Friday, May 20, 2011

Old Keswick

I returned today from the Keswick Horse Show which takes place just east of Charlottesville, Virginia. Keswick is a lovely "horsey" area full of large farms, lush grass, grand old Virginia homes and of course, horses.

The Keswick Horse Show is an old Virginia show, in the same genre as Upperville, Deep Run, and Warrenton (in its day, but not so much anymore).  It is uber competitive and it is fun to go and watch even if you are not competing.

It is put on by the Keswick Hunt and much of the money raised goes to charity.  There is a train track that runs through the show grounds so your horse must be "train proof" to compete there.  Just part of its charm.

Here is a photo of a cabin on the grounds, used by the Hunt Club.

Love the sign:

Here are a few photos of the "hunter ring."  There is a jumper ring too. 

The horses are all turned out with braided manes and tails, the riders are in their outfits.  It makes for a lovely picture.

I love this old jockey that a vendor was selling.  Had a pretty hefty price tag on it or it might have gone home with me.

There is a party most nights under the tent at the end of the ring.  Love the arrangements for the tables:

Thanks to all of the Hunt Club members and volunteers who make this show so much fun.  There is nothing like an old Virginia horse show!

Farm Friday - Muzzle and Mow

I love spring, but it also means mowing and this year, with all the rain and sun, it has been overwhelming.  Once I get everything mowed, I have to start all over again.  This is week five of this cycle.  It is so bad, that I've taken to mowing early in the morning, before I start work.

The horses don't like it much either as now all three have been muzzled. The mares battle their weight much of the year but even Alfie is getting in on the picture now.  This morning, April and Sega were turned out with their grazing muzzles, which slows down their ability to graze.  They can still eat and drink but just not as much.  The other alternative is a dry lot or no turnout.  So this is much better.  If they eat too much rich grass this time of year they can founder which is very painful and sometimes career ending.  So I have to keep a close watch on them.

Hoping for less rain, warmer weather and slower growing so I can enjoy farm life again.  And it has rained every day this week!  I love spring but this mowing thing is just too much!

But the horses sure like it!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ruthie Sommers

I don't usually go "ga ga" over a particular designer as I like so many different things and styles but I came across the house that Ms. Sommers designed for a young couple in Chicago in the January issue of Town & Country and was ready to call the couple and ask when I could move in.  The house is lovely!  Take a peek:

Even with the snow on the ground, you just want to curl up by the fire.  Another view of the same room:

I recall reading that she did not want the owner to paint the "cocktail room" red but it looks pretty good:

Here are some more shots of her work in other houses:

I was told recently that lucite is coming back:

And I love this post (from Tory Burch I believe) from Mother's Day:

Not only is she talented but she has depth!  Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Best Horse Books

I used to be an avid reader and still love books (not the "e" kind) and love to own books that I have enjoyed reading.  For those of you out there who really do read, let me suggest a few good books with "equestrian" themes.

One of my all time favorites, which is no longer in print is a Country Life Diary by Josh Ponds.  This is a true account of living and running a breeding farm in Maryland.  I could not put it down and have read it more than once. 

Another one is A Very Young Rider. This is a classic and I believe it was released again after many years due to its cult-like following.  Every household should have this one.

With the Preakness coming up, how about a race horse book?  Horse of a Different Color is a well written book about a former editor who moved to Kentucky and started a breeding farm and bred a horse that won the Kentucky Derby. Jim Squires is the author.  His subtitle is "A tale of breeding geniuses, dominant females, and the fastest Derby winner since Secretariat."  At least he's honest. 

If you want a more technical book on riding, then George Morris' book is "The Bible" for hunt seat riding.  Every rider I know has this one.

A great coffee table book is Vicky Moon's well known Equestrian Style.  Lots of great photos in there. 

I don't read a lot of fiction, so I am not listing a lot of fiction books about horses.  But hopefully I have given you some good ideas for your summer reading list. 


Monday, May 16, 2011

Fantasy Dinner Party

OK, let's do a little fantasizing here.  What if you could have the most fabulous dinner party ever? Invite the most interesting people, serve the best food on the most gorgeous china.  Have the best flower centerpieces in the most elegant dining room or patio.  Just pick the best of the best of the best.  What would you do?

Here's what I would do. I'd start with formal engraved invitations.  I like these, with some slight modification; would use a horse logo of some sort, probably more fox hunt/country in lieu of the race horse motif, but you get the idea.  Love the "equestrian orange" lined envelopes.

I'd have a formal dinner for 8-12 people in my dining room at home, but I won't show you photos of that just yet (a work still in progress, but the drapes should be completed any day now). We might start by having cocktails here:

Or maybe a few chairs with this view before dinner:

 Here are a few dining rooms that will suffice though, given that mine is still not quite done:

This one is from Elle Decor:

This one is an ideal space for a small intimate affair (from Southern Accents):

China is my weakness, so if I could I'd have 30 sets (or more). This Hermes pattern sets a lovely table (from Southern Accents):

I like this one too, more formal, but beautiful (also from Southern Accents):

Pull out the silver and use it!
And you must use formal, monogrammed linens. Try these (all from Leontine Linens):

These flowers would add to the decor (nothing is nicer than fresh flowers):

I love to cook but am a very picky eater but prefer to cook from chefs who own restaurants (not sure why).  Some of my favorites are:

Anything from Vong.  He puts together the most unique flavors.  You'll need a separate spice rack just for this book, but it is worth it.

Here are few more:

And one with a southern twist:

Hope I have inspired some great dinner parties! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Lawn Jockey

The fabled Lawn Jockey has a long and illustrious history that goes all the way back to George Washington.  There are three versions of the American Lawn Jockey and there are two distinct historical time frames associated with it.

1) 1776 to 1913: the original versions were made of solid iron or zinc and weighed 300-400 pounds and were designed for functional use, tying horses.  The one pictured above may be from this time period. (This one is on Ebay right now)

2) 1913-present: reproductions were made of hollow iron (weighing about 150 pounds), concrete, plastic or aluminum.  These were made for decorative use.

The fabled "21 Club" in New York has a wide array of reproduction "Cavalier" Lawn Jockeys.

There were three versions of the the Lawn Jockey.  Two you have probably seen before, but there were other versions too.  The three manufacturers that had catalogs and marketed their products were JW Fiske and JL Mott of New York City, and Robert Wood and Co. of Philadelphia.  The makers mark was usually stamped on the top of the base.

There is a story about the "Faithful Groomsman" that could be fact or fiction, it is unclear.  But the original Lawn Jockey was indeed a "Faithful Groomsman" who worked with General George Washington.  The story goes that a 12-year old slave named Jocko Graves stayed on the shore of the Delaware River that famous night when Washington crossed the Delaware.  He held a lantern to mark the location but he froze to death later that night.  To honor him, Washington commissioned a cast iron statue of Jocko holding a lantern and called it "The Faithful Groomsman."  There is no existing record, however, of there being a statue like this at Mt. Vernon.  But there are records of many "Faithful Groomsman" statues existing. 

In a somewhat related story, legend has it that the Faithful Groomsman statues were used to point the way to freedom for the Underground Railroad.  According to oral tradition, if no slave hunters were near, the sympathetic agent lit Jocko's lantern or tied a bright cloth to his arm to signal that it was safe.  Some records point to the use of red or green lights or fabric. 

Up until around 1860, there was likely only one version of the Lawn Jockey, "the Faithful Groomsman."  After 1860, two new versions emerged:

"Jocko" as it came to be known was a caricature version of "The Faithful Groomsman."  This version was never copyrighted or patented. (This one is a reproduction.  I prefer the older Jocko statues).

The "Cavalier" is today widely reproduced and an unpainted cement version can be purchased for less than $200.  This version was copyrighted in 1871 and patented in 1872.

The term "Lawn Jockey" is rather recent originating in the 1940's. 

It is not uncommon to see these painted in farm colors.

You can purchase these today from various places, order it unpainted or custom in whatever colors you desire.  You can find the older ones on Ebay, at auctions and in antique stores but be prepared to write a big check for the old ones, if you can find one. 

I'm loving these Lawn Jockey canasta cards:

Next time you spot a Lawn Jockey on someone's farm, I hope you will enlighten them to the unique history of this fabled statue with a past.
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