Story by Elaine Anne Watt

A conversation with Barbara Roux

Judging of side saddle class. Beauty and organization was everywhere you looked at UCHS. Photo by Joanne Maisano

Judging of side saddle class. Beauty and organization was everywhere you looked at UCHS. Photo by Joanne Maisano

The Upperville Colt & Horse Show, dating from 1853 with deep traditions, is a marvel of planning and community effort that truly reflects the spirit of Virginia hunt country and its commitment to offer both competitors and spectators the best experience possible. For a magical week in June each year, the sprawling grounds just outside the quaint town of Upperville are transformed into a functional village of gorgeous tents, first class performance and training facilities, gaily decorated and competitively designed courses for jumpers and hunters, food vendors, the 1853 Club, merchandise and all the necessary accommodations and logistics support to handle an estimated 2,000 horse-and-rider pairings in an orchestrated dance that builds to the grand finale of the FEI CSI 4-star Upperville Jumper Classic on Sunday afternoon.

Middleburg Life was fortunate to be able to sit down with Barbara Roux, First Vice President of the UCHS for the past three years. Although we never really discussed it, Roux’s family owns St. Bride’s Farm, this year’s Show Presenting Sponsor. Her warmth and passion was immediately evident as she began to express her gratitude to the “creative, hard-working, dedicated board members, and the wonderful volunteers who come out year after year to give back to this community in an inclusive way.”

The setting of the show with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background on the Jumper Side, and the woodsy terrain on the Hunter Side was breathtaking. Everything seemed to be structured to emphasize the natural beauty while providing maximum functionality for all.

There was so much to do and see that whether you’re a horse enthusiast or not, you could stroll the family-friendly activities, treat the kids to some slushies, sample the newest old bourbon from Kentucky, shop for tack, animal nutrition or the latest fashions or try Art Under the Oaks. Barbecue to funnel cakes were all conveniently available so that you could take your time and enjoy your day at the show or come all week. From Lugano Diamonds and Hermés saddles to a practical leather application, you could find it here.

Barbara Roux at Upperville Colt & Horse Show. Photo by Elaine Anne Watt

Barbara Roux at Upperville Colt & Horse Show. Photo by Elaine Anne Watt

“We have many talented people that work so hard to get things right,” said Roux. “Right now, we are walking around taking notes of what is working well and what we can do better next year. The planning never stops.”

Roux especially acknowledged the efforts of the Upperville Board, Show Manager, Tommy Lee Jones, who has been with the show for 36 years and Show Secretary, Ginny McCarty, a 15 year veteran who “just pulls it all together.”

“We also have many volunteers that work tirelessly to help the show run smoothly and we cannot thank them enough for their many contributions. All of these people give their time, talent and resources to produce the show and share our southern hospitality with our riders, owners, exhibitors, spectators, trainers, officials and grooms,” said Roux.

Another highlight of the show was the return of McLain Ward, who is currently the number two rider in the world. Roux shared: “He’s a tremendous ambassador to our sport and so humble. This year he gave a clinic during show week and the people participating and observing gave it tremendously positive reviews. Another rider from Upperville, Allison Firestone Robitaille, recently participated in the 2018 World Cup in Paris. It is thrilling both watching her show at home and following her as she competes for the United States abroad.”

Near and dear to Roux’s heart and to all the Board members are the many charitable and nonprofit organizations that benefit from the show and that are recognized over the course of the week. This year, Military Appreciation Night was added to the programs and was thoroughly embraced. The participation of the soldiers from the Caisson Platoon as part of the ceremonies to honor and celebrate veterans was particularly moving, as they serve to carry the fallen to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Churches of Upperville, including Upperville Baptist, Trinity Episcopal, Mount Pisgah and Upperville United Methodist, and the Volunteer Fire Department of Upperville directly benefit from the horse show. The UCHS also welcomes other nonprofits to participate with show sponsored booths and promotion. Examples include Seven Loaves Food Pantry of Middleburg, which is supported by the “Great Barn Challenge” as well as the donation of over 800 pounds of non-perishables remaining from the 1853 Club catering, humane societies and their animals. The Fauquier SPCA fundraising and adoption awareness program was sponsored as well as the Middleburg Humane Foundation’s tack sale and animal adoption services.

“This show always has and always will have deep roots in our community. We are inclusive and welcoming. We invite local families to attend and participate and include members of the community in the show,” said Roux. “On Grand Prix Sunday, the children from the Middleburg Community Charter School kicked off our 4* Grand Prix by singing our National Anthem and car collectors bring rare and exotic cars for display at our Horses and Horsepower car show held in memory of David Mullins who helped organize the first car show four years ago.” To add to the excitement, this year one of the Board members provided a genuine NASCAR
racecar to the show.

Middleburg Community Charter School singing the National Anthem to start the Grand Prix. Community inclusiveness and support was evident throughout the week. Photo by Anna Purdy

Middleburg Community Charter School singing the National Anthem to start the Grand Prix. Community inclusiveness and support was evident throughout the week. Photo by Anna Purdy

An impressive list of sponsors that return year after year are critical to the growth and success of the show and reads like a who’s who of area businesses and families that have provided a firm foundation for the UCHS. However, each year new sponsors continue to come on board as well. These sponsorships have enabled the show to offer competitive prize money and upgrade key elements of the show such as the technology and communications. Some of the recent improvements include live-streaming classes nationally and internationally, the distribution of updates, events and results in the form of a daily newsletter and providing the best footing possible in the rings.

According to Ginny McCarty, there were 1500 stalls on the show grounds and 1800 horses and ponies showing during the event. “We were sold out weeks in advance of the show,” said Roux. “But, we had neighbors and friends who were able to find room at their farms for the overflow. That is what our community does and what makes it so special.”

We’ve been talking about an hour when Middleburg Life learns that Barbara Roux just moved here only six years ago, but has been active on the board of UCHS for five years. For this area, she’s practically a newbie.

“When we moved here, we needed help with the barn layout and design, and neighbors opened their barns, shared ideas and recommended products and craftspeople. We were amazed by so much kindness, help and generosity to someone so new
to the community.”

When asked what means the most to her about her involvement with the show, she doesn’t hesitate at all: “I love meeting new people and thanking vendors, sponsors, riders and owners for their participation. It’s a joy to meet the riders and their incredible horses. Many of these are the ‘rock stars’ of our sport and the people admired by our children and developing riders. I always keep in mind as a member of the Board that I represent both the UCHS and my community. I want people who come here to have fond memories and want to return.”

All of the people involved with the show seem to have heavily committed schedules. “They are all hard-working and capable, but they somehow find the time that it takes,” said Roux.

Just listening to the amount of attention paid to the smallest detail was impressive. How much time does it take to make this all work?

Roux said: “Well, when you want something to succeed, you never stop thinking about it and how to widen your circle of contributors, how to improve from where you are, how to adequately thank participants and volunteers. I am so pleased with how the show has grown and developed and with the talented people that have made it possible. I have the deepest gratitude for everyone who has worked so hard. It’s 52 weeks a year that you think about it.” ML