Copper Meadows Horse Trials - No more

More sad news of a long run event closing its doors:

So sad. From my observation it does seem like every venue that announces their retirement from recognized shows cites unsustainable costs as a leading factor. :frowning:

Wonder if this is something USEA can help with…?


Yes and I see they are still running unrecognized so makes you wonder about the costs that are making the issues?


I can’t speak for Copper Meadows. I can speak for some of the venues in my area that stepped down from Recognized but still offer schooling shows. There are a lot of hoops to jump through USEA to get on the calendar; some political and expensive.

First time venues have to apply to USEA to become Sanctioned - almost a year in advance to hosting the show. They go through a multi-step application/vetting process to be reviewed and approved. There is a roster of licensed/certified officials required at Recognized that are not required at schooling shows - Course Designer, Judge, TD, EMTs, Dressage Judge, Secretary, etc. You need specific high-coverage insurance (EDIT: Janet says this is covered in the fee). You’ll need to collaborate with your Area Chair to get on the calendar. There is a calendar fee (which if I remember right is either $300 or $360 for anything below Modified), then of course the fees to the USEA which is $25 per starter for lower levels.

There is a lot of physical labor that goes into hosting a USEA sanctioned event, which has aesthetic/physical requirements to appeal to their competitors. Fence decorations, turf maintenance, multiple tractors dragging out rings between dressage breaks. I have been involved in the XC decorations of a recognized event and even when you beg, steal, or borrow fence decorations you are looking at thousands of dollars in decorations and labor costs to put down and clean up for what is essentially “one-time” use.

You just don’t have to have the same level of operating costs to offset in a schooling show. You don’t lose the $25 per starter which is thousands of dollars in revenue your organization can put towards operating cost[s] and improving the venue - you don’t have to pay to be on the calendar, you don’t have to hire the same level of expensive Licensed Officials, there isn’t the same level of perfection expected among competitors. It is thousands of dollars ‘cheaper’ to host a schooling show just in omitting the USEA fees alone - that’s before how much you’re paying the licensed officials, which I don’t have insider info on.

And you don’t have the added headache of fighting with your local area coordinators to be put on the calendar for a specific date. At least in my area, there has been a lot of contention about calendar dates with multiple venues vying for calendar dates. It is not just about “I want the second weekend in July” for my venue - there’s hundreds of reasons organizers might choose that date. Maybe their property abuts wetlands and the middle of July is the only suitable time the footing is good enough to withstand hundreds of competitors pounding on it in one single day. Maybe they choose that date because it is the lull between major destination events. Organizers don’t need to sacrifice the dates their venue might need if they opt out of Recognized.

The enormous administrative burden I’ll skip touching on because I think most understand it is a headache!

Maybe it is time for USEA to reassess the costs they impose upon venues to host Recognized – or, maybe they investigate areas they can support venues in hosting their trials, like possibly vouchers or reimbursable programs for paying licensed officials…?

Edit: fixed misinformation about the licensing, thank you for the correction Janet :smile:


We are seeing more of this in Canada too.

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We’ve lost so many venues in the last 20 years, we are down to 3 venues (all in one small geographic area) from a peak of 10 spread throughout the province.

I think a few additional factors include:

-the governing body has made getting and remaining licensed expensive and frustrating, so people haven’t invested in that and now we are short of every kind of official

-land prices have outstripped earning capacity and a 30 year now could never purchase equivalent property to a 30 year old in the 1970s

-the professionalization of the sport. As @beowulf said above, thousands of dollars in decorations alone? My parents ran an event in the late 70s/early 80s and those jumps were made of wood, without decorations. It was the Pacific Northwest Championships.

-competitors expecting so much but without understanding or contributing to the cost. Such as nice stabling, camping hookups, perfect footing, etc. My first FEI event I slept in a tent, my horse was in pole paddocks under the trees with stand pipe water from the creek, and outhouse “facilities”. That was in the middle 1990s and people flocked to the venue, even though it was often a rain-fest or waking up to frost or snow! Now, they’d rather drive e.g. 15 hours to go to Rebecca Farm and pay all the additional costs of border crossing, health certificates, US dollar exchange… for a destination event. I love Rebecca but I think this attitude contributed to the demise of several of our events that clashed on calendar dates.

-as the level of skill has gone up, and costs rise, the more people seek coaching. There is less independence and more groups of trainer-led students. Good for them, it’s better to be safe. But that leads to 20 people attending an event out of province because their coach needs an Intermediate - and not patronizing the local event, whose main costs don’t change if they run for 40 people or 100 people.

-And, they don’t volunteer.

Something’s got to give.


I just want to reply to this in specific… My bucket list is to become a licensed Course Designer. It is not cheap between classes and competition requirements – you’ll spend thousands of dollars alone in competition fees. The classes are only held once or twice a year and are $$ when you add in the classes, lodging, and travel fees.

The USEA needs to get started incentivizing people to become officials. Maybe through education grants and/or competition grants because the average person is priced out of licensing. It’s largely “older” (50s) people with established/flexible jobs and their ‘shelf life’ as an official is very short.


You all are looking at the wrong entity suggesting the USEA has the power. It is the USEF and FEI and their standards for recognized competitions that is driving a lot of these costs. They are the ones who do the schedules and the official licensing, impose the drug fees etc. The USEA is an educational/advising entity to the USEF.

The USEF is run by show organizers. If you notice they set things that favors competitions and officials, not the competitors.


I agree that there is an increase in the number of long-running Horse Trials closing down. The USEA is well aware of it, and considers it an issue to be dealt with.

I agree that running a recognized Horse Trial involves more expenses and administrative burdens than running an unrecognized Horse Trial, but I think you are exaggerating then.

“The person organizing the event needs to be licensed” The organizer needs to be a USEF member, but I am not aware of any requirements for the organizer to be licensed. Can you point me to where you found that “the organizer needs to be licensed”.

“You need specific high-coverage insurance.” The (million dollar) insurance coverage in is included in the ($300?) licensing fee. You don’t need additional insurance. For our (CDCTA HT) we do have our own insurance as well, which is $150, the same as we pay for our unrecognized competitions.

“There is a yearly calendar fee” I am not aware of any separate “calendar fee”.

“Fence decorations, turf maintenance, multiple tractors dragging out rings between dressage breaks.” There is no difference in these requirements between a recognized and unrecognized horse trials. For at least the last 15 years we have run our recognized HT on land that is a hay field the rest of the year (two separate farms). The only “turf maintenance” is mowing, which we would also do for an unrecognized event. Because it is all on turf, we don’t “drag the rings”. Our jump decorations are about the same as they would be for an unrecognized event. Yes, having fancier footing, and more decorations might attract more competitors, but we still manage to attract enough competitors to make a profit almost every year, and often have a waiting list.

“that’s before how much you’re paying the licensed officials, which I don’t have insider info on.” I don’t know what it is like where you are, but most unrecognized Horse Trials I am familiar with use licensed officials (at least for dressage judges and TD). As a TD, I charge the same for an unrecognized HT as I do for a recognized one.

I agree that the calendaring system can be a nightmare, especially since the USEF has decided to stick there nose into the process.

“like possibly vouchers or reimbursable programs for paying licensed officials…” In fact, for first time recognized horse trials, USEA pays up to $500 toward the TD expenses.


They do. " Roger Haller Scholarship for the Education of Eventing Officials, the USEA’s Course Designer’s Scholarship,"


(though that is for progressing from “r” to “R”, not getting the initial license)


I’ve spoken at length with one show organizer in particular, who was the owner/organizer of a destination event in Area 1. She leases my horse. :slightly_smiling_face:

Most of this info is on the USEA website, including the portion about calendar fee and insurance. I did not know about the insurance being included in the application fee, so that is good to know. I will edit that out of my post and appreciate the correction. :+1:

Regarding the comment about the tractors, maybe it wasn’t clear from my post that I was saying you can omit certain ‘frivolous’ amenities at schooling shows including ring-dragging between divisions. It is one of the differences in competitor expectations I see today. You can skip hiring a tractor, food trucks, renting temporary stalls, and opt for cheaper fence decorations or none at all at a schooling show.

How lucky your event is to be in an area where you don’t need turf maintenance! Here we have competitors complain if the XC isn’t aerated because the footing is too hard or slick especially later in the season. This is probably climate and region specific.

The schooling shows I’ve attended don’t typically have a licensed TD or licensed CD. They do have a licensed judge for dressage. This is is an area costs are significantly diminished for schooling shows, by not having the whole host of licensed officials USEA requires for a sanctioned link. You don’t have to pay for the flights, lodging, and other fees of officials at a schooling show if you don’t have them. You don’t have to pay a vet, farrier, or EMT to be on-site.

Thank you for the link on the grant; that is wonderful news. Has anyone benefited or received a scholarship from that fund since its inception? I only saw two articles about it on USEA’s website.

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I was going to say this too…we have some events going schooling level now because of these issues and others with EC.

It makes you wonder if recognized is truly needed unless you are wanting to do FEI. We hardly even have an awards program and no Championships here in Ontario so really seems pointless anymore to spend the extra.


There are LOTS of recognized HT in between “unrecognized” and “destination event”. Yes, a “destination event” DOES incur a lot of those additional expenses.

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A ) “competitors complain” is not the same as “USEF requires”
B ) “competitors complain” applies to unrecognized HT as well as recognized ones
C ) I have officiated at multiple recognized HT in Area I (granted, not “destination events”) where the turf is not aerated. On at least one, the horses were still grazing while I was measuring the jumps.
D ) Yes, we do schedule our own event based partly on when the footing is likely to be good.

Yes, it gets awarded every year. I remember seeing the announcement. but I don’t remember who got it.

Yes, I don’t believe that needs to be pointed out. What was pointed out is the difference in expectations at a Schooling versus Recognized. The expectations are much lower for schooling. No frills is no problem.

Full agreement there. :smile:

This is my point. Competitors complain that the turf isn’t aerated. Aeration was just one of the many examples out there about footing concerns for competitors that I’ve heard over the years. They then go blast the venue on social media and complain the ground was too hard/it wasn’t aerated/it was too slick/not enough grass blades per grass cluster/etc. You don’t typically get that level of feedback at schooling shows because it is not expected.

Part of it is something I’ve touched base on in other threads: competitors expecting southern amenities/footing/conditions in their northern venues OR top of the line/destination accommodations in their small time/family venues. There are a lot of different things causing a venues to close their doors to Recognized events, but from what I’ve been told by those with boots on the ground, the biggest driving factors are the enormous cost (including fees), and competitor entitlement.


I hope you’re being facetious here. If not, WOW. Screw that person.

Growing good grass for a small LAWN is challenge enough, let alone a whole course. Do they expect each venue to have a hired turf manager like a golf course? Talk about $$$$$

We just lost Holly Hill in area V as well, no more recognized - just schooling.

It’s true that competitors complaining has a huge effect. In Ontario we used to have this event called Hawkridge that was on a gorgeous piece of property in Eastern Ontario. The Facility was top class, they had a gorgeous XC course on rolling hills, through woods, with a sound system through the woods. A large GP showjumping ring that was on grass beside a creek. This was a private facility owned by big time eventing supporters. One year it rained like crazy and people complained about the water on the surface of the grass ring. People had stops and rails everywhere because their horses were slipping or not loving the footing. The thing is, you have to know how to cork on a grass ring like that. They have similar issues in the grass ring at the Ottawa Horse Park. I was lucky enough to have a jump coach who has ridden big jumpers in there for years explained to me how to cork on grass like that.

Anyways, people complained like crazy at that event. The showjump ring has been watered coming up to the event so riders blamed that. Instead of their ability to ride in the conditions.
Owners said F it. Not worth the thankless drama after all that money and work. The event never ran again. I was so lucky to ride at the last one, it was a dream of mine I had chased since a child and was the reason I started eventing.

An amazing facility with huge eventing supporters, in an area where we desperately need eventing, gone.


And don’t forget the public shaming over a venue name that resulted in the venue shutting its doors.

The perception of being completely unappreciated has a big impact on land owners.