Apr 05, 2018

USEA Events A-Z: Golden Spike Horse Trials

By Sharon Holmstrom - Golden Spike Horse Trials
Photo courtesy of the Golden Spike Horse Trials.

The Wasatch Pony Club (WPC) hosts the Golden Spike Horse Trials at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Utah (Area IX) once a year in June, offering Introductory through Preliminary levels. This year, Golden Spike will also host the Area IX leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit award.

In 1973, the City of Ogden received a block of land from the federal government with the stipulation that it be used for a public park or recreational facility. Several years later in 1985, members of the equestrian community in Ogden, primarily members and sponsors of the Wasatch Pony Club, petitioned the City of Ogden to build a cross-country course on the land. Private donations financed the materials and paid for an accredited course designer to create a course that met the nationally accepted safety standards.

The Golden Spike Horse Trials ran for the first time in 1987 and was named the Best New Combined Training Event in the United States. That same year, however, the cross-country course was threatened. Weber County wanted to lease the land to build a multi-purpose recreational facility, leading to the newly designed cross-country course being torn down. The equestrian community stepped up to negotiate rebuilding the course to its original standards with Weber County. Since the cross-country course was built on public land, it was understood that the course would have to be open to the public and used frequently for events. Ever since, the Golden Spike Event Center and cross-country course has hosted both USEA recognized and unrecognized events in addition to lessons and clinics.

The land where the cross-country course stands had become popular for bicycle events and mud runs, making it increasingly difficult to keep the land suitable for equestrian use. In 2015, WPC spent hundreds of hours painting and repairing jumps, spraying and trimming weeds, and repairing the footing with roto-tillers, hoes, rakes, and even pick-axes. WPC invested nearly $8,000 in the Golden Spike cross-country course that year, and was honored to be presented with the Brookfield Conservation Award from the United States Pony Club for their commitment to non-motorized equestrian open space.

Photo courtesy of the Golden Spike Horse Trials.

The following year, WPC received generous donations from private donors as well as a Weber County RAMP Grant (Recreation, Arts, Museum and Parks) for $28,000 to renovate and repair the water complex on the cross-country course, which had been plagued with water drainage problems that had, in the past, occasionally caused the cancellation of the event. Under the supervision of Course Stewards Lori and Brent Douglas and the direction of Course Designer David Koss, the drainage and footing at the existing water jump for Training and Preliminary levels was improved and new questions were added. In addition, a new water complex was built for the Beginner Novice and Novice levels.

The Wasatch Pony Club and its generations of members, parents, and sponsors are the reason the Golden Spike cross-country course still exists, and we have volunteers who have been with us for 30 years. There is a great deal of competition for spaces like Golden Spike for bike races, foot races, and moto-cross, so we do our best to maintain a presence by holding lessons and clinics in addition to two unrecognized events and one USEA recognized horse trials. Golden Spike has received generous contributions from Mary Ann Miller, one of the originators of the course, and the Weber County RAMP Grant, as well as assistance from Weber County via The Golden Spike Event Center itself, all of which helps keep the event running.

The facilities at the Golden Spike Event Center include one large indoor arena, one smaller indoor, exhibition halls, outdoor arena, racetrack with grandstands, a new RV park, hundreds of covered stalls, wash racks, indoor offices, and concession stands in addition to the cross-country course, which encompasses the infield and acres of outfield.

Photo courtesy of the Golden Spike Horse Trials.

The infield section of the cross-country course is fairly flat, grassy ground while the outfield is somewhat rolling and wooded with interesting terrain changes. The Wasatch Mountains, which are often still snowcapped during the event in June, provide a stunning backdrop for the events. While there are very solid challenges for each level, the course rides well and riders can be observed by spectators from most vantage points. It makes for exciting viewing!

The incredible commitment of the Wasatch Pony Club to the Golden Spike Horse Trials over the course of the last 30 years has made for a very special and unique event. WPC’s dedication to the preservation of equestrian open space has been key; over the years we have seen many courses come and go and are DETERMINED to keep ours.

As a non-profit, the WPC uses the proceeds from the Golden Spike Horse Trials to provide opportunities for its members. The WPC provides instruction for the pony clubbers, maintains a rainy day fund to guarantee the event will be able to continue, even in a bad year, maintaining and upgrading the cross-country course, and building a “Championship Fund” to send members to Kentucky for the USPC Pony Club Championships once every three years.

Photo courtesy of the Golden Spike Horse Trials.

Ogden has cold, snowy winters, so all the riders do what they can but they eagerly await spring and the start of the riding season. When the snow melts, Golden Spike’s cross-country course attracts people from a multi-state radius to come school. We prepare for our first unrecognized event, which we call The Chicken, over Memorial Day, followed by the Golden Spike USEA recognized event in June and our Pumpkin unrecognized event in the fall. A lot of riders will be preparing to move up a level or actually win at their previous level, so each new year brings an exciting opportunity and renewed goal to strive for.

Work on the course begins in March as pony club members and friends of the event begin the task of repairing damage, restoring footing, repainting stadium jumps, and designing and building new cross-country obstacles. It is a LOT of hard work but is part of enabling the riders to learn and have fun!

We think we have one of the prettiest venues in the area, and we want riders to come experience it! As with all events, the key to keeping our beautiful course open is getting enough entries for our competitions. Riders can be sure of a well-organized and competitive event at Golden Spike. Our event is run by friendly, motivated volunteers in a gorgeous setting. It doesn’t get better than that!

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

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