Feb 14, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Marlborough Horse Trials

By Donna Bottner - Marlborough Horse Trials
GRC Photo courtesy of the Marlborough Horse Trials.

The Marlborough Horse Trials (MHT) are held every September at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland (Area II), offering Starter through Preliminary level horse trial and combined test divisions.

The Marlborough Horse Trials began in 1992 through the combined efforts of the members of The Rosaryville Conservancy. One of the founders of the conservancy, Edward Coffren III, was a hunt master for the Marlborough Hunt Club and owned a farm adjacent to Rosaryville State Park - a 982-acre day park. Together with Paula Sothern, Dorothy Troutman, and a handful of others, they planned to expand the equestrian aspect of the park while also managing the historic Mount Airy Mansion. The conservancy dissolved at the end of their contract in 2018, and going forward we will be working directly with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for use of the park for our events.

The Marlborough Horse Trials logo proudly displays nearly 30 years of history.

Troutman was, and still is, our biggest supporter. She took on the task of getting donations from an extensive list of founders and finding a course designer and builder. Not wanting to go second rate, Troutman met with Roger Haller and Chris Milanesi at Plantation Field to discuss our needs. With Haller and Milanesi on board, Troutman turned to local equestrian Pam Link as organizer to get the first year off the ground. The first horse trials ran in September 1992 and, for a few years, ran a date in May also. Andrea Binkley took the helm as organizer soon after and ran the horse trials until 2008 when she turned over duties to Donna Bottner, who had been Binkley's co-organizer for the past few years and a volunteer before that.

In 2018, Bottner moved to Colorado and stayed on as co-organizer to help Asta Repenning Brown, our new organizer, get acclimated. And didn't she do a fabulous job! Asta is a graduate "B" Pony Club member, school teacher, eventer, and has a long history volunteering at Marlborough along with her mom, Harriet Nettles. Keeping it all in the family, Asta's brother, Paul Repenning, DVM, is our show veterinarian and her sister in-law, Emily Repenning (also a former Pony Club member), is our volunteer and hospitality coordinator. Last year Paul and Emily packed up their baby daughter and dug in to help!

Current organizer Asta Repenning Brown with cross-country co-Chair Katie Domino and treasurer Kathy Domino helping prepare the cross-country course. Photo courtesy of the Marlborough Horse Trials.

The Marlborough Horse Trials would not have come into being and continued for so many years without the support and guidance of Troutman, her family, and Binkley. Both Troutman and Binkley were very passionate about keeping the horse trials going and improving it every year. Binkley organized the horse trials for 13 years and managed to convince the board members to add the Preliminary division. Troutman's daughter, Diane Hickok, spearheaded fundraising efforts to purchase more show jumping equipment and pay for new cross-country jumps. Troutman's son, Glenn Troutman, has spent countless years and hours assisting with mowing and park preparation each year, and her other daughter, Sandra Wiseman, has done every job imaginable within the horse trials from show jumping chair person, to scoring, to secretary, and was a long-time member of the conservancy. Talk about a family affair!

Ray and Beth Wheeler were long-time members of the MHT Board. Ray took over show jumping course design sometime around 2007 and later became my co-organizer. When they moved to Aiken from Maryland, they still came up for a few years to help with the horse trials. As their business in Aiken grew they had to stop coming, but have been back the past two years as Beth has come to judge dressage. It's always great to see old friends back at the event. Brian O'Connor has been with us since the beginning as well. Not only the golden voice of eventing, but the best cross-country control and announcer we could ask to join us and truly one of the team. It's really just not Marlborough without Brian!

We miss Roger Haller and always will. More than a course designer, Haller was a friend, advisor, and mentor in this crazy world of organizing. Haller always had a five-year plan for our courses and a vision of where we could go. He helped navigate rules, people, future planning, and everything else. He truly loved our little horse trial and will always hold a special place in our hearts. He usually stayed with Troutman and her family and we'd go to dinner when he was in town. He took Troutman's hand at dinner one night and said, "Can you believe it's been 22 years Dorothy? Let's do 22 more!"

GRC Photo courtesy of the Marlborough Horse Trials.

Rosaryville State Park is 982-acre park where we have the best of both worlds. Ample parking, beautiful grass fields with plenty of room for dressage and show jumping, and rolling, wooded terrain for cross-county. Every level from Beginner Novice to Preliminary has inviting tracks through woods, water, and over hills. We have four distinct areas in addition to wooded tracks. We call them what they have been called from the beginning: the Pavilion Field, the Power Line Field, the Water Jump Field, and the Helsinki Field.

Troutman once told the story of how the original ditch on course was built. It's the ditch in the Helsinki field, so named because Robert Butts built a Helsinki fence there for the first year. They hired a grave digger! Apparently he was very affordable. She said he knew exactly how deep to dig it and how wide it should be for a half coffin.

We brought Tyson Rementer on board several years ago to take over course building. Rementer has been a huge influence on our event with his artistry, knowledge, and great sense of humor! We brought John Williams on board as Technical Delegate in 2015 on Haller's recommendation. Sadly, we lost Haller the following year, but Williams picked up the torch and has carried on as course designer.

One of the MHT cross-country jumps beautifully decorated by volunteer Holly Covey. Photo courtesy of the Marlborough Horse Trials.

Our cross-country courses are inviting because the questions are right for each level, yet challenging and fun. Williams has done a fantastic job the past few years creating new tracks and changing it up each year. Very rarely will you see four jumps side by side. Williams helped us upgrade our water feature in 2016 which dramatically improved the approaches, adding drain tiles, and changing everything about the obstacles. The courses run through several hilly fields and the time is a factor for all levels. We offer a classic cross-country course, where horses and riders expect changes of terrain both up and down, banks, ditches, traditional obstacles like logs and coops, but some nice newer portable jumps that offer flexibility and creative use of the slopes and hills.

The Marlborough Horse Trials is a small event in the big fish pond of Area II eventing, but we offer a calm atmosphere, which really helps new eventers and young or green horses. Marlborough is a modern event with old school cross-country fun and a hometown feel. Former Rosaryville Conservancy President Paula Sothern still bakes cookies for our competitors to snack on in our hospitality tent. You have to try her molasses cookies!

Organizer Donna Bottner and MHT Board Member Hannah Ong starting the day with a lot of coffee! Photo courtesy of the Marlborough Horse Trials.

This is a labor of love for all of us. We are a non-profit organization and dedicated to giving our best to our riders. People come who haven't been before or haven't been here in many years and are very pleasantly surprised. Jan Byyny brought several horses and students last year when rain caused Seneca to cancel. She hadn't been here in more than eight years and said she couldn't believe what a great time she had. We weren't in bad shape before, but we have put extensive time, effort, and money into course improvement at all levels.

After the long days and hard work leading up to show day, it's a gift to come out before everyone arrives and take in how beautiful and peaceful everything looks first thing in the morning on event day. We especially love watching riders grow confident as they ride the courses and those big smiles when they finish.

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

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