Jun 29, 2017

USEA Events A-Z: Arrowhead Horse Trials

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff
amie Gilbert rides Let’s Polka on the cross-country course, built by Bert Wood, at the 2009 Arrowhead Horse Trials in the wide open spaces and under the “big sky” of Billings, Montana. David Ramsay Photo.

Located in Billings, Montana (Area VII), Arrowhead Horse Trials is one of only two events in the state. The event just ran this past weekend with 73 entries from Intro to Preliminary (and a few Future Event Horse entries as well!) Check out the results from the 2017 event.

Arrowhead Horse Trials first appeared on the USEA calendar in 2001. Originally held in August, the event is now held annually in June at the Warfield Equestrian Park, 120 acres in Billings, Mont. initially belonging to Don Warfield, a local rancher.

It is only fitting that the score collectors ride Western in Montana! Photo courtesy of WarfieldPark.org.

“Don had contacted me regarding the use of his property for an equestrian park,” explained Christy Lovegrove, a key player in Montana’s eventing scene. “He had learned of the struggles endured by the Big Sky Equestrian Association (BSEA) in its quest for open land to build a cross-country course. Don was sympathetic to the club’s plight and enthusiastic about a positive use for a 120 acre plot separated from his main ranch land on Alkali Creek Road.”

When Don died in 2004, the land was donated to Warfield Equestrian Community Center, Inc. (WECC), a 501c3 non-profit corporation. The Board of Directors of WECC, Inc., a few unpaid volunteers, is responsible for the administration of the Warfield Equestrian Park. The Board works to keep Warfield Equestrian Park open and available to riders for schooling, competition, and recreational purposes.

Erica Seas and Jamborandi jumping the Martha’s Masterpiece fence in a clinic in 2007. David Ramsay Photo.

Arrowhead Horse Trials was named so because of the collection of arrowheads found on the property, proving that the land had once served as favored hunting grounds by Native Americans. “Bored younger brothers of horse loving sisters found unexpected excitement when Don would provide them with “dinosaur gullet stones” easily found on the property,” said Lovegrove.”

“Arrowhead Horse Trials fills a unique niche in the vast rural region of Montana,” said Beth Bales. “The next closest cross-country course is 350 miles west in Missoula. The closest recognized events are in Gillette, Wyoming (Area IX), and Kalispell, Montana (Area VII). Arrowhead draws competitors from Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Washington and Colorado.”

Why give out ribbons when you can award belt buckles? Photo courtesy of Arrowhead Facebook.

“Our event is small, friendly and affordable—a great way for new competitors to the sport to experience their first time out in a supportive environment, as well as seasoned competitors to compete at a challenging level,” continued Bales.

Warfield Equestrian Park has permanent stabling on the grounds, and the ability to add covered stalls for the Arrowhead event. Dry camping is available, and the amenities of Billings are a short drive away.

Julie Goodwin rides Bar Tab through the water at the 2011 Arrowhead Horse Trials. David Ramsay Photo.

The natural terrain of Warfield Park adds additional questions to the cross-country course, originally designed by Bert Wood and now by David Koss and Alessandra Allen-Shinn. “The ever-evolving jumps blend with the natural beauty of the high plains of Montana,” said Bales. “It’s easy to “keep your eyes up” over jumps here – there is so much to see on the horizon!”

In a 2012 profile of Arrowhead Horse Trials which appeared in Eventing USA, Erica Seas, then co-organizer of the event wrote: “You will not see many English saddles in Billings, Montana. The most rugged of cowboys still call Billings home; Stetsons, tight jeans, and dirty boots are common supermarket attire. Here, diesel trucks are safely left unlocked and running in winter parking lots. Cattle outnumber people and our expansive skies and endless high plains evoke wild frontier. It is horse country, to be sure, and rodeos, cutting horses, and reining competitions abound; but just try finding a Sprenger WH Ultra loose ring snaffle or that perfect set of spurs locally (you know, the ones without the rowels).”

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

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