Reeling in the wake of two major storms that flooded the grounds of Vermont’s nonprofit Green Mountain Horse Association, the nearly century-old organization has been forced to cancel multiple events, including three of the four major shows that form the backbone of its summer season.
Late Tuesday, GMHA announced that it will have to cancel the biggest horse trials of its year, the Festival of Eventing, scheduled for Aug. 11-13, and its annual combined driving event, scheduled for Aug. 25-27. That comes in the wake of a series of thunderstorms Friday, July 21, that dumped 5” of rain on South Woodstock, Vermont, and caused significant localized flash flooding.
The flooding forced first the cancellation of the Central Vermont Dressage Association show and abridgement of a Connemara show scheduled last weekend and, as GMHA announced Monday, the GMHA Summer Dressage Days show scheduled for this weekend, July 28-30. Before that, another flood 11 days earlier, on July 10, washed out roads, driveways and arenas around the grounds and caused the cancellation of another of GMHA’s major events, the five-day July Summer Hunter Jumper Show that was supposed to take place July 12-16.
“We had just finished the repairs on the arenas and roads, because we had two shows scheduled last week,” GMHA Executive Director Bruce Perry said. “When it started raining Friday night, it washed all that out. We’re back to square one.”
GMHA staff had focused repair efforts on the areas needed to host the shows scheduled for late July and had not yet addressed what the July 10 flood did to the cross-country course.
“We never got to fix the damage from the first flood, so the second just piled on more damage—more trees, more rocks, jumps ended up far away from where they started,” Perry said.
That damage will prevent the grounds from being ready to host the Festival of Eventing, which was supposed to run beginner novice through intermediate divisions, as well as a CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S, in two weeks’ time.
It also will prevent GMHA from hosting a full CDE with marathon at the end of the month. However, for the latter, Perry said they are working to reformat the Aug. 25-27 competition into a driving trials, where competitors do dressage and cones one day and a timed obstacle run in the arena—similar to arena eventing—on the second, then hold the CDE in late September, when a driving trials currently is scheduled, to allow time for repairs to the marathon course.
The show grounds are located in a 25-year flood plain, Perry said, but haven’t seen damage of this extent since Hurricane Irene in 2011, and for another 40 years before that.
“We have a beautiful brook that run through us that occasionally turns not-so-beautiful and becomes a real menace,” he said.
The floods have been a hard one-two punch for the historic horse show venue, which has been part of the New England equestrian scene and the South Woodstock, Vermont, community for 97 years.
“In New England, we’re probably the only facility that has five disciplines that we run competitions and clinics on,” Perry said. “We’ve also been here since 1926, so we’re a fixture for a lot of people whose families have come to GMHA for generations. Their grandparents came and rode here. Plus, it’s a fun place to be. We don’t try to be the biggest or the best; we try to be a fun place to go and ride.”
Between repairing property damage and lost revenue from canceled events on the grounds, the floods will cost GMHA more than $250,000, Perry estimated.
“And the reason is because it’s the middle of our big show season, so I’ve had to cancel three of the four biggest events we have,” he said.
“It’s disappointing and depressing,” he added. “We all get wound up and geared up for the summer because it’s busy and exciting, and then to have it all literally wash away—twice—is depressing. But, as I say in my last couple of press releases, GMHA teaches us if nothing else patience and resiliency, so we’ll be back.”
In the meantime, Perry said, he has been bolstered by the support GMHA has received after putting a fundraising request on its website.
“It’s actually been pretty amazing, the response,” he said. “From people just calling and emailing to help, and since we’ve put out a request for donations, we’ve gotten an amazing response with people sending from $10 to $10,000, whatever they could afford to give us. The GMHA family has been very supportive over the years, and they came out again for us.”
For more information on changes to GMHA’s schedule or to learn more about fundraising efforts, visit www.gmhainc.org.