The Evolution of Stable View from the View of Capt. Mark Phillips

The following article is printed with permission from Stable View, told from the perspective of cross country designer, Capt. Mark Phillips:

Capt. Mark Phillips surveying the scene as cross country kicked-off on Saturday.

I was told about Stable View by Shelly Spielman (now Page) and Kim Severson in 2012.

I’d worked with Shelly at numerous events over the previous 20 years and Kim was the best and most successful rider that I had the privilege to work with over my 20 years as coach in the U.S.

I met Barry and Cyndy Olliff in June 2012 before the London Olympics. Later that year, I returned to Aiken and produced a “master plan” for an eventing and horse show facility around Stable View’s existing buildings, which included the Main Barn and the massive Covered Arena.

Today’s Stable View includes some, but not all, of that original plan!

Tailgaiting and a car show? A real neighborhood event at Stable View! Photo by Christine Quinn.

Stable View must have been a quail plantation in earlier times. So in looking for a cross country track it was difficult not to get railroaded in between the lines of pine trees, which were also going to make spectator viewing almost impossible.

The ground in between the trees had been largely neglected, so there was a maze of scrub, suckers, and brambles to contend with and worst of all, very little grass. On the brighter side, there was some interesting terrain to use as I tried to come up with a 3,500 – 4,000m course for an Advanced / 4* cross country course down the road.

We started with flat level areas for Dressage and Show Jumping, and funnily enough these areas have not changed very much, apart from the addition of “all weather” surfaces over the years. We were also able to include the planned “Derby Field” and still use those features today.

Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Cello. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Initially, I had no concept of the damage that could be caused quite regularly by washout after heavy Aiken storms. Therefore, we learned the hard way how to handle the excess water, and gradually engineered those features into the cross country course.

Ironically, we also realized that the lack of water was a major problem if we wanted a good grass covering to create good footing. Farmers will understand that organic matter in the soil is also important if you are trying to stay away from the dreaded sugar sand. So now we have wells for the water and the stable manure is put to good use, regularly spread as fertilizer.

The beautiful Stable View! Photo courtesy of Barry Oliff.

All the while, we tried to preserve the indigenous Long Leaf pines and as much Wire Grass as possible.

While the cross country area “matured” over time with the advent of “constellation” Bermuda Grass it also expanded into the “Academy Field” giving Stable View the space to run countless divisions over one weekend.

The tornado in 2020 did much damage, especially to the Stables, but actually helped the cross country course after all the mess was tidied up. Many of the pines that I’d been so careful to preserve where lost, but actually this opened up the central area more, improving the flow and therefore the experience for horses and riders.

Photo by Christine Quinn Photography.

Barry and Cyndy have always dreamt of making Stable View a special experience for riders and owners. So the Hunt Boxes arrived, giving more on-site Accommodations, then the “Rider Lounges” and more recently the big Pavilion next to the Main Arena.

You cannot recognize Stable View today form 10 years ago! As long as Barry and Cyndy are at the steering wheel, this might be only the beginning as Stable View becomes more and more of a “destination” for riders, owners and their horses.

Check out the full slate of activities and events happening at Stable View here.

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