Capt. Mark Phillips Announced as New Course Designer for Virginia Horse Center

The view from the top of VHT's Oak Hill cross country featuring Intermediate, CCI*, CIC2* and CCI2* courses. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. The view from the top of VHT's Oak Hill cross country featuring Intermediate, CCI*, CIC2* and CCI2* courses. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The Virginia Horse Trials has announced that Capt. Mark Phillips will assume the role of FEI course designer for its 2017 events at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.

Capt. Phillips will design the CCI*, CIC2*, CCI2* and Intermediate tracks, with VHT Organizer Andy Bowles assisting at the two-star level and John Michael Durr, designer of the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses, assisting at the one-star level.

VHT shared an overview of updates we can look forward to this year.

“We’re glad to be bringing Mark to VHT,” Bowles said. “Our hope is that his experience will increase the quality of our FEI courses and present to the competitors a challenge that is true to the level and appropriate for a destination event.”

The FEI and Intermediate competitors will experience a totally new cross country challenge than in years past. The course has been reversed and a second water complex will be constructed.

“There had been some concern that the Oak Hill course sent horses downhill too long near the end of the course, so to lessen the impact on the horses we reversed the track,” Bowles said. “Now all the significant climbing is done within the first third of the course. This will also place the finish line and vet box closer to the road crossing back to the barns.”

The team also received feedback on the cross country footing and so have committed considerable efforts towards preparing the best possible galloping conditions. Construction and jump placement are scheduled to be completed early to preserve the footing on cross country, and all tracks will be aerated in advance of both competitions. Mowing has already begun and will continue on a regular basis throughout the year.

“This year we’re really focused on good grass maintenance. Between mowing, aerating and keeping heavy machinery off the course as much as possible, we expect the footing to be better than ever,” Bowles said.

“We’re sincerely listening to competitor feedback and making every effort to set a high standard and provide a world-class experience for horses and riders.”

Overlooking the Horse Center cross country featuring Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The second cross country area is home to the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses designed by John Michael Durr. As a USEF ‘r’ Course Designer, he joined the VHT team as part of the Course Design Mentor Program in 2015 under the tutelage of John Nicholson. As part of the natural progression for the program, Durr will be assisting Capt. Phillips in designing the one-star courses this year.

“It feels great to be involved in the design of an FEI course for the first time in my career,” Durr said. “My goal as a course designer is to educate horses and riders and prepare them for the next level. Being a part of the Mentor Program has given me invaluable experience, and I’m excited for the next step in my own education as a designer.”

The Horse Center course will also feature a newly constructed water complex that will be unveiled in May. Durr feels that this addition as well as the multitude of other new fences constructed at VHT in the last two years will “maximize the experience” for competitors.

This year’s VHT CCI/CIC and horse trials take place May 25-28, 2017 and October 26-29, 2017 CCI/CIC. VHT is also the home of the 2017 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship and the 2017 Area II Championships.

For more information and announcements, visit and the VHT Facebook page here.