Upperville is one of the most charming horse show venues in the world. The unique setting — hunters on the south side of John Mosby Highway Route 50, jumpers on the north, June 6 to 12 — blends rural sporting traditions with spectacular views. Competition-wise, Upperville’s top three jumper classes have leaped into the global big time, thanks to official recognition by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI).
“One of my goals as president of Upperville Horse Show has been to bring more of our top riders back to this show,” said Michael Smith. “With the FEI 4-star ranking we’re hearing from some of these riders a desire to return to compete at Upperville.”
CSI**** is a four-star or 4* Concours de Saut International or international jumping competition. The stars, up to a maximum of five, are how the FEI ranks competitions according to prize money awarded. Upperville’s FEI classes are the $35,000 Speed Class, $40,000 Welcome Stakes presented by Jim Thompson of Washington Fine Properties, Middleburg, Va. and Wiseman & Associates Wealth Management, and the $216,000 Upperville Jumper Classic.
FEI recognition is a game changer in many ways. All told, it was achieved by six years of concentrated effort and upgrading of the historic show ground, thanks to millions of dollars donated by the small army of dedicated board members, loyal supporters, and volunteers. Smith led the way, supported staunchly by longtime show manager Tommy Lee Jones.
The FEI’s announcement of 4-star status last February served to increase their commitment to making Upperville even better. In addition to more prize money, upgrades include state-of-the-art all-weather footing, new rings, improved on-site amenities for exhibitors and visitors, and a ringside club for spectators.
Upperville has upped its tech with a brand new website, thanks to board member Tom Gorman. “Tom’s also producing all our webcasts in the main hunter ring and the main jumper ring. We’re stepping up that part of the show,” said Jones, who became manager in 1982 at the request of the late Theodora A. Randolph. Over the years, he brought Upperville to its current AA-rated status with entries of about 1500 horses in the week-long show.
Sponsorship is essential. Early in his presidency, Smith asked new board member Tracey Weinberg to take charge. “Tracey and her committee have done an outstanding job raising sponsorship money for the hunters and jumpers,” he said. “Our sponsors nearly tripled in the last three years in anticipation of the FEI rating.”
Upperville’s sponsors include Washington Fine Properties and Wiseman & Associates Wealth Management — Welcome Stakes; Salamander Resort and Spa — Hunter Derby; Middleburg Bank — Lead Line classes. Charles Owens sponsors the Riders Lounge on the jumper side, and many others sponsor items, such as Holtzman Energy, Valley Ice, Virginia Truck Center, and Animal Rescue Fund, to name a few.
There isn’t enough space to mention everyone who contributes to Upperville’s success and longevity, but Punkin Lee merits special mention. She’s secretary of the board of directors and, as owner of Journeyman Saddlers, has been a vital link to local businesses. Jones credits Lee, as longest-serving board member, with singlehandedly keeping everyone true to the spirit of the 163-year-old show.
If you haven’t made plans to visit Upperville, now’s the time. It’s a daily multi-ring equestrian extravaganza, featuring some of the show world’s best riders, hunters and jumpers. The show features great vendors to please diehard shopaholics, food stands, and hospitality, both free and ticketed, such as the Wall of Honor luncheon, exhibitor hospitality tent, hunter side grandstand, VIP ringside boxes, spectator bleachers, and the posh 1853 Club Pavilion at the main jumper ring.
Special evening classes, with start time of 5 p.m. on the jumper side include Thursday, June 9 – FEI 4* $35,000 Speed Stakes; Friday, June 10 – FEI 4* $40,000 Welcome Stakes; Saturday, June 11 – $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. The grand finale on Sunday, June 12 at 2 p.m. is the $216,000 FEI 4* Upperville Jumper Classic.
For the full show schedule under exhibitors’ forms and information, plus lots more to help you plan your visit: www.upperville.com