Oct 12, 2017

USEA Events A-Z: Champagne Run at the Park Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Photo courtesy of the Champagne Run Facebook page.

Champagne Run Farm hosts the Champagne Run at the Park Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (Area VIII) once a year in July for Starter through Intermediate levels. The Champagne Run team also hosts numerous schooling shows, both at their farm and the Horse Park, throughout the year, as well as the May Daze Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park each May.

For more than twenty years, Maggie Wright, owner of Champagne Run Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, has been organizing both USEA recognized and unrecognized events at the Kentucky Horse Park. Among them is Champagne Run at the Park Horse Trials, named for the farm she purchased in 1990. The Horse Trials first ran just a few years after she purchased the farm with 51 entries across the Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training levels, and this past July hosted more than 500 riders from Starter all the way up through Intermediate levels.

“It’s been a labor of blood, sweat, and tears,” explained Wright of the effort it’s taken to establish her boarding and training operation at Champagne Run Farm. “I have boarders now who were there with me in the beginning and they’re still boarding with me. I started out with just three horses and we have over 70 that we board and train now.”


Photo courtesy of the Champagne Run Facebook page.

The program at Champagne Run Farm offers everything from boarding, training, and sales to schooling shows and derbies, camps, and foxhunting. While Wright’s background is in the hunters, her program focuses mainly on eventing. Still, “We try to do a little bit of everything for everyone,” said Wright.

Champagne Run at the Park Horse Trials has an incredible volunteer base that stems from Wright’s lesson program at the farm. “It’s kind of a circle,” commented Wright, “I teach them and get them involved and try to educate them and then we have more knowledgeable people to come out and help at our shows. There is no show without the volunteers! They’re a big part of our group.”

Wright feels that the Horse Trials is made special by the involvement of so many of her students and boarders from the farm as volunteers at the event. “There is a good core group, too many to mention, that we count on, and our riders are just great because they step up and are willing to help. It takes a lot and they’re all right there which is really nice.” Wright even hosts a special unrecognized event at the end of the year specifically to give her volunteers the chance to compete. The event is hosted at the Horse Park and uses the same show jumps, flowers, and decorations as the recognized events.

Nancy Clinkinbeard, Champagne Run’s secretary, has been with Wright since the very beginning and she was quick to acknowledge Clinkinbeard for her contribution to the event over the last twenty-plus years. “She’s a student of mine and learned [the secretary job] as we got going and now she deals with our 500 riders. She’s been the secretary since the beginning.”


Photo courtesy of the Champagne Run Facebook page.

Riders who compete at Champagne Run get to gallop over the same terrain that hosts the Kentucky Three-Day Event four-star at the end of April each year. Carsten Meyer, the course designer, transforms the grounds each summer to create courses for the riders from Starter to Intermediate. “A lot of [riders] are very familiar with [the cross-country] even if they’ve just walked out to watch Rolex,” commented Wright. “The courses for the Champagne Run event are true to form and right at the level, but the riders that come there know that and hopefully they’ve already done an event or two at that level before they get to our event.”

Over the years, Champagne Run has gone back and forth with hosting an Intermediate division and this year had nearly 40 entries at the level. “We ran the Intermediate for a while,” said Wright, “and then we backed off because [there were other shows hosting Intermediate level in the area] and we were hosting an event in July at the Horse Park. You’re not always sure what the weather’s going to be like and the footing, but we were asked to please do the Intermediate again so we picked it back up a few years ago.”

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Champagne Run is the flamingo theme, for flamingos can be seen in evidence all around the event. “That was not my plan at all,” laughed Wright. “It’s turned into always pink, always flamingos, there’s a Flamingo Award, and people bring me all kinds of flamingo stuff. I’m from Florida and kind of ran away from flamingos and now they’re everywhere. It’s pretty bad that my best wine glasses have flamingos on them!”


Photo courtesy of the Champagne Run Facebook page.

Wright’s favorite part of the event is seeing people come back year after year. “We see a lot of the same people,” said Wright. “I’ve got some people from Wisconsin, one of my course builders talked to them and they said that they make [Champagne Run] their destination event every year. It’s been fun to see the same people that make it a point to come here every year and we get to catch up on how they’re doing and they’re horses are doing. A lot of times we’ll see families that just had one child riding and now they have two or three competing at the event.”

It may be a large event, but Wright says the event still maintains a close community feel to it, especially because of the riders that come back year after year. “Honestly, I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t [have that feel]. If it’s not fun we’re not going to do it so we try to make it fun, we try to make it good for the riders and hopefully they get something good out of it as well!”

“I want people to come and have a good time,” concluded Wright. “We’re trying to do it for them. We understand how much time and effort and money and travel and everything goes into it on their side for as much hard work as it is on our side. I just want everybody to come and have a good time.”

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

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