On the Rail
Add something equestrian to make a memorable Valentine's Day

Forget the candy and roses. There are a number of special options to please the horse-involved on February 14.

How about an introductory ride for Valentine's day, along the 18 miles of trails at Lord Stirling Stable?

This is an opportunity to get your sweetie on a horse, as it's geared for those who have little or no experience.

The program involves a quick lesson with an instructor before the walking trail ride. Registration is available at the stable office through February 11. The fee is $35 for Somerset County residents and $45 for non-residents. To make arrangements, call the stable office at (908) 766-5955.

Or why not make a horse happy for Valentine's Day? Mylestone Equine Rescue in Warren County has a feel-good program, a Valentine Gift Sponsorship. You can select a recipient from their special honeys, Dixie, Dillon, Holly, Woody or Livy. You also can ask to have a rescue horse in particular need chosen for you.

To complete the circle (or heart, in this case) just name the recipient of your Valentine gift sponsorship. That person will receive a Valentine's Day card announcing your gift, a certificate of sponsorship and a photograph and short biography of that rescue horse. This Valentine's Day offering is a one-time donation for the Valentine's gift sponsorship only; you can choose to pay by mail or through PayPal.

Another option involves sending a Valentine to the horses by buying them bags of grain or helping with their farriery needs. A card and the certificate don't come with this, but the good feeling does.

Order your sponsorship request by Feb. 7 to insure Valentine's day delivery. Go to mylestone.org for details.

Then there's the horse management seminar, "Why Do They Do That?" It will provide some answers to that question we've all asked about our horses from time to time (or more often).. Presented by the Rutgers Equine Science Center and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, it runs from 8 a.m.-4 pm. on Valentine's Day. at the Cook Campus Center in New Brunswick.

The seminar features experts who will focus on how horses learn, regardless of discipline, and how that knowledge can be applied to training. This could be a Valentine's Day you'll remember for the edge it gave you with your horse.

Learn more at the Equine Science Center website: esc.rutgers.edu. For information, contact Laura Kenny at (848) 932-3229, kenny@aesop.rutgers.edu, or Carey Williams at (848) 932-5529, cwilliams@aesop.rutgers.edu.


Winners All

Read about super-volunteer Judy Hennessy, who received the Governor's Award for the New Jersey Horseperson of the Year, in the middle of the main story to the right on this website. But Judy wasn't the only winner at the state's breeders' awards luncheon in Eastampton last weekend.

Pier Semanchik of Great Meadows, a 16-year-old Hackettstown High School junior, was named the outstanding 4-H'er award winner. Renee Stillwell,17, of Cream Ridge recived a $500 scholarship with the New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award. She's the Allentown Future Farmers of America chapter secretary and is active with the Mercer County Cloers livestock 4-H club.

An 18-year-old senior at Northern Burlington County Regional High School, Karissa Kester of Bordentown won the $1,000 Sara Dubinin Scholarship. An FFA member, she belongs to the Burlington County Everything Equestrian 4-H Club.

The $1,000 Earnest Bell scholarship, named for one of the founders of the state's Equine Advisory Board, was given to Rutgers senior Alyssa Lehman of Williamstown, who hopes to become a large animal veterinarian.


Horses can bring comfort to those seeking solace

Equine Time USA is having an open house from noon- 1 p.m. March 15 to introduce women with a medical challenge to the concept of how spending non-riding time with horses can "lift your spirit and support your journey."

The gathering will be at River Edge Farm, 1575 River Road, Bedminster. For information,, go to equinetimeusa.com.


Time to Microchip

Mandatory microchipping for the hunter, jumper and hunter and jumping seat equitation divisions was approved by the USEF board at the annual meeting. Horses competing in those divisions in breed shows (ie Arabian, Morgan) do not have to microchip.

The initiative that offers definitive identification of horses is ramping up slowly. It starts Dec. 1, 2017. Horses may compete without microchips until Nov. 30, 2018, but their points will not count for awards. Beginning Dec. 1, 2018, however, a chip will be required to compete in the hunter, jumper and h/j equitation ranks in recognized shows.

Part of the advantage of microchipping is that it combats fraud; with a microchip, you know the horse you think you're buying is the horse you're actually getting.

Because of resistance to microchipping from the breeds, the microchipping started as a project of the USHJA. The breeds will be watching to see how it goes and way down the road, there's a possibility it could be mandatory for all horses taking part in recognized shows.

Veterinary topics on tap

The B.W. Furlong and Associates veterinary practice presents annual Horse Health Seminar Feb. 20 at the Beaver Brook Country Club in Annandale, with topics to include Lyme disease, barn biosecurity, lameness and reproduction, among others. Register before Feb. 12 and pay $35; after that, it's $45. For questions, contact Dr. Megan Hays at mhays@bwfurlong.com.

Four iconic N.J. shows offer new opportunities

By Nancy Jaffer

January 31, 2016

Jumper riders such as Quentin Judge, winner of the grand prix at the 2015 Garden State Horse Show, will be able to compete for a high score award this year at that show, Sussex, Middlesex and Monmouth.     (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

If you've been on the New Jersey equestrian scene for a long time, many of your memories probably revolve around the Middlesex County, Sussex County, Monmouth County and Garden State (formerly Junior Essex Troop) horse shows.

I can remember back to the early 1970s when Troop was in West Orange and it was the largest junior show in the country. Sussex--who could forget the fair and the ferris wheel during its many years in Branchville, where the tree-shaded ring drew big crowds to see some of the country's best show jumpers.

Middlesex was in Johnson Park , New Brunswick, with its scenic outside course around the lake, and was multi-breed for awhile, like Sussex. Monmouth had a great venue at Wolf Hill Farm by Monmouth Park racetrack and made a lovely end to the summer.

But times change. Shows have proliferated over the last few decades, and exhibitors now have many more choices than they did in the days when the four New Jersey fixtures were basically the only game in town for those who wanted big-time competition. And the four shows changed over the years as well.

Sussex moved to the "new" fairgrounds in Augusta. while Middlesex wound up at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown. Garden State went to Chubb Park in Chester and then to the Sussex Fairgrounds.

Monmouth left Wolf Hill after the 1971 show and landed in Hunterdon County for a year before heading to the East Freehold showgrounds and then to the Horse Park. It is moving again this year to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation's Gladstone headquarters in Somerset County.

There have been difficult times for all these shows, once the "don't miss" events in the region, but they have persevered. And now these four are reinventing themselves and have wisely have joined forces, working together in a way that will help them promote each other.

Horse show judge Tucker Ericson, who owns Monmouth (renamed "Monmouth at the Team) with his cousin, Michael Dowling, an assistant professor of equine studies at Centenary College, believes "those four shows, with all their history" can work together and "get people motivated to support tradition."

He added, "It's an opportunity for us to reach out to each other. It just makes perfect sense."

As an incentive for exhibitors to compete in all four shows, the group is offering awards for the leading national hunter derby and jumper riders in the series.

The leading horse/rider in the hunter derbies will get a CWD saddle valued at $4,900; the leading horse/rider in the jumper ranks will get a $2,500 Devoucoux gift basket.

Monmouth, which will be a one-ring boutique show, is awaiting date approval from the U.S. Equestrian Federation. Moving from its original location meant the oldest show in New Jersey could not automatically hold on to its usual dates, but Tucker promised that recognized by USEF or not, the plan is "to run an amazing horse show" at one of the world's best; known equestrian venues.

That venue also will benefit. Sponsor Precise Builders has committed to donating $10,000 to $15,000 in services to the Foundation, according to Tucker. He wants all four shows to do well, and likes the idea that they can give each other a boost.

"The goal is to make these long-standing shows stronger and so desirable that tradition, and a superior product, will dictate where exhibitors want to show," as he put it.

"I think it will draw people's attention back to the historical shows," said Sussex show committee president Robin Fairclough about the initiative.

"It's something we've all been thinking about for several years and it just seemed to be the right time and all of the right people," observed Creigh Duncan, who manages both Middlesex and Monmouth.

"There's so much history between these four shows that they deserve an award among themselves," she commented.

Asked for her thoughts about the shows offering the awards, hunter trainer Amanada Steege said "I think that's great. Anything you can do that's going to encourage people to want to go (to the shows) is a good idea."

Amanda, a frequent derby rider who is based in Califon for half the year, notes that in the winter, the choice for those who want to show seriously in warm climates generally lies in large show series such as the HITS and Winter Equestrian Festival.

"I really try in the summer to go to horse shows that happen once a year and are a little more original and have volunteers and sposnors who spend all yeaer trying to make it feel special and important," Amanda commented.

"We try to search out those shows when we can."

Trainer Brian Feigus of Colts Neck said, "I think it's a great idea. It's a nice thing for the professionals who do go to those shows on a regular basis." He thought the concept might be an incentive for someone who has gone to several of the shows and done well to attend another.

"As a New Jersey professional, I think a lot of the shows don't work together, so I think it's nice thing to see that the shows are starting to work together to try to build New Jersey back up. That, I think, is more the best part of it than the actual reward of being leading hunter rider."

Tim Cleary, who runs Garden State, called the concept "really exciting, and maybe a bit overdue. I'm glad we're all doing it and I think it will lead to more things. We'll start here, and let's see what we think after this year, and what other things we might be able to combine."

Indeed, the initial cooperation is only the beginning of what could become a much larger joint effort. Those involved with the four shows have discussed sharing mailing lists, advertising space and creating more awards.

Garden State (May 4-8) is the first show in the series, followed by Middlesex (June 23-27), Sussex (Aug. 6-14) and Monmouth (Aug. 16-21.)

Youth benefits from Judy Hennessy’s dedication
By Nancy Jaffer
January 31, 2016
Judy Hennessy, N.J. Horseperson of the Year

Her mission is to teach children about horses and their care, so 4-H volunteer extraordinaire Judy Hennessy certainly wasn't looking for recognition.

That's why being named New Jersey Horseperson of the Year was quite a surprise.

"I had no clue. It never would have dawned on me that anything like that would have come of this," said Judy after receiving the award last weekend at the state's annual breeders' luncheon in Eastampton.

She got involved when her children, Kevin and Stacy, joined after seeing how much fun the 4-Hers were having at the Somerset County 4-H Fair. In the late 1970s, she took over as the leader of the Chaps N Spurs club, which now has members from both Somerset and Hunterdon counties.

At one time, however, there were 17 4-H clubs in Somerset County alone. The state was less developed then.

"There were horses everywhere," Judy recalled, noting how kids would keep their horses in their backyards and go for daylong rides with a lunch bag tied to their saddles.

"You can't do that anymore," she said, noting few children even take care of their own horses these days.

Although her children long ago graduated from the 4-H ranks, she has kept on with it because "kids need to be made into better horsemen. You're a caretaker. A horse can't go out and take care of itself. You're responsible, even if your horse is at a (boarding) barn."

She mourns the fact that for the most part, kids don't read about horses, not "Black Beauty" or the "Black Stallion," not books on riding and horse care. So Judy finds a way to educate them, whether it's through field trips, using the annual tack sale as a learning experience about different kinds of equipment or offering one-on-one advice.

Carol Ward, the Somerset County 4-H agent, called Judy, "One of our most dedicated volunteers." She sees her every Wednesday with her own club, but Judy comes on other nights to work with children prepping for the Horse Bowl and other competitions.

"If the kids will come, she will be here. If they are willing to put in the time, she is certainly willing to impart her knowledge; it's quite extensive. Anatomy, physiology, style of riding, all types of things--she is a treasure to have," said Carol.

In addition to everything else she does, Judy coordinates two county 4-H qualifying horse shows each year and two tents full of horses during the Somerset County 4-H Fair.

"For a lot of the kids, that's the only time really they are responsible for their horses," she said.

Carol pointed out that since 1989, Judy "has been our one and only state 4-H coach for Hippology, the study of the horse.

"She works with our state team from April until the national competition in November. Every week, she drives down to the Horse Park of New Jersey to work with them. She gets no pay or reimbursement for her gas, that's something you just don't find these days in very many people."

Karyn Malinowski, director of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers, agreed, calling Judy, "a tireless supporter of horse education programs for youth. Judy’s humble spirit and devotion to horses and young people made her the perfect choice for this prestigious award."

But the real reward for Judy, who is employed as a secretary at the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center, is when the kids she works with really understand how to care for horses and perhaps point for veterinary school or something else involving horses.

"I'm glad to see them go on ahead and stay in the business," Judy said.

The Black Barn: A restaurant, not a stable
By Nancy Jaffer
January 31, 2016 
Interior of The Black Barn in New York City.

We all know HITS impresario Tom Struzzieri is multi-dimensional (yes, he's a hotelier and he's big into triathlons, as well as shows) but I was interested to learn he also has a restaurant in Manhattan, which he started with a childhood friend, John Doherty. And what's it called? The Black Barn. It had to have a link to horses, right?

So when I was in New York on business recently, I made a point of going there, not sure what to expect. Turns out it's a neat place, a big expanse with a beamed ceiling (just like a barn) but refined American food. From a steak sandwich to trout, heavenly ravioli and much more, the choices are perfectly suited to the space. If you happen to be in town, give it a try. blackbarnrestaurant.com.

                                New Jersey Activities Schedule

  • January 31: Palermo Winter Show, 1555A Burnt Mills Road, Bedminster; Black River Farm Winter Series, 20 Boss Road, Ringoes; Woodedge Stables Show, Gloucester County Dream Park, 400 Route 130 South, Logan Township; Lancaster Schooling Show, Horse Park of New Jersey, 626 Route 524, Allentown.

  • February 6: Alexandria Equestrian Association Dressage Show, Alexandria Township Park Indoor Arena, 242 Little York-Mt. Pleasant Road, Milford; Duncraven Winter Series Show, 1300 Trenton Harbourton Road, Titusville (through Feb. 7)

  • February 7: CJL Farm at Centenary College Equestrian Center, 12-56 Califon Road, Long Valley; Barrel Racing, Horse Park of New Jersey, 626 Route 524, Allentown.

  • February 13: Lancaster Equestrian Show, Horse Park of New Jersey, 626 Route 524, Allentown; On Course Riding Academy Show, 210 Beaver Run Road, Lafayette; Woodedge Show, Gloucester County Dream Park, 400 Route 130 South, Logan Township (through Feb. 14).

  • February 14: Baymar Farms Show, 38 Harbor Road, Morganville; Lighted Way Driving Combined Test, 162 Peck's Corner-Cohansey Road, Bridgeton.

  • February 20: Dressage Schooling Show, Horse Park of New Jersey, 626 Route 524, Allentown.

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