Woodside, CA May 19, 2015 - When the horses gallop over Ian Stark's redesigned cross-country courses at the Event At Woodside on May 22-24, it will be a brand-new experience for them as well as for him. That's because it will be Stark's first Event at the Horse Park.
In fact, the former British Olympic rider had never been to the Horse Park at Woodside, about half an hour south of San Francisco, until his initial visit in January. "My first impression of the place, when I drove in the driveway, was, 'This looks like a giant arena event,' with all those jumps in one great big field," said Stark with a grin, "then I found all the things I could do there."
Stark is now the course designer at three of the West Coast's most prestigious events. He's been the cross-country course designer at the Galway Downs International Event in Temecula, California, since 2007 and at The Event at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana, since 2013.
After he sees how his Advanced, Intermediate and Preliminary level courses ride, he'll start preparing for the Woodside International Horse Trials, with competition at the CIC3*, CIC2* and CIC1* levels, on Oct. 2-4. "I can't wait to see how they do on my course. I'm very much looking forward to it," said Stark.
Stark said he's tried to open up the cross-country course, putting jumps in parts of the 272-acre property that haven't been used before. "We've used a little bit of new terrain, trying to make it even more of a galloping course than it has been," he said.
One such place is in the southwestern corner of the property, which had housed a driving obstacle. He's put a new water obstacle there, the third one on the site. Stark said that he plans to have the CIC3* competitors jump through this water twice, but that no division will jump all three water complexes - "At least not this year," he said with a smile that suggested he's thinking far into the future.
"Everyone involved with the Woodside event has been very supportive, and everything that I've wanted to do they've come on board to do - and they're raising lots of money to pay for it all," said Stark. "I'm very honored to be given the chance to work there."
The feature of The Event at Woodside is the seventh annual Woodside Preliminary Challenge - presented by CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California and Professional's Choice. The Woodside Preliminary Challenge will get underway on Friday morning with dressage, evaluated by a panel of two judges. The horses and riders will next attack the challenges of the cross-country course early on Saturday morning.
The Preliminary Challenge will climax on Saturday evening, when the leaders will tackle a special show jumping course, set by Sarah Dubost in the Horse Park's expansive Grand Prix Arena.
The top 10 horses in each of the two Preliminary Challenge divisions will begin show jumping at 6:20 p.m. Awards will follow immediately afterward, as hundreds of family, friends and fans cheer from their seats all around the arena.
Reserved seating and dinner is available for $60 per person ($40 for Woodside competitors) or $550 for a table of 10. Spectators can also bring their own chairs to watch from ringside. To reserve tickets, go to http://www.woodsideeventing.com. Proceeds from the Preliminary Challenge Gala Dinner benefit construction of the cross-country course at the Horse Park at Woodside.
The Woodside Preliminary Challenge offers two divisions: the Horse division is open to riders of any level of experience on horses that have not competed at the Intermediate level or above from 2008 to 2015; the Rider division is open to all horses with riders who have not competed at the Intermediate level or above from 2008 to 2015. Horses and riders must achieve two qualifying results at the Preliminary level in order to compete.
Saturday afternoon will feature the Advanced and Intermediate divisions taking their turns over the panoramic cross-country course. Spectators can enjoy the day watching cross-country action for $10 per person, which includes parking and a program.
More than 400 horses will be competing, at six levels, from Friday through Sunday in The Event At Woodside.
For tickets, go to http://www.woodsideeventing.com.