The Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials, located in Weatherford, Texas (Area V) is held twice yearly as a one-day event in May and October and offers Starter through Training levels.
Janet and Tre’ Book own Willow Draw, 125 rolling acres in Weatherford, Texas just west of Fort Worth where they host the Willow Draw Charity Show twice a year. Founded in the spring of 2016, the event is run as a one-day competition and is limited to 100 entries. That first event offered Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training levels to the riders who traveled to North Texas to compete at Willow Draw.
Janet Book is a longtime eventer and retired schoolteacher, and together with her husband Tre’, they developed their private property for equestrian use. At first, the facility’s two large arenas, cross-country course, and trails were available for the public to trailer in and make use of. “We allow people to come in monthly, as a membership, and they can come onto the property and do whatever they want to do – use the arenas, the cross-country, anything – and we’re not trainer-specific, so anyone can bring their trainer and use the facilities,” Tre’ described.
After some time, the Books realized if they were doing all the maintenance to keep the property ready for use, they would be able to stage a horse trials. “We decided to start hosting clinics and hosting unrecognized horse trials,” explained Tre’. “We had a lot of acreage, and we’d already built all the jumps and were keeping everything mowed . . . We were already doing all the work, so running a horse show seemed like the next logical step. That’s how the Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials came to be.”
One of the most unique things about Willow Draw Charity Horse Trials is that, from the start, they’ve donated the proceeds from the event to charity. “From day one, we decided it was going to be a charity show,” Tre’ said. “We donate $10,000, either to the Semper Fi Fund, which is a great charity for all armed forces, or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.”
Willow Draw has a Texas-based team that comes together twice a year to put on the events. “Our number one, go-to people have been Adri Doyal and her mother, Ana Schravesande,” Tre’ shared. “They’re both FEI officials, Adri is a course designer and she has many FEI licenses, and they both live here in Texas. They know everyone and they help us find all our officials. They really help us that way. Kathi Roof, our show secretary, helps with all the competitors. Steve Sheehy runs control with a deftness that keeps the officials and riders at ease. Debra Sue Waters is a local artist and our course decorator – our courses are decorated at a championship level every time, they’re over the top. She probably spends a week on it and everything has to be perfect. And, of course, my wife, for putting up with it all!”
Willow Draw is located within the Red River Region of the United States Pony Club, which itself encompasses several different Pony Clubs. Many of the Pony Clubs volunteer at the Willow Draw Horse Trials, and Willow Draw offers all Pony Club members discounts on facility use fees. “We host many clinics for Pony Club,” Tre’ said. “I believe there needs to be more USEA and Pony Club promotion and mixing because the Pony Club is the feeder into the sport. I’d like to see the USEA and the Pony Club working together more. There are more people out of Pony Club that go into eventing than hunter/jumpers, and you see a lot of Pony Club graduates at the top levels of the sport. We need more of that kind of integration, we need to keep moving that forward.”
Willow Draw boasts two arenas, one covered 300’ x 160’ arena and a 250’ x 250’ outdoor arena directly across from it. This, Tre’ described, has made for a convenient flow for their events. “Everyone likes to use the indoor for jumping because the footing’s nice, but we actually use the indoor for the dressage warmup,” he described. “They just have to go out the gate and maybe 100 feet away is the outdoor where we put the two dressage arenas. That way, if it’s inclement weather, you spend all your time warming up under cover and you just have to go out and bear the weather during your test. That flow really works well.” Instead of being held in an arena, the show jumping takes place on undulating grass terrain.
“Willow Draw is on bottom land, so it can be a problem if it gets too wet,” Tre’ explained. “We have Willow Creek that runs through it, and we installed an old county iron bridge so we can use the back section of the property. We have the main water complex right in our backyard, and we’ve got another smaller water complex out in the main field. Our property is sandy loam and we have an aggravator, so the footing is always cared for.”
“We are really proud of the place in regard to the effort we’ve put into it,” Tre’ concluded. “We run a nice, lower level, local event. It’s focused on the lower levels, and unique because of the one-day format, and it’s the attention to detail we put into the event."
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
On this episode of the Equiratings Eventing Podcast, show host Nicole Brown talks to Pan American Games gold medalist and U.S. team stalwart Boyd Martin about his career to date, highs and lows, and coming back from injury.
On Monday, March 8 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, USEF will host a member webinar providing updates on the impacts of the case of EHV-1 (neurological) reported in Ocala, Florida. This case is similar in nature, but unrelated to the neurological strain of EHV-1 impacting Valencia (ESP) and other European countries.
As competitors rise through the levels, they often see the costs associated with competition rise and, unfortunately for most organizers, this can’t be avoided. With fewer competitors requiring more jumps, officials, footing management, etc., the expenses for running higher levels – especially FEI – are greater than lower levels.
Our sport is going to present you with many amazing opportunities, and some equally amazing challenges. While you’re sure to enjoy the opportunities, it sometimes takes a little more effort to enjoy the challenges. Contrary to the common misconception (from non-equestrians) that our sport is easy, it’s actually one of the hardest and most demanding sports of all!