Jun 03, 2016

Heart of the Carolinas 2016: Education, Horsemanship and Big Dreams Made This the Best Year Yet

Sarah McMerty and Easy Come Easy Go were the Beginner Novice CEC winners. Brant Gamma Photo.

The sixth annual Heart of the Carolinas (HOTC) Three-Day Event and Horse Trials featured new divisions, exceptional clinicians and revealed long-term plans for the Southern 8ths Farm property in Chesterfield, SC where the event takes place. Farm owner Brad Turley proclaimed 2016 to be the event’s “best year yet.”

Several key figures in the sport attended HOTC as clinicians to help the riders prepare for the three-day. It was an honor to have USEA President-elect Carol Kozlowski along with renowned eventing and dressage judge Sally O’Connor as our primary clinicians alongside our experienced course designers and ground jury.

Carol Kozlowski and Sally O'Connor. Brant Gamma Photo.

“Our clinicians and officials were all world class,” Brad said. “Sally O’Connor, Carol Kozlowski, Wayne Quarles, Peter Gray, Tim Murray and Charles Pinnell created a memorable weekend for everyone. And how often does Sally O’Connor fly into an event from Rolex to do commentary? We’ve often been told that we are the Amateur’s Rolex – this year Sally put the icing on the cake and made it so.”

The All Veteran’s Parachute Team returned for the second year to volunteer. They kicked off endurance day by parachuting onto the steeplechase practice field early Saturday morning, with streamers flying and a crowd of onlookers cheering. The group’s videographer Timothy Wood captured many wonderful images that reflect the spirit of the sport and the bond between horse and rider and collected them in the below video, which also give you an idea of what it looks like jumping out of a plane and later trotting on roads and tracks!

Facility Upgrades and Looking Ahead

The 2016 competition featured new views on roads and tracks thanks to a recent expansion, and the week before the event started, the farm made another land acquisition that doubled the size of Southern 8ths to over 1,300 acres.

Besides adding acreage, there were other facility improvements made in the last year, including a new 200’ x 300’ plus dressage ring. Fiber optics technology was also added to provide live video streaming of the event so all the riders’ relatives and friends could be part of the competition. There were over 1,000 hits on the live stream and recordings, which featured color commentary from Sally O’Connor and our announcer Charles Pinnell.

Brad hopes to keep the spirit of the long-format alive at his facility and in the last year has taken steps to ensure the long term viability of the competition and the special property on which it is held. The HOTC organizing committee has formed an independent 501(c)3 that is taking the reins to ensure the event is around for a long time.

HOTC is the only event to offer BN Long Format divisions. Brant Gamma Photo.

“This year was another year where the riders told me of how their horses changed while preparing for the long format,” Brad said. “One rider and her trainer told me that she had never had a double-clear round in show jumping prior to this event. That is what makes it all worth it. I strongly believe the long format benefits horse and rider and overall horsemanship.”

While the long-format may never again appear at the upper levels of eventing, it represents the roots of the sport and its storied history from cavalry training to Olympic inclusion. Despite the many changes to the sport in the last decade, Brad and the HOTC organizing committee are dedicated to providing a top class venue where eventers can fulfill their dream of competing in a long-format event.

“While it has been said that we are a dinosaur trying to keep the long format alive, I say bring on El Nino, global warming or another ice age. We’re going to keep riding until our noses are under water or our tails are frozen in ice – either way it will be one hell of a ride!”

Winners Crowned and Dreams Realized

Since HOTC’s inception in 2011, the number of horses competing in the long format has grown each year. This year, 39 horses entered the Beginner Novice, Novice and Training three-day divisions, and 33 horses competed in the Beginner Novice through Training Horse Trials, which were first offered by popular demand in 2015.

Inherently dedicated to education, HOTC jumped at the chance to offer the newly developed Beginner Novice Coaching Allowed Test, which proved to be an excellent opportunity for horses and riders new to the sport of eventing. HOTC is proud to be the first event in the country to offer this Test. Read about the experience from the perspective of coach Amanda Miller here.

Also this year, HOTC partnered with the Carolina Horse Park to develop the inaugural Carolina Eventing Challenge (CEC). This series included two qualifier competitions at the Carolina Horse Park followed by a finale at HOTC. In order to be eligible for the grand prize, qualified competitors had to complete the three-day and that score was added together with their best qualifier score to determine the final results.

A Preliminary-Combined Test styled after a derby, with a jumping phase that included both cross country and show jumping fences, served as the Preliminary CEC finale, a concept which HOTC hopes to expand in the future. There were no Preliminary competitors qualified for the CEC, but Becky Holder and Lipstick Jungle were the winners of the class, finishing on their dressage score of 30.7. Becky also placed third on Telperion, with Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi taking second place.

Becky Holder and Lipstick Jungle. Brant Gamma Photo.

Sarah McMerty and her Thoroughbred gelding Easy Come Easy Go were the Beginner Novice CEC winners. They earned their qualifier at Longleaf Pine Horse Trials and finished in 7th place in the HOTC Beginner Novice Three-Day.

Ann Adams and her Oldenburg mare Calliope won the Novice CEC as well as the Novice Three-Day division. They competed at both the qualifiers at Southern Pines Horse Trials and Longleaf Pine Horse Trials. Their best qualifying score of 31.3 at Southern Pines combined with their HOTC finishing score of 29.2 was the best of the CEC final scores.

At the Training level, Julie Bulkeley and her Holsteiner gelding Cold As Ice II made a statement, winning not only the Training CEC as a result of their third place finish in the Training Three-Day, but they were also awarded Best Turned Out for the level. The judges appreciated Julie’s neat and appropriate attire at the two horse inspections and were especially impressed by the horse’s blooming coat and tidy braids.

A Best Turned Out award was given at each level, with the judges taking into consideration the horse and rider’s presentation at both jogs. Audrey Wiggins and Spookhill At Last were selected as Best Turned Out for Novice. Sarah Feathers and Fly By Night were Best Turned Out for Beginner Novice.

A special award was also given to Sandra McDonald, who rode her homebred mare Miss Z in the Beginner Novice Three-Day. She was given the Sportsmanship Award for her good horsemanship on endurance day, and as a limited edition Horseware cooler was draped over her saddle, Sandra commented that the sport has given her so much over the years.

Tori Nuckols and Dragonfly. Brant Gamma Photo.

Tori Nuckols and Dragonfly, who were competing in the Training Three-Day, won Best Conditioned and also received an anniversary Horseware cooler. This was Tori’s second year competing at HOTC with Gammon Castellvi’s Trakehner gelding.

“I am so proud of this achievement. To me this is an award that comes from good horsemanship at an event where the main focus is on horsemanship,” Tori said. “The long format is such an important part of the education and relationship of horse and rider. HOTC does an amazing job of making it educational and fun. The clinicians and officials are the best and do an amazing job of helping every horse and rider through every step and make it a fun and positive experience no matter the results.”

Tori plans to compete “Dragon” at Preliminary this year and HOTC was his first event of the season. She said that by focusing on his strength through hill work and trot work, the fitness comes along with it. “He felt incredible through every step of the weekend, he gave me his all and did so happily. The best part of the weekend was finishing the event with my best friend and we were both happy and sound when we crossed the finish flags.

“The best part about doing the long format is you get to know your horse in ways you didn't realize were possible. HOTC is truly a destination event and I will be back every year!”

HOTC is proud that riders travel from all over the East Coast and beyond to compete at our event. Emily Graeser hails from New Mexico. She picked up her catch ride, Ciderhouse Jack, an Arabian who has completed multiple 100-mile endurance rides, from Vermont and then drove to South Carolina to compete. They finished second in the Beginner Novice Three-Day, finishing on their dressage score of 27.3 in their first competition together.

Greta Schwickert is a Young Rider from Minnesota. She and her own Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Razmataz won the Training Three-Day at HOTC, adding two cross country time penalties to their dressage score of 28.7 and jumping clear in show jumping to hold their position on the leaderboard. Greta commented during the prize giving that this event was the first time she and her horse had put all three phases together. Well done!

While eventing has long appreciated the stamina of the Thoroughbred, and indeed, the Southern 8ths property was once home to a Thoroughbred breeding operation, horses of all types are suitable for the long format with appropriate preparation.

The winner of this year’s Beginner Novice Three-Day was Susan Thomas and Tango, a Paint pony gelding owned by Leslie Allen. Tango started eventing in May 2015 and has now won three out of four horse trials, all with Susan in the irons. At HOTC, they led their division from the start, adding nothing to their dressage score of 23.3.

Susan Thomas and Tango. Brant Gamma Photo.

“My experience at the Heart of the Carolinas Three-Day was everything that I expected and more. The event was very well run, but it still maintained a relaxed atmosphere for the younger competitors as well as the adult amateurs who had never done a competition with so many components!” Susan said.

Susan, a trainer and instructor at Charbonnet Sport Horses in Jefferson, GA, did her first CCI long format as a high school student. She enjoys the partnership horse and rider develop through a long format and encourages all of her students to experience a long format event.

“Brad is clearly a very special person who cares deeply about education and experience,” Susan said. “I was truly moved and inspired by all of the big-time officials who came to help out and participate in this event, whether it was judging or helping in the vet box. Education is something that I am incredibly passionate about and it was amazing to share that love with so many at this event.”

HOTC would be impossible without the many incredible sponsors who provide prizes, products and services. We thank each and every sponsor for their support and enthusiasm!

Thank you also to our wonderful organizing committee, officials, and the Southern 8ths Farm staff for a job well done. Each person involved plays a vital role in making the event run smoothly.

Thanks to the riders, owners, parents, grooms and everyone in between for a great event. We hope to see you again next year!

Learn more about Southern 8ths Farm and the Heart of the Carolinas Three-Day at www.so8ths.com. Find Southern 8ths Farm on Facebook and follow HOTC3day on Twitter and Instagram.

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