Back to the Future at Groton House Farm

Headed to show jumping before cross country. Headed to show jumping before cross country.

Do you remember Groton House Farm? Where everyone throughout the East Coast flocked to watch the nation’s finest riders navigate their Advanced course? Or perhaps you recall seeing Biko there when it was one of the Olympic qualifiers in 1996? Or perhaps nostalgia resurrects simpler memories: rolling hills, tree-lined drives, the stone cottage blanketed in ivy, and split-rail fencing that traversed the open fields.

Then we all read the news in an announcement: Groton House would no longer run Intermediate and Advanced. They would return to their humble beginnings that provided the foundation for so many glorious rides across the private estate.

Here is some new news: Groton House is back, and they are moving forward!

Dressage was as scenic as ever: five rings perfectly balanced within an open field, framed by woodlands and a border of fencing and cross country fences now used as spectator seating. Deszi was a star in the busy environment, and even learned to rein back Friday morning.

I have a terrible habit of not looking at my test well before an event, and SURPRISE KATIE, you have a rein back in Preliminary B. No time like the present. In fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much in the ring that we offered an unnecessary lengthening, which I thought was lovely. A laugh from myself, smile from the judge and a grimace from Deszi, and all was well. She placed third within the division of 23 with a 30.2.

Sunday we received a surprise text, noting a change in the schedule: Show jumping would now be held that morning before cross country in order to avoid the significant storm moving in over night. I am amazed at the organization, generosity, and spirits of the GHF team and volunteers. They pulled it off without a hitch, and the modified schedule ran beautifully.

The stadium was typical fashion for the venue: big, bold, and with clear expectations from horse and rider. It was a forward ride and an excellent opportunity to apply all we have practiced at home. We pulled a rail at fence two, a vertical off the turn, because I neglected to ride her straight into and out of the turn.

Another rail was pulled at the two-stride combination at the first fence: I saw the ideal distance, something caught Deszi’s eye, and she backed off at that exact moment and pulled a sloppy rail. A spank in between, and we jumped the remaining fences clear.

After walking cross country that morning, I was excited. Honestly, it was more then I had expected from the event. In recent years, many of the fences had softened in presence and the questions they posed due to age, modified structure, and changing groundlines. It was clear Groton House invested significantly in the track: gorgeous new fences, brilliant combinations with smart but costly options, and more space to gallop then ever before. It was a fantastic ride!

This was Deszi’s third run at Preliminary, and it was perfect. Instead of simply supporting her comfort level, this event was the ideal step forward for her season, boosting her confidence and expanding her education. Everything was spot-on: footing, use of the terrain, placement of fences in relation to sponsor tents and spectators, and a long galloping track. This competition is on its way back up, and once again I consider it on par with Millbrook and Fitch’s Corner.

Throughout the weekend, I was incredibly humbled by the people who came to watch our rides, some whom I have only spoken to over social media. A special thank you to all the sponsors, especially the American Horse Trials Foundation, which donated cash prizes for our Open Preliminary division. Ending in third place, Deszi earned $250. And thank you to husband Roger and Erin Cheever for their grooming support and video skills, and our incredible team of sponsors.

Contact Katie at [email protected] and visit Murphy Eventing on Facebook