Jul 27, 2017

USEA Events A-Z: Camelot Equestrian Park Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Rider Brooke Morrison is "Over the Moon in June." Ruby Blevins Photo.

Camelot Equestrian Park in Butte Valley, California (Area VI) hosts one USEA recognized event in June that offers Intro through Preliminary, in addition to two unrecognized events that offer Intro through Training. The Park also hosts hunter/jumper and dressage shows, trail trials, pony club, vaulting, gymkhana, and more. Learn more about Camelot Equestrian Park on their website.

Fifteen years ago, Mike and Connie Ballou bought a 1,600 acre parcel of land 80 miles north of Sacramento in Butte Valley, California with the dream of turning the property into a multi-use horse park for eventing, dressage, hunter/jumper, pony club, trail riding, camping, and to be a place where people could enjoy their horses. Now, Camelot Equestrian Park hosts one USEA recognized and two unrecognized horse trials a year, in addition to numerous other schooling shows, clinics, and equestrian events.

The team at Camelot Equestrian Park already had experience hosting unrecognized horse trials when they hosted their first USEA recognized event in 2015. “At the time when we held our first [USEA] recognized event, we had been holding three unrecognized horse trials per year for about eight years,” said Terry Hilst, Camelot Equestrian Park Horse Trials’ organizer.

Even the judge's booths are Camelot-themed! Susie Heffernan Photo.

“We have a fabulous crew,” said Hilst of the team at Camelot. “The Camelot Equestrian Park Foundation is a non-profit, a 501 (c) 3, and our Board of Directors is a hardcore contributing group of volunteers. Our Executive Director, Connie Ballou, is a graphic designer by trade, so she all the artwork, logos, and programs, and it’s all donated to the Foundation. The Chair of the Board, Lori Allen, works tirelessly year-round on fundraising, grounds keeping, and she’s our scorekeeper.”

Like all events, Camelot relies on volunteers to make it happen. “We have a core of about 75 people that freely donate their time and energy, and it’s all on a volunteer basis,” said Hilst. “Walmart has a program where their employees can earn funds for a favorite charity [by volunteering their time], and one of our volunteers, who works at Sam’s Club, participated in the program. He ended up earning us, in chunks of $250 per 24 hours of volunteer time, a total of $1,500. I also can’t give enough credit to the [Butte Valley] Pony Club, who holds their mounted meetings at Camelot. We host them and in exchange they come out and paint the cross-country jumps, they weed whack, and they plant trees. They have been phenomenal in helping us get going.”

A view of Camelot's cross-country course from the control tower. Photo courtesy of Camelot Equestrian Park's Facebook page.

Camelot Equestrian Park’s cross-country course flows over the gently rolling terrain and offers jumps from Intro through Preliminary level. “We started out with James Atkinson [designing our courses], he did [the course for] 2015 and 2016, and this year John Michael Durr did our course,” explained Hilst. “The cross-country course is now up through Preliminary, thanks to James Atkinson. He did a lot of course building for us. We had purchased a number of our jumps from [Ram Tap, which is now Fresno County Horse Park,] when Bill Burton was getting ready to sell [the property]. Louis Blankenship also built us a lot of jumps, but we really needed James’s touch. James has done so much for the West Coast and he really did help Camelot.”

Camelot offers the Intro level competition as a USEA recognized test at their USEA recognized event, as well as at their unrecognized events. “I think it’s really important [to provide that kind of quality and caliber event for the Intro level]. To me, it’s very important that they be given a variety of jumps within the scope of the level, and that the jumps are appropriate for the level. By the same token, if someone comes to Camelot to ride a Training course, it’s going to be a [proper] Training course, not just a Novice course with one or two tough jumps.”

Camelot Equestrian Park has many impressive cross-country constructions. Susie Heffernan Photo.

In addition to the cross-country course, which is open year-round (weather permitting), the facility also has a galloping track with meter markers, three dressage courts that are set up for use at all times, two arenas with show jumping courses available for schooling, boarding facilities for the Park’s permanent residents, and both stalls and pipe paddocks available for day use.

In addition to $5,000 in prize money and other great prizes for all levels, competitors at Camelot Equestrian Park’s USEA recognized horse trials have the opportunity to win the Passage to Avalon raffle. The raffle ticket sales provide the prize money and the 10 lucky winners of this year’s raffle received free entry and stabling for the 2017 recognized event.

Camelot Equestrian Park also offers a grand prize for the winner of the Camelot Eventing Show Series, which includes both the USEA recognized event as well as their two other unrecognized events. Riders accumulate points over the course of the series and the High Point rider at the end of the series receives a custom saddle. In 2013 and 2014 the award was sponsored by Devoucoux, and in 2015 and 2016 the award was sponsored by Custom Saddlery.

Winners in every division receive money in addition to other great prizes. Susie Heffernan Photo.

While Camelot hosts a number of different equestrian events for all disciplines, it is more than just an equestrian park. “Another focus [of the Foundation] is land preservation in California. [The owners] did not want this land to be turned from an open space for cattle grazing into more residences,” explained Hilst. Camelot Equestrian Park also serves as an evacuation center in case of natural disasters. When the Oroville Dam failed in February, prompting the evacuation of over 180,00 people, and when the Wall Fire burned over 6,000 acres in Butte County earlier this month, Camelot was there to provide a safe place for all affected animals large and small, not just horses. “We’ll take any animal that needs a home during these disasters. We work very closely with North Valley Disaster Group on the evacuation and housing of the animals.”

For anyone who’s considering making the trip to Camelot Equestrian Park Horse Trials, Hilst encourages competitors to “come and enjoy our atmosphere! It’s a very friendly environment. That’s probably the main point of Camelot. The owners have set the tone that Camelot is friendly, and we are willing to do anything we can to make our visitors as happy as possible.”

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

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