When deciding which horse show is a favorite, everyone has a different priority– which one has the most prize money, the best exhibitor parties or the coolest prizes. But when it comes to picking which horse show is the best one for your horse, Trainers, Exhibitors and Owners alike all have the same priority; footing.
Everyone loves the beautiful setting of the Remlinger Farm’s Equestrian Park; Mount Rainer off in the distance, the grass fields and trees for as far as the eye can see. But getting the footing right has posed a challenge over the years. The WSHJA and Show Manager, Dianne Johnson, knew that the footing had to be addressed in order to make this show a win for riders and horses. With that in mind, Hans Van Meenen was hired to make it work.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hans, a drive down to Bend, OR and a trip around the grass fields at the Oregon High Desert Classic horse show will give you an idea of why the WSHJA chose Hans to be their man. With beautifully groomed fields that last for two weeks of horse showing in both heat and wet, Hans has proven his skills with grass as he developed a scruffy blackberry field into a beautiful hunter/jumper show.
Hans’ first order of business was to assess the current conditions at The Remlinger Farm’s site. He travelled to the site before accepting the position to make sure he thought he would be able to bring the show footing up to his standards. After getting the necessary reassurances from the WSHJA Board, he decided to dive into the dirt and has, since then, started what is a long, but successful process of turning Remlinger Farm into The Evergreen Classic – the way we all imagine it to be.
Hans explained the current issue with the footing as a base problem – in other words, it isn’t about the grass that we see, it’s about the ground under the grass – and if that ground is too hard for the grass to take root, you have a slippery surface without any cushion. In order to repair the damage, and prepare the site to be horse show ready, Hans and his crew have started by rolling and leveling the grounds – there will still be hills and dales – part of what makes a horse show “on the grass” exciting – but they will be “controlled” – hills where hills are wanted and dips where they belong – instead of a rough and uneven terrain which is hard on both horse and rider.
Once the terrain is shaped, Hans will then determine what areas can be ready for this year, and what areas need more time. As with everything else, time is needed to heal wounds, and some areas at the farm are more damaged than others. These areas will be blocked off for the 2012 Classic – keeping horses and riders off of them to ensure that those spaces can continue to repair themselves for the next season.
After shaping the area and mapping out a plan for ring and stall placement, the footing team will begin the aerating process. This involves digging 6” plugs into the soil, pulling out the divots and removing them. The “holes” are then filled with sand which encourages grass to root into it. By softening the soil, grass roots will be able to spread deeper and thicker – giving a soft, spongy base as opposed to the harder base that is there now. From there they will fertilize, break down the clay with organic materials (think worms, people!) and continue to aerate, seed, water and roll – a never ending process that will produce nicer grounds for all. Hans hopes to see an 80% improvement by the time of the show, getting it to “110%” by 2014. Hans’ aspiration is to make it “as good as Bend, and better…” as his personal goals are to “always make it better”.
With a personal commitment from both Hans and Dianne to make the footing the number one priority, and the financial backing of the WSHJA, The Evergreen Classic promises to be a wonderful show on sound footing. The WSHJA is excited about the show this year and hopes you, as their members, are as excited as well and will make sure to put The Evergreen Classic on your horse show list this year – come out, see the new footing, experience the venue the way it was meant to be, and enjoy a top of the line show – right in your own backyard! 2012 is the year of The Classic, and we hope you will come along for the ride!