California Riding Magazine • September, 2013

The Gallop
Twin Rivers welcomes Area VI Championships, concurrent with the Sept. 20-22 Fall Horse Trials.

by Kim F. Miller

"Everyone thought we were crazy," recalls Andrea Baxter of the general reaction when her family decided that a 500-acre parcel in the heart of Paso Robles wine country would be perfect for a new horse park.
That was back in 2001. Today, Twin Rivers Horse Park has established itself as such a fixture on the West Coast eventing scene that its most recent competition had 100 hopefuls on the wait list. The Twin Rivers crew is now gearing up for their Fall Horse Trials, Sept. 20-22, and getting ready to stage its first Area VI Eventing Championships, held concurrent with the Trials.

The Area VI Championship had been well staged these last few years by the Hoffos family at their Copper Meadows in San Diego County's Ramona. Their good efforts helped revive the event's popularity and that spurred interest in moving the competition to locations more convenient to riders in the middle and northern end of the state. Twin Rivers' Central Coast site and its track record as a first class event facility made it an obvious choice to host. "We were happy to take it on," says Andrea.

The entry period had just opened for the Horse Trials and Championships as we went to press, but Andrea is optimistic about a good turn-out. Championship qualification is earned by finishing in the top five at any event in California during the past year, so it's open to many exhibitors.

Aided by a strong crew of volunteers and a venue that's now handled everything from Connemara pony shows to a full-on Three Day Event this past spring, the Twin Rivers team plans to showcase Area VI contenders in various ways. An especially festive atmosphere for the exhibitors' party is in the works and placing the Championship classes in prominent arenas are ideas on the docket. Attendance-wise, the Championships are competing against potentially hot weather and, this year, the timing of the American Eventing Championships, slated for the following weekend in Texas. Usually, the AECs are held further east, making them an unlikely option for West Coasters.

But if any venue can continue the growth of the Area VI Championship, it's Twin Rivers. "I don't think we had any idea the extent of what we were getting involved in," laughs Andrea when asked if the facility has fulfilled the family's initial expectations. "At the time, there were a couple of other events that were losing their land because it was up for sale. My mom (Connie) and I were avid event riders, so we didn't like to hear about that happening. And my dad (Jeff) has always been this crazy, property-hoarding type of guy who happened to have all these trucks and trailers in his paving and excavation business. We had kind of outgrown our 10-acre property where I grew up and my dad had had his eye on this place. We came out once during the winter, when it had been raining very hard for a long time, yet the footing was amazing. That's when we thought, 'Well, we could turn it into a horse park and see if we can make it pay for itself.'"

Twin Rivers Ranch held its first competition in January of 2004 and in the near-decade since has continued to add amenities and make improvements. The cross-country course allows six levels of competition and, by special arrangement, schooling. It was designed by the best: Derek di Grazia and, as of this year, James Atkinson, and with a jump building team led by the legendary Bert Wood. With a big boost from Mother Nature in the form of naturally suitable riding surfaces, plus an equipment armada, Jeff Baxter keeps the grounds in tip-top shape.

In addition to competitions in eventing and other disciplines, Twin Rivers is available for schooling. Various membership packages entitle riders to everything from arena and trail riding day-use to unlimited use of the open facilities for one rider with two horses. Temporary stabling and layovers are reasonably priced.

Twin Rivers is also home to Andrea's Estrella Equestrian eventing training, coaching and sales business and long-term boarding is available to horse owners in that program.

For more information on the facility, visit www.twinrivershorsepark.com.