By Keswick Life
The Keswick Horse Show, the second oldest horse show in the United States, started and continues to be a community horse show that represents the best of Virginia horseman and our community. Started in 1904, the horse show has been chaired by members of the Keswick community and Keswick Hunt Club. The Horse Show happened even when hunting didn’t. In the years after World War I, hosting and running the annual show was about the only organized Hunt Club activity. First held Thursday, May 26, 1904, the show continues until this day. There have been many changes including types of classes and horses, but one constant has always been hard work by club members to make it possible.
Every spring in May, when all the country is beautiful, the Club holds its annual Horse Show unique in point of originality and emblematic of the highest sport of sporting spirit there being no Club prizes and only laurels to the winners in the form of ribbons. Privat Cups, the gifts of individuals, are often presented, but these are not Club prizes. It is a gathering of the gentry from far and near to enter into friendly competition, their best carriage teams and best hunters as well as their saddle horses and children’s ponies.
It is always a fete day and the psychological moment of enjoyment for the Southern beau and belle. Then the spirit of friendly rivalry where professionalism is eliminated, and our interest is keen because of our own and our friend’s exhibit, adds a personal zest to the show, a Grand Stand, a Judges Stand with Band Stand above, and a splendid Show Ring are matters of local pride.
– Dr. Thurman 1908 Virginia Country Homes
There wasn’t much going on back then, and when the day of the show would come, everyone in the neighborhood would be there, everybody took a box in the grandstand and stayed there and watched the whole day. And then they had the bandstand in the center of the ring right over the judge’s stand, we’d get a rusty old band to come out from Charlottesville, they played the National Anthem and all sorts of marches and songs when they awarded ribbons, the band was lots of fun and kepy everyone amused.
– Charlotte Rafferty
Keswick is one of a handful of shows in the country that have traditions and identity distinct from the generic show. Jimmy notes Keswick has a beautiful landscape , good parties and southern hospitality.
– Jimmy Lee
From the tile of Julian Morris to today’s Cismont Manor and Belcort Farm, Keswick has always been home to top show horses.
Today, horses arrive at the Keswick showgrounds in gooseneck trailers, large vans, or larger tractor trailers. In earlier years horses and ponies had to use their own powere to get there. The late Ellie Wood Keith had a stable full of ponies at her home on Bollingwood Road near UVA for most of this century.In the late 20’s and 30’s she mounted children on ponies and rode with them across town, over Free Bridge and out to Keswick for the show. Her daughter, Elliwood, now Mrs. C. McGhee Baxter,remembers the ride took a few hours, and that was good for the ponies. Elliewood Keith continued teaching children to ride and taking them to shows through the 1970’s.
Of the dozens of Keswick Horse Show trophies, the handsomest is the Waiting Home Perpetual Trophy for Champion Model Horse. On the trophy’s mahogany base stands a sculpture of KHC member Peggy Augustus on Waiting Home soaring over a rail fence. Peggy wears formal attire including shadbelly coat and top hat. The horse has his front legs folded and hind legs still stretched back.after taking off at speed. The sculpture is by Marilyn Newmark who took great pains to achieve accuracy. She took countless photographs of the horse jumping in the ring at Old Keswick, the Augustus home. He had to be braided so the sculpture would have the exact number of braids. She carried an old pair of his horseshoes to her studio. She even made Peggy crouch for hours in her living room in riding position while she made numerous sketches to be sure she had accurately sculpt the creases in her hunting breeches. The resulting sculpture is a beautiful memorial to a champion horse. The trophy resides now in the Keswick Hunt Club for all to view, and is awarded annually to the Model Champion.