The Junior League Horse Show 07.01.10

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View PDF Ace Junior League Horse Show coverstory 2007 p7

Lexington’s Junior League Horse Show

Not Your Mother’s Charity Event

by Heather C. Watson

Sundress- and Seersucker-clad high schoolers take their grandstand seats among boots-and-jeans-wearing Saddlebred enthusiasts. Small children enjoy stick-horse races and pony rides. Well-heeled spectators sport Clubhouse attire while taking their reserved box seats. It is easy, just for a moment, to allow the regally-clad riders, gaiting horses, and historic Red Mile backdrop to transport you to an era of glamour and simplicity. Just as you settle in to your 1930s fantasy – totally vindicating yourself for not making the casting call for Seabiscuit – you notice the Lexington skyline on the horizon. The juxtaposition of charming, old-timey harness races with the skyscrapers and condos could serve as a snapshot of Lexington itself; rooted in its
history and traditions, yet striving for a bigger future.

The Lexington Junior League’s 74th Annual Charity Horse Show takes place July 5th – 10th at the Red Mile. The six-day event, comprised of amateur and professional exhibitors showing horses in a variety of harness categories, is the fi rst jewel in Saddlebred racing’s elite
Triple Crown (followed by Louisville’s Kentucky State Fair World Championship and the American Royal, in Kansas City). Known merely as “Horse Show” to participants and League members, the event has become a summertime tradition for a variety of Lexingtonians.

League member Shannan Stamper Carroll counts organ player Gene Wright
among her favorite Horse Show traditions. “He seems to turn any song into something jaunty for the horses to perform to,” Carroll raves, “My personal favorite was when I realized the peppy song he was playing was
Folsom Prison Blues. It sounded better than you think it might — he kind of captures the tone of the guitar break in the middle of the recording.”

The star of the Junior League Horse
show is the majestic Saddlebred horse, a
versatile Kentucky native. Originally bred
by plantation owners for its sure-footedness
and steady gait, the Saddlebred was developed
in Kentucky in the early 19th Century.
Previously known as the Kentucky Saddler,
the breed was considered to be an ideal
cavalry horse; both Generals Grant and Lee
rode Saddlebreds during the Civil War. As
motorized vehicles took the place of work
horses, Saddlebreds became known for their
pageantry as show horses, soon earning the
nickname “Peacock of the Horse World.”
Following the long tradition of Saddlebreds
in Kentucky (the fi rst known Saddlebred
show took place in Lexington in 1817), the
Lexington Junior League established their
Charity Horse Show in 1937. The event has
since grown to present a vast array of equestrian
competitions involving Saddlebred
and Roadster Horses as well as Hackney
and Harness Ponies. The Show continues to
adapt to fi t exhibitors’ demands; this year,
the Show debuts three new categories of
Western Pleasure exhibits.
As the world’s largest outdoor Saddlebred
horse show, the Junior League Horse
Show features nearly $70,000 in prize money
for winning exhibitors. Due to the show’s
impressive scope and storied history, “winning
at Lexington” carries considerable
cache among Saddlebred exhibitors. In
addition to ribbons and cash prizes, exhibitors
compete for the prestigious Perpetual
Trophies, prestigious awards which carry
the names of longtime friends of the League
and the Saddlebred industry.
Saddlebred Horses are judged in the
show ring based on brilliance, ring presence,
endurance, athleticism, manners and
training. American Saddlebreds compete in
four primary divisions: Five Gaited, Three
Gaited, Fine Harness and Pleasure. Five
Gaited, Fine Harness and Show Pleasure
horses are exhibited with full manes and
tails; Three Gaited Horses that are shown
with their manes clipped to accentuate their
long, fi ne necks. While in the show ring,
Saddlebred Horses exhibit alertness, head
up and ears forward with an arched neck,
and a preening attitude. These exacting
standards are upheld by a panel of judges
selected for their national expertise on the
Saddlebred circuit.
Even though the Horse Show exhibitors
are held to highly exacting standards,
many attendees fi nd that you don’t have
to be knowledgeable – or even particularly
“horsey’—to enjoy the show. Junior League
member Tanzi Merritt, a Lexington librarian
and member of the March Madness
Marching Band, admits that she has never
really had much interest in horses. Merritt
notes that while she has spent many years
contributing her volunteer hours to the
Show, she had never paid too much attention
to the show itself. She adds, “Last year,
I got the chance to sit down with someone
who’d never been to the show before and
actually watch it.” The Show provided a
far greater scope than she had imagined: “I
thought it would be just single horses and
riders dressed like the [dressage] rider on
the typical Junior League Horse Show poster,”
she notes. “I had no idea that I would
see so many different types of carriages or
that there would be such elaborate costuming
for some classes.”
In addition to the pageantry of Horse
Show competition, the Junior League has
organized a schedule of special community
events to keep attendees both entertained
and informed about the League’s mission.
The Gaited Gallery, located at track level in
the Red Mile Grandstand, is a unique collection
of shops presenting equestrian-themed
clothing, artwork and keepsakes, as well as
Horse Show souvenirs. The Show’s daily
events center around themes of women
and children’s health initiatives, the focus
of all chapters of the Association of Junior
Leagues International. The Show kicks off
on Monday with Community Night, which
honors the League’s present- and past-funded
agencies. Tuesday, the Show pledges to
turn the Red Mile “pink,” raising money and
awareness for breast cancer charities including
the local chapter of Susan G. Komen for
the Cure. Wednesday is Family Night, fea-
6 ACE July 1, 2010
by Heather C. Watson
It’s not your mother’s
charity event
7 ACE July 1, 2010
turing the always-popular stick pony class
for children aged eight and under, as well
as pony rides, a bouncy house, and other
kids’ activities sponsored by Raising Cain’s
restaurants. Thursday is Go Red night,
women’s heart
health. Friday’s
include a
fashion show
luncheon and
the evening’s
main event,
the cocktail
party Gala.
S a t u r d a y ’ s
C h amp i o n –
ship events are
highlighted by
a salute to the
U.S. Armed
Forces, with all military personnel and veterans
receiving free admission.
While many of the Horse Show events
preserve the original flavor of years gone by,
it’s hard to imagine a group of 1930s League
matrons planning events with flamboyant
fashion maven Carson Kressley. Kressley,
a fashion stylist, reality television
fixture, and longtime Saddlebred
enthusiast, was the Master
of Ceremonies for last year’s
Horse Show Gala and is hosting
Friday’s fashion show luncheon.
The luncheon, which will include
the Lilly Pulitzer equestrian
print of his own design,
will be held as a joint project of
the League and the American
Saddlebred Horse Association,
on whose board Kressley sits.
The fashion show’s colorful and
irreverent take on equestrian
prints, along with Kressley’s
commentary, are almost assuredly
not your mother’s Junior
League luncheon.
In addition to catering to a
more diverse crowd than ever
before, the Junior League Horse
Show has proven itself to be
a big business for Lexington’s
summertime economy. While
the Horse Show’s long history
has secured it a place among
Lexington’s favorite summertime traditions,
it also presents a significant tourism
boost for the city. The Junior League Horse
Show was named one of the State’s Top 10
Summer Festivals and Events for 2010 by
the Kentucky Tourism Council, and is projected
to attract nearly 30,000 spectators. As
visitors and exhibitors eat, sleep and shop
while participating in the Horse Show, they
spend money: out-of-town visitors are expected
to generate nearly 10.4 millon dollars
in revenue for the city of Lexington during
the 2010 show.
The Horse Show serves not only to generate
revenue for local businesses, but also
to raise money that will ultimately be redistributed
by the Junior League to deserving
community agencies throughout Central
Kentucky. The Show serves as the Junior
League of Lexington’s primary fundraising
activity. Since its inception in 1937, the
event has raised more than $3.75 million
to benefit regional charitable organizations.
Local agencies that currently receive
funds and volunteer services from the Junior
League include the Manchester Center,
the Alzheimer’s Association, the Carnegie
Center and God’s Pantry. Junior League
members work year-round to prepare for
the show, forming committees to oversee
everything from trophy sponsorship to exhibitor
hospitality. Every active member of
the Junior League contributes extensive volunteer
hours to produce the show.
Like the Horse Show, the Junior League
of Lexington itself has adapted to meet the
demands of the 21st Century. Founded in
1924 to promote voluntarism among women
and support the Lexington community, JLL
has provided the assistance of both financial
contributions and volunteer hours to
most major charitable initiatives within the
city. The League’s earliest initiatives, Baby
Health Services and the Lexington Children’s
Theater are now well into their seventh
decade of improving life for Lexington’s
children. No
longer solely
the purview
of the pearlclad
who Lunch”
crowd, the
League is
c omp r i s e d
of dynamic,
s u c c e s s f u l
women who
leverage their
League membership
as an
for both professional
networking and volunteer opportunities.
Says Lexington attorney Nanci
House, “I joined the League to meet people
close to my age who were involved in the
community. After college and law school
were over, I felt like there was a disconnect
and everything seemed to become more
about work and less about serving
the community.” House
notes that her membership in JLL
has led to additional volunteer
opportunities, and that she now
sits on the Board for the Chrysalis
The trainings, leadership roles
and volunteer opportunities that
the Junior League of Lexington
affords its members are invaluable,
according to House, “It really
is amazing that this group
of women, who have very busy
lives outside of the League, can
come together and raise some
much money and awareness and
help so many people and make
friends all at the same time.” The
Horse Show illustrates her point;
the largest outdoor Saddlebred
show in the world is planned and
implemented by busy women –
Mothers, Lawyers, Ph.D.s—who
volunteer their “spare time” to
League projects and community
The Lexington Junior League
Charity Horse Show promises
its attendees a fun mix of tradition, local
interest and community involvement. The
decades-old competition, full of pageantry,
skilled competition, and history, has adapted
to meet the interest of younger participants
while retaining the charm of its tradition.
Cash covers and Carson Kressley are
perhaps a far cry from the 1937 Horse Show,
but promise a lively and classic Lexington
Ace Writer Heather C. Watson is a long-time
Junior League member. She hopes to see y’all at
the Horse Show Events.
Horse Show Nightly Events
Community Night
The Junior League of Lexington honors its
past funded agencies.
Paint the Red Mile Pink
Please wear pink to help bring awareness
to breast cancer treatment.
Children’s Stick Horse Class
6:15pm Registration table will be behind
the announcer’s booth. Entry fee is $5.00
per child. You can register at www.lexjrleague.
Raising Cane’s Family Night
6:45pm Come join the fun with bounce
houses, pony rides and much more. Located
by the Red Mile Round Barn. Cost: Free
Go Red Night
Help support the American Heart Association
by wearing red.
Lilly Pulitzer Fashion Show
12:00pm – 2:00pm The American Saddlebred
Museum & JLL will host a Lilly Pulitzer
luncheon and fashion show. Tickets can be
purchased on line at
8:30pm – 1:00am at The Historic Red
Mile Round Barn. Tickets can be purchased
Veterans Night
All military veterans can attend the show
for free!
Ladies Night for JLL Sustainers
6:30pm Cabaret Cocktail party for Past
Horse Show Chairs and League Sustainers
at The Red Mile Clubhouse

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