Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Sport of Kings-The Beast of Burden: Excellent Horses in Rockingham County

The first of an occasional article on the history of horses in Rockingham County
The Elkton and Timberville Horse Shows

During the last century somewhere in the region a horse show was scheduled almost every weekend. Many of these shows no longer occur. The Elkton Lions Club hosted a show from the end of WWII until the 1960’s, which featured a race track as part of its program.[1] Horse shows in Broadway, Bridgewater and Weyers Cave are also no longer on the calendar. Countering this trend, the Rockingham County All-Breed Horse Show was resurrected three years ago.

Two horse shows are on the calendar for September 2011. The Elkton Historical Society is the sponsor of the event that was held on September 10th at the Blue Ridge Park at the north end of Elkton on Route 340. The event has been held continuously since 1983 when it was organized by Jane Cline, a local horse show organizer since the 1960’s, to help pay-off the debt incurred by the Town of Elkton for its centennial celebration.[2] After the first year, the event has been under the auspices of the Elkton Historical Society.
The Society uses the proceeds from the horse show to pay for the renovations, upkeep, and acquisitions for the Miller-Kite House Museum. The Elkton show, once the largest in Rockingham County and one of the largest in Virginia, almost did not survive after the 2009 season. To turn a profit, the event needs about $10,000 in sponsorships and sixty volunteers.[3] The lackluster economy since 2008 reduced the number of sponsors and volunteers. Participant and popular demand encouraged the Society to give the show another try in 2010 and it was successful enough to put it on the 2011 calendar.

This year, the all-day show offered seventy competitive classes hosting 270 entries from the area and surrounding states. The President of the Society, Casey Bilheimer, claims that, in addition to a fine horse event, the fried chicken is very popular with attendees.

Also in September, on the 17th, is the Shenandoah Valley Fall Classic in Timberville. This show has been held since the 1980s. This year 120 entries are expected from all over the country. The show is at the Timberville Horse Show Grounds on American Legion Dr.. Participants can rent one of the forty-four newly constructed stables. The American Legion provides the surface and grounds for the event. Sponsors include the Shenandoah Valley Horsemen’s Association and the Virginia Walking Horse Association.[4] Forty-four classes are scheduled including Open Racking and English Country Pleasure. There will also be a stick horse class for children of all ages.[5]

The change from an economic value to a recreational value of the horse had significant consequences for the horse show and horse culture. Also recent national and local economic problems have compounded the cost of horse ownership. Horse ownership is now a luxury. The price paid to own a horse represents only a down payment on the cost of ownership. Preparing for a show takes money, practice, and perseverance. Yet, one winning performance and a blue ribbon can lead to euphoria and an addiction.

[1] Telephone coversation with Casey Bilheimer.  July 28 and August 8, 2011.
[2]Telephone conversation with Jane Cline.  August 29, 2011.
[3] DNR.  September 14, 2009.
[4] Telephone conversation with J.C. Saylor.  July 28, and August 8, 2011.
[5] 2011 Timberville Horse Show Application Form.

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