The 20th-century French writer Marcel Proust said real discovery “consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The frontier landscape at Rebecca Farm remains intact 11 years after The Event’s inauguration, but organizers have a new perspective this summer and it’s helping them reshape and rediscover one of the most renowned equestrian triathlons in the world.
The Event at Rebecca Farm enters its second decade this week. Beginning July 12 and running through July 15, nearly 500 riders will compete in three classic elements of equestrianism — dressage, show jumping and cross country. Called eventing, the sport tests both horse and rider through a series of challenges, disciplines and courses.
As always, admission is free, but this year a $5 parking donation will be collected each day to support Rebecca Farm’s new “Halt Cancer at X” initiative. Named after an aspect of dressage, the new initiative will raise money for breast cancer research in memory of The Event’s founder, Rebecca Broussard. Broussard passed away while battling breast cancer in late 2010. Her daughter, Sarah Broussard Kelly, holds the reins of The Event as its chief organizer and wanted to expand its influence to help those battling the widespread disease.
“(The Event) is a really big deal in the eventing world, but to the world itself we’re just another horse show,” Kelly said. “I wondered how could we take this event that is so important to so many people and let it be important to the whole world.”
Competitors have also been soliciting pledges for “Halt Cancer at X.” A stenciled pink ribbon emblazoned across their horses during competition this week will identify those who raised money. A percentage of the proceeds from the auction on Saturday will add additional funds to the campaign.
Since its first year in 2001, The Event has established itself as the largest and one of the best equestrian triathlons in the U.S.
“I have been competing internationally for two decades across 27 countries and Rebecca Farm is the best venue I have ever been to in the world,” said renowned American rider Karen O’Connor.
Olympians like O’Connor frequently travel to Kalispell for the four-day event, although this year the London Olympics has detoured a handful of regular competitors from attending Rebecca Farm’s hallmark competition.
Still, the field is maxed out with riders of all ages and skill levels. That’s been the goal from the beginning, showcasing talent in the West, whether it’s a young up-and-coming rider or an experienced one who never had a competition nearby.
“Mom’s vision was to create a showcase event in the western United States for western riders, and that is 97 percent of our entries,” Kelly said. “We’ll get the occasional person who comes from the other side of the river, but for the most part it’s us westerners.”
Staying true to her mother’s vision, Kelly continues to evolve the event on the field. Captain Mark Philips designed the intricate, world-class cross country course the last 10 years. His work is rivaled by few, if any. This year a new designer — Scottish Olympian Ian Stark — has rearranged the course and expanded its scope into new sections of Rebecca Farm. A member of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame and a two-time Olympic silver medalist in eventing, Stark completely turned the Rebecca Farm course around. He also included new features for different skill levels and added new paths through the land’s lush wheat fields.
“It was nice to be able to have someone with a new set of eyes to look at everything,” Kelly said.
While riders will rediscover a new cross country course this week, other iconic aspects remain. The jumps built by Bert Wood and Matt Langliers that look like massive trout, moose, rattlesnakes, beavers and water dragons are intact. The exciting “Key Hole” — a hole of brush hanging from a frame that riders in the advanced and three-star divisions must jump through — has been placed in a new water location that’s sure to be spectacular for everyone in attendance. Flowers still decorate the entire acreage.
One of Kelly’s passions has been the long-format division, which tests riders and horses through a classic four-phase competition. Rebecca Farm is one of the few places to still offer riders a chance to compete, and this year a new novice division has been included.
“As we move into our second decade, we look forward to taking The Event to even higher levels and continue to build upon the vision of my mother,” Kelly said. “I’m excited for so many people to join us for a new decade on a brand new course.”
To access Rebecca Farm, from the junction of U.S. highways 93 and 2, travel two miles north on Highway 93 to West Reserve Drive and go west two miles to Springcreek Road, then south on Springcreek. The entrance is 3/4 mile on the right.
For a complete schedule of events visit rebeccafarm.org.
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