Nov 01, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
A horse and rider on course at the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at Oatlands Plantation. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The Loudoun Hunt Pony Club (LHPC) Horse Trials take place twice a year in Leesburg, Virginia (Area II), offering Beginner Novice through Intermediate at Morven Park in the spring and Introductory through Intermediate at Oatlands Plantation in the fall.

The Loudoun Hunt Pony Club was founded in 1958 in conjunction with the Loudoun Hunt and is one of the oldest Pony Clubs still operating today. More than 20 years after the Club had been founded, Loudoun Hunt Pony Club’s District Commissioner Margaret Good was approached by Trish Gilbert about organizing a horse trial at Morven Park. “We’d been doing combined tests and Trish called me and asked would the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club be interested in doing a horse trial at Morven Park?” Good recalled. “We were new at it, but [when they asked us to organize the event] we said sure, because we’d been doing rallies all along and it’s basically the same thing.”

Major John Lynch, who was the director of the Morven Park International Equestrian Institute (MPIEI) at the time, had already begun construction on Training and Preliminary level cross-country courses at Morven Park but passed away before they were completed. The United States Pony Club agreed to help fund the completion of the cross-country courses, donating $500 to the effort in exchange for the privilege of hosting their annual national rally at Morven Park. The United States Combined Training Association (now USEA) donated another $500 towards the completed of the courses.

Show jumping in the arena below the barns at Morven Park. Russ Nunberg/GRCPhoto.com Photo.

Gilbert secured a course builder to complete the courses and Good set about organizing the new event. In spring of 1981, the LHPC hosted their first horse trials with 60 Preliminary level horses at Morven Park. The following year, the event was filled to capacity. Over the years they added the Intermediate level, followed by Training, Novice, and then Beginner Novice. “Trish supported us wholeheartedly,” Good said. “We had a lot of learning to do, but everybody was learning at the same time then.”

Some years later, Bruce Davidson approached LHPC about adding the Advanced level to the spring event at Morven Park. “He said, ‘Would you do Advanced at Morven? I will find the course builder and I’ll design the course,’ and he brought in Tremaine [Cooper], just a young kid,” Good recalled. “He’s had [the course designing job] ever since.”

When Tad Coffin joined MPIEI in the 1980s, he wanted to take over the organization of the spring event at Morven Park. Anita White, Master of the Loudoun Hunt, told Good about an old and unused cross-country at the Oatlands Plantation that was in bad shape but could be fixed up and used to host the LHPC Horse Trials, which had become an annual fundraiser for the Club that helped pay for lessons, clinics, and other expenses.

Dressage and show jumping at Oatlands Plantation are held on grass. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Oatlands Plantation is part of the National Historic Trust, so there are limitations on what kinds of changes can be made on the property. “[For example,] you can’t dig without an archeologist. Luckily we have an archeologist in the Club, and he just so happens to be the archeologist for Oatlands!” Good explained. “There are strict things about what you can and can’t do, but with portable jumps being the base of most courses these it’s not a problem.” When LHPC first looked into hosting their event at Oatlands, they brought Cooper over to design the courses. After designing at both venues for many years, Cooper passed the course designing job at Oatlands on to Jeff Kibbie.

The LPHC was all set to run their horse trials in the fall at Oatlands Plantation when Coffin backed out of organizing the spring event. “He’d never run an event before and he came to me and said, ‘There’s no time, I can’t do it.’ So, we got stuck with two events,” Good said. “At that time, Morven Park didn’t do anything [to help with the organization of the event.] We were responsible for everything and at the time the event was full by closing date.”

The Loudoun Hunt Pony Club’s sheer amount of man-power and their many years of experience hosting first rallies and combined tests and then horse trials left them well-qualified to take on the task of hosting two events a year. The Club supplies most of the volunteers, both the kids and the parents, many of whom are also involved with the Loudoun Hunt, and Good now works closely with the team at Morven Park to help organize the spring event.

A rider on cross-country in the LHPC Horse Trials at Morven Park. Josh Cudd/GRCPhoto.com Photo.

Good, who now also works with Morven to host their horse trials in March and October, said that her favorite part organizing is picking things back up in the spring after things have been quiet all winter. “By March you’re ready to go and really looking forward to that spring event,” she shared. “The LHPC event in the spring pulls over 300. If they’re not going to Kentucky they’re coming back [from the south.]”

“The Pony Club is going to put on a first-class event,” Good stated. “That’s the goal of every parent. They look forward to it, they have fun doing it, so competitors are in for a well-run event because our volunteers know what they’re doing.”

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

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