Lessons From the Red Hills Horse Trials, Part 1

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There are plenty of reasons that the Red Hills Horse Trials evolved into not just a major performance for the sports of eventing, but an attraction for the Big Bend Community.

Equestrian Elisa Wallace says, "It's one of the biggest crowd events, I mean they get the most people there... My horse just feeds off of that crowd environment."

In 2008, it wasn't the pristine course, the natural setting, or the gallop of horses that had the community buzzing. It was the haunting sight of horses collapsing and an Olympian sustaining critical injuries.

Tallahassee equestrian Rick Wallace says, "It was personal for me, I obviously know Darren... I also was riding 5 horses after him.... it was really a tough thing when I heard Darren went down at that jump."

FSU equestrian team member Melissa Lehner adds, "I mean I was obviously very sad for Darren and the two horses and their families and the riders who had the horses, but it's a sport that can be dangerous and injuries happen in any sport... I just hope that Darren's up and riding soon and that the families recover."

While the average sports fan only sees the minutes of competition, the horse riders usually devote horses into each day for the well-being of their horse.

The Farm Equestrian Center's manager Maria Reyes says, "There is a lot of passion, you have to treat them as animals that really have their own feelings... create a relationship with the horses and yourself."

Rick Wallace adds, "He does not go out in the rain, when it's wet, the heat... very much spoiled."

FSU Equestrian President Kate Douglass states, "You bond or you click with certain horses and with others you don't really... there's always plenty of horses out there that you fall in love with."

Perhaps it took the tragedy at the Red Hills Horse Trials this past year including well-known horse rider Darren Chiachia for the eventing community to reflect on the safety of its sport.

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