Horse Trials and so much more!
Coming this spring to Morven Park’s International Equestrian Center
By: Laura Doyle, Equestrian Manager
If your New Year’s resolutions included staying fit, or if February has brought on a bad case of the winter doldrums, Morven Park’s Equestrian Center has a solution for you! Don’t let the cold keep you out of the saddle when our indoor arenas are open year-round for schooling! Our recent renovation of the venerable structure affectionately known as “The Indoor” included not only an exterior facelift, but significant interior upgrades. New skylights have drastically transformed the space into a light and bright refuge from winter, and the addition of fresh high-quality footing has provided an incredible surface on which to train. If you haven’t visited The Indoor in a while, I encourage you to check it out and reserve a timeslot by calling 703-777-2890, extension 6614.
You can also banish those winter blues by making plans to join us at Spring Horse Trials at the end of March, the Carriage Pleasure Show in June, and Polo in the Park starting in July. Our preparations for these captivating events are already in full swing, so rest assured that spring and summer are right around the corner!
If you’ve ever been a competitor or spectator at the Morven Park Equestrian Center, I think you’d agree that there really is nothing quite like this beautiful, historic venue. There’s always been a certain mystique about Morven Park, and we are indeed fortunate that Mrs. Davis believed it was important to share this hidden gem with the equestrian community. Throughout the decades, these spectacular grounds have prepared Olympic competitors and have provided an opportunity for athletes across all equestrian disciplines and skill levels to enjoy the thrill of the sport.
Morven Park’s history with horse trials began just over 50 years ago. The Morven Park International Equestrian Institute (MPIEI) opened in 1968, under the instruction of cavalry master Major John Lynch, and went on to become one of the leading riding schools in the world, accepting only 40 students each year for an intensive nine-month course. Six months after MPIEI opened its doors, Morven Park’s Director, Brigadier Richard Hobson, “loaned” Major Lynch to the U.S. Eventing team, where he coached them to a second-place finish in the Mexico City Olympic Games.
Around 1971, Major Lynch began running horse trials at Morven Park as a way to prepare U.S. riders for the Olympics. In the early days of the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA), the first “recognized” horse trials were run in the spring of 1973, 1974, and 1975, offering Training and Preliminary divisions. Entry fees were $15 for Training and $20 for Preliminary, and a stall could be rented for $10 per night! The events were run entirely by Moven Park staff and MPIEI students who prided themselves on keeping the competitors exactly on time. After the death of Major Lynch in 1978, Loudoun Hunt Pony Club picked up organizational responsibilities from 1981 until 1992. By the fall of 1992, the numbers of entries had become so large, the Pony Club requested that event tasks be shared with Morven Park staff. What a different time that was! Picture, if you can, elegantly dressed judges being
escorted to the dressage rings by a horse-drawn surrey from the Winmill Carriage Collection and show jumping competitions being held on the Davis Mansion lawn!
Eventually Morven Park once again assumed all horse trials management and has continuously run horse trials in various formats, maintaining the long-standing tradition of eventing on this magnificent property. Having the resource of hundreds of picturesque acres makes it possible to achieve our goal of always finding new ways to technically challenge the horse and rider. The following quote from the July 1974 issue of USCTA News still rings true today: “The Horse Trials are held on the beautiful grounds of Historic Morven Park, which was the last home of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis. It would be hard to find a more perfect setting than this lovely rolling countryside, with its thick hedgerows, tall trees, and winding creek. The cross country is varied, interesting and a fine galloping course.”
Whatever your equestrian interests, we think you’ll find that Morven Park is an amazing piece of “horse heaven.” Even if you don’t ride or compete, we invite you to visit the Park and observe powerful horses navigate the cross-country course obstacles at top speed, be transported back to the 1800s as exquisite carriages are deftly maneuvered by talented teams of drivers and horses, or enjoy a picnic and an evening of polo under the stars. Be sure to check out our calendar of events at MorvenPark.org/calendar for a comprehensive list of activities. While you’re online, consider becoming an Equestrian Patron or a Morven Park Member to receive access to Members-only events, unlimited free admission to the Mansion, the opportunity to purchase tickets to popular events in advance of the general public, and much more! Equestrian Patron benefits are described at MorvenPark.org/Patron while various levels of Membership benefits can be found at MorvenPark.org/Membership.
We look forward to seeing you at the Park soon!