Huntington Farm in South Strafford, Vermont (Area I) hosts two USEA recognized events each year, a two-day event in July and a one-day event in August, both of which offer Beginner Novice through Preliminary level, in addition to four unrecognized events and a dressage schooling show. Huntington Farm is also a year-round boarding, training, breeding, and sales operation.
Nestled on 205 acres just north of South Strafford, Vermont sits Huntington Farm, home of the Huntington Horse Trials for nearly 50 years. In 1964, Read and Essie Perkins purchased the property with the intention of converting the dairy farm into a boarding, training, and breeding facility for event horses. Read and Essie, along with their two daughters, Beth Perkins and Bea Perkins (now di Grazia), hosted the first horse trials on the property in 1969.
Things were done quite differently back in the early days of eventing in the United States. For example, many events were by invitation only and you only heard about events by word of mouth. Fences were flagged with penalty zones, and with far fewer rules and regulations, the cross-country courses erected at Huntington Farm were quite challenging. “We weren’t as scientific about things back then,” commented Mary Hutchins, who has been involved with the Huntington Farm Horse Trials since the very beginning. One year, for example, only six of the 19 Preliminary level competitors completed the event. “After that, [the cross-country course] got modified,” she explained.
Hutchins’ children were in Pony Club with Beth and Bea, which is how she became involved with the horse trials. She recalled working with each member of the Perkins family on various different aspects of the event. At that time, Hutchins had been doing the scoring for the Green Mountain Horse Association Horse Trials and came on board with the new Huntington Farm Horse Trials to lend a hand, doing everything from scoring the event to helping flag the courses with Bea. Now, Hutchins serves as the course designer for both cross-country and show jumping, as well as taking on anything else that needs to be done. “I do a lot of the background preparations, not only painting the fences and designing the courses, but also I get all the cross-country scoresheets ready and the radios and I do some of the scoring or I’m running around picking up scoresheets. Whatever needs to be done is what I do. I feel like I know every tree and rock on the place.”
Beth Perkins was a member of the United States Eventing Team in 1973 and 1974 under Jack LeGoff and Read invited the entire team to come to Huntington Farm to train and school cross-country. Over the years, many of the sport’s top competitors and officials visited Huntington Farm including LeGoff, Karen Stives, Bruce Davidson and his son, Buck Davidson, Phillip Dutton, Denny Emerson, and Brian Ross.
After the passing of both her parents, Beth took over running the farm and orchestrated the horse trials in 1983. The farm had been sustained in part by Read’s two other businesses, one of which manufactured spindles for rug factories in North Carolina (operated out of a warehouse on the property) and Huntington Fence Company, which constructed postand rail fences. Without these other businesses to help support the farm, Beth ultimately made the decision to sell the farm to Ann Kitchel in 1983, who also took on running the Huntington Farm Horse Trials.
Huntington Farm continued to offer levels up through Intermediate for several years until a portion of the original land was sold off, at which time the event stopped offering Intermediate and only ran up through Preliminary. Kitchel took over the property at a time when eventing was undergoing a lot of changes and many standards and regulations were being implemented. Consequently, she put in concerted of effort to revamp the cross-country course and ensure the courses met with current standards.
Huntington Farm’s property includes a small parcel of land that is down and across the road, which Read originally purchased from June McKnight, who also happened to own one of the stallions that stood as part of the Perkins’ breeding operation. That piece of land is now used primarily for trailer parking during the events and also serves as the grass area where show jumping is held. Dressage is held in the arenas that are back on the main property, as is the cross-country, which runs up the hill behind the house and barns.
As a boarding, training, and breeding operation, Huntington Farm has two barns on property which they use during events to stable a limited number of competitors. The remaining competitors who travel from far away to compete at Huntington Farm stable overnight at neighboring farms and then trailer in for the competition.
With both the GMHA Horse Trials and Hitching Post Horse Trials nearby, there is a tight-knit local eventing community in that area of Vermont and a lot of local support goes into making the event at Huntington Farm possible. “Lots of times we have little kids [fence judging], but they know the rules!” laughed Hutchins. The community also chips in at the several unrecognized events Huntington Farm hosts during the year, which help to support the recognized events. “When we have the schooling trials, we frequently ask some of the more experienced riders in the area to come and judge dressage,” Hutchins explained.
Above all, Hutchins said that she believes people come to Huntington Farm for the unique challenge of their cross-country course, which is quite hilly and encompasses a wide variety of different jumps. The course also contains two water complexes and is comprised of as many portable jumps as possible, which allow Hutchins to switch up the track for every event, keeping things fresh for the competitors. “I think people really like to come here because the like the variety of what’s on the course,” she said. “There’s a lot of variety in what they jump and I think people really like that aspect. It’s not fancy, we’re more of a grassroots event.”
“It’s a huge effort to put on a horse trials every time we do it and we hope [the riders] appreciate it!”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
There is still time to experience the long format of three-day eventing this year, by competing in a fall USEA Classic Series Event! The USEA Classic Series offers long-format eventing at the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Modified, and Preliminary levels, and there are still a few left on the fall calendar in various Areas.
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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