Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Horse Power: Red Hills International Horse Trials

Cross-Country riding is one of the three trials that comprises the sport of Eventing, considered the equestrian world’s ultimate challenge. The weekend Red Hills International Horse Trials attracted several thousand spectators to Phipps Park in Tallahassee. Pictured above, Kendal Lehari aboard Dunhallow Cool Ceilidh.
By Augustus Mayhew

The 20th Anniversary Red Hills International Horse Trials, a top-ranked Eventing competition, was held at the sublime 670-acre Elinor Klapp Phipps Park in Tallahassee.

Red Hills offers a refreshing close-up of riders and their horses, far from the tame refinements found at Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival. My first Eventing and always a delight encountering the courtesies extended by the professional equine photographers perched at most every opportune location.

The three-day meet, a qualifying event for this fall’s World Equestrian Games to be held in Tryon, North Carolina, attracted more than 100 riders and 185 horses with several thousand spectators.

Eventing’s triple play featured Dressage’s intricacies with Cross-Country (XC) and Stadium Jumps running simultaneously. The XC course with 35 jumping efforts, tight corners, and hard right turns, was designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, designer of the Sydney and Beijing Olympics XC courses, and David O’Connor, who directionally reversed the course from previous years. However challenging, safety is the first priority at Red Hills where the course was lined with EMS personnel, vets, vet techs, and trained volunteers.

March 9-11, 2018
Red Hills International Horse Trials
Elinor Klapp Phipps Park - Tallahassee
The Red Hills International Horse Trials is Eventing’s convergence of Olympians and blue-ribbon hopefuls.
With the temperature only slightly above freezing, I drove through the wooded hills to the competition’s site located in the unspoiled 670-acre Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, once a part of the Phipps family’s Ayavalla Plantation. The recreational park was established in 1992 as a cooperative endeavor between property owner Colin S. Phipps and the City of Tallahassee along with the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Phipps Park is part of the Northwest Florida landscape that evolved from cotton plantations to quail hunting to tenant farms to timber production and today is likely utilized for recreation, ecological education, game/forestry management, and land conservancy.
Horses exercised before the competitions began daily at 8 a.m.
At sunrise, the Red Hills winter sky took on an ethereal air.
Morning sky.
Horses warming up.
Dressage tests a horse’s responsiveness in performing half-passes, pirouettes and transverses, likened to the set exercises once used in training cavalry horses.
Dressage competitors go through their paces.
Dressage’s formality is sometimes described as “horse ballet.” Each of the horse’s programmed movements are scored from 1 to 10, with 10 being best.
Riders take their final turns before the competition began.
Dressage Drills

The winning riders and their horses for the various Dressage divisions were: Leslie Law/QC First Class, Caroline Martin/ The Apprentice, Marilyn Little/RF Scandalous, Waylon Roberts/Kelecyn Cognac and Philip Dutton/Fernhill Singapore, David O’Connor/Cooley Dream, Jordan Linstedt/Staccato, and Aubrey Wagner/Clooney MS.
Cross-Country (XC) gasps
XC judge sunbathes at #1 jump awaiting the 8 a.m. bell to begin the competition. Before the bell, a rider walks the XC course with her water boots.
#1 rider Caroline Martin saddled with Jump Jet  “Logs-In” at the first water combination. As the day progressed, this water obstacle met with several refusals.
Caroline Martin prepares to jump the “Log-Out” obstacle.
#2 Bobby Meyerhoff and Albino clear the double log into the water.
Albino ready to clear the jump, facing a slog through the water much like the challenge 19th-century war horses endured.
Albino logs-out.
Olympian Boyd Martin and Contessa make it into the pond.
Contessa aimed for the jump.
Martin and Contessa log-out and head for the woods.
Into the woods, ditches, drops, and banks …
The rider clears Double Brushes in the Thicket.
Samantha Elsenaar and Banbury Sky clear the log.
Lily Geelan and Luksor ready to jump the log.
Katherine Coleman at the reins with Billy Bandit.
At #7, climbing the hill.
Alexander O’Neal takes DJ for a gallop through the pasture.
Caroline Martin on Dangerous Mouse, one of the 36 riders riding multiple mounts over the weekend.
Back in the water …
Will Coleman and Ultra T take a spectacular ride.
With XC and Stadium Jumping underway in the main arena, spectators don’t know which way to turn.
Above the wagon.
Jenny Caras aboard Trendy Fernhill.
Ashley Kehoe and Cinco de Mayo head into the second water combination.
A Little Romance refuses the jump at #15 and Jessica Phoenix retires the horse from the XC.
Olivia Grabaskas and One and Only navigate the water.
Will Coleman takes Cooley Off The Record on one of the morning’s fastest rides.
Will Coleman and Cooley Off The Record  at the water combination. Simply sensational!
High above the triple log.
Welcome Home, the XC course final jump.
Must haves. Devoucoux, Biarritz.
Lost Dogs Florida.
Footwear selections.
Tina and Kuzco share some hay at Redemptive Love Farm, Miccosukee, Florida.
Spectators.
Stadium Jumping thrills
At the warm-up ring.
Show jumping tests the stamina of a horse after the concentrated XC ride.
Lauren Kieffer aboard Landmark’s Monte Carlo, owned by Jacqueline Mars’ Middleburg farm.
The lightweight rails are frangible, easily knocked down.
Stadium jumping calls for a high-level of precision.
Show jumping is a timed sport with penalties for every second over the allowed time.
A double-fence double-rail jump.
Brightly colored fences map the course.
Stadium jumping VIPs and judges.
Along the sidelines ...
VIP.
The Colin S. Phipps Perpetual Trophy at Red Hills.
Ayavalla Plantation. The incomparable Colin Phipps, left, with Augustus Mayhew, and Gavin and Lisa Phipps, founders of the sensational Phipps Jewelry Company. This photograph was taken awhile back, as I was a guest at Ayavalla and Colin insisted that I should be in the photograph, probably knowing I shun being photographed as much as he probably does.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur