Town Hill Farm Horse Trials are Sept. 3 and 4
LAKEVILLE — There will be a lot of horsepower around the Tri-state area on Labor Day weekend. Lime Rock Park will hold historics races and a car parade. And just a mile or so up the hill, Town Hill Farm will hold horse trials on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3 and 4. Over the last few years, Ward Belcher has transformed his boarding barn and family horse farm into a competitive eventing facility. That process involved renovating the old barns and building a dressage ring. Land that was previously pasture, paddocks and a vineyard is now a challenging cross-country course. And, most importantly, Belcher brought Heidi White, an Olympic rider/trainer, into the fold. White lives, works and trains in Aiken, S.C., most of the year, but a few years ago she started coming north to Town Hill for the occasional clinic. This year she arrived in May and will be in residence until the end of October, when she will return to Aiken (until next May, when she is scheduled to return again for five months).White’s presence at Town Hill has energized the boarders and local students, who ship in for lessons. At least seven of Town Hill Farm’s boarders will compete in the horse trials, in addition to many other local competitors. It’s that kind of event.White grew up riding in Wisconsin. She said when she was young she was so small she couldn’t physically hoist the saddle up on the horse’s back by herself, so when she came home from school she would just jump on bareback.As an adult she has forged an impressive career. She spent years working for internationally recognized eventer, Phillip Dutton, and she and her horse, Farley, were Olympic alternates in 2002 and 2006 and were chosen for the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong. Two days before they were to leave for the event, Farley was injured and they had to withdraw. But they also have completed nine four-star events including Badminton and Burghley in England and four Rolex Kentucky events. Despite the pedigree of her high-level competitions, White’s focus at Town Hill Farm is simply to help people become more confident riders and to enjoy the sport and camaraderie of the barn. Many of Town Hill’s boarders are not at competition level but take lessons with White just to improve their riding. (Among that number is this reporter, whose horse also boards at Town Hill.) “It’s fun to watch the progression, not just of the event riders, but also of the longtime boarders,” White said. “A woman here wanted to trail ride her horse, but she was nervous, because the horse was spooky, so I put her up on Farley and I rode her horse and we went out for a hack. Watching me ride her horse and help it along gave her a lot of confidence. Now I see her out and every day she goes a little farther.”But back to the horse trials. As a seasoned competitor, White is used to going to horse trials, but this is the first time she is part of the team putting it together. “It’s been an eye-opening experience to see what it takes to pull it off,” she said. “It’s really great to have such a supportive atmosphere.” The Town Hill Farm Horse Trials will run as one-day events, with beginner novice, novice and training levels running on both days, competitors’ choice of day. Dressage is scheduled to start at 8 a.m., stadium jumping at 11 a.m. and cross-country at 1 p.m. All times are approximate. For more information, call the show secretary, Anne Mainolfi, at 860-668-5767 or go to www.townhillfarm.com.