Now that’s summer’s drawing to a close, it’s a good time for local equestrian enthusiasts to head out for a fall round up.
Cornerstone Horsemanship, located on 30-acres of land at 5229 Homestead Trail off Reva Road, hosts stock horse competitions that are open to the public and free of charge.
The season runs from May through October, with the 2019 season’s final show scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6.
The two-day events, which highlight a wide variety of equestrian skills, are sanctioned by both the East Coast Stock Horse Association and the American Quarterhorse Association, said Charles Pellham, who owns Cornerstone Horsemanship with his wife, Michelle.
While stock horses may not be currently as high-profile as some other classes, Charles Pellham said it is one of the fastest-growing equestrian groups across the nation.
“Stock horses are used for working livestock—cattle in particular,” Pellham said. “Our shows are open for any breed, and we have people who compete at all levels.”
Pellham said Cornerstone’s monthly two-day shows consist of seven different events, and participants can earn points and qualify for national-level stock horse competitions.
The local events usually average a little over 200 competitors each month, with participants mainly coming from Virginia and its adjoining states, Pellham said.
Pellham said they bought Cornerstone Horsemanship in 2011 and began focusing on training riders and showing in the area.
After the East Coast Stock Horse Association came into being in 2014, the Pellhams began hosting events sanctioned by the organization, he said.
“We saw a growing demand for all-around horses; there’s a lot of specialization these days, and horses that can do a wide variety of things were starting to get lost,” Pellham said.
Charles said the Pellhams moved to Virginia in 2000 from their home state of Arkansas, where they both grew up on family cattle ranches before meeting in college and later getting married.
The couple has spent time working for equestrian operations in Utah and California, where Pellham said they trained horses for former NFL player and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana.
Among the events featured during Cornerstone’s shows are several in which the riders work with cattle, including cutting, ranch riding—in groups and individually —and ranch roping.
“All the events we do are judged, as opposed to timed,” Pellham said. “It’s about precision, not speed.”
Competitor John Grano of Culpeper County said he and his wife, Cindy, have been competing with their horses for about 11 years now, ever since they happened to meet Charles and Michelle at an event at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County.
“They became our trainers,” Grano said. “They were the on-site trainers at Graves Mountain, and they helped us work with a horse we were considering buying.”
Grano added that, although the relationship with the horse didn’t work out, their relationship with the Pellhams has continued ever since.
“We own 10 performance horses now, and most of our shows are here,” Grano said. “This is one of the few places in the area where you can compete and earn points on a national level.”
Grano, said the horses are more versatile and less expensive, adding that the events are also very family friendly.
“It’s a well-rounded horse,” he said. “That’s one of the things we like about doing this. It’s not about the winnings at all; it’s about the horse.
“It’s a good discipline, and not so well developed that the prices are out of control yet,” Grano said. “You can still get a good horse for less than $10,000. An A-level jumper can cost you $500,000. The price of a good horse for this is like a car, rather than a house.”
Pellham said the 2019 season here will close after next month’s show on Oct. 5 and 6.
The shows begin daily at 9 a.m., and are usually done by 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday to allow participants time to travel home Sunday evening.
Pellham said the shows demonstrate a wide variety of disciplines across the spectrum of skill levels.
“We have people here of all competitive levels and ages,” Pellham said. “We have people here who have won multiple national championships as well as people who are just beginning.”