Jul 12, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Hunt Club Farms Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Hannah Jones Photography Photo.

Hunt Club Farms in Berryville, Virginia (Area II) hosts a USEA recognized event each summer offering Introductory through Preliminary/Training levels. The farm is a boarding and training facility that also hosts unrecognized events and schooling shows, clinics, and cross-country schooling.

In 2008, Tracy Zack bought a 100-acre cow farm in Clarke County, Virginia with the dream of transforming the property into an eventing facility. Both of Zack’s daughters were eventers and she wanted to find a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way. “I just really love the sport and love the people,” said Zack. “[I wanted to provide] a facility where you could bring your green horse or your young rider but also the professional could have questions as well.” And so, Hunt Club Farms was born.

When Zack acquired the property, she had to start from scratch, building the facilities from the ground up. She started with the 14-stall barn, then the outdoor and indoor arenas before starting on the cross-country course. In 2012, she brought in Tremaine Cooper who, along with Tyson Rementer and Craig Haynes, have been building up the cross-country courses at Hunt Club Farms over time, constantly making additions and improvements. “[Tremaine] has helped me so much because I didn’t have the finances to do it all at one time,” explained Zack. “He’s just really been great. This year the course is completely new with new jumps.”

Photo courtesy of the Hunt Club Farms Facebook page.

Once the arenas were completed, Zack began hosting combined tests at Hunt Club Farms, graduating to unrecognized events once they had built enough of the cross-country course, and finally becoming recognized with the USEA in 2015.

Zack, who was new to both farm operating and show organizing when she hatched the idea for Hunt Club Farms, found that the local community was incredibly supportive of helping her get off the ground. “The people at Morven Park, when I first started if it weren’t for them, I just had no clue what to do!” recalled Zack. “They’ve always, always answered my phone calls. For them, it’s not a competition; they want to see me succeed because the smaller venues are where people get their start. We need them.”

“We all love Great Meadow and we all love Tryon, but eventing has to have a start,” she continued. “People have to be able to start somewhere. I do have a small event but some of the questions [on our cross-country course], especially at Training level, are challenging. I think people have this preconceived idea that it’s going to be really easy and then they find out Tremaine Cooper built it!”

Some of the dedicated volunteers at Hunt Club Farms. Photo courtesy of the Hunt Club Farms Facebook page.

Showing that it truly takes a village, Zack has also had the support of the riders and their families who board and train at Hunt Club Farms, who all come out to volunteer at both the recognized and unrecognized events. “We can’t say enough about our volunteers,” she said. “We would fall apart without our volunteers and we love them. A lot of times the girls will ride and the moms will volunteer; we have a lot of help here right on the property.”

Run as a one-day event, Hunt Club Farms runs three dressage rings on grass and does show jumping in the outdoor arena. While the majority of the competitors trailer in, Zack explained that they will sometime stable a few competitors on site while still others will stable overnight at the nearby fairgrounds and then trailer in on the day of the competition.

Hannah Jones Photography Photo.

“It’s a little more of a laidback feel here,” described Zack. “The property lends itself to that and we want to keep it that way. A lot of times people that come here have never evented, so we try to be patient and understanding and I think that lends itself to the feeling of a smaller venue. Even if we have big numbers, we want to keep that feeling.”

Organizers across the country are working hard to keep the smaller, local venues alive as they are such a necessary part of the eventing pipeline for both horses and riders who are new to the sport, and Zack is no different. “I love this sport and I hope to continue and be successful . . . People have to remember, if you want it, you have to come.”

Boyd Martin teaches clinics at Hunt Club Farms every year. Photo courtesy of Tracy Zack.

Zack’s commitment to the eventing pipeline doesn’t stop there. In addition to the recognized and unrecognized events, which always make sure to have something for the green horse or less experienced rider, Hunt Club Farms has a thriving lesson program that aims at supporting the young rider as they pursue their goals. Zack recently joined forces with Advanced level eventer Alyssa Peterson, who worked previously for Sharon White at Last Frontier Farm, and is now teaching and training at Hunt Club Farms. Hunt Club Farms also hosts Pony Club Rallies year-round and hosts clinics every year with Boyd Martin.

In addition to giving back to the eventing community, Zack goes one step further. “Something I’m really proud of with Hunt Club Farms is that we started doing ‘Eventing For the Cure,’” Zack shared. “This will be our fifth year doing Eventing for the Cure and we’ve given over $20,000 to different charities. Winchester Oncology, their building department has received $15,000 of that from us. We’re really proud of that and really proud of the riders come and are a part of that and like to give back. It’s really a fun time for us.”

Hunt Club Farms’ Eventing for the Cure! Photo courtesy of the Hunt Club Farms Facebook page.

In a nod to her family’s Norwegian heritage, the Hunt Club Farms cross-country course has a Viking theme for several of the fences. “We’re just trying to keep with that theme because we love that,” said Zack. “We do the best that we can to provide [the riders] with good footing. We work really hard, we don’t slam it all year with schooling. I try to take care of it for them and do the best that we can for them. They need to know that it’s not going to be rock hard, even if it’s dry. We’re going to leave the grass a little long, we’re going to aerate it.”

Zack is constantly aiming to make improvements at Hunt Club Farms and she several plans in the works for the coming year. This winter, Zack will be working completely revamping the arena footing in both arenas and expanding the paths on the cross-country course, all in preparation for the addition of a second USEA recognized horse trials to their calendar. Hunt Club Farms is also planning to unveil a Preliminary level cross-country course next year, adding Preliminary to their offerings for both the USEA recognized and unrecognized events.

Sean Reilly Photo courtesy of Tracy Zack.

“There’s something gratifying about watching people on your own property,” Zack shared. “I’ve worked really hard and to see them enjoy it and have success and to be a part of their journey is amazing. And the community in and of itself, everyone in the community has been so nice to me. I love eventers, how can you not? They’re great horse people. I love watching them jump things that we’ve built and have a great day. It’s very rewarding.”

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

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Despite the continued easing of lockdown measures, the nationwide vaccination program, and the hope within the Government Roadmap for unlocking the country, there have been and remain too many variables and uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic to deliver this much-loved international event.

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