May 02, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Penny Oaks Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Penny Oaks volunteers Jill Hungsberg, Ryan Conkin, Lisa Rexroat, Liz Brown, and Colleen Rosemeyer: these ladies all make the event happen! Photo courtesy of Kate Gress.

The Penny Oaks Horse Trials run once a year in late July at the Hoosier Horse Park (HHP) in Edinburgh, Indianan (Area VIII). The event offers Starter through Intermediate/Preliminary levels and is one of two Area VIII events to take place in Indiana.

In 1987, a portion of Johnson County Park in Edinburgh, Indiana was developed to host the 1987 Pan American Games. This 200-acre parcel became Hoosier Horse Park, and the following year the Park began hosting events, including the Indiana Eventing Association (IEA) Horse Trials. Among the events hosted at the Park were the Hoosier Horse Trials, organized by Dannette Morgan. After 10 years of running the Hoosier Horse Trials, Morgan approached Kate Gress about taking over the event, and so the Penny Oaks Horse Trials ran for the first time at Hoosier Horse Park in 1999.

Organizer Kate Gress and her husband, John, who feeds all the volunteers! Photo courtesy of Kate Gress.

Gress grew up on a farm in Chobham, Surrey, England called The Oaks on Pennypot Lane. After moving to the United States, she attended the Morven Park International Equestrian Institute and completed degrees in Equestrian Science and Marketing at Lake Erie College before taking a job in the corporate world. In 1987, Gress decided to put her equestrian education to use and opened Penny Oaks Stables in Noblesville, Indiana.

Officials Cathy Weischhoff and Deb Boeh on course. Photo courtesy of Kate Gress.

Gress’s farm in Noblesville is 140 miles from the Hoosier Horse Park, presenting a unique challenge from an organizer’s perspective. “We're very lucky here in Indiana to have the Hoosier Horse Park,” Gress stated. “It's a real challenge though to run this event 140 miles from home because the management [at the Park] isn't 'horsey', [so] I work closely with the Indiana Eventing Association. I've personally donated more than 23 cross-country jumps [to the Park.]”

“We have this amazing core crew of volunteers that make this event happen,” Gress continued. “I absolutely could not run it without them. My husband has done the hospitality for most of the years of this event and he comes from a restaurant background. Our son and daughter grew up learning (not that they had a choice) every aspect of putting on an event!”

Volunteer Ivan Dixon moving cross-country jumps at Hoosier Horse Park. Photo courtesy of Kate Gress.

Gress explained that it takes her seven full trailer loads from Noblesville to Edinburgh to transfer all the show jumps and other equipment necessary to put on the event. But, it’s all a labor of love. “I love the creative process of watching the cross-country come together,” Gress shared. “The courses are very inviting. I really look forward to working with Cathy Weischhoff, our course designer, because I learn so much. We have a really good time.”

“Running an event is a great way to give back to this amazing sport,” Gress concluded. “The officials, competitors, horses, and volunteers - everything has to run like a well-oiled clock!”

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

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