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.
A relentless rain didn’t put a damper on the first horse inspection at the 2019 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International Three-Day Event in Elkton, Md. The CCI3*-L presented first in front of the ground jury of Helen Brettell (GBR) and Valerie Vizcarrondo Pride (USA) and all 62 horses were accepted to start the competition. C Me Fly ridden by Colleen Rutledge and Jos UFO De Quidam ridden by Heather Jane Morris were both sent to the hold, but were accepted upon reinspection. Lasse 73 ridden by Jennifer Salinger was asked to jog twice, but was accepted after the second pass down the lane.
The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East and West Coast Championships will take place this weekend on opposite sides of the country. On Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, the East Coast Championships will take place at Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland. Then on Sunday, October 20, the West Coast Championships will run at the Fresno County Horse Park (FCHP) in Fresno, California.
Rutledge Farm is thrilled to welcome back two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton to host his second eventing clinic as a part of the Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. Since 2017, Rutledge Farm has been dedicated to bringing premier educational opportunities to Middleburg, Virginia to support the development of the sport at all levels and for multiple disciplines, including eventing, show jumping, dressage, and equitation.
Experience the 2019 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships through the judge's eyes! The USEA will be hosting YEH judging seminars during the 2019 USEA YEH Championships. The seminars will be led by the world-renowned judge and co-chair of the YEH Committee Marilyn Payne. All interested parties are welcome to attend.