We raced ever more threatening skies after our lunch, again at the Red Horse Tavern out on the patio by the main drag through Middleburg.
This is the fourth installment in a series about a trip a friend and I made to take in the Virginia Hunt Country Stable Tour.
The tour is both a Memorial Day weekend tradition and a fundraiser for the Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, VA.
FWIW, don’t think that we saw everything on the tour. Eighteen equestrian establishments opened their gates for the tour. We only visited ten of them.
That’s still a lot of touring for two days. And we still have rare draft horses and polo to go. And, I guess I’m too impatient, because polo wasn’t what I had expected.
Shaggy Highland cattle lounged in the shade beside the country lane that served as the driveway to the stable at Ayrshire Farm.
But Ayrshire is better known for breeding English Shires.
The barn itself at Ayrshire looks like at French chateau. Outside in a pen, a yearling Shire filly grazed where we could see her in the light.
Shire horses, like Clydesdales, are instantly recognizable for the long white hair draping down to their hooves. Historically, they carried knights into battle.
Inside the elegant barn, rested a mare and her four-day-old Shire foal.
Ayrshire also displayed a collection of carriages and wagons. Some would have been suitable for an evening out on the town during the elegant London season. And then there was the chuckwagon.
Ayrshire was one of the more crowded stops. Children loved seeing the gentle giants. The stalls had back windows out of which the horses lowered their heads for adoration and photo ops.
As for the new mama, she stood over her sleeping foal and probably wished all the noisy strangers would just go away. The foal slept stretched out on its side and oblivious to the commotion outside its stall.
Polo at Llangollen
Had we arrived earlier, we could have toured the stables there. Llangollen is the site of a polo school.
But we were tired and ready for some passive enjoyment.Think about it – ten stops in two days. In heat and humidity.
At the polo grounds, about $35 would have put us in the bleachers where there was supposedly food and bluegrass music.
We opted for the free field-side parking area across the field from the paid seats. Far behind the grandstand for the high rollers were the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And behind them, storm clouds.
We took our cues from other, more experience visitors and backed into our space adjacent to the field. Many others came prepared with lawn chairs and refreshments.
My friend has been to polo matches in Florida, so she was just going along for the ride. She also wondered if we needed to pick up hats because they had been expected appropriate attire for spectators in Florida.
My only other experience at a polo match was an arena polo demo at the University of Connecticut during the annual springtime horse symposium. And, of course, I’ve seen the movie “Pretty Woman,” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Unlike in “Pretty Woman,” no one was dressed up. Not even when everyone took to the field to stomp divots. Just like when you go to the local casino these days, you won’t find James Bond in a dinner jacket.
I did see a family who could have modeled for Ralph Lauren’s line.
No wonder the riders have to change horses between chukkers. A chukker is a seven-minute period. The field is huge.
So, play would be lively and thundering — until time to change. A lot of frenzied exciting action — then a lot of waiting. A lot of waiting.
I understand the need for fresh horses. But, hello?, have you ever heard of a halftime show?
I could see why my friend opened up one of the books she’d bought that morning at the used book table at Trappe Hill. And she’s even more horsey than I am, too.
When the time came for the mass divot-replacing, I went out on the field to mingle with the crowd. My friend looked up from her book and said, “Oh, I’ve done this before. Have fun.”
I have to say that I really don’t understand the divot stomping. Steel-shod hooves really trash that grass. It’s not like we get to run out as soon as the chunks flip up to pound it down. So the sod looks a bit dried out and crunchy by the time we get to it. I felt as if we were re-planting dead grass.
Still, I’m a novelist-in-training, so I must collect experiences. But not past my tolerance level.
I ditched the crowd still stomping divots (not my idea of a “halftime show,” folks) and returned to the car with a suggestion for an activity we both enjoy.
We plugged in the GPS/portable navigation unit to head for the closest bookstore still open on a Sunday evening.
We have one more day of activity to go – Memorial Day in Washington. And, believe it or not, we found horsey stuff there on The Mall.
If you enjoyed this portion of our visit to Virginia Hunt Country, you might enjoy posts about these other activites: