Mar 14, 2019

USEA Events A-Z: Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials

By Lena Warner - Otter Creek Farm
Photo courtesy of the Otter Creek Horse Trials.

Otter Creek Farm (OCF) in Wheeler, Wisconsin (Area IV) hosts three USEA recognized events each year in May, August, and September offering Starter through Intermediate levels. Otter Creek Farm also hosts the Area IV leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.

Otter Creek Farm hosted our first horse trial in September 1999. Before that, OCF hosted many schooling shows in an effort to introduce eventing and dressage to our local community of riders. Our local organization, the Central States Dressage and Eventing Association, talked us in to hosting a horse trial at our farm. At that time all we had was land and some buildings that had been converted from dairy farming. The pastures used to graze cows on was turned in to cross-country courses designed by Less Smith. Dressage and show jumping were ridden on not-so-level grass fields, but back then nobody cared! This year will be our 20th anniversary.

Otter Creek Farm’s facilities have changed over the years from everything running on grass and all stabling in temporary stalls like it was in the beginning. Now, we offer Starter through Intermediate on courses designed by John Williams. We are fortunate to have rolling land with sandy loam footing located in a valley where you can see just about all the cross-country jumps – something parents, friends, trainers, and spectators love! Our show office is no longer in a tent but still located near the stabling. The old concrete trench silos have been converted in to permanent stabling for 30 horses, as well as doubling as a weather shelter. The converted dairy barn is now home to our horses as well as overflow stabling during shows. Two other converted buildings serve as stabling as well, each with 80 stalls. All our dressage and show jumping has moved off the grass to lime and sand arenas that are now level. The kitchen and pavilion are situated by the jumper ring, providing food during events as well as competitor parties in the evening. The highlight is our big bonfire during the competitor party, sometimes with a big cross-country table set up for dancing!

Photo courtesy of the Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials.

John Williams comes to the farm every spring to reset the courses and make changes to fences and questions. The courses, which go through our rolling open fields surrounded by wooded hills, have great galloping stretches and many interesting terrain questions. We construct all our cross-country fences using our own lumber and labor. There are two water complexes on the courses and a couple of hills that Training and up get to do. Horses and riders come off the courses for most part happy and excited.

We try to make Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials a place of enjoyment. The competitors have trained, saved, and traveled to be here and we take that very serious. Success is seeing happy faces and successful rides. With a few core people, we make sure that the farm looks as good as it can, and that people feel welcome! Over the years we have had people stepping up to help us with all kinds of jobs, many are still coming and helping even though they are not eventers themselves. The list of people is long and I can’t list everyone here, but we appreciate everything they have given to make this event a success!

Photo courtesy of the Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials.

My show secretary Betsy Jones has been at all but our first event. Without her loyal help and, according to our competitors, “the most amazing show secretary,” we would not be the same event. At the first few shows we did not have a trustworthy software program and I was just about to lose Betsy, who back then worked at her real job full time and did not have time to try to figure out how our old program worked. I started looking for something better and found Rick Dunkerton, who introduced us to his new program. Thank god it worked, and Betsy and I are still here!

Our crew also includes Brandi Johnson, our volunteer coordinator, ring steward, and cross-country controller who also takes care of our horses who usually end up kicked out to the next door barn and pasture. Nancy Geurkink, a Grand Prix dressage rider, comes to help with staining and painting, office assistance, scoring, and organizing tables and chairs for the competitor party. Michelle Keene is a dressage rider who did some eventing in the past and now helps as a cross-country steward and cross-country decorator, as well as helping us set up our 80 temporary stalls in the indoor area.

Photo courtesy of the Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials.

Our announcer Steve Kath has also been with us for every show. He started out announcing from the back of his truck but is now set up in our two stands – one for dressage and one for cross-country. He is assisted by our two sound gurus, Bob and Erin Owen, who have helped install sound throughout the farm and barns. They are here from start to finish at all events setting up speakers and making sure everything is working.

I don’t want to forget my own family – William and his wife Linda and our daughter Jenny and her partner Ike Olson – who all help with different jobs, not just during events, but with building projects and other farm improvements.

The best parts of the event are the first horse on course and the last horse on course, with no accidents in between! Reconnecting with returning riders, trainers, parents, and friends as well as meeting new people and their horses is always a special part of the weekend.We want riders to know that our event in area IV is worth a visit! We hope the riders will remember the good times they have had here as well as the lessons learned by competing here.

Photo courtesy of the Otter Creek Farm Horse Trials.

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

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