In a private, secluded area off Townline and Murray Roads in Victor, Ontario County lies 100 magnificent acres of privately owned land. For 362 days a year, it is a quiet residential area. But for three days every year since 1990, this “NEIGH-borhood” transforms into an equestrian competitor’s paradise—and spectators can witness the entire competition from just feet away.

Since 1990, the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials have attracted competitive riders and their horses for this extreme sport called “eventing”: three excruciatingly difficult days testing agility, strength, and endurance of the athletic rider and horse pair in three entirely different phases of dressage, cross-country and showjumping. With roots in the ancient preparation for war, eventing is not for the faint of heart. Motivation may be prize money or the fact that Stuart functions as an important step in the ongoing, competitive training for a spot at a major world competition.

(Photo below is courtesy of Michelle's Event Photography.)

Photo by Michelle

By the time you read this, more than 200 rider and horse pairs from 17 states and Canada are making their way to Victor to compete from July 10-12. Temporary stalls will be ready and waiting for their arrival, and horse trailers will outnumber cars.  Among the lengthy list of competitors is an elite group of riders whose names appear on national and international leaderboards. Many have been ranked within the top 10 riders in the world, with resumés boasting such events as the Olympics and World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, American Eventing Championships, Rolex 3-Day Event, and the FEI World Cup. In fact, Jennie Brannigan, scheduled to compete at Stuart, now will be in Toronto as an alternate for the U.S. Eventing Team at the Pan Am Games!

As a spectator, the excitement comes from being able to get crazily close to the action. This is not a sport where you need binoculars or must trudge up into the “nosebleed” section of a stadium. There is no stadium. Only rolling hills and a few cordoned off areas of a course where, naturally, horses always have the right of way. Spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and make a day of it.

(Photo below courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.)

Photo courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography

For many, the cross-country phase is the most exciting of the three. As in golf, course design plays a critical role in athletic preparation and approach. Course design in the eventing world is no different. Nationally acclaimed course designer Derek di Grazia returns to Stuart, looking for new ways to challenge athleticism of horse and rider: “Stuart is a unique site in that it has terrain which is not like most places. That in itself makes the cross- country more challenging, not only in the jumping but from an endurance aspect as well.”

One of the most popular spectator spots is at the water complex, where competitors suddenly appear from a wooded location, splash blindly into the water, and jump over logs or other obstacles as they make their way up through the rest of the course.

(Photo below courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.)

There’s plenty of food and drink as well as shopping opportunities thanks to a variety of vendors including representation from Finger Lakes food and beverages.

Check the schedule at www.stuarthorsetrials.org, mark your calendar, bring sunscreen and sunglasses, cheer on your favorite local rider or big name, and prepare to be wowed!

About the 26th Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials

When: July 10 to 12. Check web site for each day’s schedule of events, which is subject to change.

Where: Murray Road, Victor, Ontario County (check web site for directions).

Admission: $5 a day. Children 12 and younger are free. Programs are $5.

For more information: www.stuarthorsetrials.org