20 questions with Tracy Nininger of Ardmore Equestrian Center in Fincastle

Tracy Nininger with her dad, Charles Young, at Ardmore Equestrian Center

Tracy Nininger recently moved to Fincastle’s Ardmore Equestrian Center from Georgia. In Georgia, she was the owner and operator of Jump On Over Hunter/Jumper facility, and her riders competed on the local and A-rated circuit (Zone4) with the Georgia Hunter/Jumper Association. A graduate of Virginia Intermont in Bristol, Virginia, Tracy majored in Horsemanship/Stable Management with a minor in Business.

Tell me about your stable/business. What kind of services do you offer?

Ardmore Equestrian Center is a full care hunter/jumper equestrian center.  We offer a lesson program for the recreational rider as well as the serious competitive rider.  Our facility has a indoor arena that is 100 X 200 so lessons are never canceled due to bad weather or if it is too hot!

We have over 24 stalls that have matted floors, sliding doors and that are 12 X 12 in size.  We offer pasture turnout or paddock turnout.  We do not offer pasture boarding. Both of our arenas are lighted and we will offer clinics, schooling shows, summer camps, overnight camps and trail riding.  Our farm supports the community’s Botetourt Food Shelter. We currently have two instructors who both have degrees and are certified.

When did you get started in horses? What is your riding background?

I began riding when I was 7 years old, and it is my passion. You can read my Bio for my background.  I have experience in Dressage, Western and Saddleseat.

What makes your stable/business different than others in the area? What’s your specialty? What do you take the most pride in?

Our facility is different from the other area facilities because of our state of the art facility and care given to the horses and riders.  Everyone at Ardmore is qualified to teach and train. Our employees have the degrees and certifications to do the job they were hired for.  All the employees at Ardmore have the knowledge and experience to provide a professional, safe atmosphere.  We meet the needs of each one of our boarders, lesson students and we strive on excellent quality care. Friendly customer service is demanded from each employee for our customers.  I feel strongly that these are the reasons for our success.

I have been blessed to have participated in clinics and ridden under top Olympic riders. I have deliberately followed top professionals so that I have the knowledge to do correct training techniques and be a positive role model for others.  (See BIO)

Can you describe your training/teaching philosophy?

I teach and follow the training techniques of George Morris. I have followed top equitation coaches because I feel position is everything when it comes to communicating to your horse while riding.  You can not get the full potential of your riding if you do not understand how your position effects the horse’s movement.  You should be as one with your horse and not just a passenger, but understand the mental and physical attributes of the horse so you ride at your full potential and be a partner with your horse.  ​

What are your favorite breeds/bloodlines? What do you look for when choosing a prospect?

My favorite breed of a horse is a thoroughbred/quarter horse cross. However, I really enjoy all breeds as I feel each one is unique and brings different challenges with each breed as they all are different. What I mostly look for when choosing a mount for a rider is the attitude of the horse.  Different riders require different attitudes so you really have to match up a rider’s personality with the horse’s personality.

A horse enjoys turnout at Ardmore Equestrian Center in Fincastle, Virignia.

Who are your riding mentors? How have they influenced your riding?

My mentor was FEI Grand Prix rider Miss Barry Lane of Full Cry Farm in Locust Grove, Georgia.  Barry reflected hard-work and to never give up.  Always work with a positive attitude and to keep things into perspective.  I never heard her ever say an unkind word or do an unkind act.

She was always professional and surrounded herself with top professional people. She built confidence in riders and brought out the best in people.  I miss her tremendously!!

My other mentor was Katie Monahan Prudent. Even though I never had the opportunity to ride with her I admired her riding techniques.  She had perfect equitation in the jumper ring.  She is so graceful to watch in the jumper ring and she made it look so easy and smooth.  She is very consistent in her riding and she has great hands. She is like a ballerina in the jumper ring, it is just lovely to watch her.

My biggest mentor however, is my big sister. Melody Light. She is a lovely rider and growing up she would work so she could pay for my riding lessons and spent hours teaching me about horses.  She is my mentor at heart!

What is the best piece of riding advice you were ever given?

The best piece of advice that has ever been given to me is to remember that each horse is different and so are people and when you match them up they need to be partners. Don’t just buy any horse for any person.

Do you have a favorite horse movie or book?

My favorite horse movie is “Secretariat”! I really don’t have a favorite book.

What one piece of advice would you give new/young riders?

Don’t try to train yourself all by yourself; that’s what trainers are for.  Do you learn to play soccer without a soccer coach, a ballerina without an instructor ?

If you could try any other riding discipline, what would it be?

I am interested in three-gaited natural-tail Saddlebreds.

What is the best thing about riding/training in the Roanoke area?

Roanoke is my hometown; I grew up here and I love having the mountains to ride in. I like the trail rides and the hills.  You don’t have this in Florida.

If you could change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

For trainers to respect each other better. Learn from each other. Work with each other better.

What is your favorite characteristic in a client/student?

I will take a student that may not be very talented but is the hard worker over the talented rider that is lazy.

What horse industry/riding trend do you wish would go away and never return?

Backyard owners that don’t have any business caring for a horse.

What was the biggest surprise about riding as a profession?

I really don’t have any big surprises about the horse industry. The industry itself educates many people, and following top professionals creates success. It’s the people that mess it up.

What is your favorite local horse show or event? Why?

The Roanoke Valley Horse Show.  It was my first A-Show, I think I was 12 years old.  I loved the Salem Colesium and the all-breed show classes held at night.

Tell us about the best horse you’ve ever ridden.

A Thoroughbred mare I rode in the jumpers. Her show name was Clearly Magic, and she was a horse no one wanted and she was given to me.  She was fast, could turn and jump and loved it. So much fun to ride!

If you could ride any famous horse from history, who would you ride?

A horse called Snowman. He started the jumpers! Look him up!

If you could spend the day riding with any horseman, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

There are so many great horseman but I think I would like to spend the day with Rodney Jenkins.  He definitely could ride, but as a little girl following him around the Roanoke Valley Horse Show, I loved his laid-back demeanor.  He could spot a really good horse, too!!!

Tell us about your first horse.

My first horse was a little black small pony named Star.  He was my best friend. I spent many hours trail riding him, and literally riding him all over the Poages Mill area of Roanoke, Virginia.

20 questions with Andee Djuric of Djuric Sporthorses in Blacksburg

Andee Djuric rides Katie Gehrt’s (OTTB) Thoroughbred Swinging Boot over an oxer at Djuric Sporthorses in Blacksburg.

If you are looking for a place near Virginia Tech to ride hunters/jumpers, Andee and Steva Djuric have made horses their full-time business at The Stable at Hoge Pasture on Graves Avenue in Blacksburg. The hunter/jumper facility sits next to the Blacksburg Municipal Golf Course in a beautiful setting of rolling green hills. Come take a closer look at their beautiful facility and talk with Andee and Steva on Saturday, April 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Djuric Sporthorsesopen house.

Q: Tell me about your stable. What kind of services do you offer?

A: We’re a small facility with a hunter/jumper focus. My husband, Steva, and I do most of the work.  We are lucky to have help from a couple of really good girls who pick up when we’re at horse shows.

18198638_1378866928862525_275190400529780607_nWe offer training, lessons, coaching at shows and we’re happy to help with sales horses. The horses that board on the farm are part of our program, in training or lessons, as well as a few retirees.

Our level of involvement in racing fluctuates, but we offer boutique-style services for Thoroughbreds still intended for racing. I’m optimistic that new financial incentives for horses training in Virginia will help us expand that part of the business.

Q: When did you get started in horses? What is your riding background?

I went into the horses a bit backward from how it probably ought to be done. My mother got me a little palomino 2-year-old when I was about 10, then decided lessons might be in order after the poor thing was living in her backyard and I was kicking it up and down the driveway. A friend of hers had been stationed in Germany, where his daughter took dressage lessons and then came back to the U.S. and took up eventing. She was getting ready to start college and was willing to come out to my parents’ farm and try to help me. I can’t imagine what she must have thought when she saw us.

She got us to our first little shows, way back when Flanagan Stables was the New River Valley Horse Center, doing mostly the itty bitty hunters and equitation. I was so sure our picture was going to be in The Chronicle of the Horse.

The next two decades in a few paragraphs? Working student jobs, riding whatever anyone would let me ride, lessons with the best person I could get to at any given time, dropping out of school at Virginia Tech to ride, going back to school at Hollins – again, to ride – getting really fortunate to sit on a couple of life-changing horses with game-changing teachers and stepping into the jumper ring, trying to be a working adult amateur and finding myself at the racetrack, then just all over from Florida to Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and the mid-Atlantic until we came back to Blacksburg.

I guess the take-away is that I believe good horsemanship transcends disciplines, even with different riding styles. I believe that correct hunter seat equitation is an outstanding foundation for any kind of riding.

Q: What makes your stable different than others in the area? What’s your specialty? What do you take the most pride in?

I’d hate to be wrong and step on anyone’s toes, but I think we’re the only full-time hunter/jumper barn in the New River Valley. This is what we do: It isn’t a hobby, it isn’t a sideline, it’s a passion that we’re fortunate enough to grow into a profession.

hoge pasture
The Stable at Hoge Pasture in Blacksburg is next to the Blacksburg Municipal Golf Course.

We’re still growing and developing as a business, but we’re serious about good management and care. We’re serious about educating riders about helping them set and work toward appropriate goals, and I think providing a professional, consistent environment helps the horses and riders move forward.

I’m reluctant to call it a specialty, but it’s not really a surprise that we have a lot of Thoroughbreds. I think with Steva’s decades of experience riding and working with racehorses on two continents and my experience working and riding at the track over the last several years, Thoroughbreds are a pretty natural fit for us. I feel like we kind of ‘get’ them on both sides of the divide: racetrack life and post racing. I love, love, love the TB divisions offered at mainstream shows now. Thoroughbreds not only get an extra opportunity to compete, I feel like it offers just a little bit of relief from the conversation going on at the upper levels of our sport right now about medication rules. And, frankly,  it gives riders trying to get into the sport at a slightly lower price point the opportunity to have some success – although there are some really nice Thoroughbreds going around now!

It’s more of an accident I think that we’re a barn with more adults than children. Again, I hate to call that a specialty because kids, when they’re into it, are just the best – simple and serious and open and just improve so fast. But for whatever reason we’re building this on an awesome group of adults who have invested their trust and dreams with us. It’s a little intense to think about how quickly and whole-heartedly these people have bought into what we’re doing here. So I hesitate to take credit for their openness, but I’d like to think that I’ve got a special connection to the adult amateur? I tried for years to balance my aspirations as a rider, first with my responsibilities as a student, then with work as a reporter and later desk work at a newspaper. I just couldn’t do it.  So I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the balance these (mostly) women are trying to achieve in their careers and riding and family lives all at once – I couldn’t do what they’re doing. I want to make this work for them. That’s why we’re here. So maybe that’s also a little bit one of the things I take a great deal of pride in?

(But, honestly, bring on the kids. How else am I going to get all the cute ponies in here?!)

Q: Can you describe your training/teaching philosophy?

A: I wish I had something as simple as a philosophy. I believe in setting horses in particular and riders in general up for success? I think horses tend to be most successful and learn best when they’re relaxed and quiet. So not a big revelation that people want their hunters to be quiet, I know, but it’s something I believe in even with the racehorses – where it’s not so much a thing, right? Some trainers want the horses jumping out of their skin on race day and have a lot of success with that. I don’t know how to manage that and it isn’t my style. I think a good jumper should be relatively quiet and rideable. A horse that quietly jumps very small fences or even flats or trail rides has a marketable skill. It’s harder to find riders for anxious, difficult to ride horses at any level.

KuskaPart of that probably means I make haste slowly. I like to do a lot of flat work and small jumps, lots of repetition of basic skills like gymnastics, try to get the horses out of the arena and hacking out.

It also means I spend a lot of time worrying about the horses feeling good and getting appropriate turnout. It’s hard to make a horse show up ready to work when he’s in pain, or get him to focus when he’s just too fresh.

I’d say my teaching style is similar. The beginning and end of this riding thing is that it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve ridden with people who berate and scream and even humiliate. Then I rode with one person who was having fun – while being demanding — and it changed my whole outlook. I’ve never made more progress. I aim to be persistent and demanding, but supportive and positive. If you’re not having fun, what are you doing?

Q: What are your favorite breeds/bloodlines? What do you look for when choosing a young prospect?

A: I try to take on projects that have some appeal to the market so I’m looking for the same thing the rest of the world wants. Young horses really need to be good-minded and sound. I like to start with something at least 16 hands and with some visual appeal.

Half the hunter world seems to be riding these gorgeous C-line Holsteiners now, so that’s always interesting.

I really love to see Thoroughbreds competing under their race names because I think it helps the breed in the sporthorse world. I love to know what Thoroughbred lines are producing for sport. In general, I think turf-type runners are more likely to have the look and movement for the hunter world. There’s this popular conception in the sporthorse world that Storm Cats are tough to live with; I think that’s a little silly. Storm Cat was so popular and has become so pervasive that it’s just like saying chestnuts are tough – with so many in the world, some will be and some won’t.

I guess I just try to be open-minded and look at the individual horse. I think older TBs are underrated. Stock breeds, particularly crosses, can be really kind.

Q: Who are your riding mentors? How have they influenced your riding?

Kim Sobeck was really a game changer for me. I’d like to think I’ve taken bits and pieces of really everyone I’ve worked with and for – I’m a pilferer of words and ideas and exercises. But Kim’s emphasis on rhythm and track, her classical emphasis on equitation, the simplicity of her training style and her business acumen, she opened a door for me into the sport. It’s more than the riding. I try to think I’m grounded in her voice and her energy, but sometimes it’s as specific as starting lessons with very basic exercises we did 15 years ago or as seemingly unrelated as just being willing to put myself out there and take a chance in the world. She was the first one to really tell me I could do this for a living. She was very transparent with what she did and that’s not always a given.

She’s moved on – really when I need her more than ever! But I’m grateful for Ragan Roberts who literally walked in off the street to help. How someone at his level ended up in my barn aisle unannounced is a bit of a miracle. But I think the universe really does provide and he’s just an unusually talented individual; not many people have a system that they can articulate and apply the way he does.

Dove Houghton took me in when I needed a job in Maryland and she gave me an amazing opportunity in the racehorses. Her willingness to let me learn is unparalleled and any time I hear people without first-hand experience at the track criticize racing, it’s her barn I really think of as a model for basic good horsemanship.

About ten years ago I was blessed to spend a few months with Sulu Rose-Reed and Derek Reed. They gave me a place to go when I was struggling to find the right fit. A lot of things about how they organize their business – and keep so many balls in the air at one time –gave me a vision for things I’d like to do here.

Last summer I was with Ann Skogerboe in Texas. Months later I’m still unpacking information she gave me about riding, as well as about management and business and teaching.

Years ago I rode with longtime local trainer Ann Wallace Martin and I think a lot of my openness to non-traditional breeds and my enthusiasm for green horses begins with her. Most of what I believe about starting babies comes from her. She introduced me to the horse shows in southwest Virginia. She introduced me to the people and horses that would give me an opportunity to do more in the industry. I don’t have a start in the business without her.

Q: If you could spend the day riding with any horseman, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

That’s insanely hard! I’ve always been a huge fan of Joe Fargis and the way he appears to direct and allow the horse’s performance rather than dictate and command. It’s one of the things I just worship about Olin Armstrong, too – but I’m not sure that’s teachable?

I’m following Maryland horsewoman Deloise Noble-Strong and actively trying to make something happen there. Her blog often seems to be speaking so directly to many of the bigger concerns I see in daily life, she’s got a super analytical voice in her writing. There are fewer and fewer well-versed columnists in mainstream journalism, let alone readable, well-informed bloggers – and how many of those are speaking to the hunter world? She’s alone in her class as far as I know and I’m intrigued by her efforts to make the hunters accessible.

Most of us teach equitation and I firmly believe in the value of that. But I’m finding that equitation prepared me better for the jumper ring than the hunters — which it should do and I believe is the intent! Showing off a hunter is a different skill set and one I’m trying to reverse engineer a little? So I’m really hoping I’ll be able to set something up with her soon.

But I swear to you there are days I miss having Kim Sobeck on the rail more than I can possibly describe. I keep trying to lure her out of retirement and she won’t bite.

Q: What is the best piece of riding advice you were ever given?

A: Ragan Roberts likes to say that the horses should be teaching you, that you really should be learning from them. And that can sound a bit obvious when you’re sitting on a proclaimed schoolmaster, then a bit reductive when you’re riding around on a goofy OTTB that doesn’t know his left lead from his right… But he’s right. And when I put the riding together with the teaching and the reading and the listening, then the riding other horses, the pieces start to add up and I have these light bulbs go on. So yes, even my baby Thoroughbred has something of value to tell me.

That said, I also rode with a guy many years ago who had all kinds of one liners I find myself dredging up. And since I have a tendency to overthink and get overwhelmed, sometimes I refer back to one of his good ones – “It’s all just kicking and pulling.” And that may be an oversimplification, but sometimes that image helps me get myself a little untangled.

Q: What was your proudest moment in the saddle?

A: I’m still working on that! I’m trying really hard to appreciate the good things as they come. I have this unfortunate habit of being happy for about 1 second and almost instantly second-guessing myself and wishing that we were doing more, bigger, different.

I’ve gotten immensely proud of seeing our girls with their horses go around after all the work that we’ve put into them together. That’s huge for me.

Coming to the racehorses as an adult and starting that as a sideline, it was a little easier to enjoy the riding with a clearer perspective. I remember galloping past the grandstand on the main track and Keeneland for the first time and just grinning like a fool.

Q :Do you have a favorite horse movie or book?

I refer to Hunter Seat Equitation on a regular basis, I keep coming back to Judging Hunters and Equitation, I try to squeeze all the imagery out of Centered Riding for my students.

But for fun I love Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven. There’s a book called The Horsemen, by Jack Engelhard, which is also about racing, that I just cherish. It’s definitely one of my favorite books of any kind. I’m not sure why the best horse books and movies tend to be about racing. We should probably try to fix that!

Q: You’re headed to a horse show. What one item would you never leave home without?

This is beyond the basics? Helmet, for sure, cause I’d rather not borrow that! Beyond the necessities I probably take a huge bag of clothes – a million layers if it’s cold, a dozen clean shirts if it’s hot! I guess I’m not very exciting. Gloves? I just don’t ride without gloves anymore.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give new/young riders?

Yikes. Just keep learning, stay open-minded? Because there is never an always with horses. And the moment you pop your head up and feel pretty good that you know something, horses have a way of humbling you.

I guess it just depends on what you want to get out of it. If you want to be a serious rider the standards are a little different. I saw a list circulating the internet the other day that I thought was good; it was just a recommendation of good habits for good horsemanship – one of the first items was clean your tack after every ride. The whole list was good stuff, but I believe there’s something in cleaning the tack that sets the tone? You have time to reflect on your ride, you start caring for the details, lots of things branch out from there. Somehow that turns into taking more care to make sure the tack goes onto a tidy horse, then the rider needs to be equally tidy, then the work space needs to be swept up and before you know it someone offers you a working student gig. Because who doesn’t want the polite kid who looks neat, takes care of the horse and equipment, and cleans up after herself?

Q: Tell us about the best horse you’ve ever ridden.

The best horse I’ve ever ridden is probably a school horse. They’re amazing animals. The two that I use the most right now are kind and clever and forgiving. One in particular is just a genius at pointing out – safely – an individual rider’s weaknesses.

In terms of talent, it’s just hard to say. I’ve been lucky enough to have people let me ride the truly accomplished horses. One of our customers has a pre-green type hunter now that I think could be really special.

Years ago there was the one horse that I regret not buying. He was a plain little dark bay Thoroughbred – never raced, bred for sport. He had this huge step and the most confidence, he’d been in a professional rider’s program his whole life. I did him in the pre-adult hunters for his 4-year-old year until he got sold; he didn’t have the tightest front end, especially at the little fences, so we weren’t going to set the world on fire in the hunter ring. I kind of took it for granted that he was just a nice little Thoroughbred and there would be others, but in hindsight it was a good match. He would have been a super horse for me to take to the jumper ring.

That’s something I think I didn’t place enough value on at the time.

Q: If you could try any other riding discipline, what would it be?

I guess I always thought I wanted to event? But that doesn’t really count I guess. I still kind of wish I could try riding races but I’ve seen enough up close now to know that’s a terrible idea and I would be awful.

I think it would be amazingly fun to just step off and try something completely different. I kept hoping I’d get a chance to take some reining lessons or something.

Q: What is your favorite local horse show or event? Why?

One of the girls and I were just talking about this. The Roanoke Valley Horse Show has been such a fixture for me, growing up here. Losing it to Lexington and now almost losing it completely is a little scary. Shoving all the different disciplines in a small, temporary space at the Salem Civic Center was insane. And awesome. I was always terrible in the main ring. But it was unique and it was ours, as a community. I hate that it’s moved out of town but I hope we can continue to support the event so that it remains viable.

Q: What one thing would make Roanoke a better place for equestrians?

Cover at least one ring at Green Hill Park? I think that’s such a great public resource; if there were a plan for inclement weather, it seems like it would be easy to schedule — among other things — clinicians. Education is everything, no matter what your discipline.

Q: If you could change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

I wish it was more accessible, mostly financially. It’s really not affordable for the average person to get started and do well, even as a hobby. Doing the right thing by a horse is expensive, education is expensive.

Q: What is your favorite characteristic in a client/student?

There’s probably not much better than a good work ethic and the ability to laugh at yourself! I love the ones who can be open-minded and just get to work trying what we ask them to do. There are a million ways to train a horse. I mean, there has to be because look at all the wildly different things you can get a horse to do! I’ll never say my way is the only way; just that it’s the best I know right now.

Andee Djuric talks with husband Steva Djuric while riding at Green Hill Park Equestrian Center.

Q: What was the biggest surprise about making riding your full-time job?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how open people have been to what we’re doing. Any new business struggles early on and we’ve had more support, more people respond and want to get involved, than I could have possibly anticipated.

Maybe beyond that it’s just an eye-opener to be on the other side of it. Being a working student, a DIY-type amateur, even that can only prepare you for so much. It’s  overwhelming when you’re immersed and responsible for so many decisions and details. I’m always saying that it all starts with just wanting to ride a horse, right? How does that turn into operating a tractor and managing a website and editing video and running payroll and on and on. The first year I tried to do most of it myself and I pretty quickly started getting better at delegating. Steva has taken a ton of the details off of me in the last year.

Q: If you weren’t in the horse business, what would you be doing right now?

Two days ago I might have said I’d be working at a newspaper, possibly even in Roanoke. But the most recent layoffs almost certainly would have eliminated me. If it didn’t, I’d like to think I’d have moved on afterward. I strongly believe that we need professional journalists now more than ever. So maybe I’d try to rally up those veteran reporters to start their own digital outlet to compete with these media conglomerates.

Or just get started on that novel we’ve all got rattling around in our heads, right?

Hollins Spring Welcome Horse Show returns to Virginia Horse Center in March

hollinsThe Hollins Spring Welcome Horse Show will return to the Virginia Horse Center March 2-5 and will feature a variety of hunter, jumper, and equitation classes. The Spring Welcome is a “National/A” rated show and will have USEF 1* Jumper classes as well as USHJA Outreach classes.

Hollins University has had a competitive equestrian program since the 1930s. In the past 30 years, Hollins students have won 18 national individual championships and four have gone on to win the coveted Cacchione Cup. As a team, Hollins has won the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Team Honors twice.

The March show will include a $1,000 WIHS/NAL Children’s & Adult Hunter Classics, $1,000 Hollins Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, $1,000 USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Stake, a $1,000 Hollins Junior Hunter Classic, a $500 Hollins Pony Hunter Classic and a $225 Hollins Children’s Pony Hunter Classic. The show also includes several other special awards and perpetual trophies.

The show will use four arenas at the horse center, including the Coliseum. Judges are Chance Arakelian of Rancho Santa Fe, California, E. Sue Bopp of Remington, Virginia, Randy Henry of Castle Rock, Colorado and Judy Spitzer of Mount Sidney, Virginia.

Stonewall Country Horse Show kicks off another show season at Virginia Horse Center

We may be deep into January in Virginia, but it didn’t really feel like it this weekend at the Virginia Horse Center. The Stonewall Country Horse Show brought USEF ‘A’-rated hunter/jumper competition to Lexington. With the weather about 50 degrees, the show felt more like a spring event then one deep in January.

Saturday afternoon was filled with the show’s largest division, the junior hunters, with 16 horses shown.

The show will repeat Feb. 2-5. Here’s hoping the weather is just as fabulous as it was this past weekend.


Lexington National Horse Show comes to Virginia Horse Center Aug. 9-14

coverHunters/Jumpers will reign at the Virginia Horse Center from Aug. 9-14 for the Lexington National Horse Show.

The show gets started on Tuesday, Aug. 9, with a non-USEF day and the Virginia Hunter Championships. The championships will award $60,000 in prize money. Divisions will include: Professional Hunter Classic, Pre-Green Hunter Classic, Jr/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic, Children’s Hunter Classic, Adult Amateur Classic, Pony/Children’s Pony Hunter Classic. (The Pony Finals will be held separately because of a conflict with the USEF Pony Finals.)

In order to be a part of the classics at the Virginia Hunter Championships, horses must qualify by showing at Virginia horse shows throughout the year. Horses wishing to compete for the professional classic must have shown in at least four of the qualifying shows, while those qualifying for all other classics must have shown in at least six.

Wednesday thru Sunday will be USEF AA and USEF Jumper Two-Star event. The Lexington National also hosts the VHSA medal finals and the AYR finals.


On Wednesday, a one-day clinic with Kathy Doyle Newman will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the East Complex.

Newman is a well known trainer, who herself was trained by George Morris. She has trained many National and Virginia champions, including her own daughter, Katherine Newman.   Mrs. Newman has  also been a board member of the Virginia Horse Shows Association, has been named VHSA Horseperson of the Year and was inducted into the VHSA Hall of Fame in 2013.

The clinic will be split into three groups: 3’6” Equitation, 3’6” Children’s/Adult Jumper and the 3’0” Equitation. One should select a group based on the division in which one currently shows.

The cost will be $230 per rider, lunch included. The Rider’s registration form, waiver, Coggins and registration fee must be  sent the VHSA office by Friday, July 22. Each clinic participant will be granted one auditor’s pass (trainer or parent) at the reduced registration fee of $15, which covers the cost of lunch. The auditor’s name and fee must be included with the rider’s reservation form.

The charge for auditors will be $50 per person, lunch included. The auditor’s name and $50 fee must also be sent to the VHSA office by July 22. After that date, please call the VHSA office at (540) 349-0910 to make arrangements.

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

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Cross View opens 2016 horse show series

The Cross View Horse Show series opened Friday night at Green Hill Park Equestrian Center in Salem with a special jumpers edition, which then rolled into Saturday’s Hunter/Jumper show.

Despite rains that fell overnight, the show had a nice turnout with about four to five riders  in the morning hunter divisions. More horses began to mill about the show grounds at lunchtime for the afternoon divisions, and by then the sun was shining and the temperatures were warming.


The arenas seemed to actually benefit from the overnight rains. While there were puddles here and there, the wet weather kept the sometimes-hard Green Hill Park footing softer than on a typical day.

The show continues Sunday with an Open horse show that includes classes for hunters, gaited, western, ranch and more.

Jason Berry rides Cobalt Blue R to USHJA National Hunter Derby win at Virginia Horse Center

Jason Berry and Cobalt Blue R
Jason Berry and Cobalt Blue R. Photo by Teresa Ramsay Photography

Jason Berry was on top of his game May 6, 2016, claiming three of the top four spots in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. He picked up the victory aboard Cobalt Blue R with a score of 185.0. Elizabeth Bailey and Acido 7 scored the second place spot with a score of 173.5, while Berry also placed third and fourth on IAmWhatIAm and Attila, respectively.

Berry imported Cobalt Blue R, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Oak Ledge Farm, last year. Everything came together for them in the derby class. “For the handy tonight he was just on it.” Berry said “From the time I picked up the canter it was like they put the jumps where I needed them to be. He was super easy to ride for that.”

A Virginia native, Berry was enthusiastic about his win at the Virginia Horse Center. “It’s definitely our home show,” he expressed. “It’s great to win a class here, it’s great to have this facility in your backyard. They have a great indoor Coliseum where they had the class tonight. To have the weather that we’ve had, pouring down rain for the last few days, the option of having a good class no matter what the weather is the best thing about the Virginia Horse Center!”

USHJA National Hunter Derby placings

4    ATTILA            BERRY, JASON

Manuel Torres rides Christofolini H to $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom Grand Prix win

Manuel Torres and Christofolini H gallop to the final fence of their winning jump-off round.

Manuel Torres put in two clean rounds to win the George L. Ohrstrom Grand Prix on Saturday, May 7, 2016, as part of the Lexington Spring Encore horse show at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.

Torres, a five-time Olympian for his native country of Colombia, rode Christofolini H, owned by Andrea Torres Guerreiro, to the win. Torres now operates Santa Catalina Farm in Waterford, Virginia.

Final placings in the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom Grand Prix