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[Update: Zeroing in on Seattle] LL Amateur Friendly Eventing: Seattle, Portland, or Denver?

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  • [Update: Zeroing in on Seattle] LL Amateur Friendly Eventing: Seattle, Portland, or Denver?

    Hi all! I'm interested in making a move, but I'd love more information on their eventing scenes. The cities I'm entertaining are Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, and Denver. Seattle, Portland, and Denver piqued my interest because I adore the mountains, camping, and hiking. Atlanta is on the list because I'm from there, and my entire family still lives there. All four of these cities have growing opportunities in my industry (tech).

    FWIW, I currently live and ride in the Bay Area. I'm 30, single, and a re-rider. I don't own a horse, but I lease a retired UL horse who's teaching me the ropes again at BN/N. Hoping to purchase in the next couple of years.

    I'm already accustomed to Atlanta's (and Area 3's) riding culture, but I'd love more information for Seattle, Portland, and Denver. FWIW, these are some things that are important to me:
    • Intimate. I prefer riding at smaller barns (less than ~40 horses). Barns are equally social for me, and I love getting to know folks.
    • Knowledgeable instruction. This is a given, but someone who doesn't mind breaking concepts down into layman's terms.
    • Gives you autonomy. I prefer barns that lets you practice jumping by yourself, longe where you need to, and see your horse during reasonable hours.
    • Has grass. Proper pasture is incredibly important to me, not just 24x24' turnouts. Bonus points if there's space for trot sets.
    • Has a good schooling event calendar. I know Atlanta + surrounding area has tons of these, and I miss them so much. I'm a re-rider. I suck! I don't want to spend nearly $1,000 at a recognized event (all-in costs) just to prove that I suck... when I just want a little bit of experience and exposure again It's ok if the season is shorter, I just want a few options a year.
    • Offers full board (lower priority). Looking for a place that includes grain, feeding, blanketing, and turnout so that if I can't make it out, I already know he'll be taken care of without having to make extra arrangements.
    Does Seattle, Portland, or Denver's scene fit the bill? Thank you in advance for your help!

  • #2
    Hi there! I'll be interested to see the responses to this thread as a fellow adult amateur looking to learn the ropes in eventing... also working in tech. I'm in Seattle.

    Having moved here from Vancouver Island, one thing I hadn't considered is how far away everything is. Seattle traffic is horrific. It can take me anywhere from 25 minutes (no traffic) to an hour to get to the barn, which is one of the closest I could find from South Seattle. There are a lot more options on the East side (Redmond, Woodinville, Carnation area).

    I've been to a few schooling shows over the past couple years at Donida Farms in Auburn, and Whidbey Island pony club usually holds a recognized event, but this summer it ended up being a schooling show because they couldn't lease the adjacent land like usual. We also were able to do a low-level schooling show at Aspen farms. That comes out to 3 in one season which is pretty good for me personally.

    That being said, I haven't ridden at a facility that I have LOVED so far for lessons/boarding, but haven't tried many. I'll be interested to see what other folks suggest.

    Feel free to PM me if you end up here and want to talk horses.

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    • #3
      The PNW is WET WET WET. Translates into sloppy conditions for extensive turnout, and closed cross country schooling options for sometimes half the year. There are more eventing trainers in Seattle than the Portland area. There are several Facebook pages you could investigate related to the PNW scene.

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      • #4
        Skip Colorado. The Eventing scene has collapsed. We have a few recognized and unrecognized but then you have to head to WY, AZ, and UT for any more.

        I go to Santa Fe to attend a nice unrecognized HT. Spring Gulch is the only place I know that has combined tests in the Denver region. The next closest is Cheyenne.

        For recognized, I go to AZ, UT, KS, and CA. The rest of the barns here tend to go to the East Coast.

        I don’t know any barns out here that give autonomy, especially without professional insurance.

        We are a semi arid climate. Grass pasture is a premium. It may look greenish but most is not “edible.” We have two seasons, white and brown.

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        • #5
          I think the wetness, clay and land prices will make eventing in the PNW really different from what you have seen in Atlanta. Distances to competitions will matter, too. Folks regularly drive a full day or close to it on the West Coast to get to events. Horse-keeping costs in Atlanta and environs might be comparable to what you'd find in one of the areas surrounding Seattle or Portland. Portland might be just a notch down in terms of cost. But I think that in terms of easy/close access to good quality horse infrastructure, you'd do best in Atlanta of all the places on your list.

          Here's where I have been-- SF Bay Area, Central NY, NY, CT and upper PA, Willamette Valley, OR and now Aiken, SC.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

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          • #6
            I live in Denver and board in Parker. In my late 30s, moved here after 15 years in DC. I love it here, but the volume of eventing activities and abundance of amenities that you are seeking is not reason #1 why I love it here--my opinion is there is enough to keep you busy and progressing but its definitely a smaller event list/calendar (much smaller calendar than out east) and group of folks. The season is also shorter here but there are still small jumper and dressage shows early spring/late fall. The community is small/close-knit, but theyre awesome! I train with Katy Groesbeck (now Robinson) and board at an awesome private facility that has everything you listed. They are few and far between, but they do exist.

            I love Denver and Colorado - the people, recreation options, culture, weather, mountains, all of it. I have not been to Seattle or Portland so can't comment on them. Message me if you want any info!


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            • #7
              I'm near Tacoma but from PA. Not sure what the scene's like in the South, but I've honestly found the scene in the Puget Sound to be disappointing. Everything being soaking wet 9 months out of the year is such a hassle. The barns I've personally visited/had horses at were almost always (except for one, and obviously there have to be others, this is just IME) a compromise in some way or the other. For example, the one with the great turnout and nice covered arena was self care. The place with the full amenities had no turnout beyond runs. The low key place that trusted you with your own business was, well, so low key that half their fencing was barbed wire.

              Also, at least compared to what I was used to in Area 2, just physically getting to showing and schooling opportunities is a hassle because of the ground you have to cover, and the quality of horse and services is not the same.

              So basically, I'm inclined to agree with mvp's analysis.

              That said! It is hard to beat the opportunities for trail riding out here. You could spend a lifetime exploring some of the most beautiful areas of the country from horseback and never run out of places to go (if you don't mind driving). But, even then, if that's something you'd want to do, you might be better off on the other side of the mountains.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Texel View Post

                That said! It is hard to beat the opportunities for trail riding out here. You could spend a lifetime exploring some of the most beautiful areas of the country from horseback and never run out of places to go (if you don't mind driving). But, even then, if that's something you'd want to do, you might be better off on the other side of the mountains.
                I always wondered why WA and OR didn't have much bigger Competitive Distance Riding communities. California has lots of that, but the PNW seems to have amazing hunks of public land close to cities.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat

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                • #9
                  If you're looking for proper turnout, the PNW is not the place for you unfortunately. Even places with big fields close them for much of the year so they're usable when the weather is good. Otherwise they turn into seas of slippery, sticky, mud.
                  "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post

                    I always wondered why WA and OR didn't have much bigger Competitive Distance Riding communities. California has lots of that, but the PNW seems to have amazing hunks of public land close to cities.
                    Putting on my backpacking hat for a moment, I think it's a combination of several factors:

                    One, a lot of the popular land close to the cities isn't really horse friendly at all. You can't ride in national parks, with the exception of a handful of trails in Olympic National Park, so that immediately chops out I think over a million acres of great trails. Nor can I think of anything in the North Cascades, at least until you cross over the pass, by virtue of the terrain.

                    Two, the trailhead infrastructure is geared more towards people. There are fewer horse camps compared to Oregon, and some of the amenities you'd expect at trailheads, such as hitching posts and trailer parking, don't seem to be maintained as frequently. I suspect the lack of amenities for camping, even for just highlining or staking a horse out, make the distance there is that much more of a challenge. Especially when you're looking at four or five hour drives to get to the best (IMO) trails. Most of the riders I come across when I'm backpacking are only coming from towns an hour, maybe 90 minutes away. Makes day trips with horses easier.

                    Also, and this is big, horse-friendly trails aren't advertised practically at all.

                    And speaking of maintenance, there are some great horse trails, but you'll be hard pressed to get a lifted truck up the unmaintained forest roads to them anymore, much less a trailer.

                    Three, a lot of the trails may be open to horses (more of less everything in the national forests and wilderness areas), but for a lot of the trails worth driving to, your horse better be experienced with backcountry conditions before you attempt them. The whole PCT is open to stock, and yes, the sections in WA are some of the most popular places to trail ride, but compared to Oregon the terrain is on average more challenging. This is the Knife's Edge through Goat Rocks. Riders are strongly encouraged to reroute around it because horses and riders have died slipping and falling.

                    And putting the horse hat back on, it's just not something people are interested in. The local scene is into gaming. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but it does mean some of the best trails go underappreciated.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I love Colorado generally, but the eventing scene is not great. We have a very short season, only a handful of events, and we seem to lose one or two every year. Also, there isn't much grass here.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Texel - Horses are allowed in National Parks according to Horse and Rider: Fortunately for equestrians, trail riding is allowed in most national parks. In fact, some of the most stunning parks welcome horses.

                        There's plenty of riding in the North Cascades - Pasaytan wilderness, The Methow Valley, Rainy Pass to Stehekin, Twisp horse camp, and many other trails and trail heads.

                        For a full listing go on https://www.trailmeister.com/ He's got maps, lists of horse friendly areas, trail reviews, everything you need to find a good place to go with your 4 legged friend.

                        I don't find the eventing scene to be too bad here in the PNW. Most of the events I attend, and I live on the west side, are, at most, 2 hours away. Unfortunately, Whidbey Island had to cancel again this year and so far Spokane is canceled as well.

                        Once the ground dries up enough for XC schooling there's a number of local venues to haul in to or you go over the mountains to Kennewick and school at Tulip Springs.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          And there's always eventing on the BC side of the border too, which can increase the # of available events within a days' drive
                          Can't learn anything with a closed mind! with thanks to mug

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 16 Hands View Post
                            Texel - Horses are allowed in National Parks according to Horse and Rider: Fortunately for equestrians, trail riding is allowed in most national parks. In fact, some of the most stunning parks welcome horses.
                            The only two places in Mt. Rainier National Park you can take stock are the section of the PCT that passes through and the Laughingwater Creek Trail from Highway 123 to the Pacific Crest Trail near Carlton Pass. That's such a paltry amount in comparison to the entire network of trails in the park that you might as well just round down the riding opportunities to zero in comparison to the hiking opportunities. So yes, one of the single most popular outdoor destinations in the entire region is functionally closed to horses.

                            There are about a dozen trails in Olympic National Park, maybe a handful more, that are open to stock. I like to hike several of them regularly, and let me tell you the Department of the Interior has a very optimistic definition of "experienced stock and stock user."

                            There's plenty of riding in the North Cascades - Pasaytan wilderness, The Methow Valley, Rainy Pass to Stehekin, Twisp horse camp, and many other trails and trail heads.

                            For a full listing go on https://www.trailmeister.com/ He's got maps, lists of horse friendly areas, trail reviews, everything you need to find a good place to go with your 4 legged friend
                            The Pasayten is on the other side of the pass. The Methow Valley is on the other side of the pass. Twisp is on the other side of the pass, and Rainy Pass is the pass. I did specify that the opportunities on the Seattle side of the pass are slimmer than on the other side of the pass. I mean, all it takes is one trip up Fourth of July Pass to realize that the trails on this side just aren't good for horses. Regardless, all of the places you've listed are, with traffic, at least four hours away from Tacoma.

                            I don't find the eventing scene to be too bad here in the PNW. Most of the events I attend, and I live on the west side, are, at most, 2 hours away. Unfortunately, Whidbey Island had to cancel again this year and so far Spokane is canceled as well.

                            Once the ground dries up enough for XC schooling there's a number of local venues to haul in to or you go over the mountains to Kennewick and school at Tulip Springs.
                            Perspective, please. You simply can't compare what's available within Area 2 to what's available out here, in terms of absolute numbers of competitions, close, accessible schooling opportunities, and ability to school in winter. If it were so good out here, you'd see more big name riders based out of the PNW. But there just isn't the infrastructure to support it. Hauling out to school back home meant driving 15 minutes. Aspen Farms is 45 minutes away. Driving four hours to school at Tulip Springs? Completely unsustainable.

                            And God forbid I forget to mention just how awful the weather makes just keeping horse around here.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I don't live in Area 2. And excuse me for living here for 40 years.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                16 Hands Well let's just chalk it up to one person's fertile garden being another person's stinking pile of manure. At least the OP has gotten both perspectives in this thread.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  52 years of horsekeeping in the PNW. I am near Portland (H/J for me) and my SIL is a serious eventer (Prelim, moving up to Int) who tries to fill her calendar with events. Compared to the East Coast, events here are few and far to travel to. Recognized events number 3? 4? in a year with drives from PDX of 3-18 hours (CA). Schooling CC is difficult due to our weather. It's wet here for 8 months of the year so courses remain closed much of that time. There are unrecognized shows on the calendar, too, but driving distances remain the same with 3-5 options per year. Aspen Farms in Yelm has a number of both types.

                                  Turnout is indeed weather dependent and you'd be hard pressed to find daily field turnout at a boarding facility, especially in the Seattle area. Better chances around Portland (a bit less wet). Most barns offer small paddock turn out though there are a few that do pasture. I can think of one barn that would perhaps fit your requirements: Julie Hook in Canby, OR. Not sure you can jump without supervision at most boarding barns (insurance) I've ever been in. My SIL trains with Karen O'Neill who travels from Seattle to give lessons regularly down here in the PDX area. There are a number of smaller boarding options that would work if you like autonomy and full care. Alicorn Stables in Battleground, WA (close to PDX) (you can check websites for the barns I mention) might work perfectly for you now that I consider your requirements.
                                  Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    To address your wishlist point by point:

                                    Intimate - Honestly I don’t think this will be hard at most barns in the PNW. Unfortunately, eventing isn’t nearly as popular out here as out East or as H/J. There aren’t a lot of mega eventing barns here, more of the smaller programs.

                                    Instruction - There are some great instructors out here, a handful of those are certified. However, if you’re looking to be trained by an Olympic eventer the PNW is not the right place. SEA has more barns than Portland, although traffic in either location can be rough.

                                    Autonomy - I’ve found eventing barns as a whole to be pretty self sufficient. Lunge whenever you want to. Visit any time during open hours. However due to liability I do not know of a single barn that will let you jump outside of lessons.

                                    Turnout - This one is hard. Due to our climate and all the mud, barns with turnout usually have smaller winter turnouts. However, PDX has better turnout options in general than SEA.

                                    Schooling Events - SEA wins this one, but not by a ton. Honestly there aren’t a ton of schooling events in comparison with other locations. For one-days in Oregon/southern WA there’s Caber, Inavale, and Lincoln Creek. That’s it within a three hours drive in PDX. To give you a sense of scale, including all recognized events (8) my barn has 17 shows on the general calendar. This includes 5 derbies (OHC, Lake Oswego, Devonwood). One one-day in June, one in July, one in August. That’s all. If you want to combine with jumper shows and a few derbies it works.

                                    Full board - Honestly this is pretty common at any place with a program. You might have to pay extra for blanketing services, it can depend.

                                    Overall, the PNW is not somewhere I would move if I was going to get serious about eventing. But I grew up here and I love it here. I don’t plan on quiting eventing any time soon. Seattle has much more choices for eventing barns, but turnout and prices are better in Portland.


                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I’ve done it in the Denver are and WA state. I actually live on the east side of the mountains. The Washington Horse Park is on the “dry” side too. Some areas near Seattle even on the west side are drier ... like those in the rainshadow of the Olympics. Do you have to live right in the urban area? My experience is that eventing options and facilities in WA are expanding, whereas in CO they were definitely on the fast decline. We seem to have lots of good trainer options here and a very casual welcoming culture. I am very much a mountain person, so while in CO I was living in Breckenridge and now live in Winthrop (Methow Valley). I am used to driving for shoes, lessons, etc. but it’s not too bad here, as we’re not not that far (it’s all relative) from Spokane, the WHP in Cle Elum, and 7 hrs from Rebecca Farms. I feel like we have a lot of quality unrecognized shows. All that said, I couldn’t live in the wetness or rain of Seattle or Portland. I’m a sun worshipper and like the alpine and desert environments!!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Reed, your response makes me so sad. The Front Range was full of LL opportunities back when I lived there. I'm really sorry to hear so much of it has disappeared. What a bummer.
                                        I evented just for the Halibut.

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