The Red Hills Horse Trials scheduled for March 13-15 has been cancelled. The organizing committee of Jane Barron, Terrie Brooks and Marvin Mayer reluctantly made the decision today due to a lack of entries. Red Hills Horse Trials has been one of the USA’s premier events for many years and a favorite of riders and spectators alike. Its cancellation will leave a large gap in the early spring schedule.
“It is with extreme sadness that we must cancel the 2009 trials,” said Jane Barron. “Fundraising has been difficult in the current economic environment, putting us in the position of requiring 200 entries in order to be financially capable of meeting the expenses of the event this year. In a normal year this would not be an unreasonable expectation. However, as we currently have only 88 entries, and most of those at the Preliminary level, we cannot reasonably anticipate the economic viability and we cannot reasonably anticipate the economic viability of the event in 2009. We have currently shifted our efforts toward 2010 and the successful kickoff of the Continental Cup Series.”
“The sport of Eventing is not immune to the problems caused by the sharp downturn in the national economy,” said Kevin Baumgardner, President of the USEA. “We remain confident that the sport will weather this downturn and indeed emerge stronger than ever. We are nonetheless extremely concerned that a competition as popular and important as Red Hills has been so dramatically affected.”
Added the Association’s CEO, Jo Whitehouse, “The USEA is closely monitoring the economic situation in the country and its impact on the sport. As part of this process, we have been analyzing trends in all areas of the sport on virtually a daily basis. As the situation warrants, we are committed to alerting our organizers, the ten USEA Areas, and individual members through all the communications tools at our disposal, including our website and email blasts.”
At this time, we believe it is critical that all members of the USEA understand that the economic viability of competitions is put at risk if competitors react to economic uncertainty by withholding entries until the closing date. Organizers must commit themselves to stabling, officials, housing, rental cars, staffing—a myriad of personnel and infrastructure details—well in advance of the closing date, and when early entries drop precipitately off of prior years’ levels they have no way of predicting how many horses and riders will actually show up.
As Jim Cogdell, owner The Fork Stables and organizer of The Fork Horse Trials said today, “We are very sad for our friends at Red Hills but we understand why they made the decision to cancel. It is a possibility that The Fork will have to consider also. We hope to get a strong entry on opening date so that we can meet the expenses that are incurred by putting on an event. I know this is a concern of every organizer in the country right now. If we do not get the required number of entries we will have no alternative but to cancel this year.”
It is not just high-profile events such as Red Hills or The Fork that are feeling the effects of this recession but every event, regardless of location or levels of competition offered. Every owner, rider, official, groom, volunteer and organization within the sport has a stake in ensuring that the sport continues to be strong and vibrant throughout the country.
We at the USEA well understand that riders, owners and parents may have good reason in these tough times to delay sending in entries to a particular competition until they are absolutely certain that the horse/rider combination in question are able to participate in that event. In some cases withholding entries until the last minute may be unavoidable due to financial realities. Nonetheless, we are asking all riders and owners who plan on entering a competition to consider what the impact of delaying sending in that entry might be. Please, if you are able, get your entry in early. Likewise, please contact the organizers of events you have attended in the past, let them know what your plans are for 2009, and—most important of all—volunteer to help them in any way you can as we work together to keep our sport strong in 2009. Now is the time to pull together!