Jun 15, 2017

USEA Events A-Z: Aspen Ridge Horse Trials

Emma Ciafone competing at the Aspen Ridge H.T. in 2015. Judi Tobias Photo.

The Aspen Ridge Horse Trials are located in Monument, Colorado and are held each year in mid-July. The event offers Starter, Beginner Novice, Novice and Training divisions.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Robert Schutt, a Colorado Springs orthopedic surgeon bought 35 acres near Monument, Colo. and built a stable, an indoor arena and a cross-country schooling facility for his children, Robert Jr. and Allison, since they were both ardent eventers and Pony-Clubbers.  He even put a steeplechase track in. He had some good course builders come to do the work and had Sally O’Connor out as a coach for the Pony Club. He called the facility Blue Haven.

At the same time, Betty Tukey moved to the area from the Pacific Northwest where she was a well-known clinician and Technical Deleage. She also became involved in Pony Club and began holding a three-day event at Blue Haven as a fundraiser for the Pony Club.

At the time, I was involved both as a competitor and an organizer for Spring Gulch Horse Trials in Littleton, Colo. I also organized the first event, Penrose Horse Trial, at Penrose Equestrian Center in Colorado Springs as a fundraiser for the Bijou Springs Hunt.

After the Pony Club had run the Blue Haven event for a couple of years, they no longer wanted to do so and Betty asked me to take it over.

One thing that was a major factor in the way the event ran was the fact that the facility was only 35 acres, which didn’t leave a lot of room for parking, so the number of competitors we could accommodate was limited to about 60 per day. What we did was to hold two separate events – the Saturday one was for Preliminary, Training and one division of Novice, while on Sunday we had Novice and Beginner Novice.

At about the same time as I took over the event, Dr. Schutt and his family moved to Texas and he sold Blue Haven to Dr. Charles Woodall, a large animal veterinarian specializing in horses. Woodall built his clinic there and changed the name to Aspen Ridge. Since he was also my vet, he asked me to continue to organize the event.

My husband, Larry, had worked with me at Penrose and began to do more at Aspen Ridge too. We then became co-organizers of the event.

Vicky Borelli and Ransom competing in the show jumping at Aspen Ridge H.T. Photo courtesy of Aspen Ridge. 

We kept the event in the same format of two days until about 2007 when several things happened. The price of gas soared. The economy soured and people just didn’t have money to spend on horse events. Also, USEF rule changes, such as requiring licensed course designers, requiring that Preliminary courses be a specific length and requiring drug tests by USEF sanctioned vets, made it too unprofitable to continue with Preliminary, so we decided to drop it and only hold a one-day event.

My husband decided to get his course designer license, which was an important part of being able to keep the event going.  One of our Area’s biggest supporters, Pete Walker, who had worked with course designers like Les Smith and Steve Buckman helped us a great deal.  We built one of Area IX’s first Intro courses and began holding Starter events.

In addition, we put on a schooling two-phase early in the season every year and Dr. Woodall made the course available for schooling. We found our niche in becoming a favorite event for local young riders and others who wanted to learn the sport.

It would be hard to single out any one or two people who have contributed the most over the years, although Pete was exceptional and, since his death a couple of years ago, he is greatly missed. He always loved jump judging our water jump, too.

Nicole Logan was our cross-country steward from the time she was in high school until she left to go to vet school four years ago and I always knew that I never had to worry about anything on that front. We had two exceptional event secretaries in Liz Andrews and Cathy Miller – it was like they knew what needed to be done before I knew.  Also, our scorer, Scott Wehrli, is a true mainstay of the sport at most of the local events and his wife, Carol Jones, is our show jumping steward and handles the catering too. What a treasure they all are.

The thing I look forward to the most about Aspen Ridge each year is to see the course with all the flowers and flags on it and it’s always an exciting moment when you hear the first sound of “horse on course” over the radio.

Take a ride around the 2013 Aspen Ridge Training cross-country course with Kari Crawford-Clay and Super Noah. 

While our facility is small, it’s always well kept up and it’s pretty compact so people can easily watch all three phases. Our cross-country course is pretty rider-friendly and since it is rolling, sandy ground and much of it winds through the trees, it’s a pretty course.  A lot of people have told me that it’s the prettiest course they’ve seen. The property is picturesque; I remember one event where a deer decided to visit the dressage arena during one of the early morning rides!

I want eventers to know that we try very hard to make sure that we run a fun event, and I think we succeed. Many riders come back year in and year out; we must be doing something right.  

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

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