By David Rogers. BLOWING ROCK, N.C. — Equestrian competitions rarely get more exciting than Rodney Harkey’s win on July 30, in the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show’s Russell Hall Memorial Classic featured event.
With seven riders and their horses competing for $15,000 in prize money, five of them toured the course cleanly in the regulation round, within the 84-second time limit. That set up a “jump off” around an abbreviated course, with a 48-second time limit.
Elizabeth Cram of Aiken, S.C., riding HF Jett, set the bar high when she was first to ride in the jump-off, beating the the allowed time by six seconds, making the final jump after she guided Jett around the course cleanly, in 42 seconds.
Moments later, Victoria “Tori” Colvin, of Loxahatchee, Fla., lowered the standard even further by taking her horse, VDL Moniseur, around the course in just over 40 seconds to take the lead.
Two riders later, it was Harkey’s turn on Equador, a horse that he both trains and owns, as well as rides. Watching the duo gallop quickly to and over the fences, negotiating tight turns between each one, there was a sense of purpose in the Charlotte rider’s performance — and he was rewarded by shaving six MORE seconds off the previously leading jump-time, to 34 seconds. Try as they might, the remaining riders were unable to match Harkey and Equador’s time, much less beat it.
For the win, Harkey collected $3,800 in first place prize money. Colvin took home $2,800 and Cram, $1,500.
The Russell Hall Memorial Classic was a featured event on the last day of the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show’s first week. With a day off on July 31, they get things going again for the second week of the Hunter/Jumper competition, scheduled from Aug. 2-6.
More than 500 horses are entered in the competition, now in its 100th year as the United States’ longest, continuously-running equestrian event. Assuming an average of five people attending per horse (riders, owners, trainers, groomers, support staff and family members) we can conservatively guestimate that the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show brings upwards of 2,500 people to town for the two weeks of equestrian competition, including some of the top riders and horses in the country. An economic impact study by Nicole Jelley at Appalachian State in 2012 concluded that during its 21 days (including a week of Saddlebred competition in June), the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show generates $7.7 million in economic impact to the Blowing Rock/High Country area, including lodging, restaurants, retail and other expenditures.