Systems Nearly Go for West Coast AEC in 2025; Championship to Return to Kentucky 2026-2028

Galway Downs’ main arena boasts unique spectator seating and a backdrop of flags representing an international array of competitors. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

After soliciting expressions of interest to host the next USEA American Eventing Championships, the US Eventing Association (USEA) has announced it has begun contract negotiations to host a fully West coast-based Championship in 2025 at Galway Downs in Temecula, CA. The 2025 AEC would be held from Tuesday, August 26 through Sunday, August 31, welcoming qualified competitors from the newly-recognized Starter division up through Advanced. The qualifying period for the next AEC typically begins each spring for the following year’s championship (for example, qualification for 2024 AEC began on May 22, 2023).

The announcement brings AEC fully to the West coast for the first time; to this point, the host sites furthest west were Rebecca Farm (Montana – 2022) and Colorado Horse Park (2019), along with a multi-year stint at Texas Rose Horse Park. It’s a representation of the strong eventing population that lives and competes west of the Mississippi, and particularly up and down the massive state of California.

You can read more about eventing in California in our deep dive from 2023 here.

Galway Downs, located in Southern California’s wine country of Temecula, has experienced much development and improvement over the past few years, thanks in large part to the efforts of Equestrian Facility Manager Robert Kellerhouse. The venue has also played host to multiple top-level jumper and dressage competitions, many of which under the banner of Nilforushan Equisport Events, that continue to drive the consumer experience to the next level. Some extra fun? Galway Downs is also home to a bustling race community, with a full training track and several race stables based there year-round.

Kick for home! Photo by Sally Spickard.

Galway Downs also features 400 permanent stalls and a total of 14 arenas, alongside its full cross country course that is equipped to host all levels up through its annual CCI4*-L in the fall. The venue hosted the 2023 USEF CCI2*-L and USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championships and the 2023 USEF Eventing Young Rider National Championships, presented by USEA.

“Galway Downs is excited to bring the 2025 USEA American Eventing Championships to the West Coast,” said Robert Kellerhouse. “We wish to thank to the USEA for the opportunity and are looking forward to working together with them in furtherance of a successful event.”

“We want to run the type of event where people would be tempted, regardless of their location, to make the trip out,” Robert elaborated. “We want to try and make this thing as great a success as they had in Kentucky. It’s incredible, I’m so happy. It’s a recognition of the success we’ve had in Temecula, what my buddy Ali [Nilforushan] has done with his jumper shows and a higher frequency of top shows, what the dressage community has brought here, what Ken [Smith] has done with the wineries, and the ranch homes on campus adds to people’s experience. Couple that together with the fact that Tamie [Smith] wins Kentucky, and it all morphs itself into getting more attention. All of them carry heavy weight.”

Part of Robert’s vision is an event that entices riders to make the trip, even from the East coast. Galway Downs remains a large part of the eventing tapestry on the West coast, and will be front and center as one of the most prominent venues close by to the LA Olympics in 2028 (which of course, we know the status of eventing is yet to be determined, but we’re holding out hope). “The whole world’s attention is going to be on a region. People are going to talk about Southern California and I’ll tell you what: when I was a kid during the 1984 Olympics, all of the sudden people weren’t calling me a jockey anymore. They knew what equestrian sports were. That’s the impact that this platform can have.”

Further to this announcement, the USEA also confirmed that Kentucky Horse Park has also entered contract finalizations to host AEC in 2026, 2027, and 2028. Galway Downs will have the option to apply for another hosting of AEC for 2029. The Horse Park makes much sense in the eyes of many competitors, both from a logistical (the venue is nearly as centrally located as one could be in a country the size of the U.S.) and a sentimental perspective (who doesn’t want to gallop through the iconic “Head of the Lake” — but without all the hooplah of having to make it to a 5* event like Kentucky?). The dates, pending contract finalization, for the 2026-2028 AEC would be:

  • 2026: Tuesday, Aug. 25—Sunday, Aug. 30
  • 2027: Tuesday, Aug. 31—Sunday, Sep. 5
  • 2028: Tuesday, Aug. 22—Sunday, Sep. 3

You can read more on this news in the USEA’s release here.

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