Inside Pebble Hill
Mrs. Poe's Show Horses
by: Whitney White
Pebble Hill Plantation was purchased by the Hanna family of Cleveland, Ohio in 1896. The Hanna daughter, Kate Hanna Ireland Harvey, began using the plantation regularly in 1901 as the winter home for her family. Although Mrs. Harvey had horses, she turned her interests quickly to Jersey cattle. Her daughter, Elisabeth (Pansy) Ireland Poe, was the one who drove the expansion of the stables at Pebble Hill.
Around 1902, wooden stables and a carriage house were constructed on the property. In 1928, Mrs. Harvey had the current Stable Complex built as a home for her Jersey herd. At that point, the wooden stables still housed the horses for the property. Following her mother’s death in 1936, Mrs. Poe converted the majority of the Cow Barn Complex into housing for her horses. She altered one section to serve as the Carriage House as well. Eventually, the wooden stables were taken down. A few Jerseys were kept for dairy production, and the Cow Barn and Milking Barn areas are still a part of the complex today.
Mrs. Poe first became involved with show hunters during her teens in Cleveland, Ohio. She competed in numerous events throughout the eastern United States and won the Hunter Stake at the National Horse Show in 1929. The trophy she received for this show had a bronze statue of a horse on the top of it. Mrs. Poe wanted “Sunrise,” the horse she rode in the show and a particular favorite of hers, to be showcased on the trophy. So she commissioned Hughlette (Tex) Wheeler to do a bronze of her horse that now sits atop the trophy. This trophy can be seen today on display in the Big Room. Sunrise Field at Pebble Hill is named in honor of this horse. In the Pebble Hill collection of horse trophies, “Sunrise” is represented more than any other horse.
In the 1930’s, Mrs. Poe’s show horse stable was moved to Fox Bend Farm in Kentucky. She wanted to create her own line of top show hunters and jumpers. To this end, she recruited the best of the best horse people to assist with this endeavor.
Garfield Harding was retained to help break, train, and ride the show horses. Kenny Wheeler and Ellie Wood Keith Baxter, both top professional riders of the time, showed the horses throughout the eastern United States. Mrs. Poe’s horses were regular winners in such top shows as Chagrin Valley Hunt Horse Show, Virginia Horse Show Association, Warrenton Horse Show, and Lake County Fair. The horses spent the winters at Pebble Hill and then traveled to Fox Bend Farm in the summer and around the country for show competitions. Mrs. Poe eventually deeded Fox Bend Farm to Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, and that property has since been sold.
In 1997, Garfield Harding was inducted into the Virginia Horse Show Association Hall of Fame. Kenny Wheeler and his wife, Sallie, were awarded the United States Equestrian Federation’s Jimmy A. Williams Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. In 2000, Ellie Wood Keith Baxter was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame. She was also awarded the USA Equestrian Pegasus Medal of Honor.
Peggy Augustus was another top rider who showed horses for Mrs. Poe. During her show career, she won all the major championships in the United States and Canada. She is also a member of the National Horse Show Hall of Fame. In the 1960’s, Jack Payne of Gordonsville, Virginia, was primarily responsible for Mrs. Poe’s horses. He was an inductee to the Upperville Colt and Horse Show’s Wall of Honor in 2010.
Mrs. Poe also had Canadian Equestrian Team member, Moffat Dunlap, show some of her Confirmation Hunters and assist with horses that had the potential to become international-level jumpers. Former United States Olympian, Anne Kursinski, was also associated with Pebble Hill. Following her time of riding for Mrs. Poe, she had a successful career and became one of the best show jumping riders in the country. Her credits include being a member of over forty USET Nations Cup Teams, five Olympic Teams, three USET World Equestrian Games Teams, and has competed in ten World Cup Finals.
Some of Pebble Hill’s notable show horses of the era included “Baby Seal,” “Take Command,” “Our Delight,” “Skipper’s Fate,” “Mighty,” and “Pass Run.” Two of the hunters, “Jack Blanford” and “Baby Seal,” are featured in a painting by Jean Bowman, which hangs in Pebble Hill’s Elisabeth Ireland Poe Gallery. The Main House has numerous trophies and ribbons won by Mrs. Poe’s horses, many of these by the show horses.
Even now, the Pebble Hill stables still have horses. Today’s occupants include various driving and riding horses. From the seniors who have earned the right to graze at leisure in the paddocks to the newer horses that pull for weddings, student groups, and other tours, they are all well cared for and well loved. For the visitors, they are impressive “window dressing” around the Stable Complex, and they are reminders of the many horses that were there before them.