MT. PLEASANT—The Contoy Areana and Peterson Eccles Equestrian center played host to the Event at Skyline, the championship for Area IX of the United States Eventing Association September 11-13. Area IX covers the states of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

For those not familiar with the term “eventing,” it is a sport where teams of horses and riders challenge each other through three different competitions, including horsemanship skills in dressage, cross country, and show jumping.

The facility in Mt. Pleasant is one of only two in Utah (the other being The Golden Spike Events Center in Ogden), and one of only 10 in the Intermountain West It includes a 60 acre cross country course, outdoor arenas and supporting facilities, including concessions and over 100 covered stalls.

Day one of the competition was dressage, which puts horse and rider through a series of pre-determined movements or tests, with minimal direction from the rider. Day two is cross country competition where a long course with multiple jumps, and water features challenge horse and rider. The third day of competition is show jumping.

The entire event is rigorous for both horses and riders.

This year, James Atkinson, world-renowned cross-country course designer stepped in to lead the event when event co-founder Carrie Matteson fell ill. Atkinson was involved from the start with all aspects of the Skyline Eventing Park cross country course design and construction. He has designed courses around the world and is a certified designer at the highest levels of the sport.

Atkinson praised those that made The Skyline Eventing Park happen. “The support from the community and city” goes way beyond expectation. He particularly complimented Jack Widdison who manages the facility for the city of Mt. Pleasant. “You don’t often get that level of commitment,” Atkinson remarked as he noted that working with the City of Mt Pleasant and the people who run this Equestrian Center is a “refreshing experience”.

True to the culture of Sanpete Valley an army of volunteers makes things happen. “Seventy five percent of the volunteers are local,” noted volunteer judge and renowned artist Lee Bennion from Spring City.

Summer Peterson, along with other locals built many of the log jumps for the cross country course after learning from James Atkinson how to make them. Peterson also helped direct the event when Carrie Matteson became ill. Peterson, who is from Spring City, was one of the driving forces behind the Skyline Eventing.

A native of the Sanpete County, she started a fundraising campaign in 2014 to bring a cross-country course to the city-owned 100-acre equestrian facility. “I live about 5 miles from Skyline, so I’m the only local who events. (The city of Mt. Pleasant) approached me about developing a cross-country course there,” Peterson said.

“So we got a committee together and raised $50,000 and built a course through training level.” Ultimately the city was able to put in the “prelim course” for more advanced eventing.

An army of judges are required for cross country eventing. They must be positioned at every jump and volunteers from all over the Sanpete Valley were on hand to judge. Others came from as far away as Heber, Salt Lake City and Farmington. Rachael Dixon volunteered to judge a jump alongside her niece Maren who lives in Mt Pleasant. Dixon, who brought her 12-year-old mule Cucumber with her, has been riding in the area and claimed her ride in Canal Canyon was the highlight of her stay.

The economic impact of The Event At Skyline and other events at the equestrian center is felt throughout the Sanpete Valley. Riders, their grooms, and their families come from all over the Intermountain West. Not only do they fill hotel and motel rooms, they also buy other goods and services. Anyone with a horse trailer knows how much money it costs to fill the gas tank.

Competitors from Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and of course Utah attended the event. Angelika Buetel came from Denver, Colorado hauling a huge trailer with five horses. Beutel was staying at the Windwalker Guest Ranch in Spring City.

“The United Stated Equestrian Federation has been dictating protocol for COVID-19 compliance for events like Skyline,” Atkinson said. Masks were mandatory for everyone at the event and a sign-up sheet at the entrance recorded contact information for anyone entering the premises.

Unfortunately, spectators were not permitted. Safety Officer George Jan, from Salt Lake City University of Utah Health, reported that in addition to COVID-19 compliance there were lots of contingency plans for the care of riders and horses.

A veterinarian and a farrier were on site for equine emergencies. Two paramedics from University of Utah Health were also on-site full time, remarking that they could stabilize any injured or sick person until hospital transport could arrive. Air Med was on standby in case of trauma.

The event organizing committee, dedicated city officials, supportive sponsors, and competitors “did a great job” of making this fall’s Event At Skyline Championships a huge success remarked George Jan. He and his staff of paramedics are now among the hundreds of riders, judges, grooms, officials and of course horses looking forward to coming back in May for the spring Event at Skyline.

For information on the upcoming Contoy Classic Ranch Versatility competition visit

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