Moving Forward at Rebecca Farm

By Beacon Staff

This year something will be missing when Sarah Broussard Kelly begins the “post-mortem” meeting.

When the final competitors and spectators begin to leave, Broussard Kelly will gather with 20 or so organizers and volunteers to assess The Event. What worked. What didn’t. Leading the meeting just like her mother always did, who often jokingly called it the post-mortem meeting, borrowing a term from her nursing profession.

For four days beginning this Thursday, Rebecca Farm will be hosting The Event, an annual equestrian triathlon begun 10 years ago by rider and nurse Rebecca Broussard. In the decade since, the event has received worldwide acclaim as one of the best of its type in the United States and one of only two west of the Mississippi River. But unlike previous years, Rebecca won’t be there.

In December, The Event’s creator lost her decade-long battle with cancer. But Broussard Kelly, Rebecca’s daughter and now the event organizer, said she will continue the tradition her mother created.

“When she started this event she knew she wouldn’t be around forever,” Broussard Kelly said. “(But) she’d be very upset if we didn’t run The Event.”

The Event consists of three equestrian competitions, including cross-country jumping, show jumping and dressage. Starting July 21, more than 450 riders will begin the competition on the 200-acre site, which features eight arenas, 14 cross-country courses and four water jumping courses. According to rider and competitor Sharon White, The Event at Rebecca Farm is one of the best in the country and many riders use it to advance to other events, including the Olympics, being held next year in London.

“You get to compete against the best of the best,” White, who will be coming all the way from West Virginia to participate, said.

According to Broussard Kelly, work on the annual event begins more than a year before the first competitors arrive and Rebecca had already begun organizing for 2011 when she lost her battle with cancer. Suddenly, last December, Rebecca’s daughter at once mourned her mother’s death and continued planning for this year’s competition.

“When I took over I didn’t know where we stood so I had to put more than 18 months of work into six months,” Broussard Kelly said.

With The Event just days away, Broussard Kelly said the workdays were getting longer as the loss of her mother was becoming more palpable.

“It’s been very tough for everyone. It’s been six months, but it’s probably more emotional now than it was in December,” she said. “This event was her dream.”

Frank Sweeney, a rider and volunteer from Whitefish, agreed this year would be a little different, but also sees it as a tribute to Rebecca’s legacy.

“It’ll be bittersweet to be there without her,” Sweeney said. “She drew people to her and to this event and people will honor her by coming.”

Broussard Kelly agreed.

“It’s definitely hard to not have her here,” Broussard Kelly said.

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