For the riders, organizers and volunteers of the 18th annual Inavale Horse Trials, it’s about family.
The three-day competition at Inavale Farm outside Philomath drew more than 300 riders ranging in age from 12 to 67 from the Pacific Northwest. The Horse Trials is a competition in the sport of Combined Training comprised of dressage (training), cross country jumping and show jumping. The Inavale Farm event is the only one in Oregon recognized through the U.S. Eventing Association, a national eventing education organization. Riders and their families and the horses’ owners battled the competition and the weather through the weekend with temperatures nearing 100 degrees on Friday and rain and muddy courses Sunday.
Show jumping and cross-country can take several years to master, but the sweat and mud and pain fade away when the rider and horse become one, said 11-year volunteer Emily Bucholtz.
“For competition, when you get that perfect movement, it’s like floating on air,” Bucholtz said. “To have a connection with a horse is so special. That connection and partnership of a horse where it truly loves you and you truly love it, nothing compares to that.”
When Bucholtz first volunteered at the 7th annual Horse Trials, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream of hers to show off a horse in competition. Achieving a lifelong goal can often carry with it disappointment. But 11 years later Bucholtz said it’s become “a better dream than anything I could’ve imagined.”
“My parents just hoped I would grow out of it and I never did,” Bucholtz said with a laugh. “When I finished paying my college loans, I realized time was limited. I believe you work hard to play today and dream for tomorrow. Well, I’m living that dream today.”
Bucholtz, an oncology pharmacist in Philomath, uses her week’s vacation to volunteer at the Horse Trials every year. It’s a lot of hard work, she said, but most of the time organizers Caroline and Luigi Meneghelli, who own Inavale Farm, make the work feel like a vacation.
“This is family. Everyone of the hundreds of people here are family,” she said. “These are wonderful people and they’re amazing to work with. The longer I’ve been a part of this and the longer I’ve known Luigi and Caroline, the closer and more special it becomes.”
The 18th Horse Trials were dedicated to the memory of the loss of a family member. Slick, the Meneghellis’ event horse, passed away on the Monday following the 17th Horse Trials. Slick was the reason the Meneghellis got into event hosting 18 years ago. Caroline described Slick as “a pretty face, a big heart, not much talent as a show horse, and a sizable loose screw in his head.”
“His loose screw rattled a bit right up till the end of his life, but I loved him anyway,” Caroline wrote. “And indirectly, this little horse started everything.”
Luigi said Slick helped get them into event hosting, but it’s the volunteers, competitors and spectators that keep them hosting the event each year.
“It’s a lot of work but we’ve got a family now,” Luigi said. “We’re happy when the competitors are happy and we’ve seen a lot of smiles this weekend. A lot of sweat too, but a lot of happy faces.”