Blue River Horse Center expands programing to community with new obstacle course, changes name to Summit Valley Horse Center |

Blue River Horse Center expands programing to community with new obstacle course, changes name to Summit Valley Horse Center

New Ranch Director Lizzie Kanetsky in charge of offerings

Lizzie Kanetsky, ranch director of the Summit Valley Horse Center in Silverthorne, rides her horse Lily through part of the ranch’s new obstacle course on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. The obstacle course is used to both challenge and educate the horse and rider while also building a a strong bond of trust between the two.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Blue River Horse Center’s ranch may be quieter in the colder months, but staff is still working behind the scenes to prepare operations for spring and summer. After moving into a new home in 2021, and changing its name to Summit Valley Horse Center this month, the nonprofit is gearing up to increase community outreach and participation.

Summit Valley Horse Center is known for its equestrian-based emotional awareness and leadership training programs, which mainly run from May 1 through Oct. 31. When humans and horses spend time together, people become more aware of themselves because of horses’ natural sensitivity to feelings like anxiety or fear.

“Horses are a true reflection of your emotions and your self-confidence because a horse picks up on your heartbeat,” horse center president Craig Robelen said.

Recently, the center installed a new obstacle course designed by Robelen that it hopes to be used more by the public next summer. He said he watched videos of other obstacle courses online for about a month before starting to build it in July. 

Using his 30 years of construction experience, as well as donations from Alpine Lumber and Climax Molybdenum, he and other volunteers created a course meant to desensitize rescued horses to various natural obstacles and train competitive riding horses.

The course is comprised of small jumps, serpentine walk-throughs, ditches and more to train the horse how to maneuver tight spaces and step over debris. A seesaw teaches how to walk over bridges, while foam noodles and hanging vertical ropes simulate branches.

“When you’re out doing trail riding, which my wife and I do a tremendous amount in the mountains on the Colorado Trail and elsewhere, you encounter all sorts of stuff like this. Sometimes it’s logs you’re going over, sometimes it’s a bridge, sometimes it’s walking through a stream,” Robelen said.

Next year, Robelen said they hope to have the course be a part of a competition tournament circuit.

To help with the programming expansion are new Ranch Director Lizzie Kanetsky and Ranch Manager Morgan Offutt. Kanetsky said the center hasn’t had a director before. She oversees the day-to-day operations, horses and classes in addition to introducing the course to the local equestrian community.

Kanetsky was born in Vail, raised in Breckenridge and studied at Colorado State University’s equine sciences program. She trained horses all over the country and came back to the area to be a ski patroller 10 years ago. 

Kanetsky had her first horse when she was 10 and said they have always enthralled her.

“They’re challenging, they’re beautiful, they’re sensitive and they’re intuitive,” Kanetsky said. “They make you really think about everything around you and how you are as a person. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been entranced by that.”

She currently owns three horses, two of which are rescues, and has led them through the course. Kanetsky is excited for more people to do the same since beginners and veterans can have fun with the obstacles because the atmosphere removes the stress of a rigid training environment.

“I’ve taken my horses through all kinds of crazy situations, and I even found things I needed to work on with my horses,” Kanetsky said.

Now, Kanetsky said she’ll spend the winter focusing on how to grow the nonprofit for the future.

“(The summer) was a huge success, and we had tons of good horses and really good volunteers and amazing turnout,” Kanetsky said. “We’re just looking forward to really building on that and keeping that going,”

People can visit to learn how to become a member and volunteer, or call 970-389-9797 for partnership details.

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