March 2009

Fifth Annual Equestrian Exposition Comes To Rose Hill

Author: Paul deVere

??“I can always tell which is the front end of a horse, but beyond that, my art is not above the ordinary.”??– Mark Twain

If you feel your equine knowledge is at the same level as Mark Twain’s and you would like to kick it up a notch, so to speak, you’ll have a great opportunity at the end of March. On the other hand, if the following quote applies to you: “The daughter who won’t lift a finger in the house is the same child who cycles madly off in the pouring rain to spend all morning mucking out a stable,” your presence is virtually required.

On March 29, Rose Hill Plantation will host the 5th Annual Hilton Head/Savannah Equestrian Exposition. Among the many events, you’ll get to see demonstrations of dressage, horse (flat) racing, jumping, a fox hunt, barrel racing and polo. All the activity takes place on the Rose Hill polo field.

What is it about horses? There is an old saying that a dog has an owner, a horse has a staff. The passion for leisure riding and horse ownership is growing in the Southeast. There are now nine equestrian centers within or close to the borders of Beaufort County. “Over the last five years, the equestrian lifestyle is really coming to the forefront in this area,” said Dr. Sandy Termotto, founder of the event and president of Equus Ventures, LLC, the organization that puts the exposition together each year. “The end result (of the exposition), of course, is raising money for local charities,” he added. Over the past four years, the show has raised over $125,000. As to the exposition, Termotto said, “We decided to acquaint the community with other disciplines of horsemanship beside polo. I also wanted to acquaint myself with other horsemen in the area.”

In Lowcountry parlance, the name Termotto and polo are almost synonymous. He fell in love with horses as a kid, riding in Central (Manhattan) and Prospect (Brooklyn) parks in New York. Fast forward, past his service in Vietnam, to 1974. With the help and guidance of a number of retired officers, island residents who played polo in the military, Termotto was one of the founding members of the Hilton Head Polo Club. “I retired from polo after playing for 26 years,” Termotto said. He still loves to ride. “After polo, I was still in one piece, so I took up fox hunting.” Fall polo matches, which also raise money for charity, are a Lowcountry tradition at Rose Hill.

Among the eight beneficiaries of this year’s exposition are Heroes on Horseback and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Heroes on Horseback is a non-profit, premiere accredited operating center of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA). It offers a series of therapeutic horseback riding programs for physically and mentally disadvantaged children and adults in the Lowcountry.

The exposition also provides a $1,000 scholarship to a student in the equestrian program offered by SCAD, which opened its 100-acre Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center in 2007. The school’s equestrian team has won national championships in competitions for several years. SCAD offers a minor in equestrian management.

Now, for the equine-challenged (a la Mark Twain), a bit of explanation about the events. Dressage is the ballet of horsemanship. The rider guides the horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of hands, legs, and weight. It is one of the most extraordinary examples of ultra-subtle communication that can develop between horse and rider. Though just about any horse can be put through dressage training, the most notable are the Lipizzans. Remember the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions on the old Ed Sullivan show?

The “drag” fox hunt demonstration, presented by the Lowcountry Hunt club, will be narrated by the Master of the Hounds. “We put a scent down around the polo field, and the hounds follow the scent. Then, of course, the riders follow the hounds. They’ll be taking some jumps. It’s very nice, because the public gets acquainted with what fox hunting is all about,” Termotto explained.

“Flat Racing” is simply a horse race, with prizes awarded. “We call it the Bluffton Derby,” Termotto said with a laugh.
The exposition, like the polo matches at Rose Hill, is best enjoyed as part of a tailgate party. But Termotto advises tailgaters to stay well back in the safety zone. As a polo player he remembered, more than once, when he was galloping down the outside of the sideboards during a match and getting covered with baked brie and shrimp.

Sideboards? Come to the Equestrian Exposition and find out

The other charities that benefit from the exposition: are the Alzheimer’s Respite and Resource, The American Red Cross (Palmetto Chapter), Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island, The Heritage Library, and Saint Gregory the Great Ministries. The Rose Hill gate opens at 11 a.m. The exhibitions began at 12:30 p.m. Polo starts at 2:30 p.m. The gate fee is $15.00.

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