Red Hills Horse Trials 2001

By Rita Juanita Mock

The fourth annual Red Hills Horse Trials were held this year on March 9-11, in Tallahassee, Florida. This combined training 3 day event took place at the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, welcoming 250 horses and over 500 volunteers. More than 12,000 spectators showed up to watch as well, including eight year old Sarah Tepper, daughter of Dave and Lois Tepper. “I just liked all of it…I just like to see the riders jump…its really cool!”

Friday started Red Hills off with a cloudy day of dressage, and, even though the crowds were rather low that day, the competitors did not lose their spirit of excitement. Ralph Hill of Ocala, Florida, on Winston, placed first in the Training Horse division Group A, with a dressage score of 33.5, which they maintained for the rest of Red Hills with no cross-country or show jumping penalties. Kelli McMullen Templ, also of Ocala, Florida, pulled off 26.5 dressage penalties riding Barber’s Berber in the Training Horse division group B, achieving the lowest dressage score at Red Hills this year.

While the dressage rings were a bit lonely on Friday, there was a huge turnout for the cross-country course on Saturday. Starting at 7:30 am with the Training division, cross-country ran all day. The Sunshine State lived up to its nick-name that day, leaving the spectators with too much sunshine and not enough sun-block. Phillip Dutton, of Australia, now based in West Grove, Pennsylvania, finished up his day with 14 cross-country time penalties in the Advanced division group A, leaving him in first on Simply Red. He also maintained first place in the Advanced division group B, riding Hannigan, with 17.2 time penalties.

Sunday was a festival of excitement as the crowds assembled together for Stadium jumping. Again starting as the sun kissed the horizon, the excited crowds cheered the competitors. Some of the more memorable rides that day included those by Kirstie Freitag, riding Marmara in the Preliminary division. Placing tenth after dressage, with 36.5 penalties, she managed to pull herself up to third on Saturday with cross-country time penalties of 5.6. On Sunday, Kirstie finished Red Hills with no Stadium jumping penalties and a blue ribbon pinned to her bridle. Phillip Dutton finished first in both Advanced divisions, with no penalties on Hannigan and five jumping penalties on Simply Red. Shelley Lambert, of Altoona, Florida, finished up first in the Training Horse division group B, with 31 penalties for the weekend, the lowest total score this year.

Red Hills closed out the weekend with amazing horsemanship and an evening of parties where the competitors and the spectators joined as one to enjoy a mutual love, the horses.

The competitors spoke highly of Red Hills and were very impressed with the event committee’s commitment to making Red Hills a spectator friendly event. “I’ve never been to an event, even Rolex in Kentucky, that provides shuttling for spectators, and support staff to answer questions…Red Hills is in a class by itself…I would have to say Red Hills is the best run event I’ve ever attended as either a competitor or spectator in this country!” says Ray Masavage, a Training level competitor at Red Hills.

Becky Douglas, who was short-listed for the United States Equestrian team at the Sydney Olympics and placed sixth in the Advanced division group B at Red Hills, says that, “The organizing committee does a fabulous job of creating a big time atmosphere and educating the spectators about the sport. This can only be beneficial to everyone involved in our sport in the future.”

The riders at Red Hills were so pleased with the event last year that they donated $1200 for Red Hills 2001! Part of this money went into a new jump, the Competitors’ Castle, on the Intermediate and Advanced cross-country courses.

A lot of excitement this year levitated around the new Advanced cross-country course. With more than thirty jumps, this was an exciting new level for Red Hills. Some of the new jumps included the politically named Dimpled Chad and the Ballot Box, as well as Gator Gulch, a wooden coop with see through railings and a life-size fake alligator hiding inside. The water jumps, Windmill Pond and Cascade Creek, attracted a large portion of the crowds, along with Hully Gully a difficult jump over a ditch and feeder box. “The cross country course is really impressive!” says Amy Ruth De Wind, a competitor in the Intermediate division.

Some of this year’s competitors included world famous riders and Olympic medalists. Some of these more celebrated riders include David O’Connor, who won the Sydney Olympics 2000 Three-day Individual Equestrian event Gold Medal, and was also a member of the American Bronze medal winning team. Mr. O’Connor placed second, sixth and seventh in Red Hills’ Open Intermediate division, on three horses, Grand Teton, Tigger Too and Jack Be Nimble.

Karen O’Connor, wife of David O’Connor, was also a member of the Bronze Medal Event Team at the 2000 Olympics. They shared the Olympic Silver Team medal in 1996 as well, and Mrs. O’Connor won the 1999 Rolex Kentucky CCI and placed third in the same event in 2000. She attended Red Hills this year riding Upstage and Travis in the Advanced division.

There were several other Olympians there, including two time Olympic gold medalist, Phillip Dutton of Australia. Linden Wiesman, the youngest member of the American team at the 2000 Olympics competed at Red Hills, as did several other members of the USET (United States Equestrian Team).

Although the riders and horses are the “main focus” of Red Hills, the volunteers play a very important role, as well. Every year, over 500 people volunteer for Red Hills, and they are greatly appreciated by all that are involved with the event. “[There were] so many volunteers to help!” says Pam Wiedemann, first place winner of the Open Intermediate division, expressing her deep appreciation for the volunteers. Some of the volunteers are as young as nine year old Bronwyn Gold, a home-schooled fourth grader of Tallahassee. Bronwyn takes lessons from Kelley Nolan-Norred, the Stable Manager for Red Hills, and she and her parents got involved with volunteering through her. Others were recruited through Pony Clubs, billboards and Magazine articles.

“Red Hills does an amazing job of catering to both the spectators and competitors,” says Becky Douglas, and the others competitors and spectators agree, including David O’Connor who says that, “It’s one of the top horse trials in the country…a joy to go to.”

To find out the final results of Red Hills go to

Amy Ruth De Wind: competitor:

How does competing at Red Hills compare with other events? It is so far above everything else.we have been talking about Red Hills since last year. there are a few new events every year.we bring organizers with us.Red Hills is by far the most organized show I've been to on the East Coast and just well run.and they are really nice people and [have] great food.they really take care of the of the organizers from Red Hills was going to go to Georgia [to see how another event was run] we told them not to go!

What was your favorite aspect of Red Hills? Last year, outback steak house was great..just the people that you would run into as a competitor were so nice and helpful, and if they didn't know the answer to a question, they'd find it.they really went out of their way.the cross country course is really impressive.

Carolyn Wehle, competitor:

Which was your favorite event and why was it special? I really do love the Red Hills Horse Trials (I am not just saying that!!) It's truly is a great event. [They have] great courses, great prizes, great volunteers, great atmosphere, great competitors' party.

What was your favorite aspect of Red Hills? The entire city of Tallahassee gets involved, that is really special. We don't see so much community involvement in most events.

Darren M. Chiacchia, competitor:

What is your favorite local competition (and where is it)? NY.Stuart Horse Trials 1st class competition.the facilities and courses superb.they really make the competitors feel at home.[I enjoy] Red Hills for same reason.[when you] go there, there are people looking out for you.they're very helpful to the riders.[you can] go one place and feel like you're a problem for them.others make it all possible for you.

David O'Connor, competitor:

It's one of the top horse trials in the country, the whole community gets behind it.[it's] one of the premier events.a joy to go to.

What was your favorite aspect of Red Hills? Community many people have gotten into it and support it.the whole town's really gotten into it.

Louise Meryman, competitor:

As far as horse trials go, it is definitely the cream of the crop.they do a great job of the care and feed of the's organized, communication is good, everybody is friendly, they go out of way to be helpful and friendly.the quality of the facilities is excellent.

What was your favorite aspect of Red Hills? The atmosphere, the attitude everybody has toward the competitors, they do the very best to make everything work for you.she liked the complimentary donuts every morning.

Pam Wiedemann competitor:

Red Hills is a really fun event to win.they just do such a wonderful job organizing it, making it fun for the riders as well as the spectators.they have all the pomp and circumstance [of a big event] without the stress of a three day. When you go to Red Hills, they really make you feel like you're at home.going there ruins you for the rest of the year. They spoil you.they've done an incredible job with the site they have and seem to have thought out everything.the warm up area at the start of cross-country is not very Red Hills, there are two warm up areas and volunteers to help with it.Bert doesn't like close proximity [with other horses].he freaks when the other horses come galloping near him. At Red Hills you can find a spot to go.and they've made wash stalls for us.its just like showering your horse at home.and when rain came at Red Hills, they had city workers come out and dig holes so the stalls won't [other competitions] the stalls flooded, and we had to go and try and get more shavings on our own.they do an incredible job at Red Hills.and we don't have to worry about anything!

Please click here to meet the author, Rita Juanita Mock

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Updated: October 2005.