Aubrey Holmes was named champion, and Abigail Gilly reserve champion in the walk/trot (youngsters) category of the Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council’s Spring Fling horse show Saturday, May 20. However, the blue ribbons at the horse show only told half the story.

The day started with several dozen young and very young riders venturing into the show ring on lead line, meaning an adult walked with them, leading their mounts. Helmets firmly in place, the children sat carefully upright in their saddles, managing not to fall off when the command to trot came from judge Alison Ward.

For most of the horses, this soft beginning to the show came after they had been trailered to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society grounds and given a short workout to settle their nerves.

Karinne Nivala riding Quick Foxie Doc, aka Jackson. — Maria Thibodeau

“He’s usually a brick,” said trainer Christine Arenburg, whose horse, Sedona, was doing his first show of the year. She uses Sedona for lessons, during which he reliably carries riders of all ability levels (especially beginners) around the practice ring and along the trails by the Funny Farm, where he lives. “This morning he was a little, not like himself. I think just because it’s spring, and it’s his first show of the year.”

Sedona, waiting for his turn in the ring with rider Diamond Vanderhoop, munched contentedly at the grass, every inch the stalwart he’d always been. If he had nerves, they were not apparent. In an hour he would also carry Celeste Ewing into the ring, where the two of them would garner two blue ribbons and a champion designation (in the adult division), as well.

“I like the horse show because it’s having fun,” said Diamond Vanderhoop, who has been riding since she was two. In fact, horse shows may be the one sport where having fun gets a ribbon. Judge Alison Ward, surveying the leadline Equitation/Pleasure class, had awarded all the kids blue ribbons because “you are all enjoying your ponies.”

Grace Douglas gets an early start at 2.5 years old. — Maria Thibodeau

However, those who were honing their skills with an eye for bigger things also had a good day. Trainer Tracy Olsen of Woodbe Farm was especially pleased with the performance of Panda as she carried her young rider through the equitation classes. “She’s Olympic,” said Ms. Olsen proudly.

Stephanie Dreyer was hosting a booth to raise money for the MVHC scholarship fund, raffling prizes from the horse farms on the Island. The council awards a $1,000 scholarship each year to a graduating high school senior. “I’m trying to highlight all the different barns and trainers on the Island,” said Mrs. Dreyer, pointing to a sign displaying all the names.

Jack Marshard on Gracie Girl followed by Oona Carroll on Sedona. — Maria Thibodeau

At the adjacent booth, Rising Tide Therapeutic Riding Center was selling Vineyard Serenity calendars, created by photographer and author Michael Blanchard, to support the nonprofit therapeutic riding program.

And in the announcers’ booth, Lisa Nivala of the horse council was holding it all together, announcing winners, calling out the numbers for each class’s participants, and urging her teenage son, Luke, to raise the jumps for the next group of riders.

“If you signed up for games, make your way to the grass riding ring,” Ms. Nivala’s voice called out over the speaker system. Inside the booth, she explained, “There’s a small army of volunteers doing everything.” That included everyone from the Ag Society folks to business backers like Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank (sponsor of the lead line classes) and little girls charged with going into the ring and handing out the ribbons to the proper winners.

Some of them, however, had already broken into the goodie bags that had come with their own winnings and became distracted, until a woman stuck her head in the announcers’ booth to recall them to their duty. In an urgent mother’s cadence, she said: “Chocolates down! Ribbons up!”

And out into the ring they went.

More photos of the spring fling horse show.