Jul 05, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Hitching Post Farm Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Photo courtesy of the Hitching Post Farm website.

Hitching Post Farm, a boarding and training facility in South Royalton, Vermont (Area I), hosts two USEA recognized events a year in May and October, offering Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels. Hitching Post Farm also hosts unrecognized events, schooling shows, and clinics and offers summer riding camps and cross-country schooling.

Joe McLaughlin purchased the land that would become Hitching Post Farm in 1950. He, along with his wife, Dot, and their five children, ran a riding camp during the summer and a ski camp during the winter. The family got involved in eventing through the Green Mountain Horse Association Horse Trials in nearby South Woodstock, Vermont and decided to begin hosting events at Hitching Post Farm.

After running several unrecognized events in conjunction with their summer camp shows, they decided to organize a standalone USCTA-recognized event, the first of which ran in 1973. “[The horse trials] were the natural progression of what was happening at the farm and in our very horse-y area,” explained Laurie Hudson, Joe’s granddaughter.

Photo courtesy of the Hitching Post Farm Facebook page.

Joe eventually passed the reins of Hitching Post Farm onto his daughter, Rosemary McLaughlin, who continued to develop Hitching Post Farm by adding a lesson program at the farm. Her program eventually became so popular that they even began hosting riding camps for adults alongside their traditional kids’ summer camp offerings.

Keeping it all in the family, Hudson took over the running of Hitching Post Farm from Rosemary in 2001 and has worked hard to continue to grow the farm’s offerings while maintaining tradition. “I think my family as a whole has been huge in keeping it all going from start to finish,” she commented. “I’m the fourth member (and third generation) of our family to be organizer [of the event]. The joke in our family is that by the time you are six years old you can judge at least six cross-country jumps at a time!”

While the Hitching Post Farm Horse Trials have been a family affair since the beginning, Hudson explained that the community has also been a great source of support for the event. “Officials and friends like Mary Hutchins have provided invaluable service to Hitching Post Farm,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Laurie Hudson.

With just 75 acres in the lush green mountains of Vermont, Hudson explained that much of the farm’s property does double-duty when it comes time for an event, but that it makes for a course that is easy to spectate. “We are a small farm event. Our horses are turned out in our cross-country fields and you can see most of the event from various vantage points.”

Hitching Post Farm’s cross-country course, designed by Janine McClain, puts the terrain to good use for the Beginner Novice through Preliminary level courses. “[The property] is very hilly and the terrain is more the challenge than the jumps,” commented Hudson. “It’s a great season opener because it’s on the short side and a good move up in the fall for the same reason!”

“The small farm event is a dying breed,” Hudson observed. But, the small farm event plays an important role in the eventing pipeline and Hudson is dedicated to creating options to introduce people to the sport of eventing. “I think that in addition to our two recognized events, hosting a number of schooling trials and clinics and offering cross-country schooling is attracting people to our sport. We are friendly, small, and not intimidating.”

Hudson invited eventers to come give the horse trials at Hitching Post Farm a try. “You might be surprised at what a nice venue it is, in spite of Vermont hillside parking!”

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

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