Mar 12, 2020

USEA Events A-Z: Windridge Farm Horse Trials

By Alicia Henderson - Windridge Farm
Photo courtesy of the Windridge Farm Facebook page.

The Windridge Farm Horse Trials in Mooresboro, North Carolina (Area II) are held three times yearly in May, August, and October, offering Starter through Preliminary horse trials and combined test divisions. They also host several unrecognized events each year, hunter paces, Pony Club lessons, clinics, camps, and rallies, and carriage driving competitions.

The first event ran on October 2, 2010 as the Foothills Horse Trials. In 2011 we moved the show to Windridge Farms and changed the name. It grew out of a combined test series run as Foothills Equestrian Events. The Foothills unrecognized events were organized and run by Sheila Garrick, Karin Sadler, and me. Those events rotated among various local venues in the area. Many of the competitors and trainers urged us to run an event aimed at and tailored to local competitors to give them a local option for starting riders and young horses into the eventing discipline. We started with the goal of running a solidly good event with focus on maintaining that low key local atmosphere.

Windridge Farms has been a beef cattle farm, a dairy, and, if local gossip is accurate, a moonshine producer. The story goes that the original farmhouse was deliberately burned to prevent ATF from seizing stored moonshine. There is an old water line running to a spot in the woods and lots of metal scrap that is not farm equipment which could be the site of the old still.

This is a family farm. We love this space. Sharing it with competitors is a rewarding family project. The welcome mat is out for all. The family including in-laws, ex-laws, and outlaws totals 39 people. Everyone plays a role at most every show.

Eventing at Windridge Farm is a family affair. Photo courtesy of Alicia Henderson.

As it morphed into recognized horse trials, Sheila Garrick was often the Technical Delegate. Karin Sadler did the show jumping course design and continues in that role. Windridge Farms show jumping takes place on grass and on gently rolling terrain. Karin worked with course advisor Richard Jeffery on using the terrain to advantage and other technical details. Mr. Jeffery made a visit to Windridge Farms on an event weekend when he was course designer for a jumper show at TIEC. David Henderson gave him a tour of the farm. Mr. Jeffery was complimentary of the show jumping and cross-country courses saying that it took him back in time and reminded him of eventing in Britain. Don Henderson built our show jumping standards.

Allen Carlton III works year-round keeping the farm in shape. He also serves as Finish Timer for cross-country. Karen Park manages entries and greets competitors. Price Story scores the competitions. Amber Henderson mows, weed whacks, and performs many other tasks. Teri Whisnant keeps the cross-country jumps and the show jumping poles fresh and crisp and times show jumping and cross-country. Gayla Silvers and Amber Henderson decorate cross-country, jump crew, and jump judge. Greg Park starts our competitors on cross-country.

Allen Carlton II served as Control until his 85th year. At 88 he now prefers to supervise our efforts from the comfort of his truck cab. David Henderson assumed the Control responsibility. Karin designs and builds show jumping. Jeff Davis is indispensable keeping the farm neat and managing the dressage and cross-country warm-up areas. Ricky Thomas directs competitors to their stables and keeps the stable area neat by emptying trash and recycle bins several times daily. Eric Godwin coordinates our safety planning with the Rutherford County EMS and Sheriff's Dept.

Photo courtesy of the Windridge Farm Facebook page.

Jon Wells did the original course design. Rob Mobley did most of the early building. Greg Park, Michael Henderson, and Colby Landers built lower level fences to Jon and Rob's specs. When Rob earned his cross-country course design license he took over as course designer.

In addition to designing and building the cross-country, Rob preps the cross-country course and makes any course changes or repairs on the day. Greg, Michael Henderson, Colby Landers, Richard Ash built stalls. Marty Silvers and Michael Henderson installed the wiring, lights, and outlets for the stables. Cynthia Thomas and Anita Earley keep competitors, officials, and staff well fed. The Carolina Carriage Club members are essential volunteers for dressage and cross-country. We are also very fortunate to have Tryon Equine Hospital providing veterinary services and Mike Hubacz as farrier.

Without the efforts and skills of the many family members and good friends from the beginning and at every event, these shows could not take place. Additionally, many of the competitors volunteer as cross-country jump judges for levels they are not riding. We are so lucky to have so many generous participants.

Photo courtesy of the Windridge Farm Facebook page.

When deciding to run horse trials on the farm, we looked around for flat areas (which are in short supply in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains). We added 100 tons of stone dust to the flat area alongside a sweeping bend in Goodes Creek for dressage arenas. That area is large enough for two arenas and warmup. We also run two recognized carriage driving trials per year and this dressage area accommodates 40 x 80 meter arena for driven dressage. Extreme storms flooded the area twice in 2019 so we are currently adding dressage arenas on higher ground near the show jumping area. We plan to grass that original dressage area which should tolerate flooding better than sand and continue to use it weather permitting. Since the first horse trials, we added 100 permanent show stalls and 20 campsites with water and power.

There are two recognized Driving Trials that are part of Concours d'Carolina Series which is a series of shows in North Carolina and South Carolina. We host three dates for the Western Carolina Hunter Pace rides. The local United States Pony Clubs organizes lessons, clinics, camps, and rallies at the farm. For runners, we are going to add a 5k and 10k race in 2020.

Photo courtesy of Alicia Henderson.

Our cross-country courses are fair tests of the training of horse and rider. The terrain is open and rolling. The turf is decades old. Because it is so old and established, it handles rain and show weekend traffic very well. Rob is an imaginative and meticulous builder. He takes full advantage of the terrain to make the course a fair test for the level. He puts the same effort into all the levels. The Starter and Beginner Novice courses are planned with the same thoughtfulness as the Preliminary. Family member Teri Whisnant is the cross-country course painter. She keeps all the jumps protected with fresh stain. She has a fondness for blue, which Capt. Mark Phillips encouraged when inspecting the courses last year.

We don't have the budget for high tech footing, so it is fortunate we have the good turf naturally. We work hard to keep it in good condition. We focus on the basics – officials who foster fair, safe and friendly competition atmosphere; excellent course design; well maintained natural turf with amazing confidence-building cross-country courses; and show staff who enjoy meeting, greeting, and assisting competitors and their supporters. This is a low-pressure environment fostered by show and farm staff who enjoy the event as much as the riders.

Photo courtesy of Alicia Henderson.

I love watching riders come through the finish flags with big goofy smiles, praising their horses and feeling like they own the world. I think our event is uniquely capable of producing those moments.

We look forward to seeing each of you!

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

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