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.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.
The 2012 and 2016 individual Olympic champion, Germany’s Michael Jung, blazed into first place after dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Games with a superb test on Chipmunk.
Deservedly scoring 21.1 - a record for both rider and his country at an Olympics, according to EquiRatings - it was a joy to watch. From the first extended trot, the pair looked secure, positive, and harmonious. The test was as accurate and as well-delivered as that of long-time leaders Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR), but with more expression and ease. Jung and the Contendro 13-year-old demonstrated all this specially-written, short Olympic test asks for and each movement flowed into the next.