Red Hills Horse Trials brings international competition to Tallahassee

By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
March 8, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Olympic and world champion equestrians are saddling up in Tallahassee this weekend. For 20 years, the Red Hills Horse Trials has set the stage for international competition.

On Thursday, riders were getting ready to step in to the stirrups. Felix Vogg is one of the nearly 200 riders competing in the trials, traveling all the way from Switzerland.

"It's challenging, different country, different situations. At the end you do it because it makes fun," Vogg said.

The riders Vogg will be up against are the best of the best. Vogg himself competed in the World Equestrian Games in 2014 and the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

While these riders are chasing another championship run, it doesn't go without a challenge.

"You have to work with an animal together, it's not a machine. That's always quite challenging, but may be as well the interesting thing about working with horses. Every day is different," Vogg explained.

Eventing is like a triathalon on horse back. Riders compete in three events, including dressage, show jumping and cross-country.

Cross-country course designer Mike Etherington-Smith has been designing courses for almost 40 years. He said it's like a jigsaw puzzle, spurred on by rider success.

"All venues have their own unique characteristics. My job is to pitch the level right," Etherington-Smith said. "You want the horse to grow in confidence and the rider to grow in confidence. For me it's important to give them an opportunity to show what they can do and are capable of, rather than trying to find out what they can't do."

Whether on the ground or in the saddle, the grounds of the Red Hills Horse Trials filled with the love of four hooves.

"It's a risk sport, there's an element of danger there that everyone accepts. It's a really good community, everybody is here for the horse and for the athlete," Etherington-Smith said.

The horse trials begin Friday at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park with dressage. Cross-country will be held Saturday with show jumping closing out the competition on Sunday.

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