The Virginia Horse Trials (VHT) in Lexington, Virginia, is gearing up for the annual spring CCI/CIC and Horse Trials and USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship May 24-27. Around 450 horses from Beginner Novice through the CIC2* level will descend upon the Virginia Horse Center next week.
“The facility looks great, the courses are in top shape and we are looking forward to everyone arriving and enjoying a weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” VHT Organizer Andy Bowles said.
The cross-country courses this year are designed by Andy Bowles (CIC2*), John Michael Durr (CCI* and Training through Intermediate), and David Taylor (Beginner Novice and Novice). Captain Mark Phillips assisted as course advisor. The footing on the facility’s two cross-country courses has been carefully tended for the last several months through regular mowing and aeration as needed. As the cross-country jump pool continues to grow, several new fences built by Tyson Rementer and Tommy Neneman will be unveiled. VHT is pleased also to welcome back Chris Barnard as the show jumping course designer.
A highlight of the spring event is the Intercollegiate Championship. Introduced at VHT in 2016, the highly competitive team competition has grown each year, from ten teams participating at the inaugural event to double the numbers the following year. For 2018, VHT is pleased to welcome record numbers of team entries, with 17 colleges and universities making up 23 teams.
Fourteen participating schools from last year will return, including the reigning champion, Clemson University, which is sending three full teams to defend the title. The 2017 Spirit Award winner, Texas A&M, will once again make the long haul from College Station, Texas, to represent in Virginia. The University of Findlay, James Madison University, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville will make a debut appearance at the Championship.
“At USEA headquarters one of our favorite times of year is in and around the Intercollegiate Eventing Championships. We can’t wait to get on grounds at the competition and witness the school spirit first hand!” USEA CEO Rob Burk said. “We are incredibly thankful to Andy Bowles and the organizing team from the Virginia Horse Trials for being amazing hosts for the Championships since its inception two years ago.”
In addition to the team competition, students are encouraged to network with other schools. It’s simple to do with everyone stabled together in “College Town” and during a special Friday night dinner where the teams come together to socialize and celebrate their achievements.
“The USEA Collegiate program continues to grow each year and at the midpoint for 2018 our Collegiate members are already up by over 20% from the previous year. We think the pairing of eventing and collegiate sports is a natural combination as many of our members chose careers inside and outside of the sport which require advanced degrees. This program gives those that decide to go on to higher education the possibility of staying in the sport while studying. Most importantly it provides them with a community of fellow eventers and peers that will remain their friends for life.“
In addition to crowning the 2018 Intercollegiate Champions, VHT is again sponsoring the coveted Spirit Award which recognizes exceptional school pride and team camaraderie. The students’ will be observed throughout the competition and the winning team will be announced at the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon. Each member of the winning team will receive a refund on their entry.
“The Intercollegiate Championships is a special event because you can see how the students have worked hard training and fundraising to get here and how they support one another throughout the competition. We want to reward those riders who may not earn a top placing but display teamwork and school spirit that defines collegiate sports,” Bowles said. “The Championship just gets better every year and the students are very competitive, which makes for an exciting team competition.”
The competition begins on Friday, May 25. Everyone is welcome to attend a complimentary dinner for competitors, parents, and grooms on Saturday evening.
Photo by Leslie Threlkeld