The Ultimate Challenge for Horse and Rider

Anne Kaufman and Jamacian Blue attempt a jump in the cross-country phase of last year’s Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials. This jump is one of many that horse and rider face on the Intermediate Course. Photo by Brant Gamma

Those looking for a perfect Finger Lakes experience this summer should check out the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials, to be held July 23 through 25 in Victor.

“We look at this as a wonderful way to spend a lovely day in the country watching magnificent animals and their riders conquer demanding courses,” said Kyra King Stuart, organizer of the event. “People become captivated by it. It’s glorious land and it’s lovely that the landowners share it with everyone.”

The Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials are an equestrian “eventing” competition. Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian sports, the ultimate challenge for a horse and rider. Eventing began as a military competition in the early 1900s. A horse had to first demonstrate his obedience to the soldier on his back, then prove he was capable of running many miles and jumping obstacles in his path, and finally, after the tests were completed, show that he was strong enough to carry on.

The first Stuart Horse Trials were held 15 years ago, on one day with 76 horses, ridden by mostly local participants. This year, organizers expect at least 300 horses to participate in the three-day trials. They will be chosen from close to 500 entries and will represent 27 states and seven or eight countries. Each of the last three years the competition has attracted 10,000 spectators over the three-day event.

Marvelous Finger Lakes Land
“The land here is a treasure and is unique to the Finger Lakes,” Kyra said. “It’s quite wonderful for the horses. We are in the drumlins leftover from the glaciers between the two lakes. These deposits, I call them ‘horse moguls,’ are marvelous for the horses to run up and down. They come off them feeling like they are King Kong. It’s fantastic to see them excel.”

This year, the competition’s 15th anniversary, there are many reasons for organizers to celebrate. First, Cosequin of Nutramax Laboratories has increased their sponsorship and the competition will now be known as the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials. Cosequin is a supplement to improve joint function in horses. A new sponsor, Lexus, will set up a cross-country course for spectators and competitors to drive one of their vehicles.

Also this year, the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials have the honor of being part of the United States Eventing Association’s Gold Cup Series. Out of the 285 eventing competitions in the United States, the Stuart Horse Trials were chosen as one of seven events to host the series. Participants will earn cumulative points and at the end of the series, the participant with the most points will earn the title of USEA Gold Cup Series Champion.

“This is the most prestigious honor for us,” Kyra said. “We are proud and excited to have been chosen. Being part of the Gold Cup is a gift to all the volunteers who have made it happen. It’s everybody’s pat on the back.”

What is Eventing?
The first phase of eventing, on Friday, July 23, is dressage, where the objective is to move the horse through the required patterns without any appearance of effort on the part of the rider. This phase displays the grace and harmony of the horse and rider.

The second phase of eventing, held on Saturday, is cross-country jumping. Horses run cross-country, jumping permanent fences such as logs, water, ditches and anything else found in the natural terrain. This, Kyra explained, is the “rigors and thrills of competition.”

The final phase, on Sunday, is the most familiar to many people – show jumping. Horse and rider jump brightly colored fences on a timed course. This phase proves that the horse, after riding cross-country, has the power to perform in a show of pageantry.

“Riders walk the courses as many times as they feel necessary, usually at least three times,” Kyra said. “The horses go out cold, so there must be total trust of horse
to rider.”

The courses cover a lot of land, so where is the best place to watch? Kyra’s advice is simple – find a big knoll and settle in.

“The courses are not as spread out as they seem,” she continued. “The knolls are good viewing areas. Everything is clearly marked and areas are roped off for spectators. Usually people stop for a while and watch, then they move to a different spot. Just remember that horses always have the right of way.”

The Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials will be held in Victor on Murray Road, which is off Boughton Hill Road. For more information, call Secretary Melissa Crystal at (585) 657-6980 or visit www.stuarthorsetrials.org.


by Heather Merrell
Heather Merrell recently relocated to Geneva. She enjoys knitting, writing, spending time at the wineries and hiking in the Finger Lakes region.