The Gallop: New Venue

Paso Robles Horse ParkPaso Robles Horse Park set to debut with May hunter/jumper competition. The vision of lifelong horsewoman, Linda Starkman, and her late daughter-in-law, Jill Weaver Starkman, comes to life in the brand new Paso Robles Horse Park, It's set to open early next year and host its first show, the Central California Classic, May 28-31.

Dale Harvey is happy to be at the helm of the first of what he expects to be a few special shows at the 67-acre venue. He's a longtime friend of Linda, and has followed the rider, breeder and owner's plans for the Paso Robles Horse Park over the last six or seven years it's taken to bring it to fruition. Dale says the USEF-sanctioned Central California Classic will have "major money" in the Grand Prix to attract top talent.

A large grass field, four sand rings and stabling for initially 200, and later 500 horses, are among the strictly-show venue's amenities. Lots of grass and "no asphalt or concrete" for horses to slip on, reports Cathy David, a spokesman for the Horse Park. "Linda has been in the horse world for so long, she knows what to do and has done a beautiful job."

The Central California equestrian scene has been growing for some time and they are excited about the Horse Park's arrival, Cathy says. Cutting horses, western performance horses and Arabians have been big there for some time. On the eventing side, the Baxter family's Twin Rivers Ranch, where Linda's granddaughter Sophia Starkman frequently competes, has brought many out-of-area competitors to Paso Robles and Dale is confident that the same thing will happen on the hunter/jumper side.

The location is ideal. It's within a relatively easy drive from horsey hotbeds in Northern and Southern California and the city is an appealing destination. It's low key and charming, while accommodating visitors with nice hotels and great dining. The Central California Classic will capitalize on the area's attractions. The coast and Hearst Castle in San Simeon are just a 40-mile drive to the west and wineries abound throughout the region's oak-dotted hills. "It is really a beautiful place, set in the rolling hills and surrounded by two small rivers," Dale reports.

The only hitch with Paso Robles' proximity to Los Angeles and the Bay Area is that USEF competition date protection rules overlap with those areas, making it a little challenging to find available show dates. But Dale and his increasingly accomplished team at West Palm Events are undaunted. The show organizer anticipates staging a few, very special shows at the Horse Park rather than any back-to-back series. And, Cathy reports that the venue will be available for shows in other disciplines, with the exception of cattlework sports because it's not set up for cows.

Dale foresees the Central California Classic will be another in the growing circuit of competitions luring out-of-area hunter and jumper competitors to the wild, wild West. Along with the Blenheim EquiSports team in particular, "Our whole concept is to build a circuit in California and we are really doing that at a level that gives people a reason to come here."

The Horse Park's owner Linda Starkman is well known to the equestrian world. Throughout her years in Orange County, San Diego and now Paso Robles full time, she has been an active competitor, breeder and supporter of the sport. Her vision for the show venue was shared by her daughter-in-law, the accomplished trainer Jill Weaver, who passed away from breast cancer in 2012. Jill's passion for horses lives on in her children.

For more information on the Paso Robles Horse Park, visit www.pasorobleshorsepark.com. For information on the Central California Classic, visit www.westpalmevents.com.