Ten years after the last long format event at Rolex, the Heart of the Carolinas Three-Day Event at Southern Eighths Farm is keeping classic eventing alive. Held on the first weekend of May since 2011, Heart of the Carolinas is the only USEA-recognized event in the country to offer the traditional format from Beginner Novice level through Training level—plus an entire weekend of educational clinics from international-level riders.
To find out more, we chatted with Brena Jones, a woman who wears many hats. In between blogging about her eventing adventures, keeping horses at home and wrangling wild fish for her day job as a freshwater conservation biologist, she is the sponsorship coordinator for the 2015 three-day event (3DE) at Southern Eighths.
“There were many arguments in the rider community that offering 3DE’s below Training level could be a sort of eventing heresy, involving words like ‘counterproductive,’ ‘pointless,’ or even ‘dangerous,’” explains Brena, “But it’s been just the opposite. It’s created a big opportunity for our largest and most important demographic, riders who enjoy our sport at these lower levels, to participate in their own Rolex.”
(And, in fact, the event is sponsored by several companies founded by amateur riders.)
Brena grew up near the Kentucky Horse Park. She didn’t have a horse, but, as a young girl, every April, her mother brought her to the Head of the Lake, so classic eventing is in her blood. But four years after the final long format events were held at Rolex, Burghley and Badminton in 2005, thanks to a volunteering experience at the Waredaca 3DE, held in October in MD, she realized how unique & important these events were.
“Working my first Waredaca, I saw something magical…It was this incredible experience that was focused on education and horsemanship with this amazing aura of camaraderie, family, and teamwork, yet with this special atmosphere that made me feel like I was at the old Rolex again.”
So, while she continues to help run Waredaca’s 3DE (Novice and Training levels), she leaped at the chance to become involved with a long format event closer to her home in North Carolina—especially since the event is held at the spectacular Southern Eighths Farm, just across the SC border.
“So8ths” features beautiful permanent stabling for 3DE riders, world-class cross-country courses designed by Tremaine Cooper and built by Tyson Rementer (you might recognize his name as Rolex’s builder as well!), thoughtful stadium courses by NC’s own Marc Donovan, and as if that weren’t enough, scattered across the property and in the jumps themselves are the jaw-dropping sculptures of chainsaw artist Randy Boni.
New participants need not fear, however. Competitors, crews, and volunteers alike benefit from clinics on aspects of eventing that they may have never experienced—from how to set your pace for Roads and Tracks to learning to ride steeplechase jumps, as well as course walks with the course designers themselves.
Here’s what a long-format event looks like from the Beginner Novice perspective:
“I can’t encourage you strongly enough to participate in these long format events,” says Brena. “While this event is growing, with a record of 60 entries in 2014, others are in danger of disappearing forever and with them, an indescribable educational experience in horsemanship and partnership that you simply will not get anywhere else, something in that category of “you don’t know what you are missing until you see it.”
“Once a horse has done a long format successfully, he often finds himself a whole new level of superhero. And every year, riders are blown away by how much they learn about their partners and themselves.”
Because of the Heart of the Carolinas is designed, as are all 3DE’s, to be a championship level destination event, riders must qualify to compete. At Beginner Novice and Novice levels, riders must complete four USEA-recognized events, and at Training level, riders must have four National Qualifying Rides at Training level events.
But even if you can’t ride at Heart of the Carolinas, no event can occur without volunteers. “It’s impossible to quantify how much I’ve learned from working ‘on the inside.’ You are working next to top-class officials and professional riders; it’s taken the way I ride and train my own horses to an entirely new level!” Putting on the So8ths event requires upwards of 150 volunteers! Learn how to help out here, or find a local event to volunteer at via the USEA website.
See the following links for more information about the traditional eventing format:
Southern 8ths Farm – explaining traditional eventing
We Are Flying Solo blog – long format posts