Nearly 200 horses and riders are galloping back to Tallahassee to compete in next weekend’s Red Hills International Horse Trials (RHHT). Once again the starting box will be filled with competitors from ten countries and 25 states as they begin their rigorous journey toward selection for the next Olympic Games, scheduled for the summer of 2012 in London.
RHHT organizers, with the help of 400-plus volunteers, are gearing up for the 14th Red Hills International Horse Trials which will be held at Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee, Florida March 11 - 13. More than 25,000 spectators are expected to turn out over the weekend to watch the excitement and pageantry of the three phases of Eventing -- dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping. All three phases test the harmony, endurance and skill of both horse and rider.
“We are so pleased to have a “full house” again this year,” says Lisa Ochs Perry, RHHT administrator, “and we are very happy that so many Olympic-calibre riders who have competed for our country and others are coming!”
Six of the eight riders who represented the USA at the 2010 World Equestrian Games will be at Red Hills, including Buck Davidson, Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, Becky Holder, Karen O’Conner and Allison Springer. Also returning are last year’s RHHT winner in the CIC3* division, Mara DuPuy, and William Coleman, who came in fourth, plus Olympians Kyle Carter (Canada) and Jose Ortelli ( Argentina).
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), governing body for the sport of Eventing, has laid down exact rules that must be followed at all international events such as Red Hills. The FEI states that the object of the competition is to “show the rider’s spirit, boldness and perfect knowledge of his horse’s paces and their use across country, and to show the condition, handiness, courage, jumping ability, stamina and speed of the well-trained horse.”
Safety standards are a priority of Red Hills, which was chosen last year to carry out two new programs, a cardio/pulmonary study of the horses and a global education program for Eventing officials. This year a high-tech equestrian air jacket that inflates like a surround air bag is a revolutionary new safety device which will be added.
“We are also introducing new “smart fences” that deform, or fall apart on impact, to protect both riders and horses,” stated Jane Barron, co-organizer of RHHT.
Once again, Red Hills is one of only seven qualifying competitions for the 2011 Adequan United States Eventing Association’s Gold Cup Series.
The horse trials are named for the sloping terrain and rich red earth known as the “red hills” of North Florida and South Georgia. The international competition features a challenging cross-country course, newly updated and highlighted by an impressive new water complex. It was designed by Scotland’s Hugh Lochore, a former three-day event competitor, who now makes his home in Tallahassee. The course, which was originally built by Lochore in 1998 under the direction of Captain Mark Phillips, chef d’ equipe for the USA Eventing Team, is set in the central area of a 120-acre indigenous plant/horticultural park owned by Tallahassee ecologist and horse enthusiast Colin Phipps. It features a variety of formidable obstacles, including water, banks and ditches which wind through Phipps’ arboretum. Eric Bull has been building the course since 2008.
Four dressage rings, a challenging stadium course, good stabling, the Red Hills “Avenue of Shops,” “Saddlers’ Row,” Red Hills Food Court, and a variety of exhibits, educational demonstrations, park and botanical tours are staged on adjoining Northwest Florida Water Management land knows at the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park.
Shuttles will be available to transport visitors to the competition arenas each day. Admission is by suggested donation of $15. per day or a $25. three-day pass. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are admitted free. Members of Club Red Hills will receive free admission to the Horse Trials as well as an official program. (The fifty-dollar membership fee also includes a membership card, window decal plus a discount in the Red Hills Outfitters Store.
Dogs are welcome but must be leashed at all times and stable areas are off-limits to spectators, who are asked to stay within the designated viewing areas for all competitions.
Over the years, Red Hills International Horse Trials, a non-profit organization, has donated, $325,000 to its charitable beneficiaries, Elinor-Klapp Phipps Park and the Tall Timbers Research Foundation, Inc.
For more information, please see www.rhht.org.