Young Horses Thrive at Vermont Summer Festival

July 17, 2019 - East Dorset, VT

Fairfield Hunt Club trainer Cassandra Orpen of Wellington, FL, aboard six-year-old Paris during week three at the 2019 Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.
Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
Ireland’s Christian Coyle of North Salem, NY, competing seven-year-old Old Salem Farm homebred Roxstar at the 2019 Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.
Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

The Vermont Summer Festival, a six-week circuit currently underway until August 11 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT, has established a reputation as one of the top summer venues for the development of young horses.

From developing jumpers that are stepping into the grand prix ring for the first time to green hunters catching their stride in the derby ranks, young horses thrive at the Vermont Summer Festival. With an all-inclusive competition schedule that includes events for horse and riders beginning in the pony levels and climbing to the grand prix, the Vermont Summer Festival has become a starting point for horses with big futures.

Cassandra Orpen is head trainer at Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, CT, and rider for Orpen Horses based out of Wellington, FL. She has a string of nearly 40 horses competing in southern Vermont this summer. One of those horses is Paris, a six-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Douglas out of Ciodine. Owned by Orpen Horses, Paris is a 1.40m/1.45m prospect making a name for herself in the 1.20m ranks in Vermont.

“You don’t want to over-face a six-year-old, but developing the ones like her with a lot of ability is exciting,” said Orpen of the mount that originally came from Belgium. “The Vermont Summer Festival is the ideal location for us to accomplish that. We can start small and move her up through the levels to test her in a very welcoming environment and see what we have. There’s also a lot of opportunities here to step younger horses into the atmosphere of the grand prix ring at lower heights.”

Orpen has 34 students competing during week three at the Vermont Summer Festival with classes available for each and every one of them.

“We have some kids who come just to ride in flat classes, one in the grand prix, and everything in between,” said Orpen. “We can bring everyone from the barn! In previous years we have used the green hunters and the weekly derbies to see what we have in terms of bravery with the young horses. That atmosphere helps develop them and get a nice record in a very competitive field of 30-40 horses.”

Another young jumper that made a splash at the Vermont Summer Festival is Roxstar, a homebred owned by Old Salem Farm Acquisition Corp. and ridden by Old Salem Farm trainer Christian Coyle. Originally from Ireland, Coyle is based at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, NY, and is competing Roxstar in the 1.30m division at the Vermont Summer Festival for three weeks this summer.

“Old Salem Farm is competing in Vermont with 17 horses that range from young horses to children’s jumpers, amateur-owner hunters, children’s hunters, and equitation mounts,” said Coyle. “What makes this venue an ideal location for us is that it is a nice setting for both horses and riders to get competitive experience in an environment that is not overwhelming.”

Coyle’s mount Roxstar is a seven-year-old by Amaretto D’Arco out of Roxanne and was champion in the 1.30m division during the second week of competition at the Vermont Summer Festival.

“The schooling areas are safe and well managed, the footing is good, and the competition is very respectable without being too much for an inexperienced horse or rider,” said Coyle. “We have a range of clients that are all well served by the class options, and I also have the opportunity to develop our young horses at the same time.

“Roxstar is a prospect that we are very excited about, and it’s always a good day when he can go out into the grand prix ring and have a good round,” concluded Coyle. “His results at Vermont have us very hopeful about his future.”

Now in its 26th year, the Vermont Summer Festival offers a dynamic competition schedule while also giving competitors an opportunity to enjoy the wide variety of entertainment, recreation, shopping, and dining options offered in Dorset, Manchester, and the surrounding area. A recent study conducted by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont cited that the total direct spending of visitors frequenting Vermont for equine-related activities is estimated at nearly $15.5 million annually.

Competition at the 2019 Vermont Summer Festival runs weekly from Wednesday through Sunday, beginning each day at 8 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults and children from Wednesday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children with 100 percent of all gate proceeds benefiting Dorset Equine Rescue, The Dorset School, and Manchester Community Library.

The Vermont Summer Festival is a proud member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, the Marshall & Sterling League, and the North American League (NAL). For more information on the Vermont Summer Festival, please visit