The budding tradition of bringing the world's best eventers out West continues with the third annual staging of the Galway Downs CCI3* Nov. 1-4 in the beautiful Temecula wine country.
As the only CCI3* International Event in the Western United States, the competition has become an acid test for horse/rider pairs with the highest international aspirations. Five of last fall's contenders used it to qualify for and/or prepare for their eventual role in this summer's Olympics and many of this year's participants are surely eyeing the World Equestrian Games in 2014. American and Canadian contenders are in the hunt, along with hopefuls from seven other countries.
And there's generous prize money, too: $35,000 worth. But organizer Robert Kellerhouse explains that eventers are typically more motivated by good opportunities to test and/or develop their horses. With a cross-country course designed by the legendary Ian Stark, the Galway Downs competition has been deemed exactly that. At the Three-Star level, the four-mile course will feature 40 obstacles, set throughout the beautifully landscaped property's 240 acres.
The prospect of seeing the sport's top stars is a big spectator draw. This year fans will get an even better view of the cross-country action thanks to a new walking trail that wanders along the route with 12 viewing areas along the way. The property already had a lot of trees, but new owner Ken Smith added many more, in part to create wonderful shady spots from which to view the action without distracting contenders. Per traditions established at older venues like England's Badminton and Burghley, Galway Downs has created refreshment stations at the viewing areas. Temecula's wonderful wines will be featured along with gourmet goodies and other beverages.
The opportunities to view the cross-country action up close combine with Galway's thriving trade fair and a generally festive feel that permeates the competition. In addition to preparing their horses properly, eventers do like to have a good time! And they are a friendly lot. Fans can schmooze with their favorite riders during autograph sessions sponsored by the Professional Riders Organization.
Riders and non-riders alike can get their own adrenaline rush on the off-road test track for the Land Rover family of SUV's, provided by one of Galway's many and much-appreciated sponsors.
The CCI Three Star is, of course, the most demanding aspect of this event, but the weekend offers equally intense competition at all levels. The majority of last year's 350 entries ran in the Two- and One-Stars and Training Level CCIs.
Order Of Go
Three-star competition begins with the dressage test on Friday in the main arena in front of a panel of three internationally qualified judges from the U.S., Great Britain and Canada. The main arena action all takes place in front of Galway's trade fair and patron's tent.
Saturday is cross-country day starting at 11 a.m. And Sunday concludes the CCI3* International Event with the all-important final veterinary inspection. Following the inspection, the competitors will be placed in reverse order of standing and will show jump back in the main arena starting at 11 a.m.
A portion of all ticket sales will benefit Operation Homefront, the Professional Riders Organization's official charitable partner.
For tickets and more information visit www.galwaydowns.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.