Saddle Club launches first horse challenge

Even as a horse person herself, Port Orchard resident Rena Boyer-Beller was surprised to learn that Kitsap County has the most horses per capita in the state.

“There are a lot of us with horses, and there aren’t enough equine events for us,” said Boyer-Beller, who runs Cedar Crest Stables and is a member of the Kitsap Saddle Club in South Kitsap. “Not only that, we’re losing trails and forest land all the time.”

So in an effort to both boost the ranks of the equine-inclined and offer them more events, the Kitsap Saddle Club will be hosting its first-ever Horse Starting Challenge this weekend.

Put on by Boyer-Beller and her stables, the event will showcase the training skills of three local trainers — South Kitsap resident Esta Dibley, Poulsbo resident Patricia Ruff and Oregon resident Steve Rother.

The event will begin with offering the trainers four untrained horses — all offspring of Belfair stallion American Commander, owned by Jim and Elaine Davis — to choose from.

“Then they will begin softening and saddling their horse,” Boyer-Beller said, explaining that all the trainers will be working side-by-side in the pen with the audience watching them work.

After training the horses for two hours the first day, each trainer will then put on an individual demonstration lasting about an hour. Those demonstrations will begin at noon.

The second day of the challenge also begins at 9 a.m. with more presentations, and will lead up to the grand finale — each trainer leading his or her horse through a trail obstacle course.

The trainers will be judged by a “completely impartial woman chosen because she doesn’t know any of them,” Boyer-Beller said, explaining that the judge will use a point system to score each presentation and decide the winner.

Boyer-Beller said she hopes this event will bring both more events to the area and more members to the club. She hopes to see about 200 people attend this weekend.

“We can hold about 1,000 people at that venue,” she said, adding that based on the calls she’s gotten so far, including from as far as Sequim and Snohomish, news of the event is spreading.

Boyer-Beller said the Kitsap Saddle Club is the “largest horse-man club in Washington state,” and it was recently named the 2006 Washington State Horseman Club of the year.

For more information, call the club at 871-3845.

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