Oct 10, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Stable View Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Samantha Clark Photo.

Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina (Area III) hosts five events each year – two in January, one in March, one in June, and one in September. The January and June events host Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, the March event adds Intermediate to the offering, and the Oktoberfest CCI in September offers Novice through Preliminary and CCI*-S, CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI4*-S divisions. Their unrecognized schooling series, The Eventing Academy, is also held six times yearly.

Barry and Cyndy Olliff purchased 160 acres in Aiken, South Carolina in 2010 as a retirement project. “It certainly wasn’t going to be an eventing facility, and it certainly wasn’t going to be what it’s turned into now,” Barry described. “Cyndy and I were going to invite our friends down here and we were going to go riding with them, and it seemed like a good investment. That really is the beginning and end of it. There was lots of property available in Aiken because Aiken had had lots of equestrian-type building which had all blown up in 2008, so there were deals to be done, and that’s what really appealed to me.”

Barry says that the Stable View of today came about incrementally as they networked with the equestrian community in Aiken. “It was on the back of friends introducing us to friends, and increasingly those friends introduced us to more friends, and they increasingly became friends in high places,” Barry explained. “Kim Severson has played a significant role in the early development of Stable View. Mark Phillips has obviously played a major role, Eric Bull has played a major role, Boyd Martin has played a major role. These are all people we’ve known for five, six, seven, eight years and have created relationships on the back of advice. Kim said, ‘Well, if you were ever to do a horse trials, this is what I would do.’ She also introduced us to who was then Shelley Spielman [now Shelley Page] and Shelley played a major part in the development of Stable View.”

Samantha Clark Photo.

Their popular Oktoberfest event, which takes place on the last weekend of September, was an “opportunistic attempt” to create an event that was likely to garner both local and national support. “Our hope was that it would catch the imagination and that the theme would be embraced by riders, spectators, and sponsors,” Barry said.

Looking back to 2014, when the event ran for the first time, Barry explained that they ended up with that September date because of how the Area III calendar is laid out. “The dates in January, February, and March are overpopulated and you can’t really get anything that is going to be an FEI recognized event in that period. It’s only just now that we’ve gotten confirmation that we’ve got that March date for 2020. We thought, when in the year is an opportunity? Winter is out because it’s too busy, you don’t really want to be doing too much stuff down here in the summer, so you finish up with October and November. Being a bit of a European, I thought, Oktoberfest – why not go for it?"

Samantha Clark Photo.

Part of the crucial development that’s taken place at Stable View over the last nine years has been the cross-country course, which Captain Mark Phillips and Eric Bull have all contributed to enormously. “Mark saw the property when it was all scrub, and he spent time walking it, getting used to the contours and the terrain, understanding where lanes would go on the land we owned at the time – we originally bought 160 acres and then we bought another 850 acres. The original cross-country course, which is on the highland, was some open space that we created plus a series of lanes, because that was what we could afford to clear. Mark has got the most amazing memory when it comes to contours.”

With Captain Mark Phillips came course builder Eric Bull, and Barry explained that Bull has built just about every fence on the property. “We can deal with riders at every level, including Modified, and they’re modern fences – we’ve brought them all in as the years have gone by.”

The other impressive thing about Stable View’s facilities are the numerous different barns on the property, all of which have fully furnished living quarters attached to them, and all of it has been built by the Olliffs in the time they’ve owned the property. “We’re trying to be slightly different. Riders are going to come and stay, and they’re going to stay longer if they can be in accommodations on the property. Through the year we’re finding that there are other people who are interested in it as well, like people who need to work downtown but don’t want to stay at a hotel.”

USEA/Hannah Bennett Photo.

Like any event, Stable View is run on the backs of its volunteers. “Rhonda Campbell does a fantastic job, and we have a lot of very well-versed, well-educated volunteers. We have the same people coming back time after time, and we have a lot of young people, particularly young people who don’t have a horse that they can compete at a specific event. They come and volunteer because they can get credit which gets them access to the Eventing Academy for no charge. It sort of becomes a circular success story.”

Barry said that one of his favorite things about the events at Stable View is the opportunity to continue to make improvements and additions to the property. At present, they’re working on building their fourth rider lounge, which is designed specifically for competitors with things like meals, washers and dryers, permanent bathrooms, showers, and more. “I feel very strongly that riders don’t get a good rap in eventing – I feel that we should be paying them rather than them paying us, it seems sort of around the other way from most sports. The bottom line is that they pay us and then when they get to the facilities they don’t really get to have fun and enjoy themselves and have fun and community. So, we’ve developed the concept of these rider lounges, which is a bit like a business lounge at an airport.”

Samantha Clark Photo.

Barry is also planning to clear more land for cross-country courses. “Mark said he’d like more real estate to work with so we’re going to clear some more land. Subsequent to buying the 160 acres we bought the 850 so now we’ve got a lot more land and we can be a lot more flexible.”

“We don’t want this facility to be seen as elitist,” Barry stressed. “We want it to be seen as a facility that supports young riders, amateur riders. It’s not all about the professional riders. They’re the tease, if you like, that encourages the young riders and amateur riders to come on board and show here, but it’s not really about the upper level riders. We love the upper level riders – they’ve helped us achieve what we’ve achieved, but this is a fully rounded facility offering all levels, including our Eventing Academy.”

“I was going to retire when I was 70, I’m now 74. I didn’t retire when I was 70, I decided to stay and work longer, and so we’ve done all we’ve done up until now with me being in Pennsylvania – Cyndy’s been down here to some extent – but now we can really try to push the boat out a bit further and what we’re hoping is that we can really make this into a different kind of equestrian venue.”

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