Richland Horse Park
Richland Park Horse Trials

A Brief History of The Richland Park Horse Trials

Richland Park is the realization of a dream that originated over twenty years ago. In 1985 Bob & Kay Willmarth purchased their farm in Richland, Michigan. Their farm included twenty acres as well as a land contract for the additional sixty acres. With eighty acres under their control, they entertained the thought of hosting a horse trial, but quickly realized they needed more land to do it properly. In 1993 the 240 acre farm which surrounded their property became available. Bob and Kay fought to purchase the land. They were successful and acquired the property in 1996. While they had quite a substantial piece of property, one more land acquisition was needed. In 2000, the final piece of 20 acre land was acquired.

Bob and Kay began taking steps to make their dream of hosting a horse trial a reality. They discussed the idea with their riding instructor Robin Walker. Robin advised Bob and Kay to approach, Mike Etherington-Smith, a top international designer regarding the construction of their cross country course. Robin and Bob met Etherington-Smith at The Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event in the fall of 2000 and discussed Bob & Kay’s dream. In the spring of 2001, Etherington-Smith came to Richland and designed the novice, training, and preliminary courses. He also designated where the dressage, stadium, stabling and parking should be developed. In the summer of 2001 Bert Wood from Temecula, California and Jay Hambly, from Guelph Ontario Canada came to the farm to build three entire courses in seven weeks.

In the spring of 2002 Mike and Bert returned to Richland to design and plan the intermediate and advanced courses. The construction of the intermediate course began the day after the inaugural event ended in September of 2002. The second water complex, the sunken road and the ditch complex were completed for both intermediate and advanced levels of competition. In January 2003, under extremely cold weather conditions, Bert and Jay built the intermediate portable jumps in a big red barn on the property, while Kris Hollister stoked the wood-burning stove to keep warm. In June 2003 Bert returned to the farm with Nick Fulton and Kris Hollister and finished the intermediate course. The inaugural run of the intermediate course took place at the September 2003 Richland Park Horse Trials. During the summer of 2004, Bert and Jay returned once more to finish the advanced course, which was unveiled for the first time in 2004. Mike returned once more in April, 2006 in order to make decisions and changes to the 2006 course as well as to make plans for 2007 when The Richland Park Horse Trials will offer CCI ** and CCI *** courses.

The Richland Park Horse Trials is a year round commitment. Throughout the year The Willmarth’s and their crew are busy planning, promoting ,wiring, running water lines for stables and speakers, mowing, and of course still building fences. Why do they do it? Bob & Kay view their effors as their way of giving back to the sport they both love. It is their hope that the competitors will enjoy the challenge before them, and they are confident that the competitors will learn from riding a Mike Etherington-Smith course. Bob & Kay recognize that they couldn't have done this alone and are grateful to the many people who have helped them through the years.

About Bob & Kay:
Bob & Kay were married in 1976, and resided in Paw Paw until 1978 when they moved to Kalamazoo. Richland became their home in 1985. Bob & Kay owned and operated Bob & Kay' Shell Carwash at Westnedge and Crosstown Parkway for several years. They also constructed Bob & Kay's Auto Wash on Gull Road in 1980, and Bob & Kay's Auto Wash on Stadium drive in 1990. Bob & Kay are avid horse lovers who competed in the sports of Eventing and Fox Hunting for over a decade.

About the Designer:
We are pleased and very excited to present Ian Stark as Mike Etherington-Smith's replacement starting with the 2009 courses. Ian is quickly earning a reputation as a world class designer and has been responsible for the CIC *** at Chatsworth, the CIC *** at Galway Downs, and Central Scotland CIC**. Ian was born in Galashiels in the Borders in 1954 and began riding at the young age of 10. One of the most popular riders of all times, he won four Olympic silver medals; Los Angeles in 1984 as part of the Great Britain team that finished second in the three day event. Four years later in Seoul, he added two more silver medals, in the show jumping competition and in the three day event. In the 2000 Sydney games, once again in team show jumping he earned another silver medal. Along the way, there were disappointments when in the 1992 Games in Barcelona his horse went lame and in 1996 in Atlanta where a fall on cross-country proved costly as the team missed out on a medal. Ian is also a three time winner of the prestigeous Badminton Horse Trials. He won his first two titles in 1986 and 1988 riding “Sir Wattie” and claimed a third win in 1999 riding “JayBee”. His 1988 win was even more notable in that he not only won the event, but also on his other horse “Glenburnie”, he finished second and is the only person to achieve this feat. Ian also won gold as part of the British team that won the World title in Gawler, Australia in 1986 riding “Oxford Blue”. In the 1990 World Championships in Stockholm, he picked up silver medals in both team and individual events on “Murphy Himself”. In 1991 he won two gold medals in Punchestown, Ireland in the European Championships riding “Glenburnie”. He went on to win two more golds in the team events of 1997 and 1999. In 1997 the event was held at Burghley England where he was partnered with “Arakai”, and in 1999, in Luhmuhlen, Germany, he was partnered with “JayBee”. Ian retired from competition at the 2007 Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. We are excited to have Ian as part of Richland Park and look forward to seeing the riders and horses negotiate his courses in August.