Plantation Field Equestrian Events, Inc., which for decades has hosted nationally-recognized USEA/USEF horse trials and three starter trials each year, plus jumper and dressage shows on its Unionville, PA, location, has had its property lease pulled by the owner, Cuyler Walker, because of pressure over the name “Plantation.”
In a post entitled “The Problem With ‘Plantation’” on the Eventing Nation website it was suggested that the name was insensitive in light of the ongoing move to combat systemic racism in the United States, even though the post stated, “We realize that Plantation Field’s 20-year-old name is rooted in the plantings on the property and not in a known history of slavery at the site.” Consequently the governing bodies, the US Eventing Association and the US Equestrian Federation, notified PFEE that they would not use the word “Plantation” in any media or articles. The venue is hosting an international horse trials this weekend, Sept. 17-20.
Denis Glaccum, President of Plantation Field Equestrian Events, Inc., released the following statement on September 16th:
“We are sad to announce today that Cuyler Walker, a PFEE Board member and landowner of Plantation Field, has with great regret cancelled our lease for the property on which the Plantation Field International Three-Day Event is held. This is directly due to the attack on the name “Plantation” by Eventing Nation, an equestrian online news journal.
EN and their editors approached the equestrian media and the United States Eventing Association in June, 2020 to state that they felt the name “Plantation” was insensitive to people of color.
Let me explain the history of this property: in the 1930’s Plunket Stewart, who had purchased land in the early twentieth century, allowed the Boy Scouts to use a section of the property to plant hedges and trees. The dictionary defines the word “Plantation” as “an area in which trees have been planted”. Colonial Pennsylvania considered properties less than 100 acres a farm and properties with more than 100 acres a plantation. There is no reference to race in this definition.
The Unionville area is historically a Quaker community. The Quakers were one of the earliest abolitionist groups and fought against slavery. This area was also part of the underground railroad.
On a personal level, PFEE and the Unionville community have long supported Work to Ride, an organization in Philadelphia created with dedication by Lezlie Hiner, that gives disadvantaged, often minority, youth an opportunity to ride. This program has had impressive results with Kareem Rosser, who is an outstanding polo player, and who has taken lessons from PFEE Board member and Olympians Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton.
The editors of Eventing Nation have aggressively led the campaign against the name Plantation Field. Consequently the USEA and USEF have since notified PFEE that they would not use the word “Plantation” in any media or articles. Plantation Field Equestrian Events, Inc. is the legal name of the Corporation and we will not accept censoring of our First Amendment rights.
I want it clearly stated that as a member of the USEA since 1960 and as a longtime resident of Unionville, I find it incredibly sad that the staff at a publication who do not understand the history of the area are directly causing the end of one of the best and most consistent events in the country.
A major factor in Cuyler’s decision was his feeling that he and his family were being called racist. He will not have his grandparents’ generous support of the Boy Scouts vilified by Eventing Nation and the USEA.
Having spent sixty years supporting the sport of Eventing in every capacity, I am extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership at the National level in dealing with this situation. This event welcomes riders from Elementary to the 4* level at multiple competitions at the local, National and International level each year. It is also local to numerous professional riders including several Olympians. The loss of Plantation Field will be a huge loss to the entire equestrian community.”
Some comments under the EV post since the PFEE announcement include:
“The association of the word ‘plantation’ with enslaved labor is exceptionally strong and persists over centuries, and across every part of the antebellum South, in particular. As such, it is jarring and inappropriate when used in association with a recreational activity.”
“How sad that political correctness in an incorrect way caused the loss of this event. What was accomplished here? More division and polarity.”
“You have cost the Eventing world a major world class facility and these facilities are hard to come by.”
Eventing Nation has also responded with: “The loss of this event is a significant one for our sport. Our intention was to open a discussion, guided by the governing organizations, to make sure diverse BIPOC would be welcomed and included in every area of eventing. We are deeply saddened that the property owner has chosen this path rather than join us in an open discussion about inclusivity as it reflects on the name of this iconic venue.”
Update: The USEA released this statement on Sept 17th:
“Having this historic competition close isn’t the right result for the sport, and the United States Eventing Association (USEA) is working hard to find a solution. The organizer and landowners operate exceptional events on a beautiful piece of land. We are deeply sensitive to the history of the word “plantation” and its connection to slavery; however, this property has no known connections to slavery and was instead named after ‘plantings’ on the property.
We understand that neither the organizer nor the landowners have ever intended to cause any discomfort related to the name of the event and to imply otherwise is a disservice to our organizers, landowners, and our sport. The USEA does not have the ability to require an event to change its name as we are required to carry the US Equestrian (USEF) licensed name of the competition on our calendar of events. However, we are hopeful that an acceptable solution to this issue can be reached.”