The property owner of Plantation Field, a renowned site used for qualifying United States Equestrian Federation and United States Eventing Association trials, terminated his lease with Plantation Field Equestrian Events, Inc. (PFEE) over concerns raised by an equestrian blog about the property name containing “racist connotations.”
According to Horse Sport, the property in Unionville, Pennsylvania has been used for decades for “nationally-recognized USEA/USEF horse trials and three starter trials each year, plus jumper and dressage shows.”
President of PFEE, Denis Glaccum, announced the lease cancellation in a statement Wednesday saying the letter by Eventing Nation (EN) editors caused the property owner to sever the contract over fears that “he and his family were being called racist.”
“We are sad to announce today that Cuyler Walker, a PFEE Board member and landowner of Plantation Field, has with great regret canceled 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,” Glaccum said.
“The editors of Eventing Nation have aggressively led the campaign against the name Plantation Field,” he added.
Glaccum pointed out that the name “plantation” actually found its roots in a tree-planting campaign on the property by the Boy Scouts. He also noted that the Unionville community has a strong abolitionist history due to the Quaker presence in the area and that PFEE has “long supported” Work to Ride, a program that “gives disadvantaged, often minority, youth an opportunity to ride.”
“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,” Glaccum said.
In the original letter posted to their website, EN wrote that there were significant issues with the name of the field and event and that they felt the need to speak up as a result of the “collective realization of how little we have done as a society to combat systemic racism.”
“Asking people of color to come visit, to spectate, volunteer, or compete, at a place called Plantation is insensitive at best and works against our efforts to implement more diversity in the sport,” the letter states.
Despite acknowledging that “the people associated with this event never had any objective to offend with the event’s name” and that the authors of the letter, labeling themselves “allies of a diverse community,” urge the organization to consider a name change. The authors cited recent examples such as the Washington Football Team’s decision to remove “Redskins” from their name and the Rhode Island’s decision to remove “Providence Plantations” from its official state documentation to further their point.
“It is not right to always wait for BIPOC to point out issues like this,” the letter explained. “It is the responsibility of white people to also see the issues and put themselves in uncomfortable positions so it is not constantly the burden of BIPOC to need to call out problematic terminology and therefore risk being labeled as troublemakers. If changing the name creates a more welcoming sport for all, then we should make these changes.”
The media outlet also announced their decision to remove any reference of the word “plantation” in their coverage of the event. In response, Glaccum told the outlet they were “not welcome to attend nor cover the event,” and the group responded that they would regretfully “be honoring that directive.” USEA and USEF also announced that they would not be using 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,” Glaccum said.