Each fall the Hilltoppers Pony Club hosts a fundraising schooling show to benefit the 36-year-old club. Held annually at Ashland Farm, a horse haven on 400 acres in Walnut Grove, Ga., the show offers a laid back atmosphere where competitors of all levels can enjoy low key competition, camaraderie and fun.
Clay and Lucy Calhoun’s Ashland Farm began hosting small-scale shows in 2001 before taking it to the next level a few years later when they constructed a complete show venue on the other end of their property. USEA Hall of Fame member Roger Haller and his wife Ann Haller were instrumental in the design and implementation of the competition layout, which includes two regulation dressage arenas, a large show jumping arena and cross-country course complete with banks, ditches and water.
As a member of the Somerset Hills Pony Club, Roger was a lifelong advocate of the organization. He achieved his ‘A’ rating, the highest possible by the age of 18, and served on the National Board of the United States Pony Club in his adult life.
Roger Haller. Photo from the USEA Archives.
Working alongside his volunteer-wrangling, crisis-managing, show-organizing wife, Roger designed many show jumping, cross-country and derby style courses at Ashland Farm. This gave local riders opportunities to navigate a course designed by one of the most esteemed designers in the world at a venue only miles away from the 1996 Olympic Games cross-country course, which was also by Roger.
After his death in March of this year, Hillltoppers Pony Club and Ashland Farm decided to name this fall show in his honor, and the Roger Haller Memorial Eventing Derby & Dressage Show was born.
Held last weekend at the East Atlanta farm, it was a brisk and sunny day for local riders to try out a dressage test or a derby style jump at the tadpole through preliminary levels. Ann, true to her helpful attitude, was a huge force behind the success of the day, setting courses, organizing volunteers and lending a helping hand wherever needed. She also decided to re-use one of Roger’s jump courses from one of the early shows at Ashland Farm.
Ann Haller at Roger's Memorial Horse Show. Photo by Daniel Hamby.
As the event neared its end, they wanted to do something special as a show of gratitude to Roger. They elected to honor him with a victory gallop in the cross-country field. Led by former pony clubbers, Kerry Tracey, Courtney Cook and Cady Solomon galloped and jumped to Father Tom Vaughn’s jazz rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song which played at the introduction to the show “Jazz Classics,” which was a favorite of Roger’s.
Cady Solomon heading out on the gallop. Photo by Daniel Hamby.
“As a way to honor Roger, to show our gratitude for what he did for Ashland and for the pony club, one of his core life interests, we thought of asking for a moment of silence. But Ann - knowing Roger better - suggested a Pony Club gallop to The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” explained farm owner, Lucy Calhoun. “It's an unusual, energizing, dance inspiring rendition that was played at his first memorial service. So late in the afternoon with the Battle Hymn of the Republic blaring out through the cross-country speakers, a trio of pony clubbers galloped and jumped their way around the field.”
That Pony Club trio grew up knowing Roger, and a final gallop felt like a fitting tribute. “Growing up in Pony Club gave me a lot of great opportunities, one of those being the chance to know Ann and Roger Haller. When my local Pony Club teamed up with Ashland Farm to put on the Roger Haller Memorial Show, I couldn’t have been more excited to celebrate Roger’s life in a way that he would have loved,” said current Hilltopper member Cady Solomon.
“The show went perfectly and everyone I saw had a big smile on their face, which was exactly the point of the show: remembering Roger and having fun! Roger has done so much for our equestrian community both on a local and international scale. I think everyone who participates in our sport has a reason to be thankful for Roger Haller and all the work he did.”
Pony clubbers, local riders and friends of the Haller’s joined together to celebrate a legendary man who left a lasting impact on the sport of eventing.