Nov 14, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Spring Bay Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
JJ Sillman Photo.

The Spring Bay Horse Trials are held yearly at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (Area VIII), offering Starter through Preliminary levels.

The Ha’Penny Horse Trials was run in partnership by Mary Bayer and Stanley Wiggs until the spring of 1997. When Mary Bayer moved and the partnership dissolved, there was the need to fill the gap in the spring competition schedule in Area VIII that was left by the Ha’Penny Horse Trials. Wiggs stepped forward and in 1999 ran the first Spring Bay Horse Trials, named after her own Lexington-based farm, between the Kentucky Horse Park and Masterson Station Park.

JJ Sillman Photo.

The Kentucky Horse Park is where horses stable and where dressage and show jumping are held. Cross-country takes place five miles down the road at Masterson State Park, a piece of land set aside by the county for use by equestrians. The event can’t run cross-country at the horse park because the event’s date is just weeks before the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. “Masterson State Park is a county/city owned park that has areas set aside for the use by equestrians,” organizer Mary Fike explained. “It is over 600 acres of open, rolling bluegrass that is open to riding, free of charge. There are some hills on the front part of the cross-country course where the Training and Preliminary courses go and less steep hills in the back where Novice and Beginner Novice courses run.”

Fike described the cross-country courses, which she designs herself, as a bit soft. “Our cross-country is always on the soft side due to being so early on the calendar for our level,” she elaborated. “Most of the folk that don’t go south for the winter are challenged to get ready that early and those that do go south are often either not home yet or are looking to move up. We do have permanent water jumps on each course as well as banks and ditches. The courses tend to be open and galloping. The footing is generally pretty good, but can be wet if the weather has been uncooperative. We stay on the high parts!”

Mary Fike Photo.

Fike has a team of people behind her that help make the Spring Bay Horse Trials possible. “Georgia Ockerman is the Director of the Riding Program for the Lexington Parks Department and her support of the event at Masterson State Park has ensured that it can continue to run there. She has been so helpful as an intermediary between us and the Parks Department.

“There is Debbie Hinkle – she was our secretary for years and is a competitor favorite,” Fike continued. “She could schedule anything with a smile on her face and had a knack of making everyone feel special. She got so many presents from the competitors, sometimes I would get jealous – but she deserved it all.”

“Bev Henson is our ‘Quartermaster.’ Bev takes care of getting volunteers for Spring Bay, as well as keeping us fed and watered and she also makes sure our volunteers and officials have anything they need!”

JJ Sillman Photo.

As the first event to take place in Area VIII each year, Fike says that it holds a special place in competitors’ hearts. “Many of our competitors are really loyal to it,” Fike detailed. “They support us even when the conditions have been less than fun. Many times we have been dubbed ‘Winter Bay’ and have actually held the competition in the snow. That made for lots of great pictures and fun war stories. Those riders who support Spring Bay year after year have no idea how much we appreciate them and we really try to put the event on for them.”

One of the things Fike enjoys the most about the event is seeing everyone out after the winter season. “It is a little like a reunion – fresh energy, big plans for the season, and great camaraderie,” she said. “We are truly glad to see them and we really want the event to serve their needs as a kick-off to a successful season!”

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

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