May 17, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Great Meadow International

By Kira Topeka - Great Meadow
ara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C at the 2017 Great Meadow International. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Great Meadow International in The Plains, Virginia (Area II) hosts the only leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup to take place on North American soil each year in early July.

The property known today as Great Meadow was once a defunct dairy farm on the verge of conversion into a 500-home housing development. In 1982, local business-man and philanthropist Arthur “Nick” Arundel purchased the land and created the Great Meadow Foundation, a non-profit intended to preserve the space for equestrian and community activities.

Though the Great Meadow International (GMI) is a young event, Great Meadow’s eventing history dates back to earliest years of the Foundation. The Middleburg Horse Trials moved from Dresden Farm to Great Meadow in 1985. In 1987 the horse trials was still held at Great Meadow but was renamed the Virginia Horse Trials. Following the 1988 Virginia International Two-Day, the horse trials moved to Glenwood Park and was again called the Middleburg Horse Trial. Notably, the 1988 Virginia International was won by Karen (Lende) O’Connor and Nos Ecus, who is now a Technical Advisor on the GMI Organizing Committee.

A competitor at Great Meadow in the late 1980s. Photo courtesy of the Great Meadow Foundation.

Eventing returned to Great Meadow in 1995 with the Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association (CDCTA) Horse Trials. CDCTA built a Preliminary course in 1995, an Intermediate course in 1996, and went on to host a CCI* and CCI2* in 2001 before moving to Culpeper in 2005.

In 2014, Olympian David O’Connor sought to prepare riders for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy by creating an Advanced-level Prep Trial that would later grow to become the Great Meadow International. Though a decade had passed since the last horse trials and just fourteen combinations competed that year, the massive crowds and community enthusiasm proved the eventing spirit was alive and well at Great Meadow.

Great Meadow hosted its inaugural CIC3* event in 2015 in conjunction with a Pan American Games preparation trial. This event gave spectators both at the event and those tuned into the live stream an opportunity to preview the Pan American Games contenders in one of their final outings before heading to Toronto. Adequan signed on as the event’s presenting sponsor in 2015 and has continued to support the event ever since.

Lynn Symansky and Donner competing at the 2015 Great Meadow International. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

With the success of the 2015 event, Great Meadow International was awarded the first ever FEI Eventing Nations Cup outside of Europe in 2016. The Fleming Farm Donors, a group of local philanthropists, supported Great Meadow’s efforts and allowed for the purchase of 174 additional acres and the constructing of a state-of-the-art arena to complete the world-class venue. Throngs of spectators came to Great Meadow to see teams from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain vie for a spot at the top of the podium. This elite team competition served as the final preparation for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Eventing Team.

The FEI once again awarded Great Meadow the sole North American leg FEI Eventing Nations Cup in 2017. The U.S., Canada, and Great Britain once again faced off for top honors at Great Meadow with the U.S. clinching the win for the second year running.

For the third year in a row, the Great Meadow International will host the FEI Eventing Nations Cup in 2018. Great Meadow has come full circle this year, poised to once again offer riders the opportunity to compete as a team before the World Equestrian Games. Great Meadow is thrilled that Brook Ledge Horse Transportation has signed on at the title sponsor of the event. This partnership will help Brook Ledge promote their newly acquired flight company, Horse America, expanding their ground services to include air transportation anywhere in the world. Brook Ledge is a family-owned business founded in 1955 and is today the most recognized equine shipper in the nation.

This year, eventing at Great Meadow is expanding once again. After 29 years at Glenwood Park, the Middleburg Horse Trials has moved to Great Meadow. Their June 9-10 USEA recognized event will feature Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels.

Eventing has a long history at Great Meadow. Photo courtesy of the Great Meadow Foundation.

Great Meadow is a fantastic venue for competitors and spectators alike. The Fleming Farm Arena was constructed with grass berms along each side for viewing and tenting. The high-tech Attwood Equestrian Surfaces footing drains in wet weather but retains moisture when needed to create the perfect surface for dressage and show jumping. During the event, Attwood representatives are on site to ensure that footing is ideal for competitors.

As the host of The Virginia Gold Cup for more than three decades, the established turf is a perfect for horses and riders. The grass is rooted deep, and the fully irrigated track is always green. The obstacles are constructed to be as natural as possible to maintain the aesthetic of the vista. World-renowned course designer Mike Etherington-Smith returns in 2018 to create another excellent test for horses and riders preparing for the World Equestrian Games.

Great Meadow is one of the finest venues for cross-country viewing in the country as the majority of the track is visible from several different locations around the course. New in 2018, a water feature has been added on the Fleming Farm property. Riders will run through twice, making it an idyllic spot for tailgating.

The Warrenton Hunt being recognized as top volunteers for Great Meadow in 2018. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The spectacular group of volunteers who take part in the Great Meadow International make the event possible. Since 2014, hundreds of community members have donated their time and skills to support the event. GMI is eternally grateful for each and every volunteer.

The organizing body of the Great Meadow International is a group of incredibly dedicated individuals. To highlight a few: Darrin Mollett has served as the co-organizer with David O’Connor since the event’s beginning. Her meticulous attention to detail and love of the sport has created a world-class experience for competitors and spectators alike. David O’Connor brings a vast international experience, both as a competitor and official. His tireless efforts to continually improve the event has allowed it to grow from a small prep trial to the only FEI Nations Cup in North America. With a wealth of experience, Max Corcoran plays a critical role, ensuring the safety of each phase of competition. Mary Pat Guest is a tremendous asset to the team, this year organizing the polo exhibition in addition to her many other roles. GMI’s Event Director, Teresa Condon, oversees all aspects of the event along with all other activities at Great Meadow. The aforementioned individuals are joined by a long list of others who each play an invaluable part in making the Great Meadow International run smoothly.

Some of the generous donors that have contributed to making Great Meadow International a success. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Each year, the Great Meadow International sets out to prepare riders for major international competitions and each year it has delivered. With a lively atmosphere, crowds, jumbotrons and more, GMI gives riders horses and riders based in North America experience in a challenging environment without travelling overseas.

While GMI brings out top competitors, spectator entertainment is of the highest priority. In addition to the elite eventing competition, GMI offers spectators extensive shopping in the Meadow Market, a selection of food vendors, and a variety of ticketing options. New for 2018, guests can grab a drink, attend meet-and-greets with the riders, enjoy live music or learn from informative mini-lectures in the Meadow Market Beer and Wine Garden, located at the center of the trade show.

For attendees seeking a VIP experience, premier hospitality in the VIP tent overlooking the Fleming Farm Arena offers private dining options and ringside boxes. A dedicated pedestrian shuttle will be available between the VIP tent and the Meadow Market for the duration of the event. Options to spend cross-country day close to the action with tailgating locations on the course are available for reservation, including the Swan Lake Tailgates, the Fleming Farm Tailgates at the new water feature, and the Arena Tailgates overlooking the arena.

GMI provides at top-notch experince for riders and spectators alike. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

For the past few years, the event has begun with a highly competitive bareback puissance. This year the Great Meadow Polo Club will be playing polo exhibition game. Stay tuned to find out which eventing stars will be trading in their bats for polo mallets!

Great Meadow is a non-profit and relies on the generosity of the community in donation and ticket sales to continue its mission of preserving open space. In addition to the Great Meadow International, Great Meadow is home to other equestrian and community events, including Twilight Polo, Twilight Jumpers, an Independence Day Celebration, the Virginia Gold Cup Races, the Virginia Scottish Games, and more. Each one of these events makes a great barn outing!

Will Coleman and Tight Lines at the 2017 Great Meadow International. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The 2018 Brook Ledge Great Meadow International presented by Adequan FEI Eventing Nations Cup promises to be the best year yet. Each year, the event strives to improve spectator and competitor experience. With the World Equestrian Games on the horizon, GMI will provide a preview of many of the combinations likely heading to Tryon.

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

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