BY LR KINDEL
In 1901, a group of women in New York sought to help those in need on the Lower East Side projects in Manhattan where they established settlement housing, education and health care to new immigrants in similar vein as Jane Addams and Lillian Wald. The mission of the Junior League is: “The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.”
–www.ajli.org Mission Statement
Lexington’s Junior League began in 1924 by 10 women dedicated to the mission of the Junior League and contributed to baby health services in 1938 and the Lexington Children’s Theater in 1939.
In 1936, the members of the Junior League of Lexington needed to raise more than $900 with teas and bridge games to help those desperately in need in their community. They knew they had to dig deep and Marie Kittrell, Junior League president at the time, invented the Junior League Horse Show as the Lexington Chapter’s fund-raiser in 1937. With an operating budget of $500 and naysayers in the community, the members of Junior League approached W. Jefferson, local horseman and bloodstock agent, who became the first Junior League Horse Show manager. This first show opened on July 22, 1937 with approximately 5,000 in attendance and made over $5,000 to benefit the Lexington community. This first show’s success launched The Junior League Charity Horse Show as the League’s main annual fund-raising event.
Since its inception in 1937, the Junior League Annual Horse Show in Lexington was never just a charity fund-raiser. In the first year alone, 216 horses competed in different equine events including hunter jumper and saddlebred divisions and classes. Over the years, the Junior League Horse Show grew in size, donations and status. In 1962, the horse show received “Honor” show rating by the American Horse Show Association, now a part of the United State Equestrian Federation. In 1972, the Junior League Horse Show committee decided to end the hunter jumper classes and division from competition for financial reasons. Because of this elimination, the saddlebred portion became the main focus of the show, launching the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show into a new level of competition, ultimately becoming the largest outdoor American saddlebred show in the world. The horse show is also the first leg of the Saddlebred Triple Crown.
Now in its 78th year, the 2014 Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show opens July 7 at the Red Mile in Lexington with events for young and old alike. Tina Moss, 2014 Lexington Junior League Horse Show chairwoman, says: “we want to make the Junior League Horse Show a memorable family and social event in Lexington every year.”
On Tuesday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m. is the 22nd annual Family Night and the Stick Horse Race at the Red Mile where children can experience running on the show track, ride ponies, jump in the bouncy castle and get their faces painted.
A new event for this year’s show is the first dog show at the horse show. Tina Moss said “Horse shows usually have dog shows because dogs are integral to horseshows in general.” The Dog Show will take place on Saturday, July 12 at 10:30 am in the Red Mile’s Show Ring.
The Dog Show consists of 8 classes—Puppy (12 months and under), 2. Costume Class, 3. Junior Handlers (Under 18 years of age), Mutt—No pedigree dogs, Lap Dog, Pedigree, Trick Dog and the Open & Amateur Championship of the first 7 classes. Monetary prizes will be awarded to the winners. Moss commented “it’s laid back, open to everyone.” Other events include the Gaited Gallery throughout the event, the Sustainer Dinner and Paint the Red Mile Pink Night on Thursday, July 10; and the silent auction and after party with Encore of Lexington playing music.
Another aspect of the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show is celebrity sightings.
“William Shatner competes in Saddlebred shows and last year won the Amateur Roadster to Bike Class,” Moss said.
Carson Kressley, of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Dancing with the Stars fame, is a saddlebred fan who’s “easy to notice because he’s always in style.” One year he assisted with a fashion show.
The real stars of the show are the saddlebreds and the events the horses and riders compete. American saddlebreds, more commonly known as show horses, compete in classes that are three-gaited and five gaited. The three gaits are walk, trot and canter with the five gaits being the walk, trot, canter, slow gait and the rack. Each gait is a type movement made by the horse when trained by an equitation coach.
Once in the ring, saddlebreds and their riders compete is several different classes, disciplines and events including: three-gaited and five gaited to display refinement, elegance and form in the performance of the different gaits; the fine harness division shows the animated style of the different gaits with elegance and refinement of the rider’s skill; park division requires the same style, refinement and elegance of the other divisions but also show finish in the animation of their gaits. Lastly, the pleasure division with two classes of show pleasure and country that demonstrate the alertness and rider responsiveness with an emphasis on manners and the true, flat walk performance. The pleasure division also includes driving, hunter and western classes. The Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show also shows saddlebred ponies in various classes and driving different carriage and roadsters.
The Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show brings Lexington together for many reasons. Moss hopes the horse show becomes a “major staple social event in Lexington every year.” “It’s not all about the horse show,” she said. “It’s also about what the Junior League gives back to the community.”
For more information about the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, go to www.lexjrleague.com and on facebook: Lexington Junior League Horse Show.