approximately 12-15 of the SBC horses to assure the standards of excellence that we have come to expect. Additional resources will be developed as demand dictates.

I am very confident that Jon Waters, Athletic Director and the institutional leadership at Lynchburg understand and respect how special the Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center is to the equine world. In light of this, they have assured me that in the event that Sweet Briar College is open to students and operating a riding program in the Fall of 2015, I would be free to return to lead the Sweet Briar College program with the probability of Lynchburg riders becoming a part of the Rogers Riding Center community.

To my fellow alums and to all of those who have been touched by the greatness of the Sweet Briar riding program, I hope that you will see this as a unique opportunity to continue to serve the central Virginia area and the horse world with the same spirit and ideals that made our program so unique.

I appreciate all that you have done for the Sweet Briar College Riding Program and myself.

Mimi Wroten”

GET YOUR HORSE FIX: Equestrian events Feb. 14-15 near Roanoke

A deep plunge of cold air is coming just in time for Valentine’s Day this year, which may not make you enjoy heading out with the horses quite so much. But if your heart yearns only for horses, no matter the weather, you can still feed that hunger.


The Polar Bear Horse Show is a very aptly named event this year. The hunter schooling show will be held in the East Complex at the center. The event includes classes on the flat and over fences and begins at 8:30 both Saturday and Sunday. Casual attire is permitted except in the equitation classes. Find the schedule of classes here.


  • Clinic:  Lana Affemann Performance-Horses and Stark Performance Horses will be holding a clinic on grooming your horse and showing in halter and showmanship Feb. 14-15 in Smithfield, Va. (4-hour drive from Roanoke.) For more information or to RSVP, contact Hillary Stark at or (757)705-3648.
  • Gymnastics Clinic with Paul Ebersole at Morven Park’s indoor arena in Leesburg, Va. (3-hour drive). Lessons will last one hour for groups of three or four riders, for all levels from Green horses and going up through the Eventing levels (Baby BN, BN, N,T,P,I)  Ebersole will also offer a cross country clinic Feb 28-Mar 1st at Morven. Cost is $90 per horse which includes Morven’s ring fee. Auditors are welcome to watch at no charge. To sign up, please email Pat Palmer at


The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is the largest all-Arabian horse show in the world.

If you’d rather just stay wrapped up in a blanket inside during this bitter weekend, thankfully these days you can do so and still be at the horse show.


Unbridled Change harnesses power of horses

Winston Churchhill once famously said, “There’s something about the outside of the horse that’s good for the inside of a man.” A Boones Mill nonprofit, Unbridled Change, is using that bit of wisdom to offer equine-assisted mental health services for children, teens, and adults that need support overcoming obstacles in their life such as trauma, anger management, parenting and bullying.

Horses are a great mirror that reflect back a client’s behaviors, the organization says, allowing for awareness and eventually control and change.

Founder and Executive Director Michelle Holling-Brooks is the only Certified Eagala Advanced Equine Specialist in Virginia and one of only 14 in the country. EAP is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with the clients and horses to address treatment goals. Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses and then talking about feelings, behaviors and patterns.

Unbridled Change offers several different programs to their clients:

  • A ‘Bit’ of SupportMilitary Services program works with military personnel, veterans, spouses, and their families to help with transitions, stress relief and mindfulness skills, coping skills, parenting skills, mental health therapy for PTSD & MST and also recreational therapy.
  • Take Back the Reins is an equine-assisted psychotherapy program that is designed for children, teens, and adults who were victims or witnesses of abuse or neglect with the aim of breaking the cycle of abuse. 
  • Hoof-prints of a Healthy Herd is an equine assisted psychotherapy program that is designed for parenting and family reunification.  The program works with both the children and the parents to help address the core concepts of a healthy family unit: healthy boundary setting and acceptance, respect, communication and healthy relationship skills.
  • Wranglers is designed for children, teens, and adults who struggling with anger management issues. 
  • “Blazing the Trail of Character” combines hands-on activities with horses and six character development concepts: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. The program is available to area youth groups and schools.
  • Riders Up! is designed for children, teens, and adults who are working on executive functioning skills, fine tuning self-regulation skills, and self-esteem.  

Find a video of Unbridled Change at

If you’d like to volunteer.  

Directions to the farm from Roanoke Airport:
Take I-581 South toward Downtown Roanoke.  I-581 will turn into route 220 South toward Rocky Mount, VA .  (581 will merge from a highway to route 220 there will be a Lowes, HomeDepot, Walmart and other box stores when it first merges down).  Stay on 220 for about 10 miles – cross the county line into Franklin Co and the town of Boones Mill.  Just after the light turn an immediate left over the bridge onto Boones Mill Road (at Jack Garst Agency or Southern States).  At the stop sign turn right to stay on to Boones Mill Road.  Go 2 miles and turn right onto White Oak Road.  Go about 1 mile and turn right into the Unbridled Change’s parking lot at the indoor arena site.

GET YOUR FIX: Horse events in the Roanoke area Jan. 17-18

We just had our first messy snowfall and the recent single-digit temperatures here in the Roanoke Valley may have you feeling a bit fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean the horse world has ground to a stop. And now when your own horse activities may have slowed down for the winter is when you just might need that horse fix the most. Here are this weekend’s activities, plus some things to look forward to.


  • The Stonewall Country Horse Show: This show is USEF “A” rated Hunter and Jumper horse show. This event is owned and operated by the VHCF and managed by Leslie Brown and will be held in the Anderson Coliseum and the East Complex arena. Judges are Phoebe Sheets and Downing Nyegard. Find a schedule of classes on the prize list. Note: Braiding is optional in all classes and divisions. The show will open Thursday at 7 a.m. with Working Hunter classes all day in the Coliseum. On Friday, Working Hunters will be in the Coliseum and Jumpers in the East Complex. Saturday will feature Children’s Hunters and Amateur Hunters in the Coliseum for the morning and afternoon with Open and Junior Working Hunters toward the end of the day. The East Complex will host pony hunters and short stirrup classes throughout the day with much the same schedule layout for Sunday as well. This show benefits the VHCF, an facility that has become incredibly important in the Virginia’s horse industry. This show will repeat on Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the VHC.
  • Winter Schooling: If you are simply seeking for a great place to ride during the winter months, the Virginia Horse Center is open for schooling through March 1. Call the Stable Office at 540-464-2966 for reservations.


  • Maryland Horse World Expo: (4 hour drive from Roanoke) The Horse World Expo will return to the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland, this weekend. (4 hour trip from Roanoke) Daily admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 6-12. Younger than 6 are free. The Expo includes seminars, clinics, demonstrations, stallion avenue and parade of breeds, and of course shopping. This year’s speakers include Roxanne Bowman on saddle fitting, Olympian (Eventing) Stephen Bradley, Dana Bright on Driving, Kenny Harlow on training and AQHA judge and auction manager Mike Jennings on Buying and Selling horses. For a full list of speakers visit
  • Kentucky Hunter Jumper Association Clinic featuring Bernie Taurig at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky on Monday. (5 1/2 hours drive from Roanoke)
  • Dressage Clinic with Britta Johnston, Understanding, Starting and Perfecting the Flying Change: A lecture discussing the flying change will begin at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at Capriole Farms in Catlett, Va. (3 hours drive from Roanoke) Horses working on flying changes will follow. Rides: $90 for a 45 minute lesson $20 for day stall, limited number. Auditors: $10.



  •  Watch the 2015 George Morris Horsemaster Session on demand at