Area VII will go another year without one beloved recognized event on its fixture: Whidbey Island Horse Trials. The 43rd running of the Oak Harbor, Washington, event was canceled last year, with hopes that it would return in 2020. Now that plan has been pushed back another year — but we’ll look forward to a return to the calendar in 2021! In the meantime, there will be a schooling show planned for July 2020.
The event issued this press release:
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials lost the ability in 2019 to run a recognized event on the property where we have been operating since the mid-1990s, forcing the painful decision to cancel the 2019 horse trials. Since late summer last year, planning was in the works for our 2020 Horse Trials to be held at a new beautiful location in the prairie farmland outside of Coupeville. Preliminary agreements were in place with the landowner, site plans had been developed, and our course designer had approved of the site’s potential. This property, like a large proportion of the agricultural land in this area, has conservation easements on it to prevent development and maintain the rural character of the prairie. The easements on this property also have provisions for equestrian trails and the landowner did not anticipate that the horse trials use would conflict in any way with the purpose of the easements. Lawyers for the Land Trust, however, determined that our event would not be allowed under the terms of their agreement with the landowners – this terrible news was just conveyed to us in February, forcing us to scramble to find an alternative plan or cancel the competition once again.
The good news is that a promising alternative event site has already been identified. We feel, however, that there are too many risks to our ability to deliver a quality event in just four months at a site where we are still working out contractual details and where we will still need to submit for County permits and construct trails, courses, and fencing. Additionally, changing sites at this late date is a violation of USEF GR302 which requires notice 240 days in advance of a competition location change. It is with great sadness and disappointment that we convey this development to our wonderful competitors and supporters. While we were operating in good faith believing that we would be able to deliver on our commitment to run the Whidbey Island Horse Trials in 2020, we understand that for competitors this is frustrating. As we did in 2019, we plan to instead to offer a schooling event in place of a recognized event in July 2020 and our very popular back-to-back one days in September 2020.
We remain resolute and committed to continuing to offer a quality eventing experience on Whidbey Island in 2021 and beyond, just as we had for more than 40 years in the past. Thank you – we are very grateful for your support of our ongoing effort.