March 2018 - Camelot Equestrian Park
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 22:05
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Northern California eventing venue welcomes all to its friendly realm.

Northern California’s Lake Oroville had its 15 minutes of fame a year ago when damage to its dam threatened to flood the area. But eventers know the region for the much happier reason that it’s the home of Camelot Equestrian Park in nearby Butte Valley, about 80 miles north of Sacramento.

Owned by Mike and Connie Ballou, the evolving venue has hosted unrecognized competition for several years and is now in its fourth year of hosting a United States Eventing Association recognized event, set for June 8-10 this year with the Over The Moon In June Horse Trials. Divisions range from Introductory to Preliminary and include the USEA’s Future Event Horse division.

“The Park began as a dream to create a magical place, like King Arthur’s Camelot – where horse lovers can enjoy their animals with unbridled enthusiasm.” That’s the tagline on Camelot’s website and the motif is embodied in everything from jump design to a welcoming attitude inviting everybody into the realm. Mike Ballou is a down-to-earth visionary, reports show organizer Terry Hilst, and Connie Ballou is a talented graphic artist whose work conveys the Park’s fun, colorful spirit. Their purchase and development of the property has inspired a merry band of supporters and volunteers, many of them members of the Butte Valley Pony Club.

With 1,600 acres to work with, Camelot embodies the Avalon theme in big and small ways. Judges booths at the dressage courts are topped with castle-like roofing, as is a viewing bridge over the cross-country course. Sweeping over expansive land and gently rolling hills, the course includes obstacles purchased from RamTap in Fresno (before it was reborn as the Fresno County Horse Park) and custom-built jumps that reflect the Camelot spirit, like a stone dragon and a Merlin’s moon. Familiar course builders James Atkinson and John Michael Durr have contributed to the track since the first recognized event in 2015.

Highlights for Camelot’s marquee event, Over The Moon in June. include a high point award of a custom Devoucoux saddle. The Passage to Avalon Raffle is underway through April 23. This fundraiser for the show offers prizes including entries, stabling, coaching and training throughout the competition from Jen and Earl McFall of Dragonfire Farm. Only 200 tickets will be sold, so the odds of winning are good.

Quality Competition at Reasonable Rates

Even for those who don’t win, Camelot prides itself on good quality competition at affordable rates. That’s especially true for juniors this year, as the Horse Trials feature junior rider entries for just $150 per horse, $100 off the senior rider rates. “We want to help those parents who have two or three kids,” Terry notes.

Over The Moon In June shares the annual calendar with a schooling event and a few shows for dressage and hunter/jumpers this year. In the past, the Park had hosted three schooling events, but is scaling back this year in order to upgrade various aspects of the property. Three dressage courts are getting re-leveled bases and new footing, new jumps are being built for the stadium jumping schooling area and footing improvements continue to be a priority.

Competition, however, is only one of the Park’s goals. Promoting horse sports, preserving land for equestrian use and attracting riders and non-riders alike to a pleasant place to play while supporting the enjoyment of a life with horses are keys to the Park’s bigger mission. The Camelot Equestrian Park Foundation exists to facilitate that and a strong core of committed volunteers helps bring that mission to life.
Daily schooling fees for the cross-country course are just $20 per horse and “Trainer Day” enables a trainer to bring up to 10 horses for $75. And there’s a referral program in which members are listed on the website for those who’d like to come school but need a professional’s supervision.

Inspired by a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park, Camelot is steadily working its way to resembling its role model: Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, MT, as a family-owned, family-oriented venue for first class equestrian competition. Like most venues that have a ton of space, Camelot is a little off the beaten path. However, Terry feels that can be an advantage in that it’s a wonderful destination once you get there. Nearby Chico is a hidden gem, with lots to do for not-so-horsey family members. Antique shopping is great in the town of Oroville and Lake Oroville offers the cool break of swimming and boating.

For competitions, the Park’s target is those who enjoy and value the “whole aura” of the sport, notes Terry, an eventer herself. “We are looking for those people who enjoy coming for the weekend, either camping or staying in a hotel, and rubbing shoulders with everybody and having time to spend with their horses.”

Whatever is going on at Camelot, the emphasis is super friendly customer service, Terry concludes. “There is simply not a more congenial spot.”


For more information on Camelot Equestrian Park, visit www.camelotequestrianpark.com.