Upper level eventer Doug Payne is among the horsemen exhibiting at the PSJ Aiken Winter Classic at Highfields Event Center. Payne is no stranger to success, having reached the elite level of his sport, but it’s his desire to win and to always keep learning that sets him apart. Payne would like to be known as an all around horseman, and not just an eventer.

The chance to exhibit at the PSJ Aiken Winter Classic is an opportunity riders don’t take advantage of enough, he said.

“Nobody can ever say you’re not going to learn something from coming out,” said Payne, as he was waiting to compete in a 1.15 meter class. “We have a handful of straight jumpers and a number of event horses. In a series of a week, you can probably get half of a season’s worth of show jumping rounds.”

The high number of horse trials, the proximity of the venues and the varied terrain. make Aiken the perfect place to get young horses ready, and they are among the reasons Payne makes the area his winter base of operations. The horseman is based at Misty Hollow Farm in Oldwick, N.J. for the preponderance of the year. Payne considers himself fortunate to be involved in a vocation that allows him to have as much flexibility, and to be in a position where he can be based in Aiken for several months each winter.

“There’s a lot of people that go to Florida, and there’s some great competitors and facilities there, but I think Aiken offers a bit more terrain, and I think the horses benefit from it.”

Payne will have a busy winter, and will more than likely first bring his horses out to compete at the Pine Top Farm Horse Trials, but will also have several horses at the PSJ shows, and he will make a trip to Ocala, Fla., with a Grand Prix horse to compete at HITS Ocala.

One horse Payne rides that bears watching in 2013, is a 10-year-old Holsteiner-Thoroughbred cross that he co-owns with Larry and Amelia Ross, Crown Talisman.

“He finished 4th at the Fair Hill International CCI**,” said Payne. “He was lucky enough to be named to the the national training list (the United States Equestrian Federation 2013 Eventing High Performance Spring Training List). When the training sessions come to town, he’ll be there for sure.”

And with Crown Talisman’s selection to the national training list, Payne will have an opportunity to work with the new U.S. Eventing Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor.

“Something that I know in just speaking with him, is that this has been a goal for him,” said Payne. “It’s been a goal for him for a long time. I know that everything that he’s doing is well thought out. I think he has a very good, analytical approach that will benefit our team greatly.”

The barn also features a certain amount of depth, so there will be a number of horses moving up the levels in the near future.

“We have a couple of really good, promising horses, one that just started preliminary,” said Payne. “We have one that won a boat load last year at preliminary that will be moving up, and a bunch coming.”

Flatwork is extremely important, and can make a difference in a rider’s overall performance, he said.

“I was lucky growing up because my mother had a strong dressage background,” said Payne. “It offers a lot of advantages if it can be perfected. It’s only going to help the jumping. I’m lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had.”

The rider has been able to introduce new fans to the sport of eventing through one of his innovations. Payne’s helmet cam has provided viewing audiences with a unique perspective.

“I have a background in mechanical engineeering,” said Payne, who graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology. “I actually developed the first ones in 2003 and 2004, and used it on NBC in 2005. It’s sort of gone on from there. There’s something in the works right now, I’m partnering with a guy in New York City, Peter Raymond, and potentially within the next year, we’ll have a live feed, where we’ll be able to put it up on Jumbotron, webcast or live TV throughout cross country.”

The horse Payne had worked with for 4 1/2 years, and finished 18th at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event CCI****, was sold this past fall, but the horseman looks back fondly on his experience with Running Order.

“He’s a fabulous horse,” said Payne. “A horse like that comes along once in a while. When you’ve got it, you have to enjoy it. Looking back, I’m torn. He’s not with me any longer, but I know he’s in great hands with William Fox-Pitt. Looking back, there’s nothing I would have changed. He’s offered me a lot of experience, and I’ll be forever indebted to him for it.”

A competitive streak helps fuel Payne’s desire to be the best as the rider hates to lose. Payne holds both a United States Equestrian Federation’s Judge and Technical Delegate license, and believes in improving one’s knowledge and skill set through education. The judges program proved to be extremely beneficial.

“You’re always looking for an edge,” said Payne. “You’re always looking for something to patch up your weaknesses. I would tell anyone, even if they’re not interested in becoming a judge, to just go and audit it. You’ll leave with a tremendous amount as far as the act of judging, but also how to better your competitive riding. It helps knowing what the judges weigh more and less. I got my license when I was 26. When you’re in your mid-20s, you’re searching for ways to get more horses in the barn.”

A personal goal of Payne’s is not to be classified just as an eventer.

“I’d love to be able to show up at a jumper show or straight dressage show, and sort of assimilate, and not be pegged as an eventer,” said Payne.