Last weekend’s Red Hills International Horse Trials offered shopping, food and an international equestrian competition to visitors and residents alike.
Held at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park on Tallahassee’s northside, the Red Hills International Horse Trials has become a staple in the equestrian world. Since 1998, Red Hills Horse Trials has featured a number of world-renowned riders and horses including Olympic competitors.
This year’s competitors included Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton and the U.S. Equestrian Team member Boyd Martin.
The Red Hills International Horse Trials is a three-day event separating the three sections of competition. At last Friday’s Dressage, riders and horses were judged on their presentation and handling. Saturday was the Cross Country portion of the competition, which includes jumps. On Sunday, the last day of the event, riders competed in Stadium Jumps and the Live Oak Hounds were paraded.
Recent accidents at equestrian competitions have prompted new safety regulations at Red Hills Horse Trials. One rule added to the competition is the mandatory use of helmets during all stages of competition, including Dressage.
Julie Wolfert, 22, of Bucyrus, Kansas and first time rider at Red Hills, has been riding horses for 18 years and thinks the rule unnecessary. “If you are falling off your horse during Dressage, you just shouldn’t be riding,” Wolfert said.
Nanki Doubleday, owner of horse contender Nevada Bay, has been to the Red Hills Horse Trials twice and finds the rule just as ungrounded. “If you look at the statistics, very few riders receive major head injuries during Dressage,” said Doubleday.
Not only does Red Hills Horse Trials offer a grand equestrian spectacle, the event is also home to the “Avenue of Shops” where visitors and riders can get gear for their horses and jockey attire for themselves. One such store is Britain-based Point Two, which offers the inflatable jackets now used during competitions to save riders from injury.
“I first saw the jackets on bikers and people kept saying they should be used for horse riding,” said Lee Middleton, designer of the jackets and owner of the England Point Two store. First launched in 2009, the jackets have received worldwide positive exposure after being worn by famous jockey’s, Oliver Townsend and Paul Tapner.
The Red Hills International Horse Trials also gives local restaurants a chance for exposure. Restaurants like Dog Et Al on South Monroe and Mack’s Family Kitchen on Springhill Road, set up shop for the three days of events that will bring a very diverse group.
Mack Swmain, owner of Mack’s Family Kitchen, has been working at the Red Hills Horse Trials for the past 10 years and said his business has grown along side the horse trials. “I chose to open a venue at the Red Hills Horse Trials for the experience we could get here,” said Swmain. “This is one of the major stepping stones to the Olympics so it is a big event.