Marlborough Horse Trials Celebrates Its 25th Year of Sport

Courses run through four fields. Photo by Holly Covey. Courses run through four fields. Photo by Holly Covey.

Not many things as temporary as a horse trials seem to last 25 years these days. But the Marlborough Horse Trials has stood the test of a quarter century well, and after Sept. 17th’s annual presentation, has a great future ahead.

Marlborough’s annual USEA recognized horse trials ran opposite the mighty Plantation Field CICs, and was up against the AEC entry drain as well, yet put on a first class competition for full Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Open Preliminary divisions. Marlborough is held at the Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, a 982-acre day park in conservancy. It’s open to the public all year round, with many bikers, hikers and pleasure riders as well as hunters, so course work can only take place just before the event.

Rosaryville is also the home of the famous Mt. Airy Mansion, originally thought to have been built in the 1670s, and one of the oldest Maryland mansions connected to the Calvert family, the Lords Proprietor of colonial Maryland. Rosaryville is in the middle of traditional hunt country, and the mansion was thought to be a hunting lodge for the Lords Baltimore. President George Washington attended the wedding of his adopted son at Mt. Airy Mansion in 1774, and in the last century it was known as a very popular society gathering place when owned by Washington socialite. The state purchased it in 1973 and the mansion still hosts weddings and social occasions. (The mansion is in a different part of the park than the horse trials courses.)

Courses run through four fields. Photo by Holly Covey.

Courses run through four fields. Photo by Holly Covey.

And by first-class, I do mean it! The crew included two USET former team riders officiating (Carol Kozlowski, president of the ground jury, and John Williams, course designer); the delightfully organized Brian O’Connor of Speakeasy announcing; Area II favorites Pat Mansfield as TD and Kathy White as show jumping judge; and a host of very experienced and long-time Marlborough volunteers capably handling all the details of competition. Organizer Donna Bottner, just back from coordinating the AEC Adult Team Competition, spearheaded the horse trials with assistant Cherie Chauvin — both active eventers themselves and long-time volunteers with Marlborough.

Many of the past organizers and officials of the horse trials attended and watched the competition, including Andrea “Andie” Brinkley, who organized it for 16 years, and the “First Lady” of Marlborough Horse Trials, Dorothy Troutman. Rosaryville Conservancy President Paula Sothoron also attended.

Current organizer, Donna Bottner, said, “This year was bittersweet. John Williams did a fantastic job picking up the torch for Roger Haller with our courses. I just wish he were here with us, since he was instrumental in getting us started 25 years ago, and helped me survive the past several years with his humor and mentorship.”

“This event would not be here at all if not for the efforts of Dorothy Troutman and Pam Link when they first entertained the idea, and were the major force in getting Roger Haller and Chris Milanesi to design and build the course,” Donna said. “They all fundraised, improvised and saw us through the toughest times. Andie was the organizer for 16 years before handing it over to me eight years ago. If not for Andie, there would not be a Marlborough today. Our announcer, Brian O’Connor, called Andie on Friday to insure her presence; he told her he wasn’t going to announce without her there!”

A new bank for lower level riders has been built near the newly rebuilt water complex. Photo by Holly Covey.

A new bank for lower level riders has been built near the newly rebuilt water complex. Photo by Holly Covey.

Donna noted that she learned something new on Saturday: “Mrs. Troutman told me that the Training ditch in the back field (which we’ve renovated a few times) was originally dug by a gravedigger. She said he knew exactly how deep to dig it and how wide it should be for a half coffin. I really can’t make these things up!”

The courses run through several hilly fields and the time was real factor for almost all levels. Marlborough does offer a classic cross-country course, where horses and riders expect changes of terrain both up and down, banks, ditches, traditional obstacles like logs and coops but some nice newer portable jumps that offer flexibility and creative use of the slopes and hills.

There are even some trails through the woods with a jump or two. All of the courses went through the four fields adjacent to the pavilions in the center of the park, with dressage held in a flatter area of one of the fields, and show jumping nearby on a slightly sloped grass ring. Warm up is generous and right next to the competition rings, so young horses new to eventing have a comfortable atmosphere in which to perform.

New cross country courses this year came from FEI/USEF course designer and former USET event team rider John Williams, assisted with the expertise of John Wells this year and Tyson Rementer. The tracks appeared to ride smoothly and featured a completely rebuilt water complex, which caused few difficulties.

“It was a good course to ride,” said one competitor. “Training had just the right mix of difficult and let-up jumps to move up.”

And for the future? Organizer Donna Bottner said, “Having greatly improved the water feature, a new Beginner Novice bank and adding drain tiles in that field, we have a lot to offer and will keeping improving each year. John is already thinking about new tracks we haven’t used previously and that really is exciting.”

So the future of Marlborough remains bright. “The best part of the day for me is watching riders galloping by with big smiles on their faces. It’s really the only reward I need,” said Donna.

Here are a few videos of the revamped cross-country course from Saturday:

The Training double of ramps, 4A and B:

The Training hay rack double:

The water jump:

The novice half-coffin:

Results can be found here. For more information on cross-country schooling days and other equestrian opportunities at Marlborough, check their website. Cross country schooling was held Sunday, Sept. 18, and a cross country jumping clinic with Stephen Bradley will take place Tuesday, Sept. 20 (click here for info) and open cross country schooling will be available Saturday, Sept. 24. The group will also host a hunter pace November 19. All events are weather permitting.

Go Eventing at Marlborough Horse Trials!