The Southern Pines Horse Trials takes place every March at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, North Carolina (Area II) offering Beginner Novice through Preliminary horse trials and Beginner Novice through Advanced combined tests.
In 1991, local residents Lefreda Williams and Karen Flipse, DVM, had the idea to found an upper level competition in Southern Pines to complement the lower level event offered by the Longleaf Pine Horse Trials, which at the time was being held at Longleaf Pine Farm, and racehorse breeding and breaking facility in Southern Pines. “They had no money, no jumps, but big dreams,” recalled Marc Donovan, current organizer of the Southern Pines Horse Trials.
The Walthour-Moss Foundation Horse Trials, which would eventually become the Southern Pines Horse Trials, began at the Walthour-Moss Foundation Preserve, which was established upon the death of William O. “Pappy” Moss to ensure the preservation of more than 4,000 acres of land just one mile from the town of Southern Pines. “They got permission from Ginny Moss and the Walthour-Moss Board to run an event on the Foundation land,” said Donovan. That first event offered just Preliminary and Intermediate levels as it was designed to cater to upper level competitors.
The Southern Pines Horse Trials has been a true community effort from the very beginning. Donovan explained, “Together, Lefreda and Karen built jump number one, a log, and invited the community to a cocktail party at the site of this jump. They raised enough money to hire a local guy to build the rest of the cross-country course. They also ran a contest between neighboring farms to provide the best show jump and used these jumps to build the show jumping course.”
“They enlisted the help of local riders to clear the course, which wound through the pine forest, of pine straw and pinecones, set up the dressage rings, and unload the tractor-trailer of spruce brush for decorations,” Donovan added.
In 1994, the event was rechristened the Southern Pines Horse Trials and the event added an Advanced division to their offering. In 2004, they offered Training level for the first time. 2007 was the first year that Novice and Beginner Novice levels were offered.
In 2001, the Southern Pines Horse Trials moved venues from the Walthour-Moss Foundation Preserve to the Carolina Horse Park in nearby Raeford, North Carolina. The Longleaf Pine Horse Trials had also moved to the Carolina Horse Park a year before in 2000.
The Carolina Horse Park boasts an impressive set of amenities on its 250 acres, with room for eight to 10 dressage rings and two major show jumping courses on synthetic footing. It also has a formal turf derby field, 200 permanent stalls, as well as 45 RV hook-ups with electricity and water. The Horse Park plays host to unrecognized and recognized events, hunter/jumper shows, combined driving, and was even the site of the USEA American Eventing Championships from 2004-2006.
In 1998, Southern Pines split into two events, offering Advanced and Intermediate at their event in mid-March and Preliminary a week later. That format was abandoned the following year but resumed in 2007. Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice were offered on the first weekend and Advanced, Intermediate, Preliminary, and Training were offered on the second weekend. This format continued until 2014, when the Southern Pines II Horse Trials morphed into the Carolina International Event.
Since 2014, the Southern Pines Horse Trials have taken place on the first weekend in March with Carolina International following two weeks later. Southern Pines offers combined tests for all levels and horse trials from Beginner Novice through Preliminary.
“Today, Lefreda is still very much connected to the competition as a volunteer,” Donovan concluded. “She sits on the Carolina Horse Park Board of Directors, paints all the cross-country jumps, hangs signage, and ropes the entire course. The event has always and still requires an enormous effort from the entire community.”
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).