Jan 31, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Middleburg Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The Middleburg Horse Trials take place at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia (Area II) in early June, offering Beginner Novice through Preliminary divisions.

The Middleburg Horse Trials were held for the first time on the last weekend of September in 1976 at Barbara and Jim Wilson’s Dresden Farm in Middleburg. The Wilson children were avid eventers and Barbara and Jim decided to host a horse trial on their farm. Jimmy Wofford was the course designer and the Wilsons, Eve Fout, Margaret White, and Jeff and Marilyn Blue served as the organizing team. The Middleburg Horse Trials continued at the Wilsons’ farm for 10 years until 1986, at which time it moved to Great Meadow in The Plains for the first time.

Photo courtesy of the Great Meadow Foundation.

Eve and her husband Paul, who owned Coosaw Farm in The Plains, were members of both the local steeplechase and fox hunting communities. Through Eve’s position on the board of the Virginia Gold Cup Association, she’d had a hand in the establishment of the Great Meadow Field Events Center, now known as the Great Meadow Foundation. So, when the Wilsons wanted to move the event from their property to another venue, Eve facilitated the move to the newly created venue at Great Meadow.

In 1987 and 1988, the Middleburg Horse Trials were held at Great Meadow but under a different name: the Virginia Horse Trials (a completely separate entity from the Virginia Horse Trials founded by Brian and Penny Ross in 1989 and held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.) At the spring International Three-Day Event in 1988, however, it rained constantly and, because Great Meadow was a new facility with an underdeveloped drainage system, the full weekend of galloping hooves decimated the footing on the cross-country course.

Map of the four phases of endurance day at the 1988 Virginia International Three-Day Event at Great Meadow. Image courtesy of the Great Meadow Foundation.

The Middleburg Horse Trials took a three-year hiatus as the organizing committee regrouped in the wake of the cancellation of the Virginia International Three-Day Event. Eve had been organizing the Middleburg Orange County Pony Club’s (MOCPC) clinics and camps at Glenwood Park in Middleburg as part of her role as the Club’s District Commissioner (DC), a role she’d held since helping found the Club with Beverly McConnell in 1958. With Eve’s help, the decision was made to resurrect the Middleburg Horse Trials at Glenwood Park.

From 1992 to 2017, the Middleburg Horse Trials were held annually at Glenwood Park. Eve served as organizer and Wofford, who had stayed on as course designer for the Virginia Horse Trials at Great Meadow, returned to design the courses at Glenwood. After a couple of years, Wofford passed the course designing job to Eve’s daughter and Olympic medalist, Nina Fout. Eventually, Eve passed the role of organizer to Nina as well, and Nina and began working with Nini Hapworth as co-organizer.

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Prior to 1994, the Middleburg Horse Trials was a privately-operated event, but through her role as the MOCPC’s DC, Hapworth transitioned the Middleburg Horse Trials into a fundraising event for the Pony Club. The members of the Pony Club would staff the event and in return, all the proceeds would go towards the Club. After nearly 20 years, organization of the Middleburg Horse Trials passed from Nina and Hapworth to Jennifer Mosle and then from Mosle to Max Corcoran, the event’s current organizer.

After calling Glenwood Park home for 25 years, the Middleburg Horse Trials moved back to Great Meadow. In 2016, Great Meadow had purchased adjacent Fleming Farm property, nearly doubling in size, and installed a new state-of-the-art arena in preparation for hosting the only leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup held in North America. “Middleburg Horse Trials is lucky enough to be at Great Meadow,” said Corcoran. “We get to use the fabulous "big ring" for the show jumping and the warmup arena for the Great Meadow International (GMI) is where the dressage rings are, although we do have one ring on grass where the VIP tent is for GMI.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

When the Middleburg Orange County Pony Club made the decision to move the event back to Great Meadow, they put several fundraising initiatives in place to establish the cross-country course for Beginner Novice through Preliminary, including a new water jump. David O’Connor was brought in to design the new courses with Jon Wells working alongside him as the course builder. “The cross-country runs on the backside of Fleming Farm,” Corcoran described. “We look to improve the courses every year and Great Meadow does a fantastic job maintaining the footing. The course is quite hilly but very inviting. It is old established turf with some woods that are used creatively.”

Even as the Middleburg Horse Trials changed venues, the team behind the event remained the same. “Steve Symansky has been the secretary for years at the Middleburg Horse Trials and he is the man to answer all those types of scheduling questions,” Corcoran said. “He lends tractors, houses officials, makes breakfast for our course builder - and gives advice whether we ask for it or not!”

Max out on course at the Middleburg Horse Trials. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

And of course, the Middleburg Horse Trials couldn’t take place without the support of the Pony Club members. “David Livermore is a Pony Club dad that never left,” Corcoran shared. “His daughter, Rachael Livermore, is the head groom for Sharon White now - but he is the man behind all things show jumping, from maintaining jumps to setting course and everything in between. The Pony Club family is fabulous - Holly Beth Hatcher, Phillipa Fewell, and Dory Gascon are amazing.”

What’s Corcoran’s favorite part of the Middleburg Horse Trials? “When the last horse finishes the cross-country!” she joked. “Seriously though, it is awesome to see the first trailers pull in and riders who will hopefully enjoy all the hard work that goes into the event. It is also great to see some of the supporters of Great Meadow Foundation at the event watching their young horses, children, and grandchildren who are there competing. They get to enjoy the land they help preserve.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

“The Plains and Middleburg areas are so historic for horse sport, especially Great Meadow. With the return of upper level eventing to Great Meadow, it is special for people at all levels to have the opportunity to canter around such a beautiful venue. Our goal is to be the best, friendliest, most useful lower level event in the area!”

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