In central Virginia, August brings the beginning of the school year, final trips to the beach, the Perseid meteor shower and in a corner at the junction of Orange and Spotsylvania counties, the Belmont Horse Show.
This year marked the 79th of the event which the Belmont Club of Women and the Belmont Ruritans have presented almost every year since 1936. There only have been three years the show wasn’t scheduled—one during World War II, once for a death in the landowner’s family and a final time when it rained on both the day of the originally scheduled show and the chosen rain date.
Since its inception, the Belmont Horse Show has been a fundraiser for the two clubs. In 1936, the club conceived the idea of a horse show to raise $35 to provide a home nurse for a local resident. The original show was a success, raising more than $50 and in recent years the show has netted the groups thousands of dollars, with the highest profits ($9,000) coming from the 2018 show.
Unlike most modern horse shows which feature multiple sand rings, the Belmont show is held in one all-grass ring with large trees in the center. The show has classes for young and old, English and Western riders, driving, games and costume classes.
Entries are inexpensive--$5 for ponies and $10 for horses for any number of classes. Admission to the grounds is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Most other horse shows don’t charge admission, but entries range from $12 to $25 per class. At Belmont, an adult with a horse can enter one or 16 classes for $20 ($10 entry and $10 grounds admission) and a child with a pony can do the same for just $10.
John Marsh, president of the Belmont Ruritan Club said the horse show is a summer tradition and successful fundraiser for the club.
“Our horse show is a real tradition,” he said. “We’ve been doing this since 1936. People can come show their horses, get a really good lunch—our jambalaya is great—have an ice cream cone or a piece of homemade pie.”
Dick Harris has the distinction of having the longest tenure in the club. He has been a Belmont Ruritan for 64 years and has been involved with the horse show even longer, having participated in the show as a young boy. Harris said the show has seen some changes over the years but remains much the same year after year.
“I’ve been coming to this for a very long time,” he said. “Even though I’m not much of a horse person, my father was, and I remember riding here when I was about 4 years old. The crowds were different back then. People came just to socialize. The make-up of the crowd is different. A horse show used to be a really big event. Now, the crowd is made up of family and friends of the riders performing. The food is always good, though. You can count on having good barbeque or jambalaya and a piece of homemade pie.”
Bobby Goodwin has announced the show for 55 years and his wife, Sally has worked in the secretary booth for many years. Goodwin reflected on the longevity of the club’s fundraiser.
“It’s pretty amazing that we all keep going,” Bobby Goodwin said. “This horse show started before we were born. Over time we’ve made some changes. Originally there were classes for draft horses and jousting but we modified the class list as that stuff isn’t as popular now. This is our 79th year and we’ve only missed three shows since 1936.That’s a pretty long run.”
Orange resident Ron Meeks echoed that sentiment.
“I think I probably showed here 10 times as a kid,” he said. “This time, I’m here with my daughter. It’s her first time showing here. She’s having a good time so I’m sure we’ll be back again.”