Rebecca Broussard’s Legacy Lives On

Rebecca Farm in the Flathead Valley. Photo by Chesna Klimek. Rebecca Farm in the Flathead Valley. Photo by Chesna Klimek.

It began as a dream for Rebecca Broussard. She wanted to bring the sport of eventing to the rolling hills and picturesque setting of Montana, and Rebecca’s husband, Jerome, cultivated that dream until the Event at Rebecca Farm became a reality. Now, in Rebecca’s memory, her legacy continues to live on in one of the premier destination events North America has to offer.

Originally from Louisiana, Rebecca and Jerome chose to relocate to Montana in the mid-1980s. “It was a chosen move,” Jerome said. “There’s a certain ambiance about the west and the people that is very comforting to me. Even though it’s a developing area, there is still a spirit of independence and friendliness.”

Montana became the site on which Rebecca’s dream began to take shape. She originally was very involved with eventing at Heron Park, but county restrictions made it difficult for the sport to grow uninhibited. “It was a small county park with all the restrictions that would hang on a county park,” Jerome explained. “(Rebecca) decided she wanted her own place to grow the sport. It sounds strange in northwest Montana to try to grow eventing, but that’s what she wanted to do.”

In 2000, Rebecca and Jerome pieced together the property that would become Rebecca Farm. There, Rebecca could truly begin to build her dream, which she did in earnest. “The first year, we probably had 200 competitors and ran through Intermediate,” Jerome recalled. “By the time we got to 2010, we were holding two- and three-star competitions, so Becky was able to see the sport grow from Beginner Novice at Heron Park to a pretty classy venue for eventing.”

“There is a limit on how much you can put into a facility when you don’t own it — we didn’t have that limit.”

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum at Rebecca Farm 2015. Photo by Sally Spickard.

A Continuing Legacy

Rebecca lost her battle with cancer in 2010, a loss that dealt an emotional blow to the eventing community. In her memory, the Broussard family initiated the Rebecca Broussard Developing Rider grants the following year, funding them with a generous $250,000 gift to the United States Eventing Association Endowment Trust spread over five years. The grant are designed to financially support riders who have the potential to represent the U.S. at the national and international levels.

While the grants were originally intended to continue for five years, ending in 2015, Jerome announced at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention this past December that he would continue funding them.

“The thing we wanted to do was to champion a cause,” Jerome said. “Becky wanted to see more effort put into bringing along competitive riders who could compete on the international scene. I think the committee has done a good job, we have a few people that they chose who are rising stars, such as Tamie (Smith) and Matt (Brown).”

“I announced at the meeting in December that I was going to continue the grant forward and continue to do so as long as I felt that it was doing what it should. I’ll do it in two-year blocks, so we’re going to keep that rolling and keep doing the travel grants to bring people (to compete at Rebecca Farm). I think it’s working.”

“I think if you asked any of the riders (who have received a grant), they will say it had an impact on their career,” he continued. “The recognition — more so than the money — was enough to make them believe in themselves.”

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Sally Spickard.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Thanks to the diligent upkeep and forward-thinking vision of the Broussard family, the Event at Rebecca Farm continues to attract hundreds of competitors each year. Despite the long travel required to get to the venue, competitors and spectators continue to show up in droves. The original dream of growing the sport — even in a remote location — has undoubtedly come to fruition.

Even following Rebecca’s passing, Jerome and his daughters, Sarah and Rebecca, continue to carry the torch. “Whatever comes up that we need to address, we take care of,” Jerome said. “We’re adding another arena for this year so that all divisions have the opportunity to compete on improved footing, which we weren’t able to do before; we had to have some dressage on sand and not on the better footing. I also want to expand a couple of the arenas in size. We’ll also do some things to improve stabling as well as traffic flow.”

Photo courtesy of Seaborn Larson/Daily Interlake Photo

Photo courtesy of Seaborn Larson/Daily Interlake Photo

A Community Ripple Effect

A recently released report showed the strong economic impact the Event at Rebecca Farm has on the surrounding community in Kalispell. The study, led by the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, estimates the economic impact of the 2015 event at $4.4 million. With 10,000 attendees and 600 horses, the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to being a community attraction.

Additionally, the Broussard family has generously contributed to other areas of the community, including a $4 million gift to build the Rebecca Chaney Broussard Center for Nursing & Health Science at Flathead Valley Community College in 2012.

“Becky was a nurse, and Flathead Valley Community College is an integral part of the community,” Jerome said. “We have always been supporters of the school. We also endowed a $1 million dollar scholarship there.”

“Before Becky died, she said the building of a state-of-the-art nursing facility was something we should support. Community colleges do not receive state funding, so I thought it would be a nice place to make a donation. The $4 million really helped them finish the building and have the equipment to make it a truly first class building right from the start. I don’t know that you’ll find a nicer facility than what they have there.”

The Halt Cancer at X initiative was also spearheaded in Becky’s honor. Marking its fourth year running in 2015, the organization awarded $71,500 to one national and three local organizations to help the fight against breast cancer.

Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, MT. Photo by Kelsy Smith.

Another picturesque view of Rebecca Farm. Photo by Kelsy Smith.

Keeping the Dream

The Broussard family’s efforts are a labor of love. Rebecca’s contributions to the sport continue to be recognized, culminating most recently with an induction into the USEA Hall of Fame in 2015.

“The recognition of what Becky has done over her lifetime is extremely well deserved,” Jerome said. “She’s been involved in the sport as a volunteer, owner, organizing — the whole spectrum.”

“This was her dream, but it was also a family dream. Sarah participates, Rebecca participates, my family, Becky’s family — it’s a family affair. We try not to let it consume us, but it’s a lot of fun. I’m very passionate about it, and I love the people. The week before the event is my favorite time of year. Everyone enjoys the atmosphere and western ambiance that we provide, and it makes me feel good. And I know it makes Becky feel good, too.”