For young riders, The Road to Rebecca Farm leads beyond competition

For many young competitors, the chance to contend for top honors on a course such as Rebecca Farm is a dream. Fortunately, for a select few of North America’s elite competitors, these dreams will become a reality in a few short weeks. Celebrating its sixteenth year, The Event at Rebecca Farm, for the first-time ever, will host The 2017 North American Junior Young Rider Championships, known by many as “The Junior Olympics” of eventing. The only one of its kind, this International Federation for Equestrian Sports championship will coincide with The 2017 Event at Rebecca Farm, July 19 to 23.

This marks the first time The North American Junior Young Rider Championships will be held in a place as remote as the Flathead Valley. Previous championships have been located in larger cities such as Lexington, Kentucky and Parker, Colorado, just miles from Denver. But the distance isn’t deterring young riders from hitting the road to Rebecca Farm, according to The Event organizer, Sarah Broussard.

“It’s exciting to see the number of competitors on par with previous years, and proves that Montana truly is a ‘bucket list’ destination for many riders near and far,” Broussard says.

It is ultimately the allure of Montana and The Event at Rebecca Farm that is attracting many riders to the competition, even if it is more difficult to travel here, says Kate Lokey, Director of Programs and Marketing at the United States Eventing Association (USEA).

“It is one of the more expensive events to travel to,” Lokey says, noting that many teams have utilized creative fundraising to foot the $10,000 needed to get their horses, their coaches, their families and themselves flown into the Flathead. But at the same time, she says, The Event and the spirit of comradery riders feel here is unlike any other competition.

“Sarah and her family have done an amazing job with The Event and have created this festival of eventing that draws people in and keeps them coming back,” Lokey says.

It is this festive atmosphere that has Sarah Broussard, once a Young Rider contender herself, looking forward to this year’s competition. “I could not be more excited for the young riders coming to Rebecca Farm,” she says. “In my experience, nothing beats the rush of excitement while on course, and that incredible feeling of support one gets from both your team and those watching. It is an honor to help facilitate that experience for the next generation of young riders.”

It is a thrilling challenge for the young riders as well, considering it can take years of training and immense commitment to qualify.

Most young riders train anywhere from four to ten years in order to compete, according to Lokey. After that, it can then take another year to qualify for competitions such as The North American Junior Young Rider Championships. All of that work is worth it though, Lokey says.

“For many kids, this is the pinnacle of their careers,” Lokey says. “They work really, really hard, and it doesn’t just end there. For the rest of their career, they are referred to as a Young Rider Champion, it becomes a badge of honor.”

Mallory Hogan, a 16-year-old from California, is proud to be making the journey to Rebecca Farm with her horse, Clarissa, to participate in The North American Junior Young Rider Championships. Hogan was first paired with Clarissa in 2014. After years of working her way through various levels of training, Hogan qualified for the Young Rider Championships last year.

“I have grown up watching the older young riders going to championships, so to have the opportunity to make the trip to The North American Junior Young Rider Championships with a horse that I have grown up with is something really special,” Hogan says.

Equally special, according to Lokey, is all the work the Broussard family has done for the eventing community over the years.

“The Broussard family have built [The Event] up in fun, exciting ways,” Lokey says. “[The Event] is so much more than a competition, it is like a vacation, and having Young Riders in with that gives people more incentive to go.”

The North American Junior Young Rider Championships are scheduled to take place concurrently with The Event at Rebecca Farm, July 19 to 23, 2017.

The Event at Rebecca Farm, which celebrates the sport of eventing, is one of North America’s largest equestrian triathlons. Last year, The Event saw more than 10,000 spectators and $5.5 million in economic impact to the Flathead Valley.

Eventing is considered an ultimate test of horsemanship, requiring mastery of a variety of skills. Multiple arenas at Rebecca Farm give spectators up-close views of the action, and for the third year in a row there will be an international-level CCI 3-star division, an important qualifier for Olympic-caliber competition. The Event is one of a small handful of eventing competitions in the country with an advanced CCI 3-star course.

Of course, The Event offers plenty of activities for families to enjoy off the course. This year, The Event will have an expanded Kid Zone and “Pony Up” Experience, where kids can take free Horsemanship 101 classes and learn all about The Event’s four-legged friends, in addition to world-class shopping in the Art & Trade Fair and delectable eats from The Event’s many food vendors. Admission and all Kid Zone activities are free of charge.

The Event is run by Montana Equestrian Events, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created for the public good. It accepts $10 parking donations to go toward the Halt Cancer at X campaign created in Broussard’s memory. Halt Cancer at X is a national initiative dedicated to spreading awareness about breast cancer, researching the disease and finding a cure.

To get to Rebecca Farm, from the junction of U.S. Highways 93 and 2, drive two miles north on Highway 93 to Reserve Loop and turn left to head west for two miles, and then travel south on W. Springcreek Rd. The entrance is three-quarters of a mile on the right.

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The Event at Rebecca Farm presented by Montana Equestrian Events is held every July in Kalispell, Montana. The largest equestrian triathlon in the United States, The Event is also considered to have some of the world’s finest scenery. Each year it draws hundreds of riders of all levels, from amateur to Olympians.

Rebecca Farm features ten courses ranging from novice to Olympian qualifier, which were originally developed by world-renowned course designer, Mark Phillips. In 2012, Scottish equestrian Ian Stark redesigned the Rebecca Farm courses. Known for his immense contributions to Eventing, Stark has won multiple Olympic medals and was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

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