Jul 05, 2017

USEA Events A-Z: Area VII Young Rider Benefit Horse Trials

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff
Deborah Cook and Casey B competing at the 2015 Area VII Young Rider Benefit H.T. Jo Arlow Photo.

The Area VII Young Rider Benefit Horse Trials is held annually in August in Centralia, Washington as a fundraiser for the Area VII Young Rider Program. The event offers levels from Preliminary through Starter and also hosts USEA Young Event Horse and Future Event Horse classes. 

In a 1981 issue of USCTA News (now Eventing USA), Area VII Chair, Betty Tukey wrote: “Due to the relative proximity of the North American Junior Championship, Area VII decided to support a team to represent our area at the Championships. This is the second time we have been able to do this. Donida Farm and the Maplewood Pony Club put on a Benefit Horse Trial in early June.” This Benefit Horse Trials enabled a team to train for two weeks with Kevin Freeman and travel and compete at the 1980 North American Junior Championship. Having proved successful, the Benefit Horse Trials continued and would eventually morph into what is now known as the Area VII Young Rider Benefit Horse Trials.

In 1987, an event report appeared in the USCTA News describing the first Area VII Young Rider Benefit Horse Trials recognized event:

 “Our event is quite special, in that it is the only event in the country that is a continual fundraiser for our Young Rider program,” said Anni Grandia, current organizer of the Area VII Young Rider Benefit H.T. For the first 25 years of the event, the horse trials ran at Donida Farm owned by Don and Ida Morin in Auburn, Washington. In 2010, the event moved to Lincoln Creek Farms in Centralia, Washington. “We moved to a facility our area was on the verge of losing down in Centralia,” explained Anni. “Huge open hay fields that have wonderful footing without much prep work. We no longer have sand rings, but we have good cross-country footing and the option to do what we want with the cross-country course. We now have almost 100 acres to play with for cross-country. It's not perfect by any means but the footing makes it worth it. The farm spends much of the year under water, so by August when everything else is rock hard, we have perfect galloping fields!”

Centralia, Washington offers a scenic backdrop for Karen O'Neal galloping through the perfect hay fields of Lincoln Creek Farms. Jo Arlow Photo. 

The cross-country course is designed by Marc Grandia and Anni describes it as open, inviting and ‘gallopy.’ “[The course] has always been a move up, but in the last two years we have really been increasing the technicality and making it a true Training and Preliminary. We fall right after Rebecca Farm in Area VII so it is important to give people a place to move up the levels without making it too easy and that is what we are striving for,” continued Anni.

Since the horse trial is run as a benefit for the Area VII Young Rider Program – to send a team to the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships and help offset the cost of camps and clinics, Anni encourages all the young riders to be the main volunteers for the events. “It is important to me to teach them that this sport only operates because of volunteers and you need to give back.” In addition to the young riders and her students and their parents who have contributed to the event, Anni cites a few key volunteers: “Julie Vachon for six years ran our benefit auction on Saturday night which has raised between $6,000-10,000 each year for the program. Susan Ricketts has been our hospitality guru for many years (and man can she produce some GREAT food out of a camper!). But I think the main piece is that this is a fundraiser for the Area Young Rider Program and no one person does it all. We all come together to raise money for the program. My students carry a big load, but that is mostly because it is easy for me to task them with jobs.”

Madison Packard and Sydney Rice share a laugh before the start of cross-country. Jo Arlow Photo. 

As the organizer for over a decade now, Anni has had many opportunities to choose favorite moments from the Area VII Young Rider Benefit H.T., but she says she most looks forward to the joy of the young riders coming together and seeing the efforts of their hard work come to fruition. Two years ago the horse trials added a Starter division, “It was so exciting to see the enthusiasm in the competitors out there for the first time. One in particular, Shelly Benkhe, finished seventh in the division of nine, but was so excited to finish cross-country that she was fist-pumping across the finish line. To her, it was the equivalent of an FEI completion. She was just so excited to be there, ride and volunteer. That enthusiasm is why we put so much effort in.”

Relive the 2014 Area VII Young Rider Benefit H.T.

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

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