The Chardon Valley Horse Trials in Decatur, Michigan (Area VIII), hosts one USEA recognized event every fall and offers divisions for Starter through Training level.
Chardon Valley Horse Trials has been on the USEA recognized event calendar since 2015, but the history behind the event began nearly 10 years ago. In 2008, Pat Turck and Jim Lavaglia began to develop their property, Chardon Valley Farm, into an equestrian facility. Randy and Kitty Pielemeier, who now serve as the organizing team behind the Chardon Valley Horse Trials, moved their horses to Chardon Valley Farm in 2009. Randy has been building cross-country jumps since he was just 12 years old, and has built and designed courses at several other venues over the years. With his help, a schooling cross-country course began to take shape at Chardon Valley.
In 2013, Randy and Kitty moved to the property adjacent to Chardon Valley Farm, and with their only child Katherine out of the house attending college, found that they had time to pursue other interests. The pair had experience with organizing competitions, having orchestrated a variety of dressage, hunter, and unrecognized eventing activities since 1992. “With urging from Margaret Spencer, long-time eventer and trainer in southwestern Michigan, the course was expanded from a schooling course to a competition course,” said Randy, “along with significant financial support of the Chardon Valley Farm to build the more expensive questions.” With a competition-ready cross-country course, Chardon Valley made the switch from schooling venue to competition venue.
Southwest Michigan has few facilities that cater to eventers, and Randy and the team at Chardon Valley have made it their mission to provide a quality venue for eventers in the area. “A variety of local trainers have been able to build their eventing clientele using our facilities for schooling,” he commented. “Chardon Valley also runs a Derby in July which allows schooling the day prior to help introduce local riders to the sport. Our goal is to promote eventing with easy access to a quality course.”
One of the Training level cross-country jumps constructed from lumber found on the property. Photo courtesy of Randy Pielemeier.
In addition to all that Chardon Valley does for eventing in southwest Michigan, the event also donates a portion of the annual proceeds from the event to Decatur Human Services, which provides emergency services including food, clothing, utilities, fuel, and medicine to the needy in Decatur and Hamilton townships.
The eventing community in southwest Michigan might be small, but that makes for a tight-knit team that pitches in and does whatever it takes to makes the event happen. The Chardon Valley Horse Trials team is made up of Randy and his wife Kitty, their daughter Katherine, property owners Pat Turck and Jim Lavaglia, Michelle and Isaac Newell, Kim Weldy, and Stephanie White. Chardon Valley also has a dedicated team of volunteers and sponsors who help make the events happen.
Kitty Pielemeier, Kim Weldy, Michelle Newell, Isaac Newell, and Stephanie White all pitched in to help paint show jumps for the event. Photo courtesy of Randy Pielemeier.
Chardon Valley Farm sits on a gorgeous 250 acres of woods and hay fields. The facility provides easy access for all three phases, with two sand dressage arenas, show jumping on grass, and a cross-country course that winds in and out of the woods around the property. “The cross-country course is a little old school,” said Randy, “with lots of fences built of the abundant logs available on the property. Our goal is to have an inviting course to train horses and riders to enjoy the sport I have loved since I was 12 years old. Yes, I am now 52!”
Randy’s favorite part of any event is watching the horses and riders jumping around the cross-country course, as well as seeing people he may only see once a year when they come to compete at Chardon Valley. “Come see us once, I guarantee you will want to come back!”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the series, USEA Events A-Z.
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).