Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2024

Woodside To Celebrate Lower-Level Eventing With Bert Woods Novice Stakes

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It’s not often that amateur eventers riding at the novice level get to compete for real prize money. But this summer, the Horse Park at Woodside (California) is celebrating lower-level eventers with the new $6,000 Bert Wood Novice Stakes, to be held Aug. 9-11 during the annual summer horse trials. 

The class was the brainchild of one of Woodside’s long-time board members, who wanted to remain anonymous but will fund the purse on an annual basis. The sponsor wanted to recognize amateur riders for their efforts and contributions to the sport of eventing, and will do so by offering prize money in the amateur, junior and senior novice rider divisions. 

“We loved the idea right away,” said Steve Roon, executive director of the Horse Park at Woodside. “Many times in our sport, it’s the upper levels that get attention … but every level requires hard work, discipline and building a relationship with your horse. And in our minds, every [eventer] should be celebrated. This highlights a group of competitors that might not have had the limelight. And, as a non-profit, we are always looking for ways to honor and give back to everyone in who supports us. We couldn’t do what we do without our community.”

The $6,000 Bert Wood Novice Stakes is named after California-based course designer Bert Wood, shown here at an advanced fence during preparation for the Woodside Spring Horse Trials (Calif.). Photo Courtesy Of Victoria Klein

The name also pays homage to the lower levels by recognizing course designer Bert Wood. Wood has been a fixture of the eventing world for 30 years, designing and building courses, at times from scratch, at many major venues in the western United States. His knowledge of jump design, footing and course flow ensures that horses and riders are constantly learning from the challenges he presents, while benefiting from his high safety standards, Roon said. 

“Having Bert on our team [to prepare the footing and obstacles] was essential to getting the USEA to grant us our operating license,” Roon said. 

Wood, Anza, California, got his start under longtime California event organizer Anne Kellerhouse, and he apprenticed in England with Mike Etheringon-Smith and has worked with international course designers including Pete Costello, David Evans, Derek di Grazia, Mark Phillips and Ian Stark. 

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Wood’s course-planning philosophy is simple: “I like riders to have a good time, especially at the novice level,” he said. “A course should have the right progression, so that when riders get to something tougher, they’re set up for it because of a question earlier in the course.” 

For his namesake competition, Wood has a few tricks up his sleeve to make the course a bit longer and give riders “a training level feel at novice height.” But, true to his philosophy, “There should be enough out there that should just feel fun.”

Horse park board member Victoria Klein has first-hand experience with Wood’s designs, having evented through the preliminary level over his courses.

“What I love about Bert’s courses is that it is evident how much he cares about the lower levels, which are the foundation of the sport,” she said. “Bert recognizes that it’s the lower levels that really support this sport … and he really wants to always give back to them in the design and the interest of the jumps as best he can. His lower-level courses are not just add-ons to the upper levels but are made to be exciting for that horse and rider.”

Along with the Bert Woods Novice Stakes, the Woodside Summer Horse Trials will offer starter through advanced-intermediate divisions.

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