Feb 29, 2024

Events A-Z: Bayou Gulch Horse Trials

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, winners of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Championship at the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships at the Colorado Horse Park. USEA/Leslie Mintz photo

The Colorado Horse Park (CHP) in Parker, Colorado, has deep roots in the sport of eventing. Originally known as High Prairie Farms, owner Helen Krieble purchased the property in the early 1990s with one dream: hosting horse trials. That dream took off and for many years High Prairie Farm was host to many eventing competitions. Krieble later donated the ground to Douglas County with the agreement that the land would be used for equestrian sport and the CHP was born.

The CHP continued on with Krieble’s mission of offering top-notch competition to not only Colorado residents but also those who traveled for the destination events that it facilitated, including the 2008 and 2016 North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) and the USEA American Eventing Championships in 2018.

However, due to a change in ownership, the AEC in 2018 was the last horse trial to take place at the CHP— that is until now. With the CHP now under the ownership of Singletree Equestrian LLC, made up of a group of equine veterinarians from Littleton Equine Veterinary Hospital in Littleton, Colorado, the 501c3 non-profit Bayou Gulch Open Space Initiative (BGOSI) was formed with the following mission: to improve, maintain, protect, and steward Bayou Gulch Open Space to educate, support, and promote equestrian sport in Douglas County and beyond.

The Bayou Gulch Open Space is home to the cross-country phase. Photo courtesy of BGOSI

Named after the picturesque Bayou Gulch Open Space, the cross-country phase's historic venue, the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials was born. Its inaugural horse trial will take place Aug. 3-4, 2024, and will offer Starter through Modified divisions for its competitors. Heather McWilliams, organizer of the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials, is excited to see eventing return to Parker and is thankful for everyone who has stepped up to make this possible.

“Our community is small but gritty in Area IX,” she shared. “BGOSI is all volunteers. We received some seed money from Singletree, but fundraising is making this possible. The community is so excited to be back out there, so everyone is pitching in."

So far, through the generous donations of Area IX community members, BGOSI rented a batwing mower last November to begin preparations on the grounds where the cross-country track will go. Singletree Equestrian, LLC, generously donated the existing cross-country jumps on the property, and in collaboration with USEF “R” course designer and builder, Rob Mobley, the jumps are undergoing refurbishment.

Volunteers have been hard at work refurbishing jumps for the 2024 horse trial. Photo courtesy of BGOSI

McWilliams said that none of what they have accomplished so far or hope to accomplish prior to their event this August would be possible without the efforts of the lovers of the sport from the surrounding areas coming together.

“BGOSI and the Horse Trial Organizing Committee are sort of just the guides,” said McWilliams. “The heroes are the members of the community. They really are the true spirit of eventing.”

All three phases of the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials will be held on the beautifully maintained grass, with dressage and show jumping on the flat former hay fields on the property. The cross-country area this year will feature two different opportunities for water complexes, a gentle hill, streams across the property, and paths through some wooded areas that will be later used for more upper-level courses. For this year, the majority of the horse trial cross-country course will be able to be seen on the hillside, making Bayou Gulch a very spectator-friendly event. The event will be a photographer’s dream with Pikes Peak painting a picturesque backdrop.

McWilliams encourages eventers from all over to take the opportunity to travel to Colorado and enjoy a mini-vacation while competing in Parker. The town features ample hotels and restaurants and is only 30 minutes from Denver and 40 minutes to the mountains.

There still is a lot of work to be done in preparation, and McWilliams knows that members of Area IX will continue to show their support of the event in the lead-up. The primary focus for 2024 is to secure funding to continue on with the refurbishing of the current cross-country jumps and the acquisition of new jumps for each level, including the all new Modified course. Sponsorship packages at various levels are available for businesses and individuals to take advantage of and there are several events on the calendar to assist with further fundraising efforts. Because of their 501c3 status, all contributions to BGOSI's efforts are tax-deductible.

USEA/Jessica Duffy photo

The “Bucks for Bayou Benefit” will take place on April 13 and will feature wagon rides to the new cross-country courses, kids activities, and a silent auction. There will also be a combined test on May 11, followed by a clinic with USEA ECP certified coach Cathy Wieschhoff on July 13 and 14.

There are big plans on the horizon for the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials, and everything is being done with growth in mind.

“We are all just excited to have this facility back,” she continued. “We plan to one day host up through Intermediate, which we don’t have anything like that around this region with the exception of Skyline (Mount Pleasant, Utah). Our plan is to add the whole Modified course this year, Preliminary next year, and then in 2026 to add Intermediate.”

For more information on the Bayou Gulch Horse Trials and how you can support this new event, be sure to check out their Facebook page here and their website at bayougulchhorsetrials.com.

The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A­-Z series.

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