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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

The Millbrook Horse Trials
June 24, 2024

A Step on the Path to the Olympics
By Tara Kelly

The Olympics are taking place in Paris this summer. If you’re one of the lucky few who nabbed tickets, have a great time! But for the rest of us obsessed with the pinnacle of equine competition, for the cost of a tank of gas we can go to the Millbrook Horse Trials (MHT), taking place the weekend of July 25 to 28.

Admittedly, it’s not the same level of difficulty, but it is an important step along the path to achieving Olympic gold. Quite a few Olympians are mainstays of the event. Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, and Doug Payne—frequent competitors at the MHT— represented the U.S. at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They are also contenders for the Paris team. As of press time, the team had not been finalized. 

The horse trials are a multi-discipline competition. Over the course of several days, as many as 400 horse-and-rider teams will compete in dressage, cross-country, and showjumping in one of six levels, from Beginner Novice through Advanced. The MHT is the only Advanced Level competition in the sport of eventing in New York and New England, making it a significant competition for athletes who train on the East Coast.

Louise Meryman, one of the event organizers, says, “In the lead-up to any big competition, fitness is an important element. Morgan Rowsell, our course designer and builder, designs the course with that in mind. The MHT is one of the few horse trials with big hills and challenging terrain, to help make the horses really fit.”

Martin agrees. “It’s a sensational event for my upper-level horses. It is an important stage of their training.” He added, “I first came to Millbrook when I was a working student for Phillip Dutton. But my career really blossomed after I started teaching clinics at Fitch’s Corner. I’ve been given a lot of support by the Millbrook community. It really has a special place in my heart.”

Community and support for horse sports are themes echoed by Barbara Tober, a Millbrook landowner, equestrian, and longtime supporter of the MHT. She remembers when the area was brimming with a wide variety of horse events. Much has changed since she and her husband, Donald Tober, first came to Millbrook in 1981, she says. In recent years a lot of land has been closed off to traditional horse sports. This is one reason she’s an ardent conservationist, and MHT supporter. She says, “The horse trials takes great pride in bringing this challenging event to Millbrook every summer, and we look forward to watching the excitement of the best of the best galloping over the hills and valleys of the MHT course.”

The horse trials are not just a sports competition. They’re also a community event, kind of like a country fair. It’s a people-watching spectacle with a wonderful marketplace, great food trucks, and a petting zoo for the kids,so you can commune with a kangaroo or a bearded dragon. Not all the excitement will take place on horseback! —