HOW IT ALL CAME ABOUT
Last summer, two American ladies came to visit us in France. They read about us on the internet and were interested in our Shagya Arabs. Before they arrived we had made friends with Terry the mother and on learning that our stallion Arthur's sire Tregoyd Journeyman was in Virginia, she visited Bay Haven Farm and made friends with Anna Cohen.
When Terry and her daughter Annaliese returned to the USA, we were invited to visit. Finding housesitters and someone to look after our horses, was a challenge and Terry and I wondered if we would really make it. We did however, in June 2011 and were given a wonderful welcome. We spent a few days in Washington DC, a long weekend doing horsey things and then enjoyed the spectacular scenery on the Sky Line Drive, Shenandoah National Park and then visits to the original US settlements of James River, York Town and Colonial Williamsburg.
Saturday 9th was Cleveland Bay Day at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest continuous horse show in the USA. It was an opportunity for us to meet people whose names appear on CB registrations - Idlehour, Beladonna and Epiphany Bay. Our hostess Terry had already made contact with Marcia Brody, who posts on the CBHS Forum and between them they had organised a tail gate party after the classes.
We were made very welcome the eats and chat were excellent. As we had to get there very early Terry had also packed a picnic breakfast with wonderful oven cooked scotch eggs. Apparently this is a traditional hunt breakfast in Virginia. The sausage meat came from an Amish butcher at one of the farmer's markets Terry frequents. Delicious.
The arena at Upperville is very unusual with a stand of oak trees in the centre and a sand track with two cross sections enabling competitors to ride a figure of eight. We were told that riders find it very user friendly, but for those of not so good with a camera, it meant a lot of running to and fro to get a good selection of shots.
The CB classes consisted of an in-hand class, ridden class and hunter hack class (with two jumps) and a 'get of sire' class which we found interesting. The idea is that a stallion is judged by the quality of his progeny, so two youngstock must be shown for each stallion. The only problem being that CB's are quite thinly spread in USA so only two sires' progeny were judged.
Not all the CB's coped with the jumps in the hunter class - I do think the dappled shade may have put off some horses and there were one or two refusals but some nice jumping also. (The ladies in the side-saddle class which followed were BOLD!!) more later. In the hunter class they all had to gallop and then stop in front of the grandstand this really showed off the obedience of the CB but did not give the audience the same thrill of watching hunters eat the ground, as they do at the Royal Highland in Edinburgh. I really think that a CB in full gallop is a lovely sight to behold. When those hooves hit the ground I am reminded of that famous scene from Jurassic Park, when T-Rex first appears.
As we Europeans know -everything in the USA is BIG. We are proud of our new Ifor Williams two horse trailer - Beladonna turned up with the biggest trailer I have ever seen!! Six lovely CB heads looking through the side windows and spacious tack room on the front.
Annaliese, Terry's daughter had flown in from Oregon and met up with an old friend, who was once the USA side saddle champion. Very interesting lady. Watching a very nice blanket spot appaloosa she explained that traditionally horses should be black or brown and that 20 years ago the whole line up would have been TB, whereas today most of the competitors ride warmbloods. There was one part-bred CB in the class but sadly not placed.
The hunter class was really entertaining as the ladies had to jump two fences. What a bold and courageous group they were. The winner of the first ridden class was Master of the Middleburg Hunt, so I think they are well used to jumping. I am sure they would have been shocked at a competition we watched in France where the some of the side saddle competitors rode with training aids attached to the bridle!!!
The etiquette of the class was also interesting. Riding gloves (white) should be tucked under the right hand saddle flap with three fingers showing and riders should have a sandwich in their special leather pouch and a drink...which I am told is tea. You wouldn't get me riding side saddle on a mug of tea - a large Gin would be more like it.
Sunday was a leisurely start, a visit to the American equivalent of Riding for the Disabled, called rather nicely, Therapeutic Riding. The centre named Life Me Up catered for children and also war veterans, those who have suffered head injuries really benefit from this form of therapy. Most of the horses are donated, when their competition careers end, and are never sent for slaughter, when they can no longer work. Many breeds - Morgan, a ClydesdalexTB, Selle Francais. A lovely clean and well run barn with lots of enthusiastic helpers.
We also stopped to admire the falls/rapids on the Potomac river known locally as the Great Falls. Then off to American Brunch in a renovated old mill - fantastic and an afternoon at The Old Dominium Stud, Bay Haven.
I knew a little bit about Anna Cohen but was stunned to learn she had saved three CB mares from the slaughter house. Anna and her husband had purchased two CB fillies in the UK but decided they needed more land when they bought a stallion (Sigh!!! This is how we all get caught, first the horse, then the companion, then more land, then more horses, then more land). So they purchased 40 acres of land and built a house, barn and field shelters.
Anna knew a lady who had four horses 3 CB and 1 TB, this person had lost her grazing and had left her husband (leaving your husband is OK but your CBs NEVER) Anna offered all four a home and managed to rehome the CB mares but kept the TB mare, who with Tregoyd Journeyman, and has produced a superb colt foal called Praetorian. Animal rights campaigners succeeded in getting USA horse slaughter houses closed, which means horses endure hours of travel to either Canada or the hell hole of a Mexican slaughter house. I was touched by Anna's story and so happy that these four horses escaped this terrible end.
Bay Haven is a delight with the traditional barn and house. If you have the builders in - weep now!! The barn was built by Amish workmen - four men, four days. The house came from Vermont and was built in two days - although that did not include the finishing. Not at all Christian to covet your neighbours' property but covet I do. The traditional buildings painted in warm ox-blood red are really beautiful.
Currently Anna has two stallions Journeyman, running with the TB mare and Knaresborough Fusilier running with Penrose Bayberry, who he covered while we were there. Since we left Penrose Willow has given birth to a colt foal by Fusi, which is pictured on her website.
Jo and Cleopatra have a filly now 2 years old called Bridget, she was so nice and reminded me of our own Little Dorrit and last but not least Cholderton Cybil, who is rather pretty and reminded me of our own mare Merindah.
As well as her CB's Anna now breeds rare breed pigs and sheep and turkeys. Our own farm is called RaceRare and it was a real joy to meet a kindred spirit and see how things are done in the USA. Again we were made so welcome and had a really fantastic time.
THE TOURIST BIT !
On Monday we left Washington and headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had heard of the Sky Line Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway and wanted to visit. The whole drive is more than 400 miles long but we just covered 100 miles in the Shenandoah National Park. It took us 6 hours because we stopped so often to admire and photograph the views. Looking East towards the Potomac and West over the Shenandoah valley with the Appalachians beyond. We were fortunate in that the weather was perfect with no heat haze to spoil the view.
We then spent a week meandering back towards Washington visiting Charlottesville, Richmond and Williamsburg. The latter is a restored Georgian town with old fashioned Inns, horse drawn carriages and all the crafts associated with that period, cobbler, wheelwright, brickmaker etc. The houses are furnished in the period and guides take visitors round in groups explaining who lived here and what they did.
Of course we took a carriage ride and as soon as we said Cleveland Bay the girls said "oh I would love one'. One thing led to another and soon were invited back to the horse barn to meet the Director of Equestrian Services, Richard Nicholl. Richard is actually English and is an FEI course builder. He will be in France for the 2014 WEG.
We were shown around the 'barn' where they do everything themselves, the carriage restoration and all harness and saddlery is made in house including metal work for stirrups and buckles. The horses are purchased in pairs from Canada, young and just broken to harness. The centre lets them grow on for some months and then they train for their tourist work. There is a waiting list of people wanting to buy the carriage horses when their time is finished at Colonial Williamsburg.
Apparently when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Colonial Williamsburg, they were given a huge welcome, we actually rode in the same carriage that they had used. Some Wag in the crowd held up a banner saying "Will you take us back?"!!! We understand the Royal party WERE amused. We like it because at all the historic sites we were told how the French had helped to defeat the English...we got our own back though - I was reading A Thousand Years of Annoying the French, which is now doing the rounds in Washington!!!
We had a really enjoyable visit to the USA and wished we could have spent another week there.
Click on thumbnail pictures to ENLARGE