Sports

Celebrating 30 Years of Eventing in Kalispell

As The Event at Rebecca Farm returns for another year, it looks back at its history and role in the rise of a niche equestrian sport in the Western U.S.

When sanctioned eventing first came to Kalispell 30 years ago, the equestrian sport had few competitions in the Western United States. Today, as the sport has risen across the region, The Event at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell stands out as one of the largest eventing competitions in the country.

Eventing is an equestrian triathlon sport that comprises a dressage competition, a cross-country course and show jumping. In the U.S., it has traditionally been rooted in the East Coast.

“The East Coast, or just East of the Mississippi, that was the eventing mecca,” said Sarah Broussard, the organizer of The Event at Rebecca Farm. “You had to compete in the East, because that’s where everything was.”

Over the past few decades, however, Broussard said it has become more popular in the West. Now, The Event at Rebecca Farm, which will take place from July 24 to July 28, draws more than 10,000 spectators each year, and several other eventing competitions have also started in the West more recently.

The rise of eventing in the Flathead Valley began in the late 1970s, when a small riding group called the Flathead Valley Hunt Club fashioned a makeshift cross-country course in the backyard of Pat Young, another local rider. The group began to hold informal eventing competitions on Young’s land.

In 1978, they received permission to build a course on land donated to the county by rancher Ivan Herron, which is modern-day Herron Park. After several years there, the group built a professional course in the park. On this newly designed course, the Herron Park Horse Trials began in September 1984.

Over the years, the trials grew larger and more popular, and in 1989 the competition was recognized by the United States Combined Training Association. This marked the first year of officially sanctioned eventing in the Flathead Valley.

The trajectory that led to The Event as it is today began when Rebecca Broussard and her family moved to the Flathead Valley in the 1980s. Rebecca’s daughter, Sarah, began to compete in the Herron Park Horse Trials, and in 1990, Rebecca Broussard took over organizing the event. Under her direction, the trials grew, adding a new course and attracting prestigious riders.

Broussard began to look for a venue that would allow the event to continue to expand. In 2001, the Broussard family bought Rebecca Farm. They constructed five cross-country courses within a year, and the inaugural The Event at Rebecca Farm was held in 2002. Rebecca Broussard continued to oversee the competition as it became a world-class equestrian competition.

Sarah stayed involved in the sport, and began to move into the planning of The Event in her late teens. When Rebecca Broussard died of breast cancer in December of 2010, Sarah took over organizing the competition.

Since coming under Sarah’s direction, The Event at Rebecca Farm has grown even further, playing a role in the rise of eventing in the West. Starting with about 30 competitors at the initial Herron Park Horse Trials, the event now hosts approximately 650 riders. It also includes a shopping fair with over 90 vendors, a kids zone and food concession stands.

The competition’s growth, Broussard said, has been a natural process.

“The Event has its own energy and its own momentum,” Broussard said. “It’s kind of like The Event knows what it needs to do.”

For more information about The Event, visit www.rebeccafarm.org.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.