Plantation Event brings Olympic flavor to Unionville

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Multi- discipline event asks much of horse & rider, but offers fun and excitement for the whole family

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Phillip Dutton, a member of the 2012 U.S Olympic equestrian team and former gold medalist, demonstrates show jumping during a recent preview event for the Plantation Field Equestrian Events, which start this Friday in Unionville.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — More than just a little bit of the excitement of the recent Olympics in London will be on display this weekend, right here in Unionville.

Some of the world’s elite event horses and riders, including Team USA’s Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin, will be competing this weekend at the Plantation Field Equestrian Events. Fans can attend the opening day events on Friday for free, while tickets — sold by the carload, everyone in the car gets in for one admission price — are required for the Saturday and Sunday competitions.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Cheshire Land Preservation Fund and the Barn at Spring Book Farm, which provides animal-assisted activities for children with disabilities.

Eventing, an Olympic sport, combines multiple disciplines including dressage, show jumping and cross country jumping. The sport evolved from the training calvary horses and riders required, a unique blend of control, power, athleticism and speed few horses can master.

“This is as exciting as it gets,” said Dutton, originally from Australia, but who now calls Chester County his home. “This is like a triathlon for horses.”

Dutton and Martin, who also hails from Australia, but like Dutton now lives and trains locally, gave a bit of a demonstration of their skills and took a bit of time to talk about both their sport, only a month after returning from competition at the London Olympics — as well as both making clear their excitement for the Plantation Equestrian Events coming this weekend.

“Very likely, this weekend, you will see horses and riders who will be competing at the world championships in Canne in 2014,” Martin said, noting that it was particularly impressive as this year’s event comes on the heels of the Olympics and Dutton agreed.

“It’s a tough year (schedule-wise) with the Olympics,” Dutton said. “Yet, an amazing number of competitors will be here for this event.”

There is some motivation to compete, as points from this weekend’s event count toward qualifying for the national and world championships, meaning every race at the top level of competition will have an important impact down the road.

And while the horses and riders require years of work and training to reach world class standards, a local group of volunteers puts in equal amounts of work to get the site and course ready, as well as managing the event. Denis Glaccum, who serves as both the event organizer and course designer (as well as serving on the event’s board of directors), talked about what goes on behind the scenes in preparation for the event.

“The planning takes six or seven months,” he said. He explained that in addition to laying out the course — a process that must be repeated each year, so that it is new to the competitors. Many volunteers from the local community help out, in part because of the strong affinity so many area residents have when it comes to horses.

“Chester County is a mecca for horses,” he said.

While the world-class equestrian events might be enough for some, there’s lots more to see and do. On Sunday, there will be a “Parade of Hounds” and a jousting competition.

Brand new too, for this year will be a tailgating competition — with prizes for those judged to have the best “Festive Fall” themed tailgate setups, with judging by staff from The Whip Tavern. Space is limited, but details on how to enter can be found on the event’s Website. Also, a few tickets remain for the VIP Sunday Branch, held ring-side, for the show jumping phase.

And as always, there will be vendors selling food and crafts, more than 40 have signed up, making it the biggest group in the event’s history.

On Friday, September 21, the Dressage event will be held and admission is free. The parking fee for the Saturday, September 22 cross country event and Sunday, September 23 show jumping event will be $20. The fee includes admission to the grounds for everyone in the car and a program. Also, every car though the gate on Saturday or Sunday will be entered in a raffle to win a lesson from a member of the 2012 Olympic team.

Plantation Field is located at 387 Green Valley Road, Unionville — just off Route 82. Competition each day will take place from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. with main events beginning late morning each day. The shops and country fair opens at 9 a.m. For more information see www.plantationfieldhorsetrials.com.

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