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Inside Look at the Red Hills Horse Trials

Filed under: Blog Post,Featured,The Buzz |     

IMG_2511By: Brittany Bevis

Beneath a canopy of massive oaks, shrouded in Spanish moss, light dances on the dapples of an impressive bay at the starting gate. The countdown commences. 10 … 9 … nostrils flare … 8 … 7 … heart beat quickens … 6 … 5 … ears flicker … 4 … 3 … reins tighten … 2 … 1… and they’re off.

Over the next several minutes, horse and rider will brave 24 natural obstacles as they weave their way through a section of the 670 acres that make up Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. With names that hint at their design, like the humorous Chicken Coop, the cheeky Tummy Tickler, and Fat Man’s Misery (a jump squeezed between two massive oaks), each team will tempt fate and test their skills before a mad dash to the end at The Last Hurrah.

IMG_2704Home to the Red Hills International Horse Trials since 1998, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to name Klapp-Phipps Park as one of the most stunning settings for a cross-country course stateside. Originally used as farm land by the Seminoles, and later a cotton and quail hunting plantation, the backdrop of ancient magnolias, immense tulip poplars, and gurgling alluvial streams that border the shore of Lake Jackson make for a serene, but challenging, test for some of the best equestrians in the country.

This year, horses and riders from 28 states and 11 countries descended upon Tallahassee, Florida to compete in the Red Hills CIC (Concours International Combine) with the goal of not only snagging a blue ribbon, but hopes of garnering points to boost their international rankings.

IMG_2694The 3,611 meter course underwent a complete redesign in 2014, and several new obstacles made an appearance this year, such a Goin’ Fishin, (a boat and trailer combo). But it was the Hurdles through the water obstacle that proved the most precarious, resulting in the most falls, even for the venerable US Olympian and crowd favorite, Boyd Martin. Thankfully, despite two riders having to make a trip to Tallahassee Memorial, everyone came away relatively unscathed.

Against the backdrop of the gasp-inducing water jump rose a collection of white, pitched tents where immaculately dressed ladies and gentlemen dined on delicacies during the Tail Gait competition. An iron chandelier descended from billowing white curtains. Sweet tea was served in mason jars and silver serving trays piled high with finger sandwiches. The judging criteria include overall theme, menu and food quality, and ambience with “bonus points being earned for ladylike and gentlemanly conduct befitting an equestrian event.”

IMG_2445The winning team was rewarded by having the famous Budweiser Clydesdales eight-horse hitch hand deliver a case of beer, much to the delight of the crowd. Two drivers dressed in traditional hunter green and gold maneuvered the resplendent, 2,000 lb. horses through the crowd. Sitting high atop the wagon at his place of honor was the Clydesdale’s canine mascot, Clyde the Dalmatian, who seemed thoroughly pleased with all the fanfare. Navigating the 12 ton hitch through the throng was no easy task, especially when each driver held 40+ lb. of reins in their hands.

IMG_2607 IMG_2604 IMG_2582While Cross-Country day is by far the most popular among spectators, the event also included Dressage and Show Jumping portions, with the winner being the team that accumulated the lowest combined total score. In the end, it was Megan Lynn with The Natural E who were named the CIC One Star Champions; Clayton Fredericks with Houdini taking the CIC Two Star Champion title for the second year in a row; and Hannah Burnett with Harbour Pilot winning the CIC Three Star Championship.

As riders galloped their way through the tree-laden trails, spectators took time to do some shopping at the Oak Hammock Avenue of Shops and Saddlers Row. Popular equestrian retailers like Dubarry of Ireland, Town and Country, and Devoucous were on site as well as local vendors like Chic Verte, artisan oyster jewelry designed by Lisa Sheryle Phipps, and India Hicks smart handbags. Another required stop was at the Food Court that served up collard greens with black eyed peas, pistachio cream cake, and caramel kettle corn.

IMG_2490It took more than 500 volunteers and 100 committee chairs 12 months to plan and orchestrate the event, and it was over in the blink of an eye. But it won’t be long until preparations begin for 2018, before horse-filled trailers return down the dusty trail, spectators file in with picnic basket in hand, and the sun rises on another day at the Red Hills Horse Trials.


CIC One Star Champion- Megan Lynn with The Natural E

CIC Two Star Champion- Clayton Fredericks with Houdini

CIC Three Star- Hannah Burnett with Harbour Pilot

Advanced Champion- Selena O’Hanlon with Foxwood High

Open Intermediate Champion- William Coleman III with Gideon

Open Preliminary- Clayton Fredericks with FE Black Ice

Preliminary Rider- Haley Curry with Fernhill Belmonte do Cahim

Video- Red Hills- Anatomy of a Jump

Video- Budweiser Clydesdales Make an Appearance

Click here to view an interactive tour of the course:

Click here to view results:

Scroll below to view more fun photos from the event.

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