The Gold Hill Triple Challenge
A great success!!!!!
Written by Elizabeth Moore
Pictures by Dream Riders Photography,
Elizabeth Moore, & Cindy Benson
Participants came from New Mexico, British Columbia, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, and California. Cindy and Mitch Benson generously opened up their home & ranch in Gold Hill, Oregon to approximately 40 visitors, allowing them to park/camp in their scenic pasture. She & her husband turned a very busy Miniature Donkey breeding facility in to a cross country driving and in-hand trail competition and educational event for Miniature Donkeys, the first ever of it’s kind held in the USA. All present participated, whether they brought a donkey or not. Anyone who has experienced a similar type event knows that it takes LOTS of volunteers to put one of these events on. Not only did the Bensons host this event, they fed all in attendance every night, morning, & lunch!!!!! This was a huge under taking in addition to the management of this event! Oh, Benson Ranch also had to house the 27 visiting donkeys!
The driving events offered were dressage, cones, & marathon. In addition, Cindy offered In-Hand Stadium Trail & Cross Country Trail classes. The Cross Country Trail class was designed to be a “reality” type trail experience during which the competitors had to negotiate streams, jump over logs, climb up & down hills, and lead their donkeys by Fiona, the miniature yak, all the while staying on pattern. What a treat!
Competitors and auditors all judged each other, which is a great way to learn more about the event. Scores were totaled and awards were given to competitors in each class, and the three championships (thus the title The Gold Hill Triple Challenge), Driving Champion, In-Hand Trail Champion, and the Versatility Champion (earning the highest combined driving & trail scores). This was a high honor indeed. Awards in the form of vouchers for photographs taken by Dream Riders Photography were a great new idea. Dream Riders’ photographers stationed themselves all around the event, offering donkey owners packages of photographs & videos for very reasonable rates. These photos are special because they were taken in the woods and meadow, rather than the show ring.
The judge, MargoHepner-Hart was busy not only with judging, but offering information about how she arrived at her scores and answering questions from participants. This was an unusual opportunity for competitors. Wayne Lyon, a well known Miniature Donkey trainer from Canada flew in just to help with the event. He generously offered his knowledge to competitors about driving challenges, while helping to keep the event on schedule. Maureen Harkom from Happ’s, Inc., a facility in Washington that hosts combined driving events, drove down on Sunday to watch the Marathon phase. Maureen hosts many events & has been interested in adding Miniature Donkey only sections to her events. She complimented Cindy on the marathon course. She said it was a nicer course than many professional marathon courses.
The meals shared by all provided an opportunity for people to meet & make new friends and spend the weekend talking donkeys!
The Gold Hill Triple Challenge could only be successful because of dedicated volunteers who also believed that the event could work. It could have been a logistics nightmare, but with Cindy’s organizational skills, her husband Mitch’s strong arm, and hard working volunteers, the event was definitely a success and next year's event is already in the planning stage!