Brave Horse Show Park developer-owner Matt Harris expects his new $10 million equine facility will spur a jump in the local economy and provide an experience riders will never forget.
The 75-acre facility at 1029 S. County Line Road in Johnstown has been developed specifically to accommodate top-tier equestrian hunter-jumper competitions.
"I'm so excited about the experience we've created here in Johnstown," said Harris, a Gahanna resident. "We set out to really create a unique equestrian environment where we could support the strong local community here in central Ohio."
On Aug. 25 alone, when a regional Brave Horse contest was held, Harris said, 30 people were working at the facility. He said the facility has "operational employment" of 26 people.
"We fly many in from outside and hire local residents," he said. "We're surrounding ourselves with the best team."
Also, he said, more than 100 people worked on the design, construction and development of Brave Horse.
Reynoldsburg resident Marisa Lutz of New Albany's Blacklick Bend Barn was working as a show groom on Aug. 25.
"It's very well-run," she said. "It's local but brings people from everywhere. This is a great show for younger riders."
Ohio State University student Meghan Beegle was helping young students last weekend while working for Liberty Farm of Columbus.
"I love it," she said. "It's nice to be in an environment with a bunch of other horse people."
Harris said visitors to Brave Horse are spending nights in area hotels, shopping at local stores and investing in the community.
The 24-day Quarter Horse Congress held annually in Columbus draws 650,000 people to central Ohio and generates $275 million in direct and indirect economic impact, according to research from the United States Equestrian Federation, the governing body of the equestrian sport.
Since debuting the Brave Horse series in May, Harris said, the experience has been tremendous and it's attracting people from all over the world to see Columbus, Johnstown and the surrounding communities.
Harris said he and his wife, Amy, have 13-year-old twin sons, Connor and Jacob, and the show park resulted from the passion of Jacob, a student at Columbus Academy in Gahanna.
"He started riding and fell in love with the sport," Harris said. "That's how I got involved. Jacob, like so many other young children in central Ohio, rode a horse at a camp and fell in love with the sport."
Eight-year-old Abby Regan, a third-grader at Oak Creek Elementary School in the Olentangy school district, is one of those youngsters.
"This is a good place to ride," she said. "I like that you get to practice and then go into competition. It's really big and there are so many horses here."
Harris said he set out to build an excellent equine facility for the rider and the horse.
The facility, featuring seven state-of-the-art competition arenas with Olympic level fencing, is located on what was a soybean field.
Harris said a tremendous investment has been made in the infrastructure of the property, even to the point of raising it several feet.
A key to riding is good footing for the horse, and Brave Horse has distinguished itself with the drainage infrastructure in its seven rings, he said.
In addition to the seven arenas, Brave Horse also features 250 horse stalls in five stable buildings, a large show office, vendor areas, a hospitality area, landscaping and water features.
Harris describes Brave Horse as a boutique for quality events.
"There are so many great trainers and riders, but they had to travel to have an experience like Brave Horse," he said. "We're in the business of creating memories. Every time someone leaves the facility, we want them to have had a good experience that will draw them back to an experience in the future."
Local links abound
Harris, who works in aviation sales, said he wanted to support great riders and trainers in Ohio.
Johnstown resident Angela Moore, who competes in equine competitions all over the world, said she's fortunate to have the facility adjoining her property.
"It's a fabulous addition to the community," she said. "It's a top-notch facility, and I'm excited it's in our back yard."
Moore is with Stealaway Farms, where she coaches local students, including several from Westerville.
For people who love horses and love jumping, she said, Brave Horse is a dream come true.
"I compete and I coach many students who compete," she said.
Moore said Brave Horse is not only a great opportunity for people interested in horses, it's also good for local businesses.
Sunbury's Melody Robitaille received a blue ribbon at the show last week.
"I love it here," she said. "It's so nice and peaceful and secluded in the woods."
Brave Horse will host Split Rock, a jumping tour, Sept. 27 through Oct. 1 and Oct. 4-8.
Harris said he anticipates riders will stay in the area after the New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix on Sept. 24 to compete at Split Rock.
Derek Braun founded the Split Rock tour that is based in Lexington, Kentucky, and draws the world's leading riders and show-jumping enthusiasts.
"Brave Horse shares our same commitment to the highest-quality facilities, unparalleled amenities and the best possible experience for riders and spectators," Braun said. "We cannot wait to host some of the world's top competitors in Columbus right on the heels of the respected New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix and Family Day."