Red Hills Horse Trials to Provide Educational Programming for Local Students

TALLAHASSEE, FLA., March 1, 2020 — Red Hills Horse Trials will host a Community Day on Thursday, March 5, 2020, for local students. Maclay School fifth graders and home-school students will attend the equestrian field trip at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park from 9:30 am to noon.

Through hands-on demonstrations students will learn about a horse’s digestive system, how to shoe a horse, and about the sport of eventing, equipment and safety measures to protect the riders and horses.

Gold Medal Olympian David O’Connor will share his experiences in the Olympics and designing cross-country courses, including Red Hills. He will provide a tour of the cross-country course.

Scientists from Tall Timbers Stoddard Bird Lab will bring animals, including an Eastern Screech Owl, Red Rat snake, juvenile Gopher tortoise and a Florida Pine snake. The scientists will explain the importance of fire in our ecosystem and how native animals benefit from regular prescribed burns.
Members of the FSU Eventing team dressed in equestrian eventing attire will discuss the attire, tack and equipment necessary to participate in the competition.

About Red Hills

The Red Hills International Horse Trials gallops into its 22nd year March 6-8 at the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee, Fla. During the three-day competition, each horse and rider must complete three tests: dressage, cross-country and show jumping from Friday through Sunday.

In addition to the competition, spectators can enjoy shopping, a food court, exhibits, and many local and regional vendors of jewelry and art – all beneath the beautiful overhang of southern live oaks. There is a kids’ play area with bounce houses, hay bales and a sand pit.
Tickets cost $40 for a three-day pass, $15 for a single day. Kids ages 12 and under get in free.

For more information visit: www.rhht.org.

Red Hills Horse Trials Gallops Into Another Year

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- March 1, 2020) — The Red Hills International Horse Trials gallops into its 22nd year March 6-8 at the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee, Fla. During the three-day competition, each horse and rider must complete three tests: dressage, cross-country and show jumping from Friday through Sunday.

The Trials challenge riders over a three-day period and offer a high-level equestrian competition experience to thousands of spectators. Riders from around the globe, including from Australia, Norway, Canada and other countries are attending as they prepare for the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Japan.

“This is a community event,” says Jane Barron, co-organizer of Red Hills Horse Trials. “You don’t need to know anything about horses to come out and have fun. We have nearly 20,000 visitors who come from all over the globe as well as locals. We are so grateful for the more than 600 volunteers who help make this world-class competition happen.”

In addition to the competition, spectators can enjoy shopping, a food court, exhibits, and many local and regional vendors of jewelry and art – all beneath the beautiful overhang of southern live oaks. There is a kids’ play area with bounce houses, hay bales and a sand pit.

New this year is a beer garden featuring local Tallahassee craft beers and award winning Farmer’s Daughter Vineyard wines. The Beer Garden will be open Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

The Friday Dressage is hosted in a wide-open field where onlookers can observe by sitting on bleachers or standing.

Saturday’s Cross-Country brings out tailgaters, sponsors and families looking for an exciting weekend outdoors. Spectators are encouraged to bring a picnic, blankets and folding chairs and set up by a favorite jump, or near the two water obstacles on course.

Gold Medal Olympic rider David O’Connor and world-famous course designer Michael Etherington-Smith partnered to create the different levels of the event’s cross-country challenge.

It’s a “great spectator course,” O’Connor said of the Saturday event where, on the sidelines, non-riders can get close to the jumps and the horses. O’Connor explained that he and Etherington-Smith map out the run each year with the audience in mind to make it spectator friendly.

Sunday wraps up the weekend with the final Stadium Jumping round hosted in the sunny center of the venue.

“It’s one of the more special places,” O’Connor said of the equestrian weekend in Tallahassee.

Dogs are welcomed but must be leashed.

Ride times and live scoring are posted online at RHHT.org and updated throughout the weekend. Visit www.rhht.org for more information.


What: 22nd annual Red Hills Horse Trials three-day equestrian competition

When: March 6-8, 2020

Where: Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, 1775 Miller Landing Rd., Tallahassee, FL, 32312

Cost: $40 for a three-day pass; $15 for a single-day pass; kids 12 and younger free

Parking: Spectator parking is available at the park’s first entrance on Miller Landing Road. The event will provide a complimentary shuttle service. There is a special shuttle for those individuals with dogs. Handicap parking is available. If a person with a disability requires a reasonable accommodation, please contact Volunteer Chair for Handicapped Services Kristy Carter at [email protected].

Jump Into the Action at Red Hills Horse Trials

Horses, sunshine, food and fun – these are a few of the delights awaiting the attendees of the 22rd annual Red Hills International Horse Trials held in the beautiful Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park in Tallahassee, Florida.

For the last two decades, Tallahassee has hosted the world-renowned equestrian eventing competition, attracting competitors for levels ranging from Preliminary to the four-star division.

This year, the competition begins Friday, March 6 with dressage, continuing with cross-country on Saturday, March 7, and completing the competition on Sunday, March 8 with stadium jumping.

What competitors love about the Tallahassee challenge is the spectator turnout, which creates a “sporting event” feeling, says David O’Connor, course designer and Olympic gold medalist. The Olympian (individual gold in the 2000 Games held in Sydney, Australia), is a former Red Hills competitor himself.

The international competition draws roughly 20,000 spectators throughout the weekend, and is accessible and accommodating for people with disabilities.

Spectators can wander the shady acres of the park and enjoy watching riders compete in the first the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) competition in preparation for the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Japan.

Attendees can stroll through an avenue of shops with local and regional vendors touting shopping delicacies such as jewelry, luggage, clothing, hats, art, top-of-the-line tack shops as well as a variety of food trucks. The weekend offers families a picnic space with a kids’ play area, bounce houses and sand pits. New this year is a beer garden featuring local craft brews and award-winning Farmer’s Daughter Vineyard wines. 

There will be a number of interesting exhibits set up in the center of the park, and will include dog rescues, a gopher tortoise conservation program, pony clubs, Hands & Hearts for Horses and more.

Well-behaved dogs are welcome while on leashes.

The first phase of the competition on Friday challenges horses and riders in dressage. The tests are hosted in a wide-open field where onlookers can observe by standing or sitting on bleachers. Dressage is the equestrian equivalent of gymnastics or ballet. 

Saturday’s cross-country brings out tailgaters, sponsors and families looking for a weekend event. This phase requires the horse to jump a series of roughly 20 to 40 solid, stationary objects spread throughout the park that the horse has not previously seen.  Riders are allowed to walk the course ahead of time.

The fences are built of natural materials and are meant to look like obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, hills, and banks.

Sunday wraps up the weekend with the final stadium jumping round hosted in the sunny center of the venue. The purpose of this last phase is for the horse and rider to demonstrate their endurance after the cross-country day. Unlike the previous day’s jumps, stadium jumps are lighter and built with rails, which are easily knocked down.

At the end of the three tests, each competitors’ penalty scores are totaled and the horse and rider team with the lowest number of penalties, the lowest score, wins.

Sanctioned by the sport’s international and national governing bodies, the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the United States Eventing Association (USEA), Red Hills hosts competitors from across the United States and the globe, including Norway, Australia and Canada.

Riders often bring multiple horses to compete during the weekend, and Red Hills is usually the first major eventing competition on a rider’s competition schedule.

“The road to Tokyo, or the World Equestrian Games over the years, comes through Tallahassee,” O’Connor said.

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo.

‘A true international event’: Course designer, Olympian David O’Connor

Gold medal Olympic rider David O’Connor and world-famous British course designer Michael Etherington-Smith partnered to create the different designs of the six levels of the cross-country challenge. It’s the fifth year they’ve worked together on the course.

The duo drew out the course with an audience in mind, and O’Connor said it’s a “great spectator course.” From the sidelines, non-riders can get close to the jumps and horses, laying out picnic blankets or bringing folding chairs.

O’Connor has represented the United States in two Olympic Games, where he won team silver at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA, and won both an individual gold medal and team bronze at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.  He was president of the United States Equestrian Federation from 2004 – 2012.  He was inducted into the United States Eventing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009 and two of his horses have been granted the same honor.  

O’Connor has himself competed at Red Hills and he feels that Red Hills has always been a fantastic place to come and compete your horse. 

“From the mossy southern live oak trees to the ambiance of the crowd, Red Hills creates one of the best atmospheres for challenging horse and rider teams,” O’Connor said. 

Etherington-Smith, who designs the higher divisions at the Trials, is a former professional eventer and show-jumping rider. He lives in the U.K. and has been designing courses at all levels around the world for many years, including two Olympic Games (Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008), the World Equestrian Games in 2010, Rolex (now Land Rover) in Kentucky, Adelaide in Australia, and Luhmuhlen in Germany, which also is a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Eventers spend the winter months preparing for competition and Etherington-Smith believes that Red Hills is a great way to start the season and is designed very much with the aim of getting horses going for the rest of the year with a positive experience. 

The City of Tallahassee maintains the grounds, called the “footing,” at the park year-round, and both course designers say it makes the competition favorable to horses.

As a course designer, Etherington-Smith says it is important that the course has a good balance to it, challenges the teams, and sets horses and riders up in a positive and enthusiastic frame of mind at the beginning of the season for what lies ahead. 

Each year, the design duo also consider how close spectators can get to jumps, and where to put certain obstacles so that non-riders can get a sense of participating.

As a philosophy in designing a course, O’Connor expresses that it is important that riders and horses go away from Red Hills believing that they have improved their skills and gained a positive experience for use later in their careers.  With that in mind, he describes the course as starting off in a way that hopefully gets horses and riders going forward and jumping with a positive attitude.

“It’s one of the more special places,” O’Connor said of Red Hills. “This is a true international event.”

Each year, the two designers consider how close spectators can get to jumps, and where to put certain obstacles so that non-riders can get a sense of participating, he said.

Cross-country always is the second phase in eventing. The day is considered a cornerstone of the competition and tests a horse and rider team’s speed, endurance, courage and agility.

Obstacles on course range from large, solid fences and intricately-painted jumps, to water ponds that horses must gallop through, leaping up banks or fences on the other side. The course is timed and the goal is that competitors get as close to the set course time as possible.

There will be two water jumps on the miles-long course. Riders in the highest divisions will ride through the second water challenge twice.

Course builder Tyson Rementer recommends spectators set up near any jump they prefer, but at the highest level of the combination, the second water challenge will offer the “biggest bang for your buck.”

Rementer has worked to build the Red Hills cross-country course every year since 2007. His personal touch is to add an artistic flair to his jumps, with carvings and designs laid into the wood.

He said his goal is to create a jumping course “that a horse should be able to see and understand,” but also one that is entertaining to the spectators. He said people will enjoy the thrill of watching their favorite riders gallop past at 20 mph.

The community event is supported by nearly 600 volunteers, many of whom return year after year to help make the weekend a memorable experience for everyone.

Volunteer Kristy Carter has worked with the Trials for a decade, and helps coordinate services for people with disabilities.

She says the weekend always offers a “warm, welcoming environment” to everyone who participates.

“We greet them with our Southern hospitality and charm,” she said. 

The outdoor event is wheelchair-accessible, and organizers will coordinate with attendees who would like to be driven by golf cart to preferred locations on course.

“I enjoy ensuring that individuals of all abilities feel welcome at the event,” Carter said, adding that the weekend is a great opportunity for people to learn about the sport.

Organizers also set out each year to increase awareness and educate the public about eventing. In addition to the competition, Red Hills educates and promotes the idea of resource protection, land preservation and management, and raises funds to benefit educational and environmental purposes.

A 501(c)(3) organization, the Red Hills Horse Trials partners with Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, a leading land trust with the mission to foster exemplary land stewardship.

Tickets for the event may be purchased online or at the gate before entering. Tickets are $40 for a three-day pass, $15 for a single day. Chilren 12 and under are free. For more information, visit http://rhht.org/.