This year marks the 15th anniversary of The Event at Rebecca Farm, which has been showcasing the sport of eventing in Kalispell since 2002 and has evolved into the largest competition of its kind in North America.
Eventing is an equestrian triathlon combining three disciplines—dressage, cross-country and show jumping—and from July 21-24, hundreds of horse-and-rider teams will converge at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell.
The challenge of the sport involves achieving harmony between horse and rider in a dressage test; endurance, courage and confidence on a cross-country jumping course; and precision, agility and technique while jumping over high obstacles at high speed during the show-jumping component.
While the competition has remained steadfast, The Event has made tremendous strides over the past decade-and-a-half.
From The Event’s inception, members of the Broussard family, the owners and operators of Rebecca Farm, were passionate about educating locals on the sport of eventing.
“Twenty-five years ago, not many people in the state of Montana knew that eventing existed,” event organizer Sarah Broussard said. “Horses were involved strictly in Western disciplines — like barrels.”
The Event at Rebecca Farm served as an education in the logistics and love of eventing. The sport exposes the many capabilities of a horse, flooding the West with potential.
Before The Event, there was no place for Flathead competitors to reach that international stage. Consequently, they were forced to travel east to learn, prepare, and compete at the international level. Initially, The Event was a place to foster Western talent.
In 2002, the farm’s first showcase featured only national levels governed by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). These levels were novice, training, preliminary, and intermediate. In that first year, there were approximately 220 competitors. Rebecca Farm provided the space that was needed, and the farm would continue to provide additional stalls and stables in the years to come.
“In that first year, we were still very much under construction, and people were taken aback,” Broussard said.
In 2003, the fields were finished and the courses were fully assembled. The Event added the advanced level, which is the highest national level. But Rebecca Farm didn’t stop there. In the years to come, The Event would transform into an international showcase. As of 2015, it hosts the CCI- 3 Star Division, the second-highest level in the entire sport.
With that, the number of competitors at The Event increases every year. In 2014 the showcase was at capacity with 470 competitors and 100 on the waitlist.
“My dad said the waitlist was unacceptable,” Broussard said. “He told me that we had to get them in.” Rebecca Farm quickly built 80 more stalls and hosted a total of 550 competitors.
“That was a steep learning curve,” Broussard said. “It really took us to another level.”
Now, The Event hosts nearly 600 competitors. They come from throughout the east—states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Florida. All of the states west of the Mississippi are represented. The competitors will be arriving next week.
The Event has not only evolved physically, but it has grown fiscally.
“For years, the community did not realize the intensity of The Event and its economic impact,” Broussard said. “When you bring in 600 competitors, they have to stay, and eat, and buy groceries from somewhere.”
Last year, the Event generated a total of $4.4 million in economic revenue. For a single event, it is the largest economic driver in the Flathead.
“When I go to other events, I champion the valley. I tell people that they’ve got to come, bring the family and spend a week. They won’t regret it,” Broussard said. Most of the competitors in the upcoming Event are returning participants, and the rest have been urged to come through word of mouth.
The farm puts an ample amount of time and effort into cultivating the ideal experience for the competitors, volunteers, and spectators.
“We value all of those different groups of people,” Broussard said. “We know that they are all integral to what The Event has been and what The Event is becoming.”
In 2012, Sarah Broussard founded the Halt Cancer at X initiative to honor her mother, Rebecca Broussard, who died of breast cancer.
The Event displays the intersection of the support from both the Flathead and the eventing community. The initiative, run through The Event, has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for breast cancer. And while the Flathead gives, it also receives—in spades.
“A lot of that money comes back into the [Flathead] community,” Broussard said. “It supports local cancer services, and different programs through the hospital for patients who are newly diagnosed, have been diagnosed, and the families that are dealing with the disease.”
The Event has evolved into an occasion much beyond the sport of eventing.
Broussard is steadfast in her conviction that local volunteers are not only supporting The Event, but also the members of their own community. It has always been about the competitors, but has since expanded to support the Flathead Valley and the cancer community within it.
“The purview of The Event is so vast, there is no way one person could do it.” Broussard said. “It takes a village.”
And Rebecca Farm has every intention of giving back to the village that came forth to help create The Event.