MORA — Von Holten Ranch in Mora is moving along at a gallop. It is celebrating its one-year anniversary Saturday and the owners are planning a national trail horse competition that will bring about 350 competitors to the ranch in November.
This weekend at 6 p.m. the ranch will host a dinner and a Hawaiian dance by the Treasures of Polynesia, of Kansas City.
Since opening the ranch, David and Brandy Von Holten have built 100 covered horse stalls, three camping cabins, a home and office building, a 100-by-200-foot outdoor arena and have installed 40 electrical units for campers along with a guest shower house. The ranch also has more than 20 miles of horse riding trails. The couple is anticipating the anniversary celebration, but also the Great American Trail Horse Competition being presented by the American Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) Nov. 5-8 at the ranch.
ACTHA President Robin Tilghman said by phone Thursday that 19 states are now represented in the competition. Competitors will be arriving from New York, California, Florida and from the central U.S. including Wisconsin and South Dakota. Applications for the competition are still being accepted.
Von Holten added that they expect 500 to 1,000 visitors a day at the event.
“It is the celebration of the great American trail horse and this festival is our way of honoring them,” Von Holton said while reading a statement by ACTHA. “The number of rescued horses, whether it be on-the-track thoroughbreds or any rescued horse, being a trail horse gives them a second career, giving them a valuable life.”
Von Holten said 15 horse trainer clinicians will attend the event.
“They are coming in from Canada and Australia,” she added. “They have circus tents rented for all the vendors, plus a vendor row. We’re going to have food services here for all the spectators plus meals for the competitors.”
The ranch was selected because of its location.
“We were selected because we are 45 minutes off of I-70 and we are centrally located in the United States,” Von Holten said.
Well known horse trainers Guy McLean, Lee Hart and John Lyons are a few of the presenters for the event.
“The clinicians that we have have written books, and Guy McLean, he was the main clinician for HorseFest,” she noted. “It is Missouri’s largest horse convention and then also Equifest which is the largest one in Kansas.”
McLean will give a presentation with his horses Saturday evening Nov. 7. On Friday, Nov. 6, all the clinicians will play polo against each other, but with a different spin.
“It’s going to be with a five-foot tall ball,” Von Holten said.
During the event, the competitors will compete in different obstacle courses. The courses are designed to build trust between the horse and rider. Von Holten added that she has received complements from ACTHA for her creative obstacle courses.
“I’ve gotten several complements nationally from their board for obstacle creation,” she said. “They contacted me and said they are extremely happy in how I’m blending their obstacles. They only have 40 some-odd obstacles, then I have to combine them in a unique way.”
She tries to make the courses more interesting for the competitors, such as making a Las Vegas-themed competition or a bridge-crossing simulation using dry ice to mimic fog.
The “fog” helps the horse to become accustomed to the real situation, preventing it from bolting due to fear of the unknown.
“Through obstacle competition, the horse gains bravery, and a brave horse is not going to come out from underneath you,” she said. “It makes the horse a better horse, and it makes the rider more safe. So to be a national or state champion in this, the bond between you and your horse is so strong that horse trusts you, and then you trust your horse.”
All 40 of the electrical camp sites have been booked for the November event. Von Holten has also collected two pages of names for primitive camping.
“That’s just the competitors, not the spectators,” Von Holten said. “I don’t think people realize how large an event this is.”
Von Holten said she is no longer nervous about the upcoming national competition, but she is very pleased the ranch was selected for the event.
“I’m past nervous, I’m a little numb … I am just honored that they selected us,” she said. “Talk about a dream come true, next weekend we’ll be open for one year. We’re a smaller trail riding facility, with this being in my husband’s family now for 109 years, it’s just really important that our business is successful.”
If the competition event goes well, the Von Holtens plan to promote the ranch to other organizations.
“I’ve already talked to the EXCA, the Extreme Cowboy Association, about hosting world championships here,” she added. “And, I have begun talking to an organization for sorting and barrel racing.”
Upcoming events at Von Holten Ranch will be horse riding lessons Nov. 1 and two Kid’s Camps planned for summer 2016. The Von Holtens are also planning to open a restaurant on the property next year. Von Holten said it will serve “country/mom and pop” style food.
The Von Holten Ranch anniversary celebration begins at 6 p.m. Saturday. The dance is free. Reservations are required for the dinner and can be made by calling 668-0880. Those interested in entering the Great American Trail Horse Competition scheduled for Nov. 5-8 may register at www.ACTHA.us or call the ranch at 668-0880 or visit http://www.vonholtenranch.com/index.html. The ranch is located at 30455 Pacific School Rd., 17 miles south east of Sedalia.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.