Like an equestrian triathloneventing tests the abilities of horse and rider in three phases—dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Guests and spectators of the event were treated to a thrilling experience and a lovely day in the country. TerraNova Equestrian Center, a world-class, multi-discipline equestrian competition facility in the picturesque countryside of Myakka City, held its inaugural event this past October.

Terra nova Equestrian Centerteamed up with three local nonprofit organizations that champion their causes: Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, SMART (Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy) and Southeastern Guide Dogs. Each competitor selected one of the three organizations— each charity having about 50 riders. “We have several Olympic riders here this weekend,” says Hannah Herrig Ketelboeter, president of TerraNova Equestrian Center and an eventor herself. “We really hope to get the community involved with the sport and educate them so they can follow the riders and be excited to come year after year. We have a lot of international riders with us, and although most are from the U.S., we have seven countries represented at this event.”

For those not in the know about equestrian events, Ketelboeter explains the phases of competition. “There are three phases and a lot of people refer to this as the triathlon of the equestrian sports. The first phase is dressage where the judges score based on balance, rhythm and harmony between horse and rider as well as accuracy of movements. So that’s the only subjective scoring part of eventing. The next phase is the cross-country where riders navigate more solid objects, ditches and banks, and jump in and out of water elements. That phase is based on time. There’s an optimum time and if you’re below that time, you’re good. If you go past that time, you’d get time faults. Then, if you have a refusal at a jump or a runout at a jump, that costs you penalties as well. The final phase of eventing, which most people are familiar with, is show jumping, where riders prove their precision as they clear a course of fences.”

 Dressage and cross-country competitor, Sara Beth Anton, has been riding since age six. She believes some of the best horses and riders the U.S. has to offer are competing at this top-notch event. “It is truly one of the most incredible things to watch horses thundering past you on cross-country and sailing over fences with speed,” she says. “This is by far one of the nicest facilities that I’ve ever been to, and I’ve traveled around to a lot of different facilities,” says Claire Anderson, a competitor from Ocala, FL. When asked about what percentage of people she thinks are in this for financial gain or prize money versus the love of the sport, she adds “I would say that a lot of people do this work for the love of it. They truly love these horses.”

Nine-year-old Nicole Nair who has been riding for five years, says she’s probably been in about 100 competitions. Her horse, Jack Run, can sometimes be a little bit hard to control, but when he does well in a competition, she feels great. Her advice to little girls just starting out: “First try on a little pony, start walking and then move up higher.”