Horse Show course designer inducted to Hall of Fame

LAKE?PLACID – Steve Stephens is one of the world’s most respected course designers and has been involved with the Lake Placid Horse Shows for decades.

On Saturday, April 5, Stephens was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame during the annual induction ceremony at the $200,000 American Invitational at its new location at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, home of the Miami Dolphins. Stephens was also the official course designer for that esteemed international competition, as he has been at the Lake Placid Horse Shows many times over the years.

Daniel Marks, VMD and Seamus Brady were also inducted, making a total of 81 horses, riders and officials who have been inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame since it was established in 1987. It is because of their talents, efforts, accomplishments and what they have brought to the sport that the election committee, comprised of some of the nation’s top riders, trainers and officials, voted them for induction.

Stephens started riding in and winning at the grand prix level while still in high school. After a successful career that spanned nearly two decades, he went on to achieve great success as a horse show manager, course designer and proprietor of Stephens Equestrian Designs, one of the world’s most respected companies specializing in the design and manufacture of jumps for competition.

Stephens trained with the United States Equestrian Team and competed from 1968 through 1986. During that time, he won such major events as the Cleveland Grand Prix (1970), American Gold Cup (1971), Grand Prix of Montreal (1977) and American Grandprix Association Championships (1986).

Analyzing courses piqued his interest in building jumps and designing courses. He studied course design under Bert de Nemethy and Dr. Arno Gego and served as an assistant to de Nemethy when he was course designer at the FEI World Cup Final in 1980 in Baltimore and in 1989 in Tampa, as well as at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Stephens was also an assistant to Gego when he was course designer at Aachen in 1996 and 1998 and also to Leopoldo Palacios at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In the 1980s, Stephens emerged as one of the nation’s and the world’s most respected course designers, working dozens of shows such as the Washington International, National Horse Show, Royal Winter Fair, Lake Placid Horse Shows, Winter Equestrian Festival, Devon and the American Invitational for which he has been the only course designer for nearly 30 years.

Stephens has designed courses in Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Mexico, and at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis and 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. He won the award as Course Designer of the Year for two consecutive years in 1981 and 1982, and in 2004 he was certified through the Aachen School of Course Design.

Stephens has served as U.S. Chef d’Equipe five times. His teams won the Nations’ Cup four of those times, most notably the Nations’ Cup World Final in Lanaken, Belgium in 1991. Stephens has also served as manager of some of the nation’s biggest and most significant horse shows including the Winter Equestrian Festival, National Horse Show and Hampton Classic where he served as manager since 1984 and only just announced his retirement in February of this year. He has also been technical delegate at four FEI World Cup Finals (1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002).

In 1992, Stephens opened Stephens Equestrian Designs, which provides jumps to dozens of the nation’s most prestigious events including the Lake Placid Horse Shows, Winter Equestrian Festival, American Invitational, Devon Horse Show and Hampton Classic. His unique ability to combine artistic design that can represent the specific characteristics of a particular horse show with the challenges that a course designer will want to present have set him apart and made his jump business one of the most successful in the world.

Stephens was also honored with the United States Hunter Jumper Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

The 45th annual Lake Placid Horse Shows, presented by Sea Shore Stables, LLC, will host three weeks of horse show competition this year for the first time, running June 24 to July 13. New footing will be installed in all dirt rings – including both hunter rings, the jumper annex and all warm-up rings – with the horse shows’ all-grass Richard M. Feldman Grand Prix Field remaining the same.