Remembering Becky Broussard

By Beacon Staff

The Event at Rebecca Farm last July attracted roughly 500 competitors and 20,000 spectators. Days beforehand, 18 horses arrived on a charter flight. The buzz surrounding The Event began weeks earlier and didn’t fade away until well after the competition was finished. In every regard, it was, once again, a remarkable scene for Kalispell.

Over the past decade, Flathead Valley residents have become accustomed to the annual summer grandeur and excitement that accompanies The Event at Rebecca Farm, one of the most renowned equestrian eventing competitions in the nation.

Kalispell may seem an unlikely destination for such a gathering, but it made perfect sense to Rebecca “Becky” Broussard, who founded The Event in 2001. Broussard loved eventing and she loved the Flathead. So, she figured, why not create a world-class equestrian triathlon right in her backyard?

Broussard died after a battle with cancer on Christmas Eve at the age of 68. She is remembered not only for her efforts in putting Kalispell on the global eventing map, but for her far-reaching influence in the equestrian community as a whole.

“She is, hands down, the most important person in eventing in the Western United States and arguably the most important person in eventing in the entire nation,” U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) President Kevin Baumgardner said in a Chronicle of the Horse magazine article this past summer.

Broussard was born in Jeanerette, La., on February 17, 1942. She earned her nursing degree in the late 1970s from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind. and worked as a nurse in Henderson, Ky. until she moved to Anchorage, Ky. She later moved to Mandeville, Jamaica where she worked in hospice.

Indeed, Broussard dedicated much of her life to helping humans, but she also cared deeply about horses. She was particularly fond of eventing, which is an equestrian triathlon consisting of dressage, cross country and show jumping.

Broussard was also active in equestrian groups. She was a board member of the U.S. Equestrian Team, a trustee on the Endowment Foundation of the USEA and member of the Board of Governors and Executive Committee for the USEA.

Over the years, she became one of the most well-known advocates of equestrian eventing in the country. As she grew more intrigued with the West, Broussard helped bring the sport to greater prominence in the region. Then the founding of The Event at Rebecca Farm in 2001 permanently placed the Western United States on the world’s eventing map.

The Event at Rebecca Farm has been steadily growing since its inception. Last year’s event, held July 22-25, drew dozens of the highest-level eventing horses in the nation. Some of them arrived on the charter flight at the Glacier Jet Center.

Rebecca Farm was one of only 12 HSBC/Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Cup stops in the nation, putting Kalispell’s name side by side with the likes of Sydney, Australia, Haras du Pin, France and Schenefeld, Germany.

Karen O’Connor, the 2010 winner, is an example of the elite level of competition The Event draws. O’Connor won the team silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the team bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was a member of the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing. She has been named the U.S. Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year title 10 different times.

Without the vision of Broussard, riders such O’Connor would have never had a reason to step foot in the Flathead Valley.

“My mom touched the eventing careers of so many riders,” her daughter, Sarah Broussard-Kelly, said. “She will truly be missed. But she has left behind a legacy that will live on forever, not only at The Event at Rebecca Farm, but through all of the lives that she has touched that will keep her and her memory alive.”

Broussard is survived by her husband Jerome; daughters Rebecca and Sarah; grandchildren Lorraine and Raymond Nicholson, Tommye and Alexander Kelly; brothers Barry Shaw and John Chaney; sisters Rosemary Thomas and Mildred Shaw; uncle Pat Neff; and nieces Jamie Horton, Marcus Shaw, Sam, Emma and Grace Thomas.

Donations in Broussard’s name may be directed to the following charities: United States Eventing Association Endowment Trust (USEA, 525 Old Waterford Rd. NW, Leesburg, VA 20176 703-779-0440); Shepherd’s Hand Clinic (5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937, Attn: Meg Erickson); or Broussard Family Scholarship (Flathead Valley Community College Foundation, 777 Grandview Drive, Kalispell, MT 59901, Attn: Colleen Unterreiner).