The hub of West Coast equestrian activity spins full tilt as international competition segues from dressage to three-day eventing with the Galway Downs International Horse Trials. The action runs Thursday, March 30 – Sunday, April 2 in Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country.
An unprecedented 320-plus entries, with a strong international and Advanced field, assures super sport. The international divisions start with dressage on Thursday. Friday afternoon, the CCI division show jumping unfurls in the Grand Prix Arena with a buzzing crowd in the VIP Pavilion and cheers from fans all around the showcase stage.
Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country track will determine the final standings on Saturday, for the upper levels, while Allesandra Allen-Shinn is creating tracks for Beginner Novice through Preliminary.
The inaugural Parker Equine Insurance Top Amateur Award in the CCI2* puts a cherry atop the prize giving ceremonies this year. Ride On Video is livestreaming the International for those who can’t come out in person.
Eye Opener for An East Coaster
Aside from one vacation visit to California, veteran 4* eventer Missy Miller had not been to the Golden State before running her own Quinn in the CCI3*-L at Galway Downs last November. The professional rider and trainer is based in Aiken, South Carolina, and came west at the urging of her coach Tamie Smith.
As a key contributor to Team USA’s silver medal the World Equestrian Games last fall, Tamie walks her talk that a West Coast base can launch global success.
Missy is glad she took Tamie’s advice to send Quinn out West for a while, and to fly in to compete him herself when possible. “The community is smaller out there, but the caliber of riding and horses is really high,” the East Coaster says. “I was so happy with my dressage score,” said Missy after competing at RamTap in Fresno earlier this month. “And then I realized, ‘Dang! You are all so competitive out here!’”
Missy and Quinn hold their own. They finished 5th in the 3*-L last fall.
“I am so impressed with the entire Galway Downs venue,” the rider continues. “Clayton Fredericks’ courses, the arenas, the galloping tracks. Everything was just great!” She and Quinn are prepping for a 5* debut at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day in late April, and she expects this outing to be an ideal set-up.
The value of competing throughout North America – at different venues, over different terrains, in different atmospheres — is part of Robert Kellerhouse’s passionate vision for US success on the international stage. “The truth is, you have to compete all over the place to be a serious rider,” asserts the Galway Downs organizer. That’s why he and his team have built a reputation for staging world-class events that test and advance the skills of all their competitors.
In true California spirit, a good time is also guaranteed with exhibitor parties and activities that capitalize on the community’s warm and welcoming vibe.
Galway’s goals are exponentially accelerated by a unique partnership with Ali and Francie Nilforushan’s Equisport Events. The hunter/jumper event organizers have provided transformational help with and investment in footing and arenas – competition and warm-ups – and various exhibitor amenities.
The result brings ongoing, cutting-edge improvements to a venue steeped in equestrian traditions and managed by a proactive team focused on long-term growth.
“We need quality competitions like Galway all over the country,” notes Bobby Costello, the USEF’s technical director and eventing chef d’equipe. “One thing riders always care the most about is the quality of the footing. The improvements Galway has made with the all-weather arenas and the meticulous care of the cross-country tracks make it a great place to get our horses ready.”
Veteran course builder Rob Mobley builds all over the country and appreciates Galway’s commitment to updating courses and obstacles regularly. “We’re always building new inventory – with modern shapes and more spreads. Robert (Kellerhouse) encourages that and, the more inventory we have, the easier it is to make changes to the course.” Along with meeting safety standards, the fences must be up to spec in each division, he notes. “That’s how everyone gets prepared to move up to the next level.”
Bobby Costello will be on the look-out for tomorrow’s Tamie Smiths.
Like 2008 individual Olympic Silver Medalist Gina Miles and 2004 Olympic Team Bronze Medalist Amy Tryon, “Tamie has done so much for her sport in this geographic area, and for the Team and the sport as a whole.”
Along with helping Tamie tune up, Bobby will observe and work with riders on various USET training lists and radar screens – and not just the veterans. “It’s important for me to get familiar with the next generation of riders coming along,” he says. “Anyone from the up-and-coming young riders to the young professionals could be on the cusp of having a breakthrough.”
Eye Witness to the Evolution
Sport supporter Donna Parker of Equine Insurance has enjoyed a front row seat to Galway Downs’ growth.
“It has been incredible to have been a longtime sponsor of Galway Downs and watch the venue grow over many decades into a truly world-class venue. In addition to our Gold and Silver sponsorship of Galway Downs, I feel privileged this year to be able to present the inaugural Parker Equine Insurance Top Amateur Award in the CCI2* at both the March and November International events to highlight the incredible adult amateurs in the sport.
“As an amateur rider myself, this award is very near and dear to my heart. I am thrilled to be able to continue supporting the sport we all care about so deeply. We look forward to seeing everyone this week and cheering on all the competitors!”
Star Studded Cast
Speaking of Tamie Smith, she and her World Championships Team Silver partner Mai Baum headline the CCI4*-S field of 13 contenders that includes three other Tamie-piloted stars – Danito, Soliguayre California and Elliot V.
Helen Alliston is in the CCI3*-S hunt with her 2022 $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final title in tow. Her Advanced Finals reserve champ (and 3rd and 4th) husband James Alliston saddles four CCI horses, including Nemesis in the 4*-S.
USEA Intermediate Championships title holder Tommy Greengard reps the young professional ranks, campaigning four horses. They include 2022’s highest scoring 5-year-old champion, the Zangersheide gelding That’s Me Z, crowned last fall at Twin Rivers Ranch.
The world will be well represented. Two-time Olympian Lauren Billys brings Puerto Rico into the picture, with two up-and-coming unicorns. Canada and Australia fly flags, too, and riders from all regions of the West are here in force.
Volunteers & Sponsors
Volunteers and sponsors are the lifeblood of equestrian competition.
On the volunteer front, a variety of positions are open. Many roles require zero prior experience and all provide the reward and fun of contributing to something special. Many feature a free front-row seat to this always exciting competition.
Land Rover Mission Viejo
Animal Health Solutions, Inc.
Revitavet Therapy Systems
Ride On Video
Tina Fitch Photography