The Hagyard MidSouth Three-Day Event and Team Challenge Horse Trials is held once yearly in mid-October at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (Area VIII) and offers horse trials for Beginner Novice through Preliminary level in addition to Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training and Preliminary Three-Day and CCI* divisions.
The oldest team eventing competition in the United States, the Hagyard MidSouth Three-Day Event and Team Challenge was conceived by the MidSouth Eventing and Dressage Association (MSEDA) and The Eventing Association of Michigan (TEAM) in the early 1980s as a friendly competition among teams from regional combined training associations. The first year the event was offered, it boasted a total of 45 entries. Volunteers organized the event from beginning to end and its popularity soared.
Today, it has become a destination event, the highlight of many fall eventing schedules, and a much relied on fundraiser for MSEDA. Riders from all 50 states and 10 countries have tested their competitive mettle at the Hagyard MidSouth Three-Day Event and Team Challenge over the years. While participants in the Hagyard MidSouth CCI* face the most demanding courses of the event, the hallmark divisions of the competition are the team events and the Hylofit USEA Classic Series competitions.
Team competition is offered at the Preliminary, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice levels and those divisions alone draw more than 400 competitors. Teams of three or four riders compete for the best final overall score – very much like the Olympics. The two unique Hylofit USEA Classic Series competitions are modeled on the old three-day event format. Until 2018, the Preliminary Three-Day was the only one in the country, and the Training Three-Day is wildly popular and often oversubscribed. The riders competing in the Hylofit USEA Classic Series have such a great time and we really strive to give them the full experience. They mirror the CCI horses with arrival exams, horse inspections, reverse order of placing, and FEI Stewards.
The Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) is a fabulous venue and most eventers are familiar with it as the site of the Kentucky Three-Day Event each spring. When the first started at KHP, there was a grass ring beside the lake and two hunter rings – no all-weather footing anywhere in site! The dressage rings were in the infield of the old race training track – and they still used it for a jockey school. Imagine horses out for a dressage test and the Thoroughbreds were being galloped on the track! Now the Park has added more hunter rings and a second indoor – it is almost hard to remember how much it has changed.
The first year the event was held at the Kentucky Horse Park, the local eventers didn’t want to enter because MidSouth ran after the fall Ha’Penny event and they didn’t want to do “the bowl” on the cross-country course one more time (the shorter courses were always in the infield). So, I decided that we would change that. We trimmed some of the burning bush hedge and jumped over it and went somewhere else, and we started in a different place – that confused a few folks who hadn’t bothered to get a map. That was what started the changing up of things at KHP. Now each event held at KHP has its own flavor and unique tracks. It keeps the facility fresh for a lot of local riders knowing the courses will be different each time they enter. It is a lot more work for the designers and builders, but it is all for the riders, isn’t it?
The cross-country courses can be quite strong – fair, but strong. We take pride in that we are the only event at KHP that runs the Novice and Beginner Novice riders through the famous Head of the Lake. They love it! Our cross-country courses are known for good decorations. We have a team of decorators, headed by Rachel Henson, who put a lot of time and love into and everything always looks so nice. We also use a FEI 3/4* course designer for our one-star course. While I am licensed to do it, I think it guarantees that the course is up to snuff for our FEI competitors.
Derek di Grazia was the designer for our one-star for 15 years. He brought a level of course design and preparation to the event and always shared his knowledge with me as I designed the other courses. What I didn’t ask him directly, I learned by watching. I will never forget the first time I had to lay out the steeplechase course – imagine going out into an open field and defining a certain distance with zero reference points! He sent me out to do it and then very kindly corrected some of my turns, explaining how to use the diameter of the turn to compliment the speed the riders were going. Now, Jay Hambly is designing our one-star course – 2018 was his second year and he did a beautiful job.
Our cross-country crew – Trav Schick, Tobiah Bingham, Graham Schick, Dave Leonard, Shelley Ryan, and Aaron Rust (before he moved out of the area) – they are the best! There is nothing they can’t or won’t do, and almost before you ask, it is done. They always do just that much more. I remember one year there were so many course changes that we had a schedule of changes typed up and when it was time to make a change, they deployed like a well-oiled team. There were six changes between levels – all at the same time. Moving a couple of fences out of the way, trimming brush here and there and some roping had to come down. They got them all done is 15 minutes. It was amazing – but we learned that while we “can” do it, we won’t do that again!
Debbie Hinkle and Bev Henson have been part of the event almost from the beginning. Debbie was our secretary for years and developed our own online scoring before Startbox Scoring and Event Entries existed. It was glitchy, but she kept it running. She became a scheduling genius and could do things in her head that it took others hours to figure out. Debbie and I created a formula to schedule the teams so each team had a score from each judge and each rider also rode in a different division so the Individual placings were all fair as well. That formula is a trade secret!
Bev is an amazingly calm and gentle person and takes care of all of us – the ‘staff’ and officials. She always has what anyone needs, from a Band-Aid to 250 lunches to stop watches to the exact number of orders of go. For years she was also the Volunteer Coordinator, but that job got too big, so now Lynn Davis does it. Bev created our Volunteer Voucher, which is given to every volunteer. It is good for a free cross-country schooling, a discount on a future entry, or a discount on event logo wear.
Hagyard Equine Medical Institute has also been a very important part of the MidSouth team as our title sponsor. Hagyard is one of the premier equine veterinary hospitals in the country. For more than 125 years, the veterinarians of Hagyard Medical Institute have dedicated themselves to the health and well-being of the horse. Its reputation is built, in part, on a continued effort to increase veterinary knowledge and thereby improve the state-of-the-art treatments and surgeries offered to its diverse equine clientele.
For many, the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event is the last event of the season. There is a festive feel to the event – even though it is a large event and the schedule can be a challenge (no pun intended). Some of the teams dress up and we do a Starter’s Award, which is presented to the team with the best costumes. We also give the Rivella Cup to the highest placed mare in the CCI* in memory of Christine Brown’s fabulous mare, Rivella. It is sponsored by Harrington Mill Farm and Dr. Stuart Brown from Hagyard always presents it.
The teams and the camaraderie make the Hagyard MidSouth Three-Day Event a special experience that keeps people coming back year after year. It is so neat to be able to keep an event with such a history going and to know that the funds raised support scholarships and educational programs. It is the last hurrah in Area VIII and everyone rallies to make it the best it can be!
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
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