The Paradise Farm Horse Trials are held three times a year in Aiken, South Carolina (Area III) in February, May, and October and offer Starter through Preliminary level competition. Paradise Farm is also a full-service schooling facility that is open year-round for cross-country, dressage, and show jumping schooling as well as conditioning and hacking.
In 1990, Lellie Ward traveled overseas to Europe and was invited to train with British gold medalist and Badminton winner Jane Holderness Roddam. “During that time, I was introduced not only to the best of British events but to the concept of cross-country schooling facilities,” Ward recalled. “We did not have such places to go train back in my day.”
After four years in England, Ward returned to Aiken, South Carolina and began looking for a place to set up her own stable. “Never in my life would I have thought I'd buy 110 acres of land, but upon seeing the land that would soon become Paradise Farm, there was no question in my mind this was where I was supposed to land,” Ward said. “The back of the farm was perfectly suited towards the training and competing of event horses.”
In 1997, Paradise Farm officially opened its doors to horses and riders to come and train. In September of 2001, Paradise Farm hosted its first horse trials. “We ran Beginner Novice through Preliminary,” Ward recollected. “The courses were built by a man later known as ‘Chainsaw Willie.’ Our courses were considered to be very solid, up to size, and somewhat difficult due to the rolling hills and placement of the jumps. And they remain that way to this day.”
“The cross-country course at Paradise Farm has perfect sandy loam footing for the horses and can take almost any amount of rain without the ground becoming slippery or deep,” Ward described. “There is just the right amount of rolling hills to create all sorts of questions for our competitors at every level. Paradise Farm has all the traditional questions. There are four coffins at the Training and Preliminary level, ditches for every level including starter, banks, sunken roads, and a wonderful hollow. The water jump is enormous, offering an endless variety of questions for all levels. The course is wide open in a huge field so spectators and coaches can view almost every jump from one place. It is a great event for photographs!”
“Paradise farm was designed by a rider for horses,” Ward continued. “There is a one-way system for all competition parking. The front of the property has the office, concession stand, and all dressage and show jumping rings. Dressage and show jumping are held in three 200'x 250' all-weather arenas. Temporary stabling is currently used for competitions, and permanent competition stabling is on the roster.”
Ward expressed her gratitude for the incredible sponsors that have given their support to Paradise Farm over the years. “Paradise Farm has been blessed with great support from multiple corporate, private and local sponsors every year. We have been blessed with exceptional prizes from these sponsors that often exceed $10,000 in value.”
The volunteers that help make the Paradise Farm Horse Trials possible have been equally supportive with their time and dedication. “The volunteers are outstanding,” Ward stated. “We have been blessed with so many friends helping to keep our sport going. Our volunteer lunches are famous!”
To Ward, the importance of good footing comes first, and Paradise Farm has no shortage of that. “The thing I rate highest [about Paradise Farm] is the quality of the footing. You can be assured when you enter an event at Paradise you will be able to run no matter what the weather. The courses are designed for horses by designers that have all been riders in the past. They are educational, confidence-building courses that encourage big, bold jumping.”
For Ward, the best part of the event is watching the competitors on cross-country. “I look forward to seeing all the competitors come and run their horses over our courses at every event,” she said. “I enjoy seeing the land be used in this best possible way.”
“I just want eventers to know that if they choose to run at Paradise Farm, they will always be met with courses that have been extremely well thought-out and built,” Ward concluded. “They can always expect quality at Paradise Farm Horse Trials.”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).