Mar 26, 2020

USEA Events A-Z: Woodland Stallion Station Horse Trials

Photo courtesy of Nicole Sharpe.

Woodland Stallion Station in Woodland, California (Area VI) hosts three one-day events a year in May, June, and August offering Intro through Preliminary level horse trials at all three events as well as USEA Future Event Horse yearling, 2-year-old, 3-year-old, and 4-year-old classes at their June event.

In 1983 Ann Taylor, a lifelong equestrian and lover of the Morgan horse breed, saw a need in the Sacramento area horse community: a place for high quality stallions to stand at stud, for mares to foal out on lush pasture, and for young horses to be trained for their future careers. So Ann and her husband Jim founded Woodland Stallion Station. The Stallion Station rapidly became a multi-faceted landmark in the Sacramento equine community as a breeding facility, boarding stable, and show venue for generations of Northern California Equestrians.

Over the decades Woodland Stallion Station served local hunter jumper riders, combined drivers, and dressage riders, but it wasn’t until 2013 that local five-star eventer and trainer Natalie Brady hosted the first horse trials there. Brady and Ann worked together to develop a gently rolling 60-acre field bordered by an olive orchard into a cross-country course. And in 2014, Brady and her team at Woodland Stallion Station ran the first USEA recognized one-day event on the West Coast.

As such a young, growing event, nearly everyone on the Woodland Stallion Station team has put blood, sweat, and tears into the horse trials. “We are lucky that we were able to buy quite a few cross-country fences from Three Day Ranch, so we didn’t have to build every piece from scratch,” said Nicole Sharpe, event organizer as of 2019. “But in terms of in-ground obstacles we really did start from zero. Early on our course designers and builders – Burt Wood and his team, John Michael Durr and Zane Webb – put in countless hours and many late nights to get the water complex to hold water, excavate the ditches so they were more than just logs on the ground, and mount proper trakehners.”

Photo courtesy of Nicole Sharpe.

In 2016, Woodland Stallion Station changed hands when the Taylors retired. Luckily for the horse trials, new owners Daren Robbins and Keila Golden have come to love eventing as much as the rest of the team and are putting a tremendous amount of effort into bringing the facility and event to a higher standard. After building a whole new set of show jumping fences in 2019, they are turning their focus in 2020 to the cross-country course.

With the help of course designer Marc Grandia, the Stallion Station team is making some major changes to the course this year. With a whole host of new fences in the works and track changes to take better advantage of the rolling terrain, Grandia hopes to offer riders at Stallion Station more exciting questions and better gallops.

The shows at Woodland Stallion Station are run by a “total girl power team,” according to Sharpe. “Of course there are invaluable men on our team, but on a day-to-day basis it's women doing the work out here, dragging footing, running tractors, building standards, fixing fences. You’re more likely to find Keila dragging an arena than riding. And the touch of class that Robin (Minnis) brings to our stadium and cross-country courses is something I didn’t realize was missing before.”

Photo courtesy of Nicole Sharpe.

Sharpe emphasizes that throughout this growth rider feedback is always important to the team. “We know we are far from perfect, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. There are a lot of things that we can’t change overnight, but what we can change, we do.”

A major focus of the Woodland Stallion Station Horse Trials are new, local, and lower-level riders. “We love all our riders,” said Sharpe, “but there’s nothing better than cheering on our Intro and Starter riders at the end of the day!” Stallion Station runs from Preliminary all the way through Starter, which is made up of cross-rails in show jumping and friendly, approachable logs on cross-country.

And, because of the one-day format, Stallion Station offers riders a fun, affordable entry to eventing. For riders in Northern California, it means not having to drive to Fresno or Paso Robles to compete. New eventers will find the management warm and welcoming and ready to help them be as successful as they can at their first event. “We’ve even gone so far as to loan out our own show clothes to first-time eventers!”

“We think that it’s especially important to make sure our lower level riders have an amazing experience here. Those riders are by far our biggest group of supporters, and we never want them to feel overlooked. We want them to have just as many flowers, just as exciting of fences, and just as big prizes as anyone competing at the upper levels.”

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

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