The Event Turns 21

Kalispell’s world-class equestrian facility prepares to host the The Event at Rebecca Farm this week

By Micah Drew
Competitor at the Event at Rebecca Farms on July 23, 2021. Beacon file photo

On Sunday afternoon a FedEx cargo plane touched down at the Great Falls International Airport carrying a dozen national caliber four-legged athletes. Twelve horses, loaded three by three on enclosed pallets, flew in from the East Coast and trucked the final 200 miles to Kalispell for the 21st rendition of The Event at Rebecca Farm. 

“This is the biggest East Coast contingent we’ve had at The Event in the last decade,” said Sarah Broussard, owner of Rebecca Farm and event manager for the largest equestrian triathlon in the West. “We had a few new East Coast riders for last year’s event and it really re-ignited the interest of top-tier riders to venture west for this year’s competition.”

For a competition as large and as prestigious as The Event, which routinely draws around 600 competitors, garnering a competitive field that spans coast to coast — as well as international riders — can be difficult. 

“It’s hard to get people to come out here. It’s an end-of-the-line destination venue, nobody just travels through Kalispell,” Broussard said. “The individual relationships are the biggest draw. I go around in person and tell people they need to come, bring the family, take a few extra days and explore the region. I’ve always felt that once you get them to come, they’ll be back and they’ll bring their friends.”

Those individual relationships were instrumental in the equine airlift this year. Brothers Rob and Chris Desino from New York experienced The Event for the first time in 2021 and were blown away by the experience. 

“We are in awe of the quality of the event, the hospitality from the organizers and the strength of predominantly West Coast riders,” Chris Desino said in a press release. “Being from the East Coast, we wanted this opportunity to be more accessible for top riders who couldn’t typically make the long trek.”

The Desinos established a grant to help bring riders from across the country without having to submit their steeds to more than 30 hours in a horse trailer. 

In addition to a boosted field from the East Coast, Broussard said this year’s competition will include nearly 150 Canadian riders who had been subject to COVID restrictions for the last two summers and were unable to attend. 

“They’ve been chomping at the bit because they really love coming here,” Broussard said. 

Competitor at the Event at Rebecca Farms on July 23, 2021. Beacon file photo

The Event at Rebecca Farm evolved from a local equestrian competition known as the Herron Park Horse Trials that started in the 1980s. Sarah Broussard first discovered the sport as a 10-year-old, but there were few competitions in the region to travel to, so her mother, Rebecca Broussard, got involved with the Horse Trials to grow the local opportunities. In 2002 the Broussards found the 640-acre property west of Kalispell and created their own course to host competitions. 

Eventing can be described as an equestrian triathlon that comprises three disciplines: dressage, cross country and show jumping. Dressage is akin to a ballet and demonstrates the relationship between horse and rider while they perform a series of movements at various speeds. In show jumping, horses and their riders navigate a series of obstacles through a course. As it is usually the final event, jumping is considered a true stamina test for horses that have been competing for days.

In cross country, considered the highlight of an eventing competition, horses are required to ride long distances, negotiate countryside hazards and jump natural obstacles. It also happens to be Broussard’s favorite discipline, both for its difficulty and the way the animals respond to the course.

“It sounds silly, but I can tell whether [a horse] is happy or not, and they love to do cross country,” Broussard said. “Because there’s no way I could make a 1,200-pound animal do something it didn’t want to do. Let’s be realistic, they’re going to put their foot down and not do it.”

Rebecca Farm has a four-mile cross country course that features more than 150 obstacles and five water complexes. The course is internationally known for the unique artistry of some obstacles, which often pay homage to Western Montana with features such as large wooden trout, cowboy hats and trains. 

As exciting and all-consuming as The Event is, Broussard and the staff at Rebecca Farm won’t have much downtime after the competition ends. At the end of August, Rebecca Farm will host the United States Eventing Association’s American Eventing Championships, only the second time the national championships have been held west of the Mississippi River

“It’s a real compliment to what we do out here. It shows that people at the highest level know it’s a reputable farm and that we run a top-caliber event,” Broussard said. “We’ll have so many new faces across all the levels of competition and, like I’ve said, there’s a high chance those new faces will want to come back. When they do, that’s the highest compliment we can get.”

The Event at Rebecca Farm runs July 20-24 and features a shopping fair, food concessionaires and a kids zone in addition to the main events. Entrance to The Event is free, but a $10 parking donation is suggested to support Halt Cancer at X.

To learn more about The Event at Rebecca Farm visit www.rebeccafarm.org  and be sure to stop by the hospitality tent to find out everything happening each day. 

Competitor at the Event at Rebecca Farms on July 23, 2021. Beacon file photo

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