The lead line 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 is much more. Significant work and planning goes into getting tiny tots ready for this special class, sponsored this year by Patriot Buick GMC.
Some years, as many as 100 children, divided by age into a “3 and younger” section and a “4 to 6 year old” section, show in lead line.
Parents have to procure a lead line-appropriate pony. The job of a lead line pony is not 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 to his or her best in the Dixon Oval. Some children ride their own mounts, while others borrow a pony specifically for the class by 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, the next step is 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 lead line rider will be outfitted as a sidesaddle, Western, or jumper rider. All the little details matter. The hunter lead liner must dress like a miniature version of an adult hunter rider -- wearing jodhpur boots, breeches, a ratcatcher-style show shirt, a well-fitted dark colored 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.
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 get ribbons recognizing their riding skills.
See the class for yourself Saturday, May 26.