The Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials in Victor, N.Y., will not be held for a 27th year in 2016. The event, which hosted divisions from beginner novice through the CIC** level and has run since 1990, was a beloved competition for many.
“The biggest reason is that the sport itself is changing, and we can’t provide the perfect footing that all the riders want for all three phases,” said Heidi Vahue, the event’s organizer. The weather has caused issues in recent years, and they canceled the event in 2013 due to the unsafe conditions that arose after heavy rainfall. The creek that runs through Stuart’s cross-country course has also caused their water complex to flood.
This year, the 2” of rain that fell on the Thursday prior to the event, held July 10-12, caused the dressage, which is held on grass, to be extremely wet and made parking, typically held on hilly ground near stabling, problematic.
The event organizers have made significant improvements to the footing in recent years, particularly on the cross-country courses designed by Derek di Grazia. “We fertilize twice a year; we aerovate; we’ve added sand over the years, top-dressed tons of our cross-country course,” said Vahue. “We’ve even got watering capabilities for several areas on cross-country as well as the dressage areas and the show jumping, but we really needed how to get rid of water more than how to add it!”
Declining entries have also been cause for concern.
“The sport is also changing in that [event riders] run their horses all the time now, and there are more events offered, and we have a very small window of when we can have our event. Now there are several more events in that same time frame,” said Vahue, who listed the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm (Md.) and the Great Meadow International (Va.) as recent competition for entries. “It’s really problematic when you don’t get enough riders in the CICs that are very expensive to put on.”
Additionally, Lee Carter, the CEO of Equestrian Events Inc., which partnered with Stuart Horse Trials this year to organize the event, recently stepped down, leaving no one to run the event.
“Everyone has just commended us on our 26 years of putting on a class act, and they know that if we can’t put on a class act, we’re not going to do it,” said Vahue. “Mostly everyone really has been grateful; they’ve been posting pictures of themselves at our event over the years on Facebook and thanking us for our dedication and really have been very supportive and understanding and sad at the same time.”
As a nonprofit organization, Stuart Horse Trials provided clinics and schooling days. However, it is unlikely they will be able to continue to do so without the money raised by an annual competition due to the expenses inherent in maintaining the venue. Vahue says it is likely that the jumps and equipment will be sold.
The land itself is owned by five local landowners and will return to being their backyards. Some may be farmed in the future.
“I feel really badly that some people have had Stuart as their goal to get there and on their bucket list, and now it’s not a possibility for them,” said Vahue. “I would just also like to thank our volunteers, our landowners, our sponsors, our patrons that have been so wonderful to us for all our 26 years. I do know that this is a shock, and it comes as a surprise to many people, and believe me, we didn’t take this decision lightly. The board really tried to figure out how we could make it work, and it just wasn’t going to happen.”