The weather could not have been more perfect for the fun day spent at the Carolina Horse Park. We arrived just in time to see the start of the 3* division go. This meant I had missed Mr. Medicott in the 2* (one of my favorite horses everrr) but it was hard to be disappointed when Olympic level riders immediately started leaving the gate.
After enjoying a mimosa (or two) at the water complex, which was riding really well sans one rider fall at the corner out (the horse hit the corner with its knee and the rider just popped over the handle bars, no harm done), we meandered over to the Stonehenge complex. After a while a gentleman wearing the staff badge came over to see how the complex (a vertical through the ‘stones’ then three strides to a corner) was riding. It was soon clear that it was none other than Hugh Lochure, the course designer himself.
Happily, Hugh was more than willing to chat with me about the current miasma of finger-pointing that is going on in eventing at the moment. He also shared a few fun facts regarding his course and some of the riders running it. For instance, the famous Stonehenge complex was originally meant to represent a different set of standing stones from Scotland (his native country). When the inaugural 3* was planned, a sponsor came forward with a farm called Stonehenge, and the decision was made then to arrange the fences in honor of that sponsor.
We also talked about some of the safety aspects currently being developed in the sport. Frangible pins, collapsing tables, and air vests are all becoming common sights to see at the higher levels. But not all riders and venues adopt these changes. It turns out that Michael Pollard doesn’t like the way the air vest feels, and so he rides without, even at the 3* level. Hugh also compared the adoption of ‘safety fences’ (my term) in Europe versus the US. It seems that across the ocean, frangible pin and collapsable fences are more common than over here, where venues are not as likely to invest in them.
Local hero Kelsey Briggs (whose horse, The Gentleman Pirate, has made a miraculous recovery from a broken neck and just ran the Intermediate course) also came over for a bit and we all regaled her with memories of local eventing. It was a good day for Kelsey, who came second in her division with Pirate, and a great day for Phillip Dutton, who walked away with $35,000 after winning with I’m Sew Ready to end on his dressage score.
After the 3* completed, we watched some of the Advanced group warm up (seeing the riders take a huge rolltop at an angle was a kick in the pants reminder to school this at home!) and then peeked through the shopping tents before departing for home. I snagged myself a new pair of mesh Roeckl gloves and a whole new set of fun memories- can’t wait to return to this exciting new event next year!