Tallahassee, FL -- March 15, 2012 --
Red Hills International Horse Trials was, quite literally, back in the saddle again this past weekend, March 9 - 11. The beautiful weather and exciting competition among top equestrians from eight countries and 25 states attracted more than 22,000 people to Eleanor Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee, Florida. According to Co-Organizer Marvin Mayer, it could not have been any better.
Red Hills served as a qualifying competition for the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Cup Finals and was a key event on the road to competing in the 2012 Olympic Games which will be held in London this summer. Prior to the RHHT weekend, Captain
Mark Phillips, chef d’equipe of the U. S. Eventing Team, held a two-day training session for short-listed potential members of the 2012 team.
Gold Medal Olympian Phillip Dutton carried away top honors on Mystery Whisper, a Warmblood gelding owned by James and Arden Wildasin, in the CIC-three star World Cup division, and won the use of a Mercedes SUV for a year. Dutton, now a naturalized
American living in West Grove, Pa., formerly represented Australia in every international competition since the 1994 World Games. Throngs of spectators and sponsors surrounded the arena as he finished with a score of 35.7 and zig-zagged his “new ride”
around the stadium jumping course.
Marilyn Little-Meredith and RF Rovano Flex, from Frederick, Md. captured second place with a score of 49.3 combined points. A Bay Hannovarian, RF Rovano Flex is owned by Raylyn Farms, Inc.
Dutton seized third place honors with a 52.6 riding Ben, a bay Holsteiner gelding, owned by Rebecca, Team, Whitefish, Montana. Canadian Olympian Selena O’Hanlon, Kingston, Ontario came in fourth on Columbo, a Swedish Warmblood owned by Elaine Davies.
Olympian Karen O’Connor, The Plains, Va., a long-time competitor at RHHT, came in fifth on Mr. Medicott, a chestnut Irish gelding, owner: Syndicate, Medicott They scored 55.6 combined points. Peter Atkins, Olympic rider from Canada, and H.J. Hampton, his 11- year-old Argentine Sport horse won sixth place at 59.9.
Ending up seventh at 61.3, were Michael Pollard and Icarus, a grey Thoroughbred gelding, owned by Nathalie Pollard. An aspiring Olympian and member of the U. S. Gold Medal team in last fall’s PanAmerican Games, Michael and Icarus slipped a couple of rails
in Stadium, a heartbreaker for this duo which was third after cross-country.
Eighth place was taken by last year’s Red Hills winner, Allison Springer, from Philomont, Va. on Arthur, her Irish Thoroughbred. Their score was 65.5.
On Friday, fans were treated to the grace and harmony of Dressage, often called the ballet of horseback, in the first of the three phases of combined training, or Eventing competition. Riders in formal attire maneuvered their horses through intricate gaits and figures. “Dressage,” derived from a French term meaning “training,” refers to the progressive, systematic training of horses to precisely execute a wide range of maneuvers. Rarely in the world of sports are athletes called upon to muster the combination of strength and artistry demanded by Dressage.
Parking lots overflowed as Saturday’s blue skies and bright sunshine brought out thousands of spectators for the exciting second day, the Cross-Country phase of the horse trials. All day long, lines of people, many with children in strollers and dogs on leashes, crowded the shuttles which transported them to the challenging 2.3 mile cross-country course. There they thrilled to the sight of 168 horses galloping over fences positioned on a track designed to emulate obstacles that would commonly occur in the countryside. The fences are constructed of solidly-built natural materials and include
obstacles such as ponds, ditches, drops and banks, sometimes combined into multiple jumping challenges. Horses and riders are expected to finish their course within the optimum time determined by the speed expected at each level of difficulty.
A new and fun sideline to Saturday’s equestrian cross-country race, was a Sunday morning-after run for human athletes over the equestrian three-star course, the first Access Tallahassee Cross Country Challenge.....a smashing success with the fastest time
being around 17 minutes! “It’s brutal” exclaimed Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jordan Culver who ran the course wearing a helmet camera, “but after it’s over you have an amazing story!”
Renowned international course designer Hugh Lochore, Scotland and Tallahassee, designed this year’s RHHT course, taking over three years ago from Capt. Mark Phillips. According to Lochore, this year’s course was designed to be “more flowing, putting the
jumps on better footing and more spectator-friendly.
“It is a brutal sport [but] there were absolutely no injuries on cross country,” stated Coorganizer Jane Barron, ”it is an amazing thing to be able to say that.”
Stadium Jumping, the final phase of the three-phased event, is not an ordinary show jumping competition. Instead, its course of colorful, stationary jumps is designed to prove that on the day following the rigors of the Cross-Country endurance test, horse can continue in service. It is the final test of the riders’ development of their mounts and of the equine athletes’ excellence.
On Sunday, in the Stadium Jumping arena, a robust crowd thrilled to the competitors’ final challenge and to the pageantry of horses and riders taking their victory gallops after each division.
In addition to awards for all six divisions of the competition, a new category was added to this year’s Event. Red Hills was selected by The Jockey Club to participate in the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, (T.I.P.) designed to recognize and reward the versatility
of the breed and extend the ongoing efforts in Thoroughbred aftercare following retirement from the racetrack. Awards were offered in the Open Intermediate, Open Preliminary and Preliminary divisions to top riders of registered thoroughbred racehorses, now enjoying a second career as a sport horse.
Those winners are:
Open Intermediate: Elissa Gibbs, Georgetown, Ky. on Medici, (Jockey Club registered
name, Senor Sanchez), a 12- year-old Thoroughbred gelding with 53.80 points;
Open Preliminary: Zeb Fry, Ball Ground, Ga. and Artful Way, a 12-year-old Bay
Thoroughbred gelding, with combined score of 61.70 points (Jockey Club registered
name, Artful Way);
Preliminary: Lara Knight, Middleburg, Va., and Shooby Do (Jockey Club registered name,
Shooby Dooby Do), a Bay Thoroughbred gelding, with a combined score of 33.0.
Junior/Young Rider: Alex Green (age 19) and On the Margin, a Bay Thoroughbred gelding
with a combined score in OI of 78.0 (Jockey Club registered name: Straight Laced).
.In addition to watching the competition, spectators visited the Avenue of Shops and
Saddlery Row trade fairs and enjoyed the Botanical Tour of Phipps‘ “Garden of Eden.”
Also on the grounds were a variety of children’s activities sponsored by Tallahassee
Parks & Recreation, as well as many educational exhibit booths and popular food
New this year was a RHHT Silent Auction with a myriad of up-scale items which added to
the Red Hills coffers, as did its companion Rolex watch raffle.
A charity event, Red Hills International Horse Trials has contributed $325,000 to their
beneficiaries, Tall Timbers Research and Land Management Foundation, Inc. and Elinor
Klapp-Phipps Park, owned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District and
maintained by the City of Tallahassee Parks Division.
For more information, visit rhht.org.