By Veronica J. Finkelstein
The leadline class is a longstanding tradition at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. It may look like nothing more than an adult leading a child on a pony, but it's much more. Significant work and planning goes into getting tiny tots ready for this special class, which is sponsored by Patriot Buick GMC this year.
Some years, as many as 100 children, divided by age into a 3 and younger section and a 4-6-year-old section, show in leadline.
Parents have to procure a leadline-appropriate pony. The job of a leadline pony isn't easy. The ring is crowded and the atmosphere can be intense for a pony who isn't used to Ferris wheels and string bands. It takes a special, calm pony to show off a little rider in the Dixon Oval. Some children ride their own mounts, while others borrow a pony specifically for the class, leasing a pony who is already at Devon showing in classes with older children. Leasing a "famous" pony can cost thousands of dollars, just to ride in a single class at the walk.
With the pony in hand, leaders next have to make sure the rider is appropriately attired. Most children dress as though they are competing in a hunter class, but from time to time a leadline rider will be outfitted as a sidesaddle, Western or jumper rider. All the little details matter. The hunter leadliner must dress like a miniature version of an adult hunter rider - wearing j
boots, breeches, a ratcatcher-style show shirt, a well-fitted, dark hunt coat, an approved helmet and black gloves. If the rider is a girl, her hair will usually be braided into pigtails and adorned with colorful ribbons. Her pony will have its mane and tail braided, sometimes with yarn that matches the ribbons in her hair.
However, the rider and pony aren't the only ones who must be properly attired. The leader has to dress the part as well. It's as much a fashion show for the leaders as it is a horse show for the riders.
All riders get blue ribbons and a lollipop. Some talented children also get ribbons recognizing their riding skills.
See the class for yourself this Saturday, May 26, in the Dixon Oval!