Radnor Hunt Event In 20th Year The Annual Equestrian Competition Will Open Later This Week.

Posted: October 09, 1994

WILLISTOWN — Twenty years ago, a handful of people including Sheila Hundt, Marilyn Taylor, and Vita and Dick Thompson came up with the idea of an equestrian competition at the Radnor Hunt Club.

The competition would challenge the rider's skill in developing his or her horse in three areas - dressage (obedience and precision), cross-country (boldness), and stadium jumping (conditioning).

For the first two or three years, the competition attracted few spectators to the Radnor Hunt Club's rolling expanses, located on 90 acres in Willistown Township.

But this week, the Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event, which opens Thursday, is expected to attract more than 15,000 people, riders and spectators alike, for its 20th anniversary.

The Three-Day Event actually runs for four days, from Thursday through Sunday. The extra day is needed for the dressage portion of the competition, a series of elements a horse and rider are required to perform. It takes two days because of the large number of riders competing.

Saturday will be the biggest day of the event. It will feature the cross- country competition, a 4.5-mile course where horses perform a variety of jumps.

The event "has become very much a community event," said Marilyn Taylor of Berwyn. "People come out for shopping and the general flavor of the day. It's more than just watching the horses and riders."

The event benefits Paoli Memorial Hospital, which last year received just over $68,000. The money went to a special program called IMPaCT (Interdisciplinary Model Patient Centered Team), which brings professionals to each patient's bedside instead of making the patient travel to specialty areas throughout the hospital. In 1991, money raised from the Three-Day Event helped bring to completion the pledges associated with the hospital's cancer center.

During the hunt, funds are raised from a "big top" food tent run by the auxiliaries of the hospital, with made-to-order omelets, salads, soups and sandwiches. Housed in smaller tents are 100 booths, which sell antiques, painting, jewlery, clothing and crafts.

"It's been a great marriage, all the way down the line," Dick Thompson said of the relationship between the Hunt Club and the hospital. "It's drawn us together as a community."

Thompson noted that the competition expanded after the first couple of years. The steeplechase event was added - riders racing against the clock over eight steeplechase fences. The overall winners of the event are the horse and rider with the lowest score - or fewest penalties - along with the best time at the end of the three tests. Jumpers can be penalized, for example, if their horse hits a fence. The winning riders receive money, trophies and other prizes.

The event attracts riders from all over the world. The local favorite is former Olympian Bruce Davidson of Unionville, currently ranked sixth in the world. Davidson will ride at Radnor, along with his son, Buck.

The first chairman, Hundt, a resident of Malvern, remains active in judging and training horses. She spends about an hour and a half every day working with and training Red Alert, a red roan with little white freckles, one of the horses competing in this year's event.

"Training a top-level horse takes years, and the horse must be intelligent," Hundt said. "This is a very demanding sport."

This year's competition will feature 170 riders, she said. Another 60 are on a waiting list.

The sport is rooted in a tradition that goes back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, when cavalry competitions were developed to test the officers' mounts.


* The Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event will run from Thursday through Sunday at the club, 826 Providence Rd., Malvern. Times are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Saturday is cross-country day, and spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic at their chosen spots along the course. Admission is $7 per day. Children under 12 are free. For more information, call 610-648-1440.

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