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Willow Creek Trail Trial….Halloween Style
by Kim Sanford

Willow Creek Trail Trial….Halloween Style 
by Kim Sanford

The morning of October 11th dawned bright and crisp at Willow Creek Ranch, owned by Angelo and Jamie Wooten, of Maine, NY. It was a classic fall morning, perfect for riding and enjoying time with horses and good friends. The day of the combined Cowboy Obstacle Challenge and Trail Trial had arrived…the culmination of months of planning, laughter, debate, and good, old-fashioned hard work. As part of the planning team; consisting of Jamie Wooten, Lisa Sprague, and myself I want to say that it was a blast working with these women. As those of you know who do these sorts of things it is a lot of work and you get personally invested in it. How sweet it is to be able to come together to pull off something like this, butt heads occasionally, and still like each other (much respect ladies) at the end of the day.

Spiders in the woodsThis was the second event of 2014. One had been held in the early summer and had great attendance considering it fell in the midst of first-cutting hay season AND on graduation weekend for a lot of the local schools. We actually had a couple of riders who came all the way from NJ. In fact, one rider had never done anything like this before. He came with his friend intending to do just the trail trial and ended up competing in both challenges as well as the trial. Incidentally, he was totally a hunt seat rider…he and his horse rocked those challenges.

I should also mention that we raised funds for Spring Reins of Life at our June event by holding raffles throughout the day. Spring Reins of Life is a program that assists veterans as well as bereaved children dealing with grief and horses are an integral part of the program. We were honored to be able to send them a check for $1250.
While we had done an event featuring only the trail trial in 2012 as a benefit for BorrowedHeadless Horseman Freedom, this year we decided to up the ante and add obstacle challenges to the day’s events. Also on the agenda was a Gambler’s Choice wherein the rider would compete on the same course as the obstacle challenge but they would be allowed to choose their own path through the course as long as they did every obstacle. Fastest time won. We were blessed with the ability to make that class a payback class due to the generosity of two local businessmen…who donated $250 for that purpose.

The trail trial was also a “trick-or-treat” activity. We received donations of sample sizes from Straight Arrow, Vetricyn, Smart Pak, and Mrs. Fields Horse cookies that the judges handed out at each obstacle. Vetricyn, Smart Pak also donated large items to be raffled off. Big Red Equine Dentistry donated one free float and Greene’s Do It Center donated a $25 gift card. Jamie Wooten also put together several very nice raffle items…most of them at least a $100 dollar value. Other treats included candy, carrots, and other smaller goodies. We had an assortment of large pumpkins painted with equine themed images as door prizes. Another fun surprise was one judge used a check list of items and gave rider’s credit for each item they carried that was on the list. The winner of that activity took home one of the painted pumpkins as a prize. We even threw in a fun costume class at the end of the trail trial before awards were presented. We had 6 participants…all were adults except one, which I think is awesome.

Hanging ObstacleOur judge for the challenges was Ashley Haffey. As you can imagine the event could not have run without the volunteers. Twelve judges were needed for the trail trial…one at each obstacle. Thanks need to go out to Brittany Stephens, Alicia Davis-Krise, Jilliane Conway, Meg Stephens, Bri Felton, Susie Mattison, Deanna Marlow, Karen Juser, Vanessa Marshall, Sue Elwyn, Whitney Hibler, Lynette Shear, and Erica Mahar. They came, parked themselves at their assigned obstacle and did a great job evaluating the riders/horses. We also had volunteers Bob Anderson and Mark Koslosky on the timers for both challenges. They along with Mike Pincosky were with us for set up and clean up. Lee Ianone was there transporting the judges to and from their spots via ATV. Angela Gonzalez also wore several hats that day from helping in the “kitchen” to running the ATV shuttling judges all over the route.

Jamie’s mom, Rose Gilbert, as well as Michelle Anderson and Martille Norton handled the food/concession area. Several people contributed to the yummy eats. Once again the food was excellent and most of the riders stayed to eat after the ride and they raved about the quality. Kimberley Gilbert, Jamie’s sister was also here from FL and was instrumental in the fall décor around the registration area, raffle tables, and she organized the set up and decorating of the eating areas. The atmosphere was set and festive with corn stalks, pumpkins, and beautiful mums.

At registration a survey was handed to each rider and they were asked to provide Turnstile Obstaclefeedback for organizers. This is a pretty new venture and it is growing. Admittedly there are still a few bugs to be worked out but the response was overwhelmingly positive and helpful. There is even talk that in the future practice sessions will be held possibly bi-monthly. We are also considering teaming up with other groups who do this sort of event to do an end-of-year award. The sky is the limit. It’s been said “if you build it they will come”…well, that seems to be the case here.

I can’t say enough about how much fun this is for every rider, every discipline, and every horse. We are looking forward to 2015…hope to see you there.