Mar 22, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Galway Downs Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Bec Braitling and Santana II, winners of the 2017 Galway Downs CCI*. Shelby Allen Photo.

Galway Downs in Temecula, California (Area VI) hosts four events a year: two horse trials that offer Intro through Intermediate levels in February and May, an international CIC3*/2*/1* in late March, and an international CCI3*/2*/1* and Training Three-Day in early November. Both international events also offer Novice through Preliminary horse trials. Galway Downs also hosts a Young Event Horse qualifier at their event in May. Galway Downs is a multi-use facility that hosts dressage and hunter/jumper competitions, one-day unrecognized horse trials, and offers cross-country schooling in a separate area of the property in addition to the USEA recognized events.

The Rancho California Track and Training Center opened in 1968 as a facility where racehorses could prepare to compete at the top racetracks in California. As the years passed and the equestrian industry in the surrounding area changed, the property evolved to cater to sport horses and dressage horses, hunter/jumpers, and eventers began to fill the grounds at what would come to be known as Galway Downs. In 2010, the Smith family purchased the property and began the process of breathing new life into the facility. In recent years, the venue has transformed into not just an equestrian venue, but also a venue for weddings, concerts, and other special events.

Then, following the closure of Hollywood Park and Fairplex Park in late 2013 and early 2014, Galway Downs had the opportunity to reconnect to its roots by transforming back into a training facility for racehorses. In 2015, the racetrack footing, starting gate, and other amenities were fully refurbished and Galway Downs welcomed several racehorse training operations back to the property.

Barbra Crabo competing in the Training Three-Day at the 2017 Galway Downs International Event. Shelby Allen Photo.

The event at Galway Downs evolved from an event that started as a two-day competition in nearby Del Mar in 1996 that then moved to the facility at Galway in 1998 and became the Galway Downs Horse Trials. This year, the Horse Trials is celebrating their 20th anniversary. “We held our first CCI in 1999, and we now offer up to the CCI3* level and have the longest running CCI2* in the country today,” said Organizer Robert Kellerhouse. “We wanted to better serve our region’s riders by providing them opportunities to compete at all levels.”

As a premiere multi-purpose equestrian facility, Galway Downs spans over 240 acres and boasts 400 permanent stalls, a 1-mile race track, 5/8 mile training track, polo field, 11 arenas for training and competition, and 15 miles of trails. The venue is currently completing major upgrades to all the arenas as well. The cross-country course winds all around the property, crossing over the racetrack from infield to outfield and galloping around the perimeter of the grounds. “The venue has five different water complexes in addition to 60 acres of grass for the CCI tracks and Training Three-Day and sandy loamy natural footing that is prepared for each event,” offered Kellerhouse.

Galway Downs is completing renovations to all the arenas. Photo courtesy of Robert Kellerhouse.

“Myself as organizer, Bert Wood as course builder, Dawn Benson as scorer, Dwight Weinberg as farrier, and Paul McClellan as vet have all been part of the team since Galway Downs’ origination and have never missed an event,” said Kellerhouse. “There are so many more who have helped and are continuing to help, and our competitions would be nowhere without our entire team of course builders, volunteers, staff and officials.”

Kellerhouse remarked that one of the hallmarks of Galway Downs is the cross-country courses. “We have great course design that originated with Mike Etherington-Smith, then moved to Ian Stark for ten years and now Eric Winter. He works with Bert Wood, who has been designing at Galway for 20 years. [Wood] and Jay Hambly have been the constant in both working with course designers as well as creating new cross-country features on Galway’s property.” In fact, Kellerhouse said his favorite part of the event is cross-country day.

Ashlyn Dorsey and RF Kinetic competing in the CCI3* at the 2017 Galway Downs International Event. Shelby Allen Photo.

“We want all riders to feel as if the event has been created for them whether they are doing the lowest level or the top level,” said Kellerhouse. “It is our goal to make sure our competitors have a great time, regardless of placing, while still being part of an incredibly competitive sport at our shows."

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

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