December 2020 - The Gallop: Valued Venue
Written by by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 04:06


Fresno County Horse Park’s fate goes from sad to super in the span of a phone call.

by Kim F Miller

“So many people have told me that I’ve been in training for this for years,” says Terry Hilst, the proud new owner of the Fresno County Horse Park lease and the fixtures related to hosting equestrian events at the Central California venue.

The West Coast eventing community had a sad moment in mid-September when John Marshall announced that he was stepping down from managing the property and organizing competitions, mostly eventing, there. John brought relief to the region when he took over the Fresno reins from Bill Burton eight years ago. Terry brings great experience as the next to take on the task, and she’s quickly enlisted a team of supporters, including John, who will work as co-organizer for upcoming shows.


Terry Hilst & Victory Trail

Terry is a long-time eventer herself and, until two years ago, organizer of events at the Camelot Horse Park in Northern California’s Butte Valley. In the interim she has indulged her passion for designing cross-country courses and for dirt: the kind that’s ideal for horses to gallop over on cross-country.


Terry has been taking the US Eventing Association courses and putting in the apprentice hours needed to fulfill the licensing requirements. She is currently licensed to design up through Training and expects to add levels up to Preliminary as of March 2021.

“My passion is providing good footing,” she explains. So much so that she purchased her own tractor and the “aggravator” attachment that she describes as “causing a minor earthquake” six inches below the surface. The effect is to quickly create safe, cushioned footing. Under the tutelage of longtime West Coast course builder and footing expert Bert Wood, Terry’s been in the driver’s seat aggravating the tracks at Galway Downs and Woodside Horse Park for the past year.

In fact, she was doing exactly that in preparation for the Galway Downs International in late September when she got the news about John Marshall ending his run at Fresno. “Bert (Wood) got the call from John, and Bert turned to me and said, ‘Terry, you should buy it!’”

The Mighty Aggravator

A Team Effort

Terri won’t be going it alone. She reports happily that John has agreed to stay on as a co-organizer of events. The calendar stays as scheduled and starts with the Combined Test and venue fundraiser Jan 15-17, followed by USEA/USEF eventing competitions in February, April, October and November. Prior to shows getting underway, international eventer Will Faudree will be at the Horse Park Jan 8-11 for a clinic organized by Kristi Nunnick and Max Gerdes.

John’s predecessor Bill Burton has also expressed interest in helping out, as have several concerned horse people throughout the region. Along with John and Bill, the team will include course builders and designers Bert Wood and Jay Hambly, Kim Goto Miner, Chris Hoyt, Ashley Ross, Stefanie Gladen and Nick Salwasser are part of the Terry-led team.

Roofing the barns.

Anne Howard is hosting the Friends of West Coast Eventing Facebook page to help raise funds for the Park. The Watsonville area dressage trainer has deep roots in eventing. Volunteer extraordinaire Sue Funkey was on her way with a paintbrush as we went to press, adds Terry, who hopes that the support of US Eventing’s Area VI members will continue to manifest in such helpful ways.

What’s New

Most importantly, Terry plans to continue the good work John has done in staging competitions that have become increasingly popular. Her expertise on the footing front contributes to improvements in that perennial priority and she’s excited that Fresno is on track to be the first West Coast venue to stage a Modified division in April.  Largely because of the significant expense of cross-country requirements for this step between the Training and Preliminary levels, the division has not been offered at many venues throughout the country since it was introduced in 2017.

New Auburn Labs Pavillion

Terry will continue to live in her Butte County home, with her eventer Victory Trail, and has already started spending three days a week at the Horse Park. All are welcome to help with painting and other maintenance tasks that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.  

Most of all, “I really want to put some fun back into it,” says Terry. “John built such a beautiful place and I want there to be parties and tail gate gatherings. I want to put back some of the camaraderie and celebration that we used to have.” That Horse Park, of course, will be managed under COVID safety protocols as long as necessary.

For more information on the Fresno County Horse Park and to help out with its continuance, visit or reach Terry Hilst at 559-572-0011 or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .