Virginia is for Horse Lovers

Bethany Iles, trick rider for Aurora Equestrian Circus

The feeling of Spring was strong today as I drove to The Meadow Event Park – a half-hour drive almost entirely through bucolic countryside.  A gentle breeze blew through lowered windows, a few geese touched down on a sparkling pond as if on cue, and the pastures were a mix of grazing horses and endless buttercups.  It was as if I had a perfectly executed show opener for the Virginia Horse Festival.

The annual festival is all things equestrian rolled into one weekend at the birthplace of the famous horse Secretariat. It consists of clinics, exhibitions, showcases, vendors, and family-friendly entertainment.

The half-hour Aurora Equestrian Circus presented by Legacy Family Entertainment is a display of trick riding, singing, and aerial acts. It’s a family affair – mom Jennifer (a former trick rider herself) is the show’s announcer, dad Jeff runs the aerial rig, 11-year old son and trick roper Dalton runs the sound and cracks the whip (literally!) and 8-year old daughter Maddy is one of the show’s highlights, performing both as an aerialist and trick rider. Other members include the talented Shelby Clift, an equestrienne and Nashville recording artist who performs her original music from horseback, and Bethany Iles, an accomplished PRCA trick rider who performs a Roman Ride – among other tricks – on her beautiful Palomino horses Vanilla and Bean. The Aurora show at the Virginia Horse Festival is a small taste of a larger production running in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Canine Stars performance

The Canine Stars is an international dog show featuring rescue dogs performing tricks and dancing.  Tricks include freestyle disc, high jumping, and agility. The kids will love this one. And speaking of the kids, be sure to grab tickets for the carousel!

The Exhibit Hall Arena, in addition to housing classes and the exhibitions, features horse-related vendors, including tack, riding apparel, books, feed, trailers, and much more. Food vendors offer many fair favorites, including cotton candy, kettle corn, ice cream, and some amazing barbecue and brisket. There were a few other memorable moments, including meeting Jessie Lohr, owner of Swift Creek School of Equitation, with her little herd of rescue foals (who doesn’t love a horse baby?), and seeing a gorgeous, rare Caspian horse in person.

Caspian Horse

There is so much more to come this weekend, including the Derby Dash 5k and one-mile walk / run through the historic Meadow Event Park property. Race start time is 9 a.m. and is not a timed event.  First-place winners will fittingly receive a dozen roses, and medals will be given to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winter. Net proceeds will go to support the rebuilding of the recently burned down Beaverdam Equestrian Center and the newly announced Secretariat Heritage Center.

Bonus: The Virginia Horse Festival welcomes your pup! Just bring a non-retractable leash and rabies vaccination certificate.  There are pet stations with water and pick-up bags stationed around the festival.

Leisha Griffith’s Riding with Confidence clinic

The event takes place May 3-5 this year at The Meadow Event Park. Children under 12 are admitted free, but still need tickets. Click HERE for other ticketing options.

Event Hours:

Friday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Kari Smith
Author: Kari Smith

River City Magazine staff writer Kari Smith is a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a child writing poems and songs. In 2006, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee for a decade to pursue her dream of recording her own original songs. Songwriting began as a way for her to express herself and document her journey. She continued on to pursue writing articles as a way to chronicle and share her personal adventures and interests. Besides teaching and performing music in the Richmond area, she also enjoys riding horses, Latin culture, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

Kari Smith
River City Magazine staff writer Kari Smith is a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a child writing poems and songs. In 2006, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee for a decade to pursue her dream of recording her own original songs. Songwriting began as a way for her to express herself and document her journey. She continued on to pursue writing articles as a way to chronicle and share her personal adventures and interests. Besides teaching and performing music in the Richmond area, she also enjoys riding horses, Latin culture, and spending time outdoors and with her family.