Eventers in Areas IV and IX are facing the loss of several events for the 2018 season and beyond, similar to the changes seen in the East Coast eventing calendar.
Roebke’s Run, which hosts two U.S. Eventing Association recognized events a year, including a CCI*, CCI**, CIC* and CIC**, in Fairfax, Minnesota, announced on its website that both 2018 dates are canceled, and the facility will no longer host events. The site is also advertised for rent.
Area IV Council chair Kathy Kerns said they have been working with the Schweiss family, host of the event, to find dates that work for them, but they were unsuccessful.
“Roebke’s has been undersubscribed, and greatly so occasionally, so we were trying to work with the Schweisses to try and find a place where they could stay on the calendar, be stable and try and bring their numbers up,” she said.
Kerns said the process started last spring when the Schweiss family asked to change Roebke’s Run’s dates for 2018. They were able to go through an appeal process, and the Area IV council approved the change. The events were to be held June 14-17 and July 14-15. The June date overlapped with the Silverwood Farm Spring Horse Trial (Wisconsin).
“We approved it, and it went through all of the committees to get to the FEI, and everybody approved it,” said Kerns. “We thought we were set for 2018, and we would revisit it for 2019. In our area we’re pretty casual about this because we have an excellent group of organizers, and we don’t have many horse trials, and we can usually work things out as a group.”
But after the USEA announced that the [2019 American Eventing Championships] were going to be at the Kentucky Horse Park, it became clear that the AEC would conflict with three Area IV horse trials dates, including one of Roebke’s Run’s 2019 dates. Roebke’s Run organizers requested to change not only their fall date in conflict with the AEC, but also their spring date. Kerns said just before Christmas, the Area Council agreed that Roebke’s Run could take place on the dates its organizers wanted for 2019, but she added that the council thought there could be better dates.
On Dec. 22, a post on the event’s Facebook page stated that a final decision would be made about hosting 2018 competitions in January, and on Jan. 4, Brook Schweiss posted that the facility was for rent. That same day she posted emails between herself and Kerns, which Kerns said don’t tell the whole story or include phone conversations.
Kerns noted the extraordinary efforts the Schweisses went to ensuring good footing and happy horses and riders.
“They are fantastic people,” Kerns said. “They were tremendous supporters of Area IV and eventing in general. I’d like them to go out on a high note, not a low note, and that’s unfortunately what’s happening now. I think they should be characterized as the wonderful event they were, and that’s how they should be remembered. We’re going to miss them terribly. To have such caring people that tried so hard—I wish all of our organizers would put that much effort into it.”
When contacted for comment, Schweiss family members did not return calls or emails.
USEA CEO Rob Burk said that the conversation about Roebke’s Run’s dates has been an Area matter to date and has not been brought forward to the USEA board of governors or Executive Committee. “I was extremely disappointed to hear of the decision of the event to cancel competitions. It is an amazing facility, and the Schweiss family have shown enormous commitment to the sport in recent years,” he said. “I know that the Area, and especially Area chair Kathy Kerns, worked hard to find a solution to the date conflicts between Roebke’s and other Area IV events. Ultimately, it is my understanding that the Area was willing to give the organizers of Roebke’s all of their requested dates in 2018 and 2019 but apparently that was not enough.”
While the Colorado Horse Park will host the USEA American Eventing Championships this year, the group behind the event has canceled the three other horse trials usually held at the facility in Parker, Colorado.
The group is also running an open horse trials during the AEC, Aug. 29-Sept. 2, so the Aug. 9-12 event was canceled. But the May 31-June 3 event, which hosted beginner novice through intermediate and a CCI*, CCI** and CIC**, and the Sept. 21-23 event, scheduled to host beginner novice through preliminary, were also canceled.
Burk said there is no rule stating any events held at the same facility that’s hosting an AEC must be canceled within a certain period before the AEC, but he noted that historically AEC host venues have closed their cross-country courses a month before the championships.
“From a footing quality and fairness standpoint, the USEA prefers to stick with this policy of having access to cross-country restricted for a month prior to the event—in fairness to those competitors traveling from across the country who might not have regular access to an event site,” he said. “However, we are sensitive to the issues presented at each site, so we look at it on a case by case basis.
“In the case of Colorado we recommended to the Colorado Horse Park that course access be limited for the month prior to the AEC, which would impact the previously scheduled August 9-12, 2018, event,” Burk continued. “However, the AEC will offer non-championship ‘festival’ classes to those people negatively impacted by the August event being canceled. These will be normal horse trial classes.”
Area IX chair Deeda Randle said the cancellation of other CHP events was a surprise.
“We lost two out of the three events because they are going to run an open competition [during] the championships, but unfortunately they were key events,” she said. “One was the CCI* and CCI**, which were qualifiers for our young rider team, then the intermediate course as well. That was two preliminaries down as well.”
Equestrian Sport Productions President Michael Stone said the group canceled the events because it wants to put all its resources into hosting the AEC.
“Like anything in life, there are limited resources,” he said. “We want to make the AEC the best event they’ve ever had out there, so we’re putting all our resources into that. That means working on the footing, working on the jumps, working on everything else.”
Stone said CHP is finalizing budgets and dates for three weekends to offer schooling and unrecognized eventing derbies. He added that the group plans to bring the other eventing dates back to the CHP for 2019.
“The FEI level is very difficult because there aren’t enough people to support it,” Stone said. “The FEI level we’re uncertain of, but the others we will do. The AECs are the big deal. We know it’s disappointing for people in the area, but we want to make sure the AECs are our primary focus.”
The Event At Archer Farm in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Powder Basin Horse Trials in Gillette, Wyoming, added two dates for 2018. Powder Basin is adding preliminary again, so riders can have a qualifier.
“Thankfully we’ve had a couple of organizers step up and fill the gap, but in terms of our area, we’re just sort of reeling because we basically have nothing in July and August,” said Randle. “During our very short season anyway, we have six weeks that we don’t have any events.”
Randle acknowledged that it’s always been hard to support eventing in her area due to distances between events and the number of competitors, especially at the FEI levels, but she hopes the organizers can come up with a solution.
“From a strictly business standpoint, what it costs to produce an event nowadays, we simply don’t have enough riders in our area to justify that as a business,” she said. “If you’re the Colorado Horse Park, running it as a horse show business, then wanting to do the premier quality event is really hard because we simply don’t have the numbers to justify running on one hand, but on the other hand, if we don’t have good events we won’t produce any riders ever. It’s kind of a catch 22.”
Burk said the USEA did reach out to the CHP operators to express concern regarding the cancellation of the May/June event because of its importance to members.
“Some good news is that an event has recently been approved to take its place, at least through the preliminary level,” he said. “This is thanks to the efforts of James Atkinson stepping in as an organizer at The Event At Archer on this new date. When James heard of the cancellation, he stepped in along with The Event At Archer to try and see what they could do to limit the impact on Area IX for 2018. The Area [Council] quickly approved their application, and the USEA Executive Committee approved their request within the following week. We are extremely appreciative to James and The Event At Archer.”
Editor’s note: The Chronicle is owned by the Bellissimo family, and Mark Bellissimo, whose Colorado Equestrian Partners purchased the Colorado Horse Park in 2014, acts as its publisher.