Fleur de Leap Horse Trials in Folsom, Louisiana (Area V) hosts one event each year in mid-October offering Starter through Training level at Lagniappe Equestrian Center (LEC). Fleur de Leap also hosts schooling horse trials at LEC in March and December.
The Watershed Horse Trials first ran as a USEA recognized event at Lagniappe Farm in Folsom, Louisiana, north of New Orleans, in the spring of 1993 and offered Novice and Beginner Novice levels. In 1995, they offered Training level for the first time, and in 2005, they had planned to host a second USEA recognized event on the first weekend of September. Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the southern coast of the United States on Monday, August 29, 2005 at 11:10 a.m., less than a week before that inaugural second event. “When Katrina hit, it totally wiped out our cross-country course,” recalled Morgan Vaughn, Fleur de Leap’s organizer. “There were hundreds of [downed] trees, everything was demolished.”
“The Southern Eventing and Dressage Association (SEDA) is really who championed brining this course back,” explained Vaughn. “When they started rebuilding, they had Pony Club dads out there and [course builder and designer] Jeff Kibbie came down and donated his time to help them.” Once the course had been rebuilt, efforts turned toward getting the event recognized by the USEA again, and that’s when Vaughn came on board as the event’s organizer. Watershed Horse Trials was reborn as Fleur de Leap Horse Trials and became a USEA recognized event in 2014.
Vaughn recalled being a teenager and competing at the original Watershed Horse Trials, and when she heard they were working to bring it back she wanted to be involved in keeping eventing alive in the area, as Fleur de Leap is one of only two USEA recognized events in Louisiana. “All the events that we had in this area [when I was a kid], there were horse shows in Mississippi and Alabama, and they’re not there anymore. We’re really the only event here in the deep south . . . our next closest event is five hours away.”
Marie Cobb/Ree Photographics Photo.
Because opportunities for eventers are so few and far between in that area of the country, SEDA and Vaughn are dedicated to providing opportunities for aspiring eventers despite the lack of venues close by. “It’s definitely a pursuit of passion,” said Vaughn of all the work that goes into running Fleur de Leap relative to their number of entries.
Lagniappe Equestrian Center (pronounced “lan-yapp”) plays host to Fleur de Leap three times a year – twice for their SEDA recognized schooling events and once more for the USEA recognized event in the fall. “Down here, [lagniappe] is French for ‘a little bit of something extra special.’ When you go places, people give you a little bit of lagniappe,” explained Vaughn with a laugh. Dr. Hildreth McCarthy, owner of LEC, has been very supportive of the efforts to bring eventing to their corner of the deep south, allowing SEDA to rebuild the cross-country course that once stood at Lagniappe Farm for the Watershed Horse Trials.
LEC features two outdoor rings and a large covered indoor arena, as well as grass warm-up area for show jumping, and permanent stabling for 115 horses. Vaughn describes the cross-country course as rustic and a bit old-fashioned, but says that the questions are still true to the level. “We don’t have much hilly area where we are but for some reason we actually have some terrain on the course and we’ve really used it to our advantage. Jon Wells out of Tennessee is our course designer, and he has just been a godsend. I cannot sing his praises enough.”
Marie Cobb/Ree Photographics Photo.
Vaughn was quick to thank Billy Appel for his help in getting Fleur de Leap off the ground. “I had no idea what I was doing running cross-country and he had been there as the starter when it was the Watershed Horse Trials and he built some of the jumps, he’s just been an integral part of the event,” she said.
And of course, no event can function without a dedicated group of volunteers. “I love my volunteers, they’ve been with me for so many years now that they’ve got it down to clockwork,” said Vaughn. “[I try] to make everything as efficient as possible for them so that they can do their jobs without really even having to think about it.”
Fleur de Leap brings together those in the south with a love for the sport. “It really brings our community together, people are always really happy to be there,” commented Vaughn. “It’s fun. We do a tailgate party on Saturday after cross-country, and we still do show jumping on Sunday so we can do the awards ceremony and the victory gallop because it’s fun! I feel like a lot of that pomp and circumstance has fallen but the wayside, but I like it. You’re paying a lot of money to event, so let’s have some fun with it.”
“Just come!” concluded Vaughn. “We have a great time and we’ll make it worth your while.”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the series, USEA Events A-Z.