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Thu, 2017-09-07 08:23

USEA Events A-Z: CDCTA Horse Trials

Authored By: Michael Mendell
USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

In addition to their USEA recognized spring and fall horse trials, the Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association (CDCTA) hosts numerous USEF recognized dressage competitions, USDF Adult Rider camps, clinics, schooling shows, unrecognized combined tests, and cross-country schooling days at different venues across the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 2015, the CDCTA Spring and Fall Horse Trial moved to their current home at the Nelson Farm in Berryville, Virginia (Area II), where they offer Intro through Preliminary levels.

The history of the CDCTA Horse Trials began at Commonwealth Park in Culpeper, Virginia, in the late 1980s. The Park was originally built to host the 1985 USPC Championships, and the Seneca Valley Pony Club (SVPC) was tasked with organizing the Championships. SVPC continued to host an event at Commonwealth Park for the next three years until they had sufficient funds to build their own facility, Bittersweet Field in Poolesville, Maryland. When SVPC relocated to their new facility, they asked CDCTA if they would like to take over running the event, and so Janet Gunn became the very first organizer of the CDCTA Horse Trials in 1989.

Emmett Turner took over the organization the Horse Trials the following year, in 1990. The CDCTA Horse Trials ran at Commonwealth Park from 1989 to 1994. In 1995 and 1996, the dressage and show jumping phases and the lower levels of cross-country continued to take place at Commonwealth Park while the upper levels ran on the new cross-country course at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia, which now hosts the only leg of the FEI Nations Cup on North American soil. In 1997, the event moved in entirety to Great Meadow, and Coleen Hersson took over as the event’s organizer. During the years that CDCTA hosted their event at Great Meadow, they successfully ran long-format CCI* and CCI2* competitions.


The course at the 1997 CDCTA Horse Trials. 

In 2005, the event moved to a new venue at Locust Hill Preserve in Rapidan, Virginia. Thanks to the generosity of the property’s owners, Mike and Betty Long, CDCTA continued to offer Intro through Preliminary level at their Horse Trials, which ran twice a year in the Longs’ hay fields. During the decade at Locust Hill, Helen Hayn served as organizer for two years and Coleen Hersson organized the remainder until 2015 when I came on as co-organizer.

In the winter of 2015, I began the daunting task of relocating the Horse Trials once again. We moved over 100 portable cross-country fences to our new home at the Nelson Farm in Berryville, Va., where we are now.


A competitor at CDCTA Horse Trials in 2003. Photo courtesy of CDCTA Website.

The first thing that comes to mind when I consider what makes the CDCTA Horse Trials so special is how wonderful and dedicated our volunteers are. Without our volunteers, no event ever runs. Second, is our new home - the Nelson Farm in Berryville, Va. which is a beautiful piece of Virginia Countryside. Third, is that for 28 years and at four separate properties, CDCTA Horse Trials has continued to succeed and run twice yearly.


Photo courtesy of CDCTA Website.

The people who contribute to this event are far too numerous to list. Two of the strongest contributors have been Emmett Turner and Coleen Hersson, who between them organized the Horse Trials for nearly 30 years. To say that I have big shoes to fill and follow behind is an understatement of mass amount.

In all honesty, what I look forward to the most is a boringly successful day and the final trailer uneventfully leaving the farm. To me, the bliss of my stress ending as the show does is really looked forward to.

Our new facility, the Nelson Farm, is a very young facility that has a lot of potential. Right now, it provides the kind of eventing that I started with - grass rings, unmanufactured footing, etc. The property is a working hay farm, but in such a short time we’ve built a water jump, banks, and ditches. But give us time, we’ve just arrived there!


Show Jumping on the grass at Locust Hill at the CDCTA Fall Horse Trials in 2013. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

When I took on the job as organizer, I hired a new course designer, Jon Wells. I tasked him with designing and building courses that I would want to bring young horses to jump while being fun and challenging to amateurs and students. I wanted these courses to teach green horses and riders to gallop, be brave across the country, and enjoy what they are doing.

I want eventers to know how hard the volunteers work to make a fun and enjoyable event. I am new to this and so is the property. Every event I watch how it runs and ask a lot of questions of competitors about what they think. So far in the three competitions I’ve run here, I continue to make changes. And we will continue to do so until everything works right!

To all those who have helped this event run through the years, I have compiled the history as best I could. Please forgive any errors, mistakes, or omissions; I tried!

The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the series, USEA Events A-Z.

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