Focus on fun: Kluz horse facility in Gillette is for learning, having a good time
Ashley Kluz Villmow and her family are providing a place to ride horses, compete, and learn more about different disciplines in the equine sport.
Kluz Performance Horses, located near Gillette, Wyo., is a family-owned equine event facility run by Ashley, along with her husband, Brice Villmow, their son Tyson, and Ashley’s mother, Laurie Kluz.
The facility includes a heated indoor 120’ x 300’ area, an outdoor 200’ x 300’ arena, stalls, RV-hook-ups, and more. It hosts multiple equine events each year and is available for rent. Villmow, a former reining horse trainer and reiner, gives reining lessons, and produces a schedule of equine events as well.
They host a series of “fun days,” what she calls a combination of gymkhana/little rodeos,with barrel racing, pole bending, the keyhole race, and more. Three of these are held in the spring, with another three making up the fall series. Entry fees are $40 for the entire day, with Kluz awarding fun things like buckles, tack, boots, and more.
They also host ranch horse shows, with six total: three in the spring series and three in the fall. The ranch horse shows consist of ranch reining, ranch riding, and ranch trail.
The family also plays host to a two-day open horse show, July 11-12, a sort of replacement for the Buffalo, Wyo. show that used to occur. Ashley and her sister grew up competing at the Buffalo show, so they are happy to provide the event. The horse show consists of five age divisions, from eight and under to the amateur and open divisions, and this year, will add a walk/trot youth and a walk/trot adult class.
Villmow will also host seven clinics at the facility this year. The April clinic features Jennifer Bull, a western dressage clinician from Wisconsin. In May, Casey Deary, a million-dollar reining horse trainer will be on site. Deary does one clinic a year, and for the past three years, it’s been at Kluz’s barn. “This clinic is awesome,” Villmow said.
Also in May, Marilyn Randall makes an appearance to focus on ranch reining, ranch riding and ranch trail. She will judge the first day and teach the second, giving students the chance to learn from their experiences.
June’s clinic is Laurel Denton, one of the nation’s top ranch riding trainers from Arizona. July is a month off from clinics, and August features two clinics: Marilyn Peter doing ranch versatility and Sharee Swartzenberger, a reining clinician. In November, Justin Henderson is on site to teach about horse showing, and like Randall in May, he will judge the first day and teach the second day.
Spots in the clinics fill up nearly immediately, Villmow said.
The building is busy every weekend from April to early December, when they take a few months off.
4-H kids have their horse shows at the Kluz building, with 4-H horse challenges every other Saturday, too.
The building can host other events, as well, with hourly and multi-day rentals, panels that can be set up for any configuration, and the ground worked every four hours. If Ashley isn’t on the tractor, her mom Laurie is there. “She definitely understands the dirt end of it, which is a huge help with what we do,” Ashley said.
Each member of the family has their role with the facility. In addition to “dirt duties,” Laurie helps with events, setting up, tearing down, picking up, running the gate, “whatever happens to need done that you can’t get help for,” Ashley said. Her husband Brice does the big projects and has hauled countless loads of rock and sand to the arena. He does the “small stuff” too: setting barrels and running the gate, when needed. Even son Tyson, at age six, gets in on the action. “He’s a good score sheet runner from the judge and back,” Ashley said. “He saves us some steps.”
A former reining horse trainer and a National Reining Horse Association professional, Ashley now gives reining lessons, with all lessons on Wednesdays, from 7 am to 9 pm. Monday nights are reining practice night, and she tries to keep it to eight people in the barn, so it doesn’t get too crowded.
The Kluz facility also has an outdoor trail course, complete with a pond, steps, big logs, and used “Christmas trees because nothing grows here,” Ashley laughed. “We rebar them into the ground and they stay, but sometimes we have to straighten them because of the wind.” People have a “grand time” with the outdoor course, she said. It is used for many of the ranch horse shows. Last year, they held a trail challenge contest with it, with different obstacles that go from simple to the “wilderness rider,” the most extreme.” “It’s fun,” she said.
The competitions at the Kluz barn are enjoyable, and that’s the goal, Ashley said. “We think that’s how it should be. So many competitions are die-hard, cut-throat and I don’t want it to be that way. I want it to be fun for people.”
Ashley and her family started Kluz Performance Horses in 2007, with a boarding barn and lessons. In 2017, they built the new facility.
For more information, visit their website at http://www.kluzperformancehorses.com
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News