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Competition is geared to bring horse, history lovers together

By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

FORT VALLEY -- Horse enthusiasts and history buffs will come together in Fort Valley this weekend for the 2009 East Coast Regional Cavalry Competition.

The event, which is sanctioned by the American Horse Cavalry Association and open to the public, will take place today and Sunday at Secret Passage Ranch at 321 Spring Mountain Way. Ranch owner Don Warlick said close to 20 riders will compete and nearly 60 "living historians" will be on hand.

Phil Gibbons, of Cedarville, said he and Jeff Jordan, of Vienna, were "wayward souls" who came to Warlick and wanted to learn how to ride. The regional contest was spawned by a trip the pair took to the National Cavalry Competition in Fort Riley, Kan., Gibbons said Friday.

"We didn't think we could compete with the folks out there," he said, but, as they watched, they saw that they could. So, they talked to the event's organizers and came up with the concept of holding regional competitions, he said.

The event at Secret Passage Ranch is in its second year, he said, and "we've probably doubled the number of folks" who attend.

Today's events were set to begin with the opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m., Gibbons said. Immediately after the ceremony, at about 9 a.m., the military horsemanship competition will begin, he said.

Horsemanship "is really a test of how well that rider and horse work together," he said, and riders will be divided into three skill levels -- beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Then, the living historians, who will represent periods from the French and Indian War to World War II, can participate in the military authenticity competition, he said. That event will be followed by military field jumping, Gibbons said, in which riders will jump different heights, depending on their skill levels.

Today's events will wind down with a barbecue around 7 p.m., he said.

Sunday's events will begin with the mounted saber competition, he said, which will be immediately followed by the squad drill competition. The team mobility competition will be the final event, he said.

"The public comes out, and a lot of them don't even realize these things exist," Gibbons said. "If we could just get them to come out, we guarantee they'll enjoy themselves."

And, the weekend isn't just about the competition -- it's about "getting everyone together and sharing a common interest," Gibbons said.

"I'm 41 now, and I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd do anything like this," he said.

Erek Dorman, of Maurertown, has been a Civil War re-enactor for 14 years and a Revolutionary War re-enactor for six years. Dorman, who started as a private in the infantry, began riding horses when he got promoted through the ranks, he said.

"I've been a history nut since I was a kid," he said. "I love teaching people about it. ... People are so unaware of what happened in their own backyard."

Admission is $5 per person or $20 per car, and children age 12 and under get in free, Warlick said. Tonight's barbecue dinner is $10 a plate, Gibbons said.

Information on the event is available at www.secretpassageranch.com.



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