Here at EN, we know that a big part of the heart and soul of this sport lies with local amateur eventers. That’s why we’re featuring awesome local eventing organizations and events that are recognizing and celebrating low-level eventers in our Schooling Horse Trials Spotlight series. Know of a great local organization or schooling horse trials that deserves some love? Email us at [email protected].
While much of the eventing world was focused on Burghley last weekend, another competition was taking place which, for the participants and their families watching, was equally thrilling — the Charlotte Pony Club held their annual, decidedly un-sanctioned, Champlain Valley Horse Trials on Sunday, Sept. 8 at High Wind Farm in Monkton, Vermont. For close to 70 years, in various locations and iterations, CPC has put on a summer competition for local riders as their primary fundraiser.
One of the oldest continuously-operating Pony Clubs in the country, CPC is small by most standards (this year there are 12 members), but counts among their graduates Olympian Kelli McMullen-Temple as well as, over the years, an impressive number of other A graduates. They retain as one of their instructors John Bourgoin, who just finished his 45th summer instilling in kids a love of eventing. Co-instructors Andrea Waldo and Catie (Hill) Waterman came on board a few years ago and round out CPC’s small but mighty program.
The horse trials are a labor of love, as all horse trials are. Beforehand, parents, instructors, members and friends pitch in to build jumps, paint, mow, set courses, rope off areas, secure sponsorship, order porto-potties and secure judges and volunteers. It always seems improbable that everything will get done in time, but generally it does. The day of, parents of kids who moved on from Pony Club 10 and 20 years ago come back to fence judge, manage stadium jumping, monitor warm-ups and handle scoring, joining those with ties to current members in this big undertaking.
Sunday’s horse trials saw 35 competitors tackle four levels of competition — Grasshopper, Elementary, Beginner Novice and Novice. Nothing was timed, USEA rules were (leniently) applied, and although not everyone came away smiling, most horses and riders finished successfully. Temperatures were ideal and the sun shone enough as ponies and horses, young and not-so-young riders, family members and friends spent a day together. You’ve got to start somewhere in sports, and grass-roots events are, sometimes, where big ambitions begin. Or not. Sometimes it’s just fun to get out and enjoy a sport you love, no matter what level you aspire to.