MT. PLEASANT—The Event at Skyline, now in its sixth year, brought equine competitors and spectators from all over the western United States to the ConToy Arena over the weekend and pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the local economy.
“It was one of our highest turnouts ever, and we’ve continued to keep improving and moving things forward since the first year,” Lani Taylor, event co-founder, said.
The competition, one of the two biggest equine events at the arena each year, ran for three days, each of which focused on a different form of equine competition. Friday was dedicated to dressage, Saturday to cross-country riding and Sunday was show jumping.
Mia Edsall, riding True Story, came took first place. Emma James, riding Marley, earned second place. Kayla Dumler, riding Faramir, took third.
In all, more than 150 horses and riders competed in the event.
“Everything played out really well,” Jack Widdison, arena manager, told the Messenger. “Our course designer, James Atkinson, was there. They (the organizing committee) made a few changes for this year. They did a great job, and they were on top of everything.”
Widdison says the event started out small but has grown into a big deal since founders and organizers first met with the Mt. Pleasant City Council with a proposal for the arena and the subsequent competition.
Course designer James Atkinson was one of those founders, and Taylor and Widdison agree, he has been a major influence over the evolution of the competition.
As certified course designer, Atkinson has designed competitive equine courses all over the world, including Europe, Canada and for Olympic competition.
Atkinson says success of The Event at Skyline can be measured in several ways.
The Contoy Arena and The Event at Skyline have had a large positive economic impact.
“The hotels fill up weeks in advance,” Atkinson says. “The restaurants are packed. The local coffee shop posted its biggest sales weekend ever. Grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations, you name it. Heck, if everyone who came fills their truck up with diesel fuel just once, that alone is $200,000 into the local economy just right there.”
Atkinson says he and other founding members are grateful the city council took a chance on their proposal, and he believes they are glad they did.
“It really showed some vision and foresight from the city council that they accepted our proposal and continued to support it, which is necessary to grow our competition here,” he says.
Atkinson says all the money raised from the competition goes directly back into the competition and the arena, allowing for steady improvements each year.
For example, this year, 25 RV hookups were added, bringing the total up to 37. Widdison says every hookup was booked, cycling money back into the facility.
“The competition invests everything taken in to move the venue and competition itself forward,” Atkinson says. “Since our first year, the improvements that have been made here are great, and we have to credit Jack and Gaylyn Widdison for driving this forward, because without them, this wouldn’t be possible. “
In the end, the most important thing of all is the competition itself, Atkinson says.
“Our final goal is to provide excellence in sport competition,” he says. “We have been able to pull that together with Jack’s help. The feedback we get from our competitors is very positive. It’s everything we hoped it would be, and everything we convinced the city it would be, and everything we need to feel it is worth our time and efforts and passion.”
Taylor says it has been immensely rewarding seeing competitors keep coming back each year—especially riders who have attended from the very beginning—and to see the growth in skill they display. That progress has been worth all the hard work, she says.