The Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials in Nashville, Tennessee (Area III) is run once yearly at Percy Warner Park on the first weekend in October, offering Starter through Preliminary levels. It is the oldest continuously running recognized horse trials in the United States.
The first horse trials in America was produced in 1953 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee under the direction of Miss Margaret Lindsley Warden, writer of the 'Horse Sense' column in The Nashville Tennessean newspaper that ran for 55 years. Miss Warden became interested in the subject after reading an article by Major General Jonathan Burton in The Chronicle of the Horse, who was then stationed in the Military Calvary at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Warden invited Major Burton to demonstrate dressage atThe Nashville Tennessean sponsored initial pleasure horse and horsemanship show, The Horse Sense Riding Tournament, late in 1952. The next year, The Southeast's Initial One-Day Event was added to the Second Annual Horse Sense Riding Tournament. Major Burton participated, along with Major Paul M. Wimert and several local riders. Majors Burton and Wimert officiated often at these horse trials after retiring from the cavalry.
In the fall of 1954, the Olympic Three-Day Trials ran along with the Riding Tournament and and One Day Event. By 1960, the The Southeast's Initial One-Day Event had grown to become the Nashville-Tennessean One-Day Horse Trials and was included in the list of USCTA sanctioned events.
In 1979, the Middle Tennessee Pony Club became the official sponsor of the Nashville-Tennessean One-Day Horse Trials. Miss Warden was also the founder of the Pony Club in 1954, the first Pony Club chartered in the United States. This past October, MTPC Horse Trials celebrated the event's 66th anniversary. The original structure of this type of competition remains steadfast, with dressage and cross-country on day one and show jumping on day two.
As noted above, the event began and grew under the guidance of Miss Warden. When the Pony Club took over the organizational responsibilities, she remained involved but the Pony Club District Commissioners (DCs) took over the organizational responsibilities. In 1986, Co-DCs Monty West and JJ Johnson took on the responsibilities, and Johnson continues to play an important role.
The Middle Tennessee Pony Club continues to hold the event, led by the Organization Committee made up of Johnson, Peppy Butler, and Delana Owen. Butler, who is a lifelong Pony Club member, parent and former DC, is the driving force of the event and works closely with the Percy Warner Park staff and all officials and volunteers for all of phases of the event.
Peggy Snow served as secretary beginning in 1983 through 2006. Fred and Leigh Roberts stood in for 2007, then Deborah Lovett was the event secretary until 2013 until Delana Owen, current Pony Club DC and Pony Club parent, took over that role five years ago. Many other families have remained involved even after their children 'graduate' from Pony Club and the event could not carry on without this support from long-term volunteers in the Middle Tennessee community.
Percy and Edwin Warner Parks are a 3,100-acre facility in a historical location within the city limits of Nashville, Tennessee. A portion of Percy Warner Park has a section devoted to equestrian use and the MTPC Horse Trials shares this area with the long-established Iroquois Steeplechase, held every year in May since 1941. The race is named for Pierre Lorillard's beloved "Iroquois," the first American-bred horse to win the English Derby. The Park has an historical stabling barn that has been restored and is used for both the Steeplechase and Horse Trials. The Pony Club built an all-weather fenced riding surface in 2008 dedicated to honor Miss Warden. The Pony Club hosts many other activities during the year at the Park, including a one-day schooling event, rallies, training camps, and clinics.
The cross-country courses run on well-established turf with terrain variations. A new water complex was built in 2008 with improvements made each year to various fences. The courses include a bank complex, ditches, and many varied types of fences and are built to design standards. In the era of the long format three-day event in the late 1980s, Neil Ayer designed the courses for the long format. Ritch Temple took over for many years, and Jon Wells has been on board for 13 years.
The Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials is the longest continuously-running horse trials in the United States and its longevity is a testament to the dedication of multitudes of volunteers. Working with all the devoted volunteers, many who return year after year, is one of the highlights of each year’s event.
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
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