Surefire Farm in Purcellville, Virginia (Area II) hosts two horse trials a year – one in late June and one in late September, offering Beginner Novice through Intermediate levels in addition to USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) classes. Surefire is a year-round training facility.
The Surefire Farm Horse Trials got its start in 2004 when Craig Thompson made the decision that he wanted to start an event, the same year his wife Jan Byyny was on the short list of riders that traveled to England in preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games. Thompson and Byyny divorced the following year but still worked together to run the Surefire Farm Horse Trials, which that year ran back-to-back weekends in July.
Thompson went on to work with the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm, taking the back-to-back weekend dates with him. Byyny applied for a new spring date, which runs in late June, and added a fall date in late September in 2014. “My parents and I talked about whether we wanted to continue with the horse trials, but it’s a great way to really get the farm in shape and, more importantly, is my opportunity to give back to the sport I love,” Byyny shared.
“Anyone that’s been part of our horse trials is important to its success, but I couldn’t do it without Christy Stauffer and Tom Finnen,” Byyny said. “Christy does everything! She organizes so many details from volunteers to sponsors to packets to porta-potties. Tom does all the mowing and manages the footing. My Mom and Dad, Dick and Jo Byyny, always come from Colorado with the makings for carne asada for all the volunteers and officials, an event tradition along with margaritas.”
“Po Tatham has done the volunteer snacks and flowers every year since we started,” Byyny continued. “Nanki Doubleday makes all the food for the officials and helps out with nightly dinners. She also makes the best mango salsa ever! Caitlin Calder organizes how everything is set up and flagged. She has Kendyl Tracy, Maya Black, and Katie Hasse come to help set up the dressage rings. Debbie Iezzi and Sara Younger come for the week with their students—they do all the roping and tent set up in exchange for lessons.”
“Christy has an assistant now, Lisa Welsh, who helps her put up all the tents, handles the hundreds of little details that need to be taken care of during set-up, and makes all the scoring runs. Lisa’s stepmom, Anne Welsh, comes to help with anything that needs doing along with assisting Kendall Church and Pat Palmer with scoring. Mary Coldren—who doesn’t want Mary organizing the ride times? She’s been with us since the beginning. Brian O’Connor manages our communication, radios, and announcing. Bill and Susan Watson are our starters and have been since the beginning. My father is our safety officer and Michelle Sargent and Sarah Griffith are our EMTs. Trav Schick and all the boys who come and help build our courses—Joe Stylos, Graham Schick, Henry Stephens, Josh Sylce and Levi Ryckewaert—do a fantastic job year after year. Tremaine Cooper designs our courses and I think they’ve gotten better and better.”
Surefire Farm is situated on 50 acres in the heart of Northern Virginia’s horse country, adjacent to 300 acres in conservation with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. In addition to the 12- and 8-stall barns, boarded pastures, and outoor sand arena, Surefire Farm boasts a cross-country course with Beginner Novice through Intermediate level fences.
“Everything is run on grass,” Byyny said. “It’s nothing is fancy, but we have very good grass that we put a lot of time and money into, and great turf that is aerated. Because of the hilly terrain on our farm, the cross-country can be challenging if you’re not used to riding on that. I feel that our footing sets us apart because we work so hard to get it right."
Hosting an event is no easy feat, and Byyny admitted that she sometimes looks forward to when it’s over. “At the same time, it’s fun to watch people enjoy it," she said. "I love all the families that come out. We have so many people that come that just enjoy the sport and it’s fun to watch them.”
Byyny most looks forward to the people – competitors, volunteers, officials – that return to the events year after year. “We are truly a family event. Whatever money we have leftover, we put back into the event. We try to update each course each year, though sometimes we concentrate more on certain levels. I think our footing is excellent and our goal is to have the best footing we can possibly provide every year.”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
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Trainers, riders, parents, and more are in for a real treat when the all-new USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is officially released. Those participating in the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first to set eyes on this all-encompassing guide that has been two years in the making.
The USEA established the Young Event Horse (YEH) program in 2004 to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. While the goal of the YEH program is to identify horses that will be successful at the four- and five-star levels, horses with the potential for lower-level success are also showcased by the program.