Apple Knoll Farm in Millis, Massachusetts (Area I) was scheduled to host two one-day events in 2020 offering Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice divisions. Their May event was forced to cancel due to COVID-19, but their September event is planning to run as scheduled.
Apple Knoll Farm, a 250-acre facility in Millis, Massachusetts belonging to the Iorio family, hosted its first USEA recognized competition as a one-day event on June 16, 2002. Prior to their first USEA recognized event, Apple Knoll Farm had held numerous schooling horse trials and was already well-versed in what was needed to run a successful horse trial.
The Apple Knoll Farm Horse Trials ran in mid-June the following year in 2003 and again in 2004 before taking a break in 2005. Adrienne Iorio, a five-star eventer and USEA ICP Certified Instructor who also runs Apple Knoll Farm and organizes the horse trials, was entered in the Kentucky Three-Day Event that year and elected to cancel the horse trials in 2005 as she prepared for Kentucky. “The demands of trying to ride [at the upper levels] and manage Apple Knoll and run a recognized event were just too much,” she explained.
The horse trials were back on the USEA calendar in 2006, running in early August this time, and continued in 2007 and 2008 before taking a longer hiatus while Iorio raised her three children. While Apple Knoll did not host any USEA recognized events during this time, they did host unrecognized schooling events including the Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championships.
After a 10-year hiatus, the Apple Knoll Farm Horse Trials returned to the USEA calendar in September 2019 with 83 starters between the Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training levels. “It went really well,” Iorio shared. “It was nice to have the community support – everyone was very excited. We ended up with some fantastic volunteers which was nice.”
Apple Knoll Farm’s facility, which is a year-round boarding and training farm in addition to being a competition venue, includes a large indoor arena, a derby ring which gets converted to dressage arenas for the event, and an outdoor arena which is used for show jumping. The cross-country course goes up through Training level with a few Preliminary questions, plus a newly-constructed water jump and plans to put in a new bank complex in the near future. “Plus, we have a parking lot with a firm surface so, no matter what the weather, we won’t be pulling trailers out of the mud!”
Because the dressage and show jumping take place in the sand arenas and the cross-country has excellent drainage, Iorio explained that the event rarely needs to be canceled because of bad weather. “It rarely matters what the week before the event looks like,” she said. “Our cross-country is fabulous because it drains really well so you have the occasional low spot that you can’t avoid but, for the most part, we can get pummeled for weeks with rain and one sunny afternoon and we’re dry and ready to run.”
In addition to the team that helped get the event back off the ground in 2019, which included Apple Knoll Farm staff, local equestrians in the community, and Iorio’s husband and children, Iorio has also had some new faces join her team. Kim Simoneau joined the Apple Knoll Farm Horse Trials staff in anticipation of the 2020 competition season. “She’s new to our horse show staff,” said Iorio, “and she’s excited about getting sponsorships and getting everything up and running. We’re doing a lot of online stuff right now and a lot of socially distanced activities which is a new endeavor for us but it seems to be going well and everyone’s quite excited.”
“I love watching riders come and work really hard and feel like they’ve achieved something,” Iorio shared. “My goal is to make the courses challenging enough that they go out and get almost a little nervous when they’re walking their course and come back and are just excited that they did so well and that they had a good day. That’s why I do it. They go out and they feel like they’re learning and that they’ve accomplished something and are solidifying their partnership with their horse and all their hard work has been for something. I’m usually running around like a headless chicken all day but the occasional rider that’s coming back, talking to their horse, and just so excited – it just makes the day worthwhile.”
“It is a huge labor of love to put on these competitions,” Iorio said. “Apple Knoll is in New England – I can’t do anything about the fact that we have a long winter and we’re surrounded by swamps. I can’t fix it. But for riders to appreciate the fact that we’re running and we’re doing our best to make sure the footing is fantastic and the courses are different for every show – we put a lot of work into it. It’s nice when the competitors appreciate how much of a labor of love it is for us.”
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