Every barn has an event that seems to be the summer kick-off event. Ours here in Carbondale, Illinois varies between MayDaze at the Kentucky Horse Park and the Indiana Eventing Association Classic 3 Day event. Some years, members from our barn will run both, and sometimes the group splits between the two events.
This year I targeted IEA because they host the Classic format at the Novice and Training levels, with the plan of competing the long format in the Training. I was not disappointed once during my five day stay at the Hoosier Horse Park as the event was run in top class form from start to finish, with attention paid to even the tiniest detail for horse and rider.
For anyone who has not had the privilege of attempting a long format event, I strongly encourage it. I had more fun this past weekend than I probably have at any other event, and the energy in the three-day stabling was comparable to any FEI event I have attended- OK, maybe a little shy of Rolex but, to a lot of riders, this IS their Rolex.
From the very beginning everything was educational and about giving the competitors every chance to succeed throughout the weekend. A riders meeting was held at noon on Thursday, followed by a drive-by and breakdown of phases A and C for Saturday. Lee Ann Zobbe has done a wonderful job of making sure every possible question is answered, having wonderful speakers and educators for the first timers, and having a very approachable attitude for any concern throughout the weekend.
Dorothy Crowell and her team were exceptional at walking us through every phase; practice jogs, course walks, steeplechase schools, and vet box breakdowns. Every single person who volunteered had a smile on their face, despite baking in the sun and sitting on roads and tracks or in a warm-up ring for hours.
There was such a sense of camaraderie in the barns, it really did not matter how anyone placed because the experience was worth more than the score. Sportsmanship and horsemanship were at the forefront of everyone’s minds throughout the weekend, and all the competitors and grooms continued to show up and support their friends, old and new.
The classic three day ran a record number of horses this year, with twelve passing the first vet inspection for the Training division and more than twenty five in the Novice. Everything ran spot on time wise, due to wonderful organization, and with minimal problems or confusion. The horse trials ran several divisions as well, running from the Beginner Novice through I/P levels, all with confidence building courses, beautiful dressage rings, and a fun show jumping course.
With running so many divisions across so many levels the organizers made the decision to run some show jumping on Saturday while the cross country was running, and everyone I spoke to who had multiple rides had plenty of time to get from one horse/ring to the next without feeling rushed. If there was one complaint all weekend that I heard it was about the gnats, which is something completely out of the hands of the staff and organizers.
There were beautiful ribbons and great prizes offered across all levels, including cash prizes for the top three in all of the horse trial divisions. For anyone who is within driving distance of the Hoosier Horse Park I would suggest that you pencil in this event for next year. I unfortunately missed the competitor party, but I heard that it was also a major highlight of the weekend, and if you were to search YouTube there are rumors of Cupid Shuffle videos running around.
If anyone harbors any interest in competing a long format event, all I have to say is go for it! There is no feeling greater than hearing “Accepted” after going down the jog strip, coming off of steeplechase, or even the final salute after finishing your first test in a standard dressage arena.
Best of all though was galloping through the finish timer on show jumping and just knowing I had completed, such an accomplishment in itself. Thank you to all of the organizers, volunteers, officials, and others who make this event possible and put in the extra work to allow the long format to continue. I am already looking forward to returning in 2015!