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!”
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.”
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 USEA Events A-Z series.
The Area VII Championships were one of three Area Championships to run over the weekend of September 18-19. The Aspen Farms Horse Trials of Yelm, Washington was host to the over 150 combinations who qualified for the Area VII year-end Championships presented by Tin Men Supply. With ten Championship divisions running over the course of the weekend, the team of staff and volunteers putting on the event were quite busy ensuring that the Championship atmosphere was top-notch!
The 2021 USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Championships will take place at three different regional competitions. The first of the three to kick off the FEH Championship season is the FEH East Coast Championships which will start on Saturday, September 25, and run through Sunday, September 26 at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. The 2021 USEA FEH Central and West Coast Championships will take place in October.
What a week in Aachen! Nicole is joined by Erik Duvander and Jenni Autry to relive a brilliant week for U.S. riders in Aachen in this special bonus episode.
When Daniel Stickney met his future wife Kathy in college, he had zero involvement in the horse world. Kathy had ridden as a teen and after marrying in graduate school, the couple was invited on a trail ride by an acquaintance who owned a boarding and lesson barn. That trail ride sparked Kathy’s fire for riding again and she began working at the barn to help offset costs of lessons and boarding for her first horse, Kismet. Suddenly Daniel found himself in the saddle as well. The two have been riding together for over 30 years now.