Feb 27, 2020

USEA Events A-Z: Virginia Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The Virginia Horse Trials are held twice yearly at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia (Area II). At their event in May, they offer Starter through Advanced/Intermediate horse trials, CCI*-L, CCI2*-L, CCI2*-S, and CCI3*-S FEI classes, and USEA Young Event Horse classes. At their event in October, they offer Starter through Advanced/Intermediate Horse Trials and CCI*-L, CCI2*-L, CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI3*-L, FEI divisions.

The Virginia Horse Trials were founded by Brian and Penny Ross in 1989, and they held their first event at the Virginia Horse Center in November offering Novice, Training, and Preliminary levels. From then on, the Virginia Horse Trials have been held twice yearly, once in late May and once in late October.

Brian and Penny Ross organized the Virginia Horse Trials through its 25th anniversary in 2014, when they passed the baton to current organizer Andy Bowles. “[Brian and Penny] gave it a solid foundation, developed the eventing facilities, and established the event's excellent reputation,” said Bowles. “It has long been a popular show. Since my team and I took over, we have strived to build on what was already here. We came in intending not only to uphold the Ross' legacy but to make it bigger and better.”

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

“We're a real team at VHT,” Bowles continued. “The people that work on this event do it for a genuine love of the sport and appreciation for what this event offers. The folks in the office, on course, and everywhere in between have been here for years, and it is absolutely a team effort. We are a hardworking, dedicated group that takes a lot of pride in what we present to our customers.”

The Virginia Horse Center, nestled on 600 acres between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountain ranges in Lexington, Virginia, is an impressive facility, boasting over 700 permanent stalls, nine show rings and eight schooling rings, and a 4,000 seat coliseum. “The facility has incredible long-range 360-degree mountain views,” described Bowles. “The backdrop is breathtaking. You should see the colors in Autumn!”

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The Virginia Horse Center also has two cross-country courses, one on each side of the main road that bisects the property. The Oak Hill side of the property is home to the two- and three-star and Intermediate cross-country courses, designed by Bowles himself while the Horse Center side of the property runs Starter through Preliminary and the new FEI CCI*-L being offered this year, all designed by David Taylor.

Both courses have amazing views, but you'll know you're in the mountains when you’re riding,” said Bowles. “The rolling terrain and uphill climbs add a fitness challenge that brings people back time and again for the conditioning opportunity and to see what they've got under them. If your horse pulls up at VHT feeling ready to run again, you know he's more than fit for whatever you're planning to do next.”

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

In addition to offering Starter through Advanced/Intermediate horse trials and FEI divisions, Virginia Horse Trials was home to the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and will once again host them in 2021 and 2022. The Intercollegiate Eventing Championships are a chance for colleges and universities to compete against each other in a fun and friendly environment while vying for the title of Intercollegiate Eventing Champions.

Virginia Horse Trials is focused on providing a world-class event aimed at educating horses and riders in a fun, professional environment,” Bowles said. “We work hard to meet every need and go above and beyond expectations. Every year we work to be better. We actively listen to feedback and make every effort to apply it. We also try to make our events a whole experience. When you come to VHT, you're not just riding in a show, you're experiencing the best we have to offer in the facility, the scenery, the camaraderie, and the social opportunities. We want people to look forward to a weekend spent at VHT because they know it will be one of the best all year.”

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

“Seeing horses and riders grow as a combination is very important to us. Having competitors come back and march through the ranks here is very special. Our competitors aren't just bridle numbers and entry fees. We see them, we cheer for them, and we want the best for them all.”

“When you come to the Virginia Horse Trials, you're part of the family!”

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

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