The Queeny Park Horse Trials takes place yearly in June at St. Louis County's Queeny Park in Ballwin, Missouri (Area IV). The event offers Starter through Modified levels.
Former Director of St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Wayne Kennedy attended the 1978 World Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Inspired by what he saw there, he returned to St. Louis and began work on a cross-country course at Queeny Park in Ballwin, which he felt had the rolling terrain necessary for a good event. Along with Kennedy, Richard Newton and Brock Fitzgerald worked to construct that very first cross-country course at Queeny Park.
Kennedy approached Richard Wessel, owner of Wessel Stables, and asked if he would be interested in organizing the event. Thus, Queeny Park Equestrian Events, Inc., the non-profit that organizes the Queeny Park Horse Trials, was born. In 1980, Fitzgerald and Wessel served as co-organizers of the very first Queeny Park Horse Trials, which ran over one day in mid-October and offered Training and Preliminary levels.
Since that first event nearly 40 years ago, Queeny Park Equestrian Events (QPEE) has worked in partnership with St. Louis County Parks and Recreation to maintain the property for equestrian events. QPEE volunteers have donated well over 90,000 hours developing the multi-use trail system, mowing, making repairs, and maintaining the cross-country course. QPEE even has some volunteers that have been with the event since the very beginning.
“Steve and Judy Welton and Bill Haines – they don’t ride or have anything to do with horses so it’s amazing that they want to hang out with us crazy horse people!” said Jill Wagenknecht, Queeny Park Horse Trials’ current organizer. “They started with just the radios but now they do all the communications, EMT, set up water lines and the speakers all over the park – they do a ton of stuff. They’ve been an important part of the event. Libby Abbott started in 1983 as jump judge and has been president, vice president, and treasurer of QPEE. Jon Bopp is the current president of QPEE and he started working with the event all the way back in 1997.”
In 2007, Wagenknecht and several of her equestrian friends came on board to breathe new life into the event. “I started with taking over the mini-event and it just went from there. Now I organize a lot of things and I’m Area IV Chair.” Wagenknecht, along with Elise Vandover and Christy and Donna DeMauro have all served as the organizer of the event at some time between 2007 and the present.
Even though the USEA recognized horse trials only run once a year, Wagenknecht said they keep busy with other unrecognized and schooling events throughout the season. “We have schooling the weekend after Kentucky, we have a hunter pace the next weekend, and then we have the horse trials,” she explained. “Usually we have a hunter pace or schooling in August. Then in September we have a schooling day and a mini event, in November we have another hunter pace and a chili cook-off, and we have trivia night and silent auction in March. It’s pretty much all year round, and everything we do is to put money into the horse trials.”
Many volunteer hours go into preparing the park for the event each year. “We have to mow, we have to weed-whack, and fellow board member Mark Andreason builds some of the jumps – our group does everything. Luckily the park lets us in there and lets us keep some of our equipment there during the spring through fall. We have an incredible group of volunteers – they’ve really been awesome this spring. We couldn’t mow because it’s been so wet and then we got a few good days and we got a team to go un-stake all the jumps one day, then people were mowing like crazy, and then the course designer came in on Thursday and we moved all the jumps Thursday and Friday. I’m just thrilled we got it done. Everybody just pitched in and it was so awesome.”
Queeny Park’s only permanent structures for the event are the cross-country course and the newly leveled and fenced-in dressage courts. “For our horse trials, we have temporary stabling and we put up a big tent for the secretary and our volunteer and competitor party, so the weather is sometimes very exciting and our biggest challenge. In the last year and a half, the park let us level out two dressage rings and last year we fenced them in. It’s a beautiful park and we’ve got great terrain – a giant hill and big open pastures for galloping.”
William Robertson has come on board as Queeny Park’s course designer this year, and Wagenknecht observed that he’s made some great changes to the course. “It looks like he likes to make his jumps half an inch under max, but nothing looks too complicated,” she commented. “It’s good for the beginning of the season. And because we have the giant hill that goes down to the water jump, the only level that jumps down the hill is Modified. He’s really made the terrain questions much nicer. It’s a completely different course so we’ll see how it rides, but it looks like a lot of fun.”
As far as entertainment for the competitors, last year Queeny Park began hosting Margarita Night on Saturday evening at the volunteer appreciation party. “We’ve tried everything we could think of to get people to come – live music, raffles – but for some reason, the margaritas seem to work the best!”
“We really try to make it as friendly as possible, everything we can think of,” Wagenknecht concluded. “We are always trying to make it better – we’re trying to listen to people. Everything we do all year long is to make the horse trials better for everyone.”
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