Oct 24, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Sundance Farm Horse Trials

By Kelly Mahloch - Sundance Farm
Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

Sundance Farm in Plymouth, Wisconsin (Area IV) hosts their horse trials in late September of each year, offering Starter through Preliminary levels.

Sundance Farm Horse Trials (SFHT) celebrated its sixth year this year by offering Preliminary for the first time. It all started on the way home from another horse trial. We all started thinking about how Area IV needed another horse trial and we thought we could do a good job. It was me (Kelly Mahloch) and my daughters, Whitney and Ali, along with good friend Ann Sturzl on the drive. We spent the long drive home making notes and considering all the things we would need to organize such a venture. At that time Sundance Farm had been hosting numerous mini-events throughout the years.

With the purchase of a neighboring 40 acres, we called in Eric Bull to advise us as to the feasibility of developing a course on the property. Eric loved the rolling hills and was particularly fond of the drop bank complex idea cut into one of the big hills. To this day, it gets the attention of riders the first time they see it. It rides quite well and is situated nicely on course for both riders, trainers, and spectators.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

The course offers a variety of terrain questions, along with wooded paths, open alfalfa fields, cornfields, and passages through stone wall fence lines. The majority of the cross-country jumps are portable and the land offers innumerable routes about the property. Courses are never the same each year.

When we first started, we realized that our best bet was to take advantage of the local fairgrounds for stabling, dressage, and show jumping. They had two USDF dressage rings, 100 stalls, and big grassy areas for show jumping. There was already a PA system, show office, and enclosed warmup ring. The fairgrounds was less than four miles from the farm, and just a quick jaunt down the highway for Sunday morning cross-country.

The goal was to get the whole horse trial moved to the farm by our fifth year, which we did manage to do. Competitors were thrilled to have everything in one place. The stabling is close enough to the water hazard for riders to sit at their stall and watch their friends on course. The course tries to also feature local life in Wisconsin. The Training Level Cheese Wedge, sponsored by Sargento, is a well-known obstacle on course.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

Show jumping is held in an enclosed three-acre alfalfa field, which is basically level with a bowl in the middle. It has been proclaimed by competitors to be a “real eventing show jumping course.” Lots of room for a gallop, with balancing questions, also. Dressage is on the grass in a restful corner of a large alfalfa field with trees and a relaxing quiet atmosphere. Dressage Steward Annie Anschutz runs a very efficient show there.

The Mahloch family is all-in on running the horse trials. Whitney comes home from Ocala for the week before and is in charge of course decoration and coordinating jump judges. She is the main reason the cross-country course is so beautifully presented. She gets to work with many donated flowers, grasses, plants, and greenery.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

Ali spends the weeks before getting all the jumps in position and running control on cross-country day. Her husband, Lucas, builds the majority of the cross-country jumps and was quite busy building those new Preliminary jumps this year. Dad Steve is in charge of grounds, getting all the electricity out to the alfalfa field for stabling, getting tents and stabling in order, PA systems up and running, and this year, performing miracles with his big tractor pulling out innumerable trucks and trailers after the heavy rains on Saturday night.

I serve as organizer, show jumping course designer, and cross-country course designer through Training level. I also works on getting sponsors and donated prizes. Sundance Farm Horse Trials has a reputation for having some of the best prizes in Area IV, with various sponsors including Purina, Healthy Coat, Rider Warehouse, local tack shops, and many more.

Courses are not for riders intending to move up. Omnibus listings specifically advise riders that these are not year-end “move-up” courses, but rather a confirmation that you are ready to move up to the next level. Due to the terrain, few riders make the optimum time on course, so this tends to be a factor, also.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

Since Ann Sturzl helped us brainstorm this endeavor, she serves as our Show Jumping Steward, making sure, every year that the course is repainted and glorious. Husband Ed helps get everything ready and also serves as dressage and cross-country announcer.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Mahloch.

Volunteers make or break a horse trial and Sundance Farm routinely receives compliments on our friendly, helpful volunteers. Year after year, returning volunteers spend endless hours helping to make the SFHT a great event.

As is traditional in Area IV, Sundance Farm hosts a “Party on the Banks” offering free supper to all competitors and volunteers awarding some early prizes for lowest dressage score, CT low score award, and trainer CT team award. A good size bonfire finishes out the Saturday fall evening.

We aren’t the largest horse trial in Area IV. That’s not our goal. We want to be a premier event, with gorgeous, challenging, fair courses, great prizes, and happy competitors. We think we are on the right track and judging by the response of entries, we are well on our way. Next year will possibly mean we have a waitlist. We are thrilled by the support we have received from Area IV!

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

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