Officials at the U.S. Eventing Association have announced Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia, as the host of a new fall CCI4*-L.
After the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International (Maryland) was awarded a fall CCI5*-L, organizers at Morven Park, host to beginner novice through advanced horse trial divisions and CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, CCI4*-S divisions on the first weekend of October, sought to fill the void.
In addition to the four-star, Morven Park will host a CCI2*-L for 6-year-olds and a CCI3*-L for 7-year-olds, inspired by the FEI WBFSH World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses held at Le Lion d’Angers in France each fall.
“It helps to showcase a lot of the younger horses coming up,” said Morven Park’s Executive Director Sheryl Williams. “It plays off of other USEA programs for yearlings through 5-year-olds. We’re really excited about bringing that on board. We’ve been working closely with several people over the last year to help bring that to fruition.”
The non-profit Morven Park has a 240-year history. The mansion, best known as the home of Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife Marguerite Davis from 1903-1942, is a popular tourist attraction and wedding venue and makes for a stunning backdrop for the advanced cross-country course.
The venue was home to the Morven Park International Equestrian Institute, a prestigious riding instructor’s school, from 1963-1991 and has hosted horse trials twice a year for decades.
The venue did bid for the fall CCI5*-L, but Williams said the group is proud to host the four-star.
“One of the things we’ve been striving for because of our location here is we want to bring non-horse people into horse sport,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’ve added polo to our calendar, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re bringing steeplechasing back once we get the racecourse fully repaired and solid to run on. I think adding these long formats is a really good selling point for our audience from here all the way to D.C. to start to introduce one of the best equestrian sports.
“A couple of years ago we looked at everybody who had ever competed at the Olympics and found almost all had run across these grounds at least once,” she added.
Williams says the hope is to continue to offer national levels alongside the four-star to help finance the event, and the organizing committee is on the hunt for a title sponsor.
“As a non-profit, our financial model is a little bit different, and we have to make sure that this pays for itself, so we will still be offering the short format and potentially some of the national levels as well,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to run them all, but we will add days to the event to try to accommodate as many as we can.”
Mike Etherington-Smith will advise horse trials course designer Tremaine Cooper on the 2020 event.
Other notable changes to the 2020 eventing calendar include the return of the Wellington Eventing Showcase (Florida) Feb. 8-9, and the recently revived Essex Horse Trials (New Jersey) will move from mid-June to July 18-19.
Twin Rivers (California) has also applied for a CCI4*-L to be held April 9-12, and, like Morven Park, was approved by the U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors.
The 2020 calendar will be sent to the FEI for a final round of approvals at the FEI General Assembly in Moscow on Nov. 16-19.
Fair Hill will be known as the Maryland CCI5*-L and will continue to host a CCI3*-L, Oct. 15-20.
To see all of the eventing calendar changes, click here.