The second annual So8ths/Nikon Three-Day Event in the Heart of the Carolinas took place May 3-6 at Southern 8ths Farm in Chesterfield, SC. Riders, grooms, officials, spectators and guests were clearly impressed by the facilities, the show grounds, the social functions and the quality of clinicians who came to educate participants about the finer points of Long Format competition. The event drew 38 competitors from beginner to Olympic level, with the more experienced riders using the weekend to give their lower-level horses mileage.
International four-star competitor Bonnie Mosser of Davidson, NC, who has competed numerous times at the prestigious Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, won the Training division aboard Isbond with 31.60 penalty points. Risa Moon of Gray, ME, was second on Lily B (37.10), and British rider Lindsay Staiano Williams of Marshville, NC, finished third with Triumph II (39.20). Risa and her husband, Richard Moon, shared the Best Turnout Award for the Training division.
Elliott Blackmon of Wayne, IL, won the Novice division on Tully Cross Prescott with a score of 26.10, electing to miss her college graduation ceremony in order to compete at the event. D.C. McBroom of Floyd, VA, placed second on Twain (33.20), followed by Kindell Billingsley of Wesley Chapel, NC, on Keeneland in third (36.10). D.C. also won the Adult Amateur Low Score award and Best Turnout for Novice division.
The three top finishers in the Beginner Novice division maintained their dressage scores throughout with clean rides in the endurance and stadium jumping phases. Trae Meder of Danville, VA, won on Direct Flight with 30.70 penalty points, followed by Sarah Zimmer of Martinsville, VA, on Mardi Gras in second (32.60) and Jamie Miess of Indian Trail, NC, on In The Zone in third (32.80).
Southern 8ths was the first Long Format three-day event for Trae, who won the Best Turnout award for the Beginner Novice division. “I loved competing here, especially being able to do Roads & Tracks and Steeplechase,” he said. “It went really well right from the start, and the clinicians were awesome.”
Bonnie Mosser, whose horse won the Best Conditioned award, concurred. “The educational clinics made this a learning experience for riders at every level, but it was also a very competitive event from day one,” she said. “It was well run, on time and a friendly and supportive atmosphere where you could learn what you need to do to get the job done.”
Instrumental in arranging the clinic program was Cindy Deporter of Oxford, NC, the Adult Rider Coordinator for the U.S. Eventing Association (the sport’s governing body). The clinicians, all of whom donated their time, included an array of international Eventing stars: Will Faudree, a World Equestrian Games veteran who came to Southern 8ths directly from competing at Rolex Three-Day in Lexington, KY; Holly Hudspeth and Susan Beebee, who also made the trek from Rolex; Charlie Plumb, winner of Fair Hill and son of eight-time Olympian J. Michael Plumb; Tremaine Cooper, FEI “I” rated course designer, and Rebecca Howard of Canada, a Pan American Games team silver medalist, among others.
Rebecca, who has experienced other amateur-level Long Format three-day events, found the quality at Southern 8ths “really a notch above.” She added, “It’s great that people can come to this event both to compete and learn. It benefits everyone – the riders, the horses and the sport.”
Dr. Debbie Williamson, a world-renowned equine veterinarian who has officiated at the Olympics, was the FEI Chief Veterinarian for the event and also served as a clinician. “Southern 8ths is a beautiful facility with some of the best Roads & Tracks you can find anywhere. They go all out to make this a top event,” she said. “This was a whole weekend of education, and the riders got individualized attention from some of the top riders in the world without having to pay anything in addition to their entry fee. That is truly remarkable.”
Michael Lindsey of Chicago, who had horses entered in the Training and Beginner Novice divisions, expressed similar sentiments. While he elected not to complete the event after determining that the condition of his mounts was “not optimum,” Michael said he found the clinics and time on the course invaluable. “I got a lot from my time at Southern 8ths – education, experience and a reminder about how much work the Long Format is for everyone involved.”
No one worked harder toward that end than Southern 8ths Farm owner Brad Turley, who was seen doing everything from grooming the footing on Roads & Tracks to helping set fences on the show jumping course to hosting the evening social functions. His hands-on work was undertaken in tandem with a team headed by Southern 8ths Farm Facility Manager Eric Dusa.
Brad lauded the USEA for its vision in sanctioning the event, a move that enabled competitors to earn national points for their performances over the weekend. “A special thanks to the USEA and especially Jo Whitehouse and Brian Sabo, who helped us set a standard for the future of the Long Format at the lower levels,” he said.
Pati Martin of Southern 8ths, Brad’s life partner and cohost of the event, said her greatest joy was that all the horses and riders enjoyed a safe competition with no injuries. She described the long weekend as “good weather, good fun, good friends.”
Robert Stevenson, an R-rated dressage and event judge who served as President of the Ground Jury , remarked on how well run the event was. “I judge about six Long Format events every year, and this one was truly amazing in its quality and in how much fun the competitors were having,” he said.
Nikon Parade of Hats
A highlight of the Southern 8ths “fun factor” was the Nikon Parade of Hats, a contest that unfolded throughout the event. In honor of the annual hat-fest at the Kentucky Derby, which took place the same weekend, Pati created a hat contest, with prizes provided by the equestrian event’s title sponsor, Nikon. She provided all the ingredients, including basics hats and decorating materials, which were out on a table all week so competitors, grooms and event volunteers could work on their creations whenever time permitted.
Nikon Parade of Hats
Brad had two huge flat-screen TVs installed in the indoor arena, where the Saturday evening party was held, so guests could watch the running of the Kentucky Derby. The Nikon Parade of Hats contest followed, accompanied by show tunes by a live band that stayed on throughout the party. Contestants donned their creations and paraded, danced and sashayed past the reviewing judges.
The winners were: Bonnie Mosser for most frightening; Dana Norquist for most beautiful and Chris Cox for most original. Chris also won the overall event Sportsmanship award. After driving all the way from Citra, Florida, she decided to voluntarily withdraw her horse before the competition started. Nonetheless, Chris stayed throughout the entire event and helped other competitors.
Nikon Fun Photo Contest
Nikon provided 24 Coolpix consignment cameras for participants to use in the Nikon Fun Photo Contest. Riders, trainers, grooms and event volunteers created images in three categories: funniest photo; best portrait or posed shot, and best candid.
Nikon Fun Photo Contest
Gigi Joseph of Mint Hill, NC, who competed in Beginner Novice, won the portrait category with a photo of her horse in the wash stall proudly displaying the word “Nikon” spelled across his side in soapsuds. Donna Freyer won for funniest photo with her image of Robert Stevenson, chief of the ground jury, standing on his head in the indoor arena under a Nikon banner.
Training division winner Bonnie Mosser won the candid category for a series of photos that included: a mounted portrait of two riders hacking off with the Nikon sign attached to their backs; a group shot of riders on the cross-country course positioning their bodies in the shape of letters to spell the word “Nikon,” and a photo of a four-foot long snake “running away” from a Nikon sign on a path on roads and tracks.
Nikon provided the winners of each division with a D3100 Outfit with 18-55MM VR Lens, valued at $650. The company also gave laptop bags to the second- and third-place finishers in each division; the winners of the Nikon hat and photography contests, and the event Sportsmanship award winner.
Other sponsors included Breyer, who provided crystal horses for the winners of each division and model horses as other prizes throughout the weekend. Mane Street Horse and Pet donated a monogrammed cooler and goodie bucket for the Best Conditioned Horse. Additional gifts came from Dover Saddlery, SmartPak, Cavalor and Trailers of the East.
Photos and article by Diana DeRosa.