Month of horse shows to hit Carson area

A 100-acre Carson Valley field will blossom this summer with tents, bleachers, corrals and show rings as Olympic-style horse show jumping competition starts a 10-year run there.

Horse Shows in the Sun Inc. or HITS, which runs show jumping circuits in Florida, Virginia, New York, Arizona and California, has scheduled five weeks of competition June 30-July 28.

With over $850,000 offered in prize money, the ITS Tahoe series is expected to draw 1,000 horses and 3,000 exhibitors weekly to the show grounds at Highway 395 and Stockyard Road, according to HITS spokeswoman Mary Hilton.

Based on its experiences in its other locations, the company estimates 10,000 spectators will attend over the five-week run. Admission is free to all shows except the Sunday afternoon Grand Prix competitions, when adult tickets are $5 and the proceeds will benefit area charities.

HITS estimates the economic impact of the series to surrounding communities at $20 million, Hilton said.

For example, some Carson Valley families are planning their vacations during the series and renting their homes out on a weekly basis to participants. Marsha Tomerlin, owner of Coldwell Banker Itildo Realty, is offering one premium Minden-area home at $1,000-2,000 a week.

"It's a 3,400-square-foot, three-bedroom home with a gourmet kitchen and is well-suited for entertaining," Tomerlin said. "Geographically it's perfect - 20 minutes from the lake and 20 minutes from downtown Minden.

"HITS has leased the show grounds for 10 years, so this could develop into a long-term business opportunity for homeowners here who's like to offset their own vacations out of the area."

HITS leased the 100-acre former alfalfa field from the Bently Family Limited Partnership and is installing a special surface for the eight show rings. To create the base, 30,000 tons of stone dust has been hauled in over the winter.

Now the compacted base is being topped with a resilient footing material made of ground recycled sneaker rubber and sand. The investment in those show ring surfaces approaches $500,000.

Portable bleachers, tents and stabling will be will be installed at the site as the grounds become a small village for the duration of the events, then removed until needed next year.

"When the shows are over, you'll hardly know we were there," HITS marketing director John Eickman said.

Show jumping became an Olympic sport in 1912 and was introduced to network television during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Calif. It dates back to European cavalry exercises and the British sport of fox hunting.

Horse and rider attempt to clear 15 to 20 obstacles in the fastest possible time with the fewest faults such as knocking down a fence or standard or the horse refusing a jump. Fences range from 4 feet to 5 feet, 3 inches in height and the difficulty of the course increases during the progress of competition.

Hunter events are scored on the style and manner of jumps, while jumper events are scored on timing. Over 250 classes of hunter and jumper events will be conducted each week, including one Grand Prix class on Sunday afternoons.

The Grand Prix event, where the top purses are offered, is considered the best of the best, Hilton said. Many of the Grand Prix riders to be competing in HITS Tahoe have competed in past Olympic Games and World Cup Finals, she said.

The top prize at the first four Grand Prix will be $50,000, with $100,000 to be awarded the winner of the final Grand Prix.

HITS is a special events management company with its primary focus on producing hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Rhinebeck, HITS produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, Florida in 1982.

HITS is owned and managed by Thomas Struzzieri, who has over 22 years of experience in horse show management. Struzzieri was recently elected President of the National Hunter Jumper Council.

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