Jan 04, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Flying Cross Farm Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Flying Cross Farm in Goshen, Kentucky (Area VIII) hosts one USEA recognized horse trial each year in mid-September, offering Beginner Novice through Intermediate/Preliminary levels. The farm also offers six mini-trials throughout the year as a part of the 42 Fleur de Lis Mini Trials Series and is always open for cross-country schooling.

The 96 acres of land where Flying Cross Farm now stands was originally a working farm founded in the early 1800s by James Newton Nay. In 1833, Nay built the log cabin that still stands on the property to this day, and Nay’s son, Latimore, raised eight children in the cabin. Joe Nay, Latimore’s great-grandson, lived in the log cabin during the 1920s, and Joe’s father, Ernest, farmed the land with his son until it was sold to the Anderson family in the 1950s. The farm was home to chickens, cows, and horses, and boasted a ham house, ice house, and sorghum shed, as well as a huge garden and fields of oat and wheat. After the Nay family sold the farm to the Andersons, they continued to work the land until it was sold to Allen Northcutt in 1989.

Northcutt grew up outside Louisville, Kentucky, but he didn’t grow up riding horses. After attending college, Northcutt went into the Marine Corps and flew fighter jets in Vietnam, completing 191 combat missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, which is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves by displaying heroism while participating in an aerial flight in support of military operations.

After arriving back in the States, Northcutt was at a party one Saturday night when a friend invited him to go riding with them the following day. The rest, they say, is history. He was introduced to fox hunting shortly thereafter by Mason Lampton, who is now a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, and purchased his first horse, a barely-broke gelding named Charlie, for $300 out of the local town newspaper. “That’s how I learned to ride. I’d get on him bareback and make him go as fast as he could go and see if I could stay on,” said Northcutt.

Photography In Stride Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Not long after purchasing the farm, Northcutt caught the eventing bug and, after one too many stops on cross-country with a ditchy horse, decided to build an example of every single type of cross-country fence on his property for people to come and practice all different kinds of questions and obstacles. “[His] vision was to have a farm where people could come and board and ride their horses, play their radios, bring their dogs,” explained Mary Lowry, Flying Cross’s event organizer. “[He] is the reason we're all here. Without Allen, we wouldn't have Flying Cross Farm,” said the event’s secretary, Erin Murphy.

Northcutt is truly the heart and soul behind Flying Cross Farm, even though he’s rarely able to be present at the event. “None of this would be possible without his vision and passion,” said Lowry. “He rarely is in town for the horse trials or mini trials, but I call him every competition afternoon. I have two things I tell him – what the EMTs did (we love it when we pay them for sitting in their truck) and the weather report. He always asks, ‘Did everyone have fun at Flying Cross Farm?’ I say, ‘Yes’, and he says, ‘Well, it was a good day then.’ We try to live up to the standards he has set every day. He absolutely loves people coming out and enjoying his farm. I cannot put into words how much he means to me and our eventing community.”

In 2000, Flying Cross Farm ran their first USEA recognized event with just 96 entries after several years of hosting unrecognized mini-trials. Now, their capacity is set at 220 and they fill their entry list every year. The farm comprises a 15-stall converted cattle barn, three sand arenas, and a show jumping field on grass. The cross-country course spans rolling hills in the front of the property and is flatter towards the rear and includes fences from Starter all the way up through Preliminary with a water complex, several coffin complexes, ditches, banks, drops, an Irish bank, and even a picture frame jump wrapped in wisteria. All the fences are landscaped for the event with ornamental grasses, arborvitaes, burning bush, and bamboo. “We’re on 96 acres and we’ve got 100 jumps,” said Northcutt, “and about half of them are built into the terrain where it looks like they’ve been there forever, [and] we’ve got a bunch of them that are portable that we can drag around.”

Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Just a couple of years ago, Flying Cross Farm acquired the neighboring Thoroughbred boarding facility, adding two barns with a total of 56 stalls and an additional 40 acres to the cross-country course. “[Those 40 acres have] made the course much more open, galloping, and challenging but well placed and very jumpable, and it continues to evolve,” explained Lowry. “This year we built or rebuilt about 20 fences and we hope to add many more for next year with some cool surprises.” Cathy Wieschhoff is Flying Cross’s current course designer, and according to Murphy, “she has done an amazing job of completely redesigning our cross-country courses, with new obstacles and offering new types of questions for the farm.” Mary Fike and Les Smith have also designed courses at Flying Cross in the past and have been an important part of shaping the course as it stands today.

Apart from Northcutt, Lowry, and Murphy, there are others who have given generously of their time and energy to ensure the success of Flying Cross Horse Trials. Faustino Islas has been Flying Cross’s barn manager for 10 years and does everything around the farm from fence repair and mowing to building cross-country jumps. “The farm is his pride and joy (next to his family) and his contribution is immeasurable,” said Lowry. “One year we had a ton of rain and had to drag trailers out Sunday afternoon. Faustino and I each had our tractors and were seeing who could pull more out of the field. We were both covered in mud, soaked and tired, but having a blast. We loved it! As hard as we work, we always try to smile.”

“Debbie Hinkle was our secretary for many years,” said Lowry, “and she was incredible, as she kept all the pieces and parts moving with the ability to provide stability and cohesiveness with her amazing organizational skills and sense of humor.” Lowry recalled the year that Hurricane Ike decimated their cross-country course the week before their horse trials, and how Hinkle helped pull everything back together. “As you can imagine, the farm looked like a war zone, with flags and numbers blown up to a mile away, trees down, and branches everywhere. I called in the troops Sunday afternoon, and the next morning I had about six guys with chainsaws, bobcats, and tractors. Debbie and her husband Ron appeared, (a surprise to me) and by the end of the day Monday, the entire course was reflagged. It was unbelievable - and in typical Debbie fashion, she made me realize that anything was possible, and we would have the farm back in order for our weekend.”

Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Even those that only come to Flying Cross once a year for the event are still an important part of making it happen. “Rick Bailen has been our announcer since the beginning,” said Lowry. “Rick's voice, and especially music, are legendary at Flying Cross. Each year we pick a theme. This year it was Motown, and everyone loved it!”

“Every. Single. Volunteer,” added Murphy. “Without our volunteers, we couldn't put on this or any event. So, thank you to all of those eventers, eventer parents, kids, and horse husbands (and wives!) who support their loved ones.”

Whitney Drury has come on board as co-organizer and Lowry stated that, “[she] will contribute immensely to our future. We have had SO many hard-working judges, technical delegates, volunteers, staff, course builders and on and on [who have made this event possible.]”

Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Lowry described how Flying Cross’s mantra is to give back to the community and how integral that idea is to Flying Cross’s philosophy. “We care deeply about our community and understand what Flying Cross Farm represents to the sport of eventing,” she said. “These people are all our friends and people that make our world tick, and the farm is always there for them. We have open schooling, our mini-trials, and we host lots of clinics and such, but our horse trials is our big gift to the community, so we try to do it right.”

“We want it to be a learning experience, and we also want to learn and grow every year,” she continued. “Every year we try to do things a little bit differently and we learn from the year before. We never get stuck in a box, we always try to think outside that box.”

“This event is a lot of our beginners’ first event, but is still challenging for the upper level riders,” said Murphy. “We host unrecognized mini-trials and derbies throughout the year leading up to our sanctioned event, so [the recognized horse trials] is a goal event for a lot of our local riders. Our competitors party has a live local band, door prizes, awesome food, and is a very welcoming party for everyone at the event. We are a down home event that welcomes everyone! Plenty of good ol’ southern hospitality here.”

Photo courtesy of the Flying Cross Farm website.

Lowry’s favorite part of the event is seeing everyone come together to enjoy the farm for the weekend. “Our traditions, such as playing the National Anthem at lunch on Saturday, our competitors party, a T-shirt for every competitor [are all special parts of the experience.] I think mostly I look forward to the generosity, kindness, enthusiasm, and uniqueness that defines our event.” Murphy added, “My personal favorite part of this event is seeing the riders that are running around our mini-trial series and preparing for the "real thing," being able to compete at [our recognized event] in September.”

Northcutt’s favorite part about the event? “I look forward to hearing that everyone got through it safely, that nobody got hurt, and that everybody had fun.”

Northcutt explained how, in October of 2017, he put a conservation easement on the farm. “I plan to create a horse park entity and donate the whole farm to the horse park so that Flying Cross Farm will live in perpetuity for people to ride and compete.”

“He just wants the farm to be there to give back to the community,” said Lowry. “This farm is here for the community. We put the horse trials on for the community…it’s very important to him that we give back to the sport we all love.”

So, what should you expect if you come to Flying Cross Farm Horse Trials? “We want you to come to have fun!” said Murphy. Lowry added, “We won't let you leave without a T-shirt and a smile on your face.”

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

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