The stage is set for a no-miss 5th annual edition of Stable View’s Designer Builders Oktoberfest Horse Trials, to be held this year Sept. 24-27 in Aiken, South Carolina. National entries close next Tuesday, Sept. 8th — have you got yours in yet? The national divisions are filling up very quickly as is capacity for on-site stabling, so get your entries in today!
Here are five reasons why we’re extra-pumped about this year’s event.
#1. Oktoberfest 2020 is going to be bigger and better than ever. With so many event cancellations, eventers are flocking to Oktoberfest — last year’s event saw 338 horse and rider combinations entered, and this year is expected to draw even more up to a 400-entry max. “We have many more out-of-town riders than we could have expected,” says Stable View owner Barry Olliff. “Three-quarters are from out of state.”
The event is anticipating a third of its entries to be for the FEI divisions, which include a CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S, one of only two events at this level on the east coast this fall. The 1* has been canceled. As of Sept. 3 there were 36 combinations contesting the feature CCI4*-S class, which is now entering its third year, up from 27 last year.
It’s an exciting lineup with some fan-favorite five-star veterans to cheer for like Elisa Wallace with Simply Priceless, Joe Meyer with Clip Clop and Johnny Royale, Waylon Roberts and Lancaster, Hallie Coon with Celien, Matt Flynn with Wizzerd, and Doug Payne with Vandiver (winner in the 2019 CCI3*-S class). Plus four-star never-bet-against-’ems like Colleen Rutledge with multiple four-star winner Covert Rights, Liz Halliday-Sharp with Fernhill by Night, Doug and his Pan Am partner Starr Witness, Dana Cooke with her Pan Am partner FE Mississippi, Sara Mittleider with her West Coast four-star winner La Paz. We’ll also see the return of Sydney Conley Elliott with QC Diamantaire, who finished 3rd here in 2019, as well as Will Faudree and Caeleste, who finished 4th. Clayton Fredericks’ FE Stormtrooper is hot off a win in the Advanced at Chatt Hills. Jacob Fletcher will be out with his four-star winner Van Gough and 5o1 Mischief Managed, who finished 2nd here in the 3* in 2019. Rebecca Brown is hitting up her first four-star as a partner to Jenny Caras’ former ride Fernhill Fortitude, as well as Dassett Choice. The other divisions are stacked as well — Boyd Martin just popped up on the CCI3*-S roster with two rides — and we’re excited to see Maddie McElduff go round the CCI3*-S with Spring Easy, whom she’s purchased from Caroline Martin, as well as Jennie Brannigan’s great partner Cambalda in Intermediate. We could keep going!
Suffice it to say, it’s a heck of a field and we’ll look forward to seeing in-house stats guru Maggie Deatrick’s “By the Numbers” predictions for who will take the CCI4*-S win (she was just one off the mark in 2019). And during the event Shelby Allen will be EN’s boots on the ground, bringing you all the action, so do be sure to keep it locked here!
The other two thirds of entries will comprise the National horse trials, which will include Beginner Novice through Intermediate divisions. To accommodate there are 275 permanent stalls, 75 of which are deluxe with paddocks — horses who are at Stable View as a stopgap between events can stay up to six days with no extra charge. And then they are working with Fredericks Equestrian International Stabling to accommodate up to another 160 horses with premium temporary stalls.
#2. Stable View takes safety seriously. We know that eventers want to feel confident going out competing amidst a pandemic that they’re going to be as safe as possible. Throughout 2020 this venue has led the way as an exemplary example of an event that is being conscientious of the current environment (view Stable View’s social distancing guidelines here) and also sensitive to the plight of competitors in these uncertain times, generously offering a full refund should their horse trials get canceled for any reason. Spectators are discouraged but here’s a #protip workaround — sign up for a volunteer position here!
For Oktoberfest Stable View is upping the ante, hiring special security duty to not only look after competitors’ effects but also keep an eye on the barn to make sure that everyone is adhering to safety protocol, including the USEF mandate that masks be worn when not mounted. Also, honorary security guard Zeus will be out strutting his stuff and keep an eye on business — mark my words, you don’t want to cross a toy poodle!
Unfortunately there won’t be a competitors party this year and the rider lounges won’t be open, due to social distancing protocol. But you can bet Stable View’s signature hospitality will be back with a vengeance once this virus is in the rearview, and until then we applaud the event for doing its part to keep our sport going in the most responsible way possible.
#3. Stable View just keeps upping its game. Last year’s first runner up in the CCI4*-S, Lynn Symansky, told EN afterward that she wasn’t familiar with the venue before visiting for the team training sessions in advance of the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru. After that she made it her plan to return. “I saw everything they were doing with the facility and track,” she said. “I was so impressed with their commitment, which is why I decided to come back.”
Stable View has never been content to rest on its laurels when it comes to self-improvement. From footing to stabling to course design, the venue just keeps one-upping itself. The cross country footing is reliably top-notch, as is the course design by Capt. Mark Phillips for the FEI levels and Mogie Bearden-Muller for the national divisions. Capt. Phillips says he feels confident he can make it stateside to tend to his roles at Stable View and Tryon International Equestrian Center, but just in case the event has extensive notes from him — “so it will be a real Mark course,” says Barry, no matter what — and they have John Williams on call as backup.
The devil is in the details, and Stable View is as detail-oriented as they come. The event leaves no stone unturned to bring competitors the very best possible experience. For example: With so many divisions running and jumps flagged, Barry admits that the cross country course may look pretty busy. They’ll be removing obstacles from the course as the event goes, as to look less intimidating and cut down on distractions for the national divisions. “We cater to the lower levels as well as the upper levels,” Barry says.
Ready to get your entry in? Here’s the USEA calendar listing. If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest, Stable View has two more Eventing Academy schooling weekends this fall (Oct. 17-18, Nov. 14-15 and Dec. 12-13) as well as dressage and hunter/jumper shows. You can view a full calendar of events on the website here.