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Season of the Event

Horse trials action heats up in SoCal, attracts top talent

From Horsetrader staff reports - March 21st, 2013 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

TEMECULA – When the three-day Galway Winter Horse Trials wrapped up Feb. 3, it really marked a beginning — of the Area VI winter-spring season, that is.

Successive Southern California competitions at Twin Rivers, Copper Meadows, then back to Galway for this weekend’s International Horse Trials, then on to Twin Rivers for its mid-April event illustrate how the region has become a hotbed for the this exciting discipline that combines cross-country, dressage and stadium jumping.

“California right now has got one of the best winter-spring schedules in the nation,” said Robert Kellerhouse, General Manager of the Galway Downs Equestrian Center. “Everyone talks about Florida, and I think Florida is a great option, but if you enjoy California, the season here touches all the best parts of it.”

Amy McCool photo

Barbara Crabo and Over Easy soared to the fastest cross country time of the day and ended the Galway Winter Horse Trials as the Open Intermediate B.

One of the jewels of this blooming winter-spring evening circuit is the Galway Downs International Horse Trials March 28-31. Eventers from the West Coast will be joined by a growing list of transplanted “show birds” who are making the most of the opportunity Southern California provides now to train, compete and set the tone for the balance of the year.

Kellerhouse says entries from the Canada, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming are in town. The sport itself is growing, as interest at Galway events and the other regional ones, too, are up.

“Our Winter Horse Trials had record entries this year,” Kellerhouse said, pointing to a 15 percent rise to 230 horses. “Twin Rivers had record entries — 350 horses and a long wait list. Copper Meadows is running in mid-March for the first time in eight years and has strong interest. Our event this weekend has more entries than we’ve ever had, so one thing is clear — people want to compete.”

One of those is Olympian Jil Walton, a California native who now trains from Jarba Farms in northwest Montana with her husband, Rick Patterson. Walton has about two dozen horses at Galway this winter, Kellerhouse says, and she’ll stay through the Twin Rivers competition April 12-14.

Amy McCool photo

Stephanie Callihan and Compelling Chris tackle the cross country phaseat the Galway Winter Horse Trials.

“We have enjoyed a heck of a lot of support from what I call my snowbirds — the people who are from outside our area like Jil who come down to compete for the winter,” said Kellerhouse. “They go to their winter-spring season down here.”

Among those who started their season strongly at the Galway Winter Horse Trials was Hawley Bennett-Awad, who rode Five O’Clock Somewhere to the Open Intermediate A title with a commanding performance, winning both the stadium jumping and cross country phases and finishing second in the dressage element to Katherine Groesbeck on Oz Proof Of Purchase.

Barbara Crabo rode her Over Easy to the Open Intermediate B title, finsihing with best scores or ties for best scores across the phases. Jennifer McFall and her High Times finished second in the division.

MORE ONLINE: http://bit.ly/303B_Galway

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