As the October 15 entry closing date nears for the Galway Downs International Horse Trials, plans are ramping up to make it a season finalé to remember for contenders and fans alike.
Important qualifying scores are on the line in the CCI-L 4/3/2* divisions, with equally intense national level competition through Beginner Novice. The agenda includes the popular Training Three-Day division, which preserves eventing’s origins by staging all of the discipline’s original endurance day phases: roads and track, steeplechase, more roads and track, and cross-country.
“Everyone who has the opportunity to do a Training Three-Day should do it,” urges Bec Braitling, a professional who won the division last year aboard Dassett Ricochet. It was an important stepping stone for that now 7-year-old horse. He went on to a winning year, including victory in the Woodside CCI2*-S earlier this month. Braitling promotes the division for riders, too. “I encourage all my riders to do it because there’s so much to think about: there’s a lot involved.”
The competition takes place October 31-November 3 at the continually updated and improved Galway Downs Equestrian Center. The tournament action is woven throughout the 242-acre property’s special event spaces. Shady trees, eco-friendly water features, and lush grass expanses are appealing aesthetics that reflect function-oriented facility-wide upgrades that matter most to equestrians. The combined result is an equestrian sport stage that’s drawing a rapidly growing base of exhibitors and fans. Its location in the heart of Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country enhances its destination event appeal.
Intense Fun for All
The intensity of the competition is matched only by the intensity of the fun. Two new tented “Oasis” areas on the cross-country course - near the tower and the water complex - will have snacks, soft drinks, local beers, and Galway Spirits cocktails, plus live music as the soundtrack to horse and riders galloping over ditches, banks, and ponds. The international divisions run the course created by Canadian international designer Jay Hambly on Saturday, and the national horse trials divisions unfurl on Sunday. All divisions will conclude with an awards presentation in the Grand Prix Arena. Cash and other prizes presented then are courtesy of generous event sponsors Devoucoux, Auburn Labs, and Parker Equine Insurance.
The on-course Oasis hotspots are in addition to Wednesday’s night welcome party and Saturday night’s shindig in the Grand Prix Arena VIP tent, with good food, adult beverages, dancing, and more live music. Throughout the weekend, livestreamed cross-country action will display on big screens in the on-course and arena-adjacent VIP areas.
Organizer Robert Kellerhouse is thrilled to merge top-notch equestrian competition with top local musical performances. The weekend’s line-up includes the Americana music of Lee Koch and the Tim Walsh Band, plus Tony Suraci performing as the Highwayman with spot-on covers of hits by that group’s members: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. A Saturday afternoon concert on the Sycamore Tree Field anchors the weekend’s musical festivities.
A ticket to the Wednesday and Saturday parties comes with each Galway Downs entry, and additional tickets, including VIP weekend packages, are available for friends, family, and fans to join in on the fun. Ten-dollar parking includes free admission, plus the event program and access to arena side bleachers and the Oasis entertainment.
A bustling vendor area and food trucks with delicious offerings enhance the weekend’s excitement.
Temecula businessman Ken Smith has owned the beautiful 242-acre Galway Downs property for nine years now. He notes that it’s undergone more improvements in the last 18 months than it has throughout the whole of his ownership. Competitors are itching to get their steeds into brand new FEI-Stabling brought by Australian Olympic eventer Clayton Fredericks. Making its debut on the West Coast at the Galway Downs International, the Clearspan® covered stables have generously-sized, single row stalls separated by a 13’ aisle. Air circulates freely and horses can see each other but not be in contact, for safe socialization. Plusses include a 50-amp power supply for each 20 stalls, LED lighting and HDPE walls that clean easily for biosecurity and are kick and chew resistant.
Footing improvements are an ongoing highlight, in part made possible by the venue’s new role hosting international dressage with the West Coast Dressage Festival competition and the first-class hunter/jumper series from Nilforushan Equestrian Events. Stadium jumping takes place in arenas footed with fresh geo-textile and sand footing.
And cross-country is tended year-round by resident course builder and designer Bert Wood, with the help during the International of Canada’s Jay Hambly. Eventers count on Galway Downs to lead the way in cross-country creativity, challenge, and safety, notes Hambly. The international course designer is fresh from serving on the design team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics test event and looks forward to working with his longtime Galway partner, Bert Wood. “There’s lots to play with,” Hambly notes of what’s in store for contenders. “Bert has built a multitude of water obstacles and lots of mounds and bumps, and there are trees everywhere! Galway has always set the standard on the West Coast.”
Galway Downs’ final international event of 2019 will conclude on a romantic note. When international contenders Helen Bouscaren and James Alliston finish competing on Sunday, they’ll transform into bride and groom and head out to a pre-determined spot on cross-county to capture the sunset and their sentiments in front of friends from the eventing circuit.
Enter: www.evententries.com, or USEA’s X-Entry at https://services.useventing.com/Services/Login.aspx
Ticket availability ranges from free daily general admission with $10 parking, to VIP Patrons Passes, which include reserved ringside tented seating, breakfast, lunch and beverages Thursday through Sunday.
More information: www.galwaydowns.net.
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