March 19 • 04:01 AM

Making a run for it!

New course at Hunters Run challenges cross country riders

Cathy Wieschhoff makes a splash while riding ‘Just Charlie’ from Lexington, Kentucky on new cross country water course at Hunters Run event. Wieschhoff was competing in the intermediate level. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

August 29, 2007
Cathy Wieschhoff riding 'Just Charlie' from Lexington, Kentucky took the first plunge into the Hunters Run cross country water course earlier this month and opened the intermediate cross-country competitions, part of a three-day event, held annually at Casey Road in Metamora.

Competing for the $5,000 prize money, more than 185 athletes from Canada, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Michigan competed in intermediate, preliminary, training, and novice levels consisting of dressage, cross country and stadium jumping.

Hunters Run Farm located in fox hunting country, is commonly referred to as the "Little Rolex." Though not to be compared with Kentucky's "Rolex," which is an internationally recognized event, Hunter's Run is one of the area's finest shows in the country.

The cross country course, originally designed by gold medal winner David O'Conner, consists of rolling and hilly terrain and has a reputation for design, quality, safety and versatility that challenges novice through intermediate level riders.

Following the guidelines of the United States Eventing Association sanctions, a technical delegate insures the course's safety. Judges equipped with two-way radios communicate with each other, record the rider's faults and verify the progress of every rider.

"We travel all over the country," says course judge Susan Graham White from Maryland. "Their attention to detail is what's so wonderful here (at Hunters Run). There would be twice as many competitors if this had been done in Maryland or Virginia."

Technical Delegate Brian Ross from Virginia checks out the course. Recalling his earlier years, Ross has witnessed many changes to the cross country grounds.

"The landscaping is excellently done at Hunters Run," Ross says. "(Cross country riding) is a different sport; the course has to be a little more perfect, more like a golf course."

Hunters Run's 80 acres of terrain is challenging. The water jumps separate the skills and experience of the riders competing. David Emmons, who has competed in the past, knows the value of a 'good footing' for the horses and riders. He spent hours aerating the track in preparation for the event and prayed for rain. The rain did come and David's diligence paid off.

"It seemed to have worked. Before the rain, the grounds looked like burnt toast; I'm amazed how green it got," David grins.

His full-time job and his wife Sue's boarding and schooling facility at Hunters Run keeps them both busy throughout the year. For the "Little Rolex," they rely on 100 loyal volunteers and their sponsors. Inside their clubhouse, plaques to honor these dedicated sponsors line the walls.

Successful cross-country competitor Holly Johnson is the key trainer at the Hunters Run facility. Johnson explains that to qualify for the Rolex, Hunters Run would have to offer an advanced level. Still, Hunters Run's "Little Rolex" provides valuable experience to cross-country riders, Johnson says.

"The courses at Hunters Run have more hills versus Kentucky Horse Park," she says. "And because all courses must have the same specifications and fall within the national specification course requirements of each level, equestrians can get a feel for Kentucky Horse Park at Hunters Run."

'Novice' is the lowest entry level, the next is 'training,' then 'preliminary,' then intermediate. Each level up is another physical accomplishment for horse and rider. The rider must be alert and follow the markers that designate her or his level.

"With each increasing level, jumps are higher and wider, combinations become more complex and the speed that you have to do the course in has to be faster," Johnson says. "It's exponential."

Striving for the least number of penalty points, riders are eliminated if they do not complete the cross-country course, exceed their time limit, or if their horse should fall.

Many young equestrians have taken their first leap into their dreams at Hunters Run. Like Bethany Hutchins from Dryden, who began her love for competing training with her mother, Marion Hutchins. Marion bred her Dutch warm blood mare to stallion 'Contango' to attain the desired event horse, 'Precious Tango' for her daughter.

Nine-year-old Precious Tango standing a sturdy 16.1 hands high carries her mistress to new and unimaginable heights as witnessed during the competition. Hutchins long term goal is to qualify for the Kentucky Horse Park Rolex.

The recent competition was Hunter's Run 17th cross country event. David Emmons laughingly recalls that it, too, was the place he experienced his first cross country event. He never realized then that he was looking into his future.

The property, owned by Walter and Mary Ann McPhail, initiated his love of the sport which continues to keep David and Sue Emmons involved in Hunters Run. In fact, David calls Hunters Run Farm the second biggest thing in his life and gives Sue, his wife, the credit for the facility's success. There is just one other reason he continues to endorse the sport, he says.

"It keeps me out of trouble," Emmons chuckles.

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