By Nancy Jaffer
February 20, 2018
It’s been discussed for years, but now the Horse Park of New Jersey really is on the verge of improving the grand prix arena, as well as performing deferred maintenance on its other two rings.
Wisely, the park has moved on from the impossible dream of raising $350,000 for footing with artificial components and instead is going down a workmanlike, more economical path with natural footing. It starts by changing the base of the ring from convex to concave and improving drainage, on the advice of a consultant. Masonry sand, which has a fine appearance, will be put on top of crushed stone and fill to achieve a surface that does not accumulate water. An auxiliary drainage area will handle runoff.
“We’re going to take tried and true and just have a trusted, solid product we can put out and offer to people,” said Allyson Jeffery, president of the park’s board of trustees.
“The mixture will offer energy return and confidence to the horse while having the ability to be groomed for the many disciplines that share the park,” according to board of trustees.
An important consideration is the fact that the plan “comes within reach of funding that has been raised to date” through personal donations, pro bono work, grants and contributions from groups.
Recent gifts from Investors Trust and Ricki and Bill Neuberg have added $10,000 more to the pot of what already has been raised. An additional $20,000 will make the plan reality, and it can be given in various increments, from 20 gifts of $1,000 each to two of $10,000 or four of $5,000. You do the math.
Some might ask why they should focus on the Horse Park if their barn is not nearby or they don’t show at the facility in Allentown, Monmouth County. Here’s why: This is a non-profit on state land that serves New Jersey’s horse industry. Having a thriving industry benefits every horse owner in making this a better place to own horses and ride. It raises consciousness in government at both the local and state levels that the equestrian community is an important factor in the most densely populated state in the union. Do I have to mention the word zoning?
Also, the park isn’t going away, unlike some of the private facilities that no longer exist, where shows once were held around New Jersey. Some shows, such as Middlesex County and Four Seasons, formerly held at other sites, now call the Horse Park home.
The pressures of development are such that there are no guarantees your favorite place to compete will always be available in areas where land is at a premium. Although there are some lovely new showgrounds in the state, it’s possible things will change and owners could sell at some point down the road.
An investment in the Horse Park’s rings will insure it can attract more shows and activities, which will pay dividends for those who take advantage of them. (Case in point: look at this site’s On the Rail column, where we detail a unique March dressage clinic at the park by Olympic judge Marilyn Payne).
The park is working on a deadline for arena improvement, because the time to do the work and allow the ring to settle is before the show season starts mid-April. An important goal is to have it ready for the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event May 9-13.
“We just have to be able to take the step forward to start and then maybe we’ll see some momentum,” Allyson commented.
This window is “the best we could possibly make it as far as exposure,” she pointed out. Jersey Fresh has prestige as a selection event for the FEI World Equestrian Games that will be held this September in Tryon, N.C. This year also is the 30th anniversary of the park, a venue many believed would never be built, but happily, the doubters were proven wrong.
Discussing what she sees as the importance of the Horse Park, Allyson notes it “provides a place for people to show the best of personal abilities, partnerships and perseverance in a challenging sport.
“From the grassroots to Olympians, it’s a venue that enables those who are willing to climb the ladder of goals and dreams through the care and training of equine partners, putting another’s needs before their own. That’s what the Horse Park has to offer and why we work to keep the doors open.”
Now it’s another crossroads for the facility, which serves anyone from those starting out to the higher levels of the sport in a variety of breeds and disciplines.
The next part of the plan after initial improvements requires more fundraising for the installation of rubber in the Grand Prix arena. All of the park’s three rings could get rubber for another $33,500, though less money may work if the rubber is added in increments.
Donors can be recognized through banners, social media promotion or special requests. The park is a 501(c)(3) educational charitable organization, which means donations are tax deductible.
Anyone wishing to donate can use PayPal or send a check to the park at 626 Route 524, Allentown, NJ 08501. Be sure any donation is clearly marked for the footing fund.
The park is always looking for volunteers, and trustees also urge attendance at schooling and educational programs, because they can’t be offered if they don’t draw participants.