The Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials is held once a year on the first weekend in August in Iowa City, Iowa (Area IV) and offers Beginner Novice through Preliminary divisions.
In 2007, Dr. Jim McNutt and Susan Brigham founded the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials in loving memory of the late Dr. Tom Brigham and Susan’s teenaged son, Madison Brigham, who was killed in a car accident. Madison was an avid rider and fox hunter as well as a farmer, historian, tennis player, and musician. According to the tribute in Catalpa Corner’s program, “Being with the quiet but fire-hearted Madison was a delight to all who took the time to know this brilliant and gentle young man.”
“They built the park kind of like “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come,” and the event has been growing ever since,” said Ali Hayford, organizer of the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials.
The event takes place at Catalpa Corner Horse Park, a small private facility owned by Brigham and McNutt. When not being used to host an event, the Horse Park is made up of mostly hay fields surrounded by soybean and corn fields, with woods to the south and several water crossings on the property. “The family keeps investing in the park to provide opportunities for riders in the Midwest. Although they do not run it anymore, they can always be found on the property enjoying the event,” said Hayford.
The park has three permanent barns on site, with the remaining stabling provided by temporary stables brought in for the event. The dressage and show jumping arenas are all on grass footing, and all the show jumps are Harry Potter themed, painted by the park owner and a local professional. The cross-country jumps are all designed to represent Iowa, with wood animal carvings, red and white barns, and even a chicken coop jump! “Susan is meticulous on decorating the show grounds each year,” said Hayford. “The family wanted it to be professional but yet fit the Iowa countryside.”
An incredibly dedicated group of people are the driving force behind the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials. In addition to Brigham and McNutt, there is a core group of people who all work tirelessly in memory of Madison to put on an event that competitors return to year after year.
“Paul Welsh has been integral in this park becoming what it is today,” said Hayford. “Paul works daily on the property doing everything from building jumps, to fixing anything and everything, to raking hay. He traveled to multiple different shows to learn the requirements of how to build a horse park. From there he built steps, a water complex, banks, and many, many jumps.”
Camie and Jay Stockhausen have also been long-time friends and supporters of the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials. They had both fox hunted with Madison and were crucial to getting things started when the time came to build the park. “They have actively supported the show each year as well as run schooling shows and clinics at the park,” said Hayford. Jay serves as the cross-country warm-up steward at the Horse Trial, in addition to helping with cross-country jump judges and preparing the course for both recognized events and schooling shows. Camie is the event’s show jumping course designer.
Steve Wildman, another long-time friend of the family, helps with repairs at the farm, and also cuts and bales the hay which grows year-round on the areas of the property that serve as the cross-country course.
Hayford herself has also been involved since the beginning. “I started as a friend of the family and got involved in the event wherever I was needed. As time went on, my job was to be the "Eraser," or the person that made issues during the event go away so our competitors would not notice any hiccups.” When the time came that Brigham and McNutt decided to step away from running the event, it looked as though the recognized event would not continue, but with their support, Hayford stepped up and took over organizing the event. Her favorite part of the event is seeing the smiles on the competitors’ faces.
“The family loves seeing the same people come back and new people sign up each year,” commented Hayford. “[We see] riders who move up the levels and others that continue to improve each year. This is an event that was designed out of love for [Madison] and [we know] his presence is always watching over the riders.”
Want to see the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials cross-country course from the rider's perspective? Check out Shelley Remensnyder's helmet cam video aboard Platinum Rhapsody from the Preliminary in August.
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