All posts by Nancy Jaffer

Rio Day 1 eventing dressage, where’s the USA?

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William Fox-Pitt took the lead in Rio for the first day of eventing dressage. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Good on William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain for coming back from a devastating head injury that kept him off a horse for months last year. He had a lovely dressage test in Rio today with Chilli Morning to take the lead in the eventing with a score of 37 penalties.

“All along Rio has been my target, totally. It was unrealistic, but it was mine,” William said.

“I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and my sight was quite dodgy, I went from blind to seeing double, so when I started jumping, there were two jumps. It’s been a journey, but I’ve had so much support! Mentally I was very tired, I probably still am. I feel like I’m waking up, but slowly.”

With much respect, admiration and congratulations to William, I have to say that personally, I preferred the test of Australia’s Chris Burton, which earned a 37 on Santano II. I like the more flowing way that horse moves.

Everyone anticipated that defending Olympic champion Michael Jung of Germany would top William and Chris, but his score got a debit when Sam FBW anticipated a lead change and switched from the counter-canter in the serpentine, which earned him a lowly mark of 4 for that movement. He wound up with 40.9 penalties, good enough for third individually.

With half the riders on 12 teams gone (the rest ride Sunday), Germany as expected leads the way on 82.5 penalties. Australia is second (83.9), Britain third (84.2) and France fourth (85.4). The U.S. is seventh on 94.3. Boyd Martin earned 47.7 (17th place) with a competent ride on the thoroughbred Blackfoot Mystery, for whom dressage isn’t a strong point. The big anticipation was for today’s other U.S. rider, Clark Montgomery on Loughan Glen, touted by many (including me) as an individual medal possibility.

But Glen kept anticipating, breaking into the canter from the trot on the rail and in the half-pass, as well as switching off from the counter-canter to be marked at 46.6, good enough for 10th at this point.

Any hope of a comeback to medal territory for the U.S. will hinge on how tough the cross-country is and whether it can scramble the scores for those able to handle it. You probably can bet Michael Jung will finish on his dressage score, but what about the others?

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Who’s your pick for Olympic medals? These are mine

It’s here, finally, the often-controversial but long-awaited Rio Olympics.

Saturday morning the eventers start off the equestrian competition with their dressage phase, so it’s time to offer my thoughts on who will win the medals.

The least-predictable of the equestrian disciplines is eventing, because cross-country can throw a wrench into the efforts of the most accomplished horse/rider pairing. And while sometimes the Olympic cross-country is considered a touch soft (the better for those from less-advanced eventing countries to get around without major disasters) the fact that Frenchman Pierre Michelet is laying out the route means this course should be quite decisive.

Pierre was the designer for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, where his technical track and the hilly terrain took their toll. Deodoro, home of the equestrian competition in Rio, also has hills, and as in Normandy, a good number of riders doubtless will find they don’t know the answers to some of the designer’s questions.

The man with all the answers, however, should be defending individual titleist Michael Jung of Germany, a former world champion who will be aboard his most experienced mount, Sam FBW.

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Will Michael Jung and Sam repeat their 2012 Olympic success in Rio? (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Michael is going for double individual gold. If he achieves it, that will be the first time it’s been done in the sport since 1988, when Mark Todd of New Zealand achieved it on Charisma.

At the same time, Michael is expected to lead the German team to gold. He will be backed up by current world champion Sandra Auffarth on Opgun Louvo and veteran Ingrid Klimke (her father was individual and team dressage gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and brought medals home from a bunch of other Games as well.) She will be on Hale-Bob Old.

Andreas Ostholt, the fourth member of the team, was replaced in the wake of So Is Et losing a shoe. Even though Andreas’ horse passed the jog, team officials didn’t want to take a chance. Julia Krajewski was chosen to take his spot with Samourai du Thot. But remember, only three scores count.

Even so, anything can happen, and there are other teams that have a good shot at the medals. Australia, New Zealand, fast-rising France and perhaps even Brazil, with the home country wind at this squad’s back.

Britain looks to be weaker than usual, though you can’t count out any squad that has William Fox-Pitt. Will he be the same William he was before a devastating accident last fall took him out of the game for months? We’ll see.

The U.S. has Olympic experience in Boyd Martin (Blackfoot Mystery) and especially Phillip Dutton (Mighty Nice), who earned Olympic team gold twice with the squad from his native Australia before becoming an American. Games newbies Lauren Kieffer (Veronica) and Clark Montgomery (Loughan Glen) should be well up to the task. Experts consider Clark the best chance the U.S. has for an individual medal, and the team shouldn’t be counted out of the medal race. But figure that after Germany, France and New Zealand have shorter odds to stand on the podium.

Dressage, in contrast to eventing, is the most predictable of the equestrian disciplines. As U.S. coach Robert Dover puts it, “regardless of whether it’s Germany, Rio or London, we’re still basically in a sandbox that’s exactly like the sandbox in Wellington or Aachen.”

Germany is incredibly strong, with numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the international ranking list offering an air of invincibility for its squad. Kristina Broring-Sprehe (Desperados FRH); Isabell Werth (Weiheigold OLD) and Dorothee Schneider (Showtime FRH) are unlikely to be nudged off the top step of the podium, even with a British team anchored by Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, the record holders for the Grand Prix, the Special and the Freestyle. Charlotte’s mentor and 2012 gold medal teammate, Carl Hester, will be right in there with Nip Tuck, and the two other members of that squad should support the stars admirably for silver.

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Could Valegro end his competitive career with another individual gold for 2012 star Charlotte Dujardin? (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The Dutch could be contenders for the bronze, but if there is a weak link among the potential team medalists, they’re it. And the U.S. has been working hard for a chance to ascend that podium with an impressive squad of Steffen Peters (Legolas), the only Olympic veteran; Laura Graves (Verdades), Allison Brock (Rosevelt) and Kasey Perry-Glass (Goerklintgaard’s Dublet). Sweden would seem most likely to be fifth.

Individually, Charlotte looks as if she will claim her second Olympic individual gold in what likely is Valegro’s last competition. Pick two of the Germans for the other individual placings.

Show jumping also may go to the Germans to make it an equestrian clean sweep for that nation (Christian Ahlmann is the world’s number one at the moment), but this actually is the USA’s chance for gold. Kent Farrington (Voyeur) and McLain Ward (HH Azur) are fourth and fifth in the world rankings, behind France’s Simon Delestre and Penelope Leprevost. Also on the U.S. team — the same one that took bronze at the 2014 WEG, with the exception of HH Azur — is Beezie Madden (Cortes C), individual bronze medalist at the WEG, and Lucy Davis, who has turned in fault-free round after fault-free round on Barron in the selection observation events.

The French, obviously, are a real threat, but the British–who took gold in London four years ago–have only one returning rider/horse combination, Nick Skelton on Big Star. The Dutch, world champions, can medal if they ride up to their 2014 level.

Teams less likely to figure, but still in with a chance are Sweden, Qatar, Ukraine and maybe Brazil, with former U.S. chef d’equipe George Morris coaching.

The 2012 individual gold medalist Steve Guerdat of Switzerland (also the 2015 World Cup champion) is trying for his double on Nino des Buissonnets.

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Perhaps 2012 individual show jumping gold medalist Steve Guerdat of Switzerland will have a repeat on Nino des Buissonets. (Photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

What are the odds of all three individual gold medalists repeating their 2012 London success in Rio, with the same horses, yet. It’s an interesting and exciting possibility.

But the USA could have a show jumping spoiler in McLain, who’s ready for the biggest moment of his career.

If you saw the opening ceremonies, you’re geared up for the Games. Whether it’s via computer, tablet, phone or TV, be sure to follow the equestrians and cheer them on.

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Jersey Fresh adds land to expand

Such top eventers as Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin wondered after May’s Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event whether the Horse Park of New Jersey had sufficient room to run its CCI 2- and 3-star competitions.

While they felt the space was fine for shorter CICs, they thought that CCI courses had to double back on themselves because of a shortage of acreage.

As Buck noted during this year’s event, “Because there’s so little land, I really think horses lose focus going back and forth…there’s always been talk about more land…my personal feeling for this place has always been that if that land doesn’t become available, I don’t think it’s a CCI place.”

But today, the event’s organizing committee announced a solution. Negotiations with state, county and local entities in charge of land surrounding the park have concluded with the ability to expand competition to acreage where competitors previously only exercised their mounts.

And this is, as the organizers see it, “a precursor of longer-term plans to obtain additional space for future events.”

It’s part of “ongoing efforts that continue to enhance competitor and spectator experience” at the event, often a selection trial for international championships, such as the Rio Olympics that begin this weekend.

The last two years have seen enormous changes at JFI,” says Dan Wunderlich, chairman of the JFI organizing committee. “Once again we move forward, bringing the next stages of our vision for the Event to fruition by focusing on developing additional prime acreage generously made available for future cross-country competition.”

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Jersey Fresh 2016 CCI 3-star winner Ryan Wood and Powell. (Photo copyright bby Nancy Jaffer)

The 2017 edition of Jersey Fresh is set for May 10-14. 

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Sussex show has something special for both riders and spectators

The Sussex County Horse Show is marking its 80th anniversary as it gets under way this week–but it isn’t standing still.

Set against the backdrop of the New Jersey State Fair, its giant ferris wheel and bright lights, Sussex keeps adjusting to the times. It no longer has the draft horse team pulling classes, but it does offer a dizzying range of competition opportunities across three rings, everything from the featured $35,000 grand prix at 8 p.m. Aug. 13, to A-rated and unrated hunter classes, a hunt night July 12, western classes and such old favorites as the local, costume and family classes.On Sunday, Aug. 14 at 10 a.m., there’s a challenged riders show.

An American Quarter Horse Show begins at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta Aug. 4 and then starting Aug. 5, runs concurrently with the Sussex show through Aug. 7. Sussex runs on its own through Aug. 14.

The show has a campaign to improve footing for the rings at the fairgrounds, with proceeds from the raffle of a Kingston two-horse Classic Elite trailer going toward that fund. Another money-raising initiative to support the show involves purchase of 80th anniversary commemorative wine bottles.

The drawing for the Kingston trailer is Oct. 29. Only 500 tickets are being sold. To buy one, call (973) 725-9367. To order the wine, call (973) 948-9950 or email schssponsorship@njstatefair.org.

 

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What was it REALLY like in Rio?

Marilyn Payne, president of the eventing ground jury at the Olympics, will be reporting on her experience at the Games at Beval Saddlery in Gladstone Aug. 20.

The occasion is a fundraiser for her daughter, Holly Payne Caravella, who is heading to the Burghley, England 4-star in September with Never Outfoxed. Tickets are $50 in advance and $75 at the door. Other attractions are wine and beer, a buffet and hors d’oeuvres, as well as 20 percent off on shopping and a silent auction.

Holly got a grant that will help get her and Fox to Burghley, but she needs another $25,000 to make the trip.

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Holly Payne and Never Outoxed completed cross-country in the rain at the Rolex Kentucky 4-star this year.

Tickets for the event, which runs from 5-8 p.m., may be bought in advance at Beval’s, the Gladstone Tavern, Somerset Grain in Benardsville, Applewood Farm in Tewksbury, the Oldwick General Store and Old Fox Farm in Chester. They also are available through facebook.com/foxsyndicate or https://www.gofundme.com/2fq3ey2s.

 

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A new destination for the WEG? UPDATE,

The chatter at this weekend’s International Bromont show in Canada was that the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games might find a home in Eastern Europe. Word was, though totally unconfirmed, of course, that the Samorin Equestrian Center in Slovakia could be under consideration.

And today, Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners, announced the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina is in play for the WEG in an effort to have it stay in North America after Bromont bowed out for financial reasons.

Bromont couldn’t get support from the Canadian government for its effort, but Tryon already has the governors of North and South Carolina on its side. Tryon also is working with United States Equestrian Federation to keep the WEG on this side of the Atlantic. It’s a lot less expensive for USEF to send horses and riders to North Carolina than to Eastern Europe.

Are there other contenders for the 2018 WEG? The FEI will only say at this point, “We are looking at all options and will make an announcement shortly.”

Samorin will be hosting the endurance world championships in September. Meg Sleeper of Frenchtown has been named to the U.S. team with Shyrocco Rimbaud, a 10-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding.

There’s more going on at Samorin than endurance, however. It just wrapped up a 3-star show where the U.S. developing jumper riders were competing. It is located near the country’s capital of Bratislava.

The center, which is two years old, has 640 stalls and six arenas, three grass and three sand. There are two indoor arenas, and the complex is surrounded by a racetrack.

 

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It’s dressage gold for Jerseyans at NAJYRC (update)

Two New Jersey riders were half of the gold medal Region I dressage team at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Riders Championships, as competition got under way for the meet at the Colorado Horse Park.

Elizabeth Bortuzzo of Annandale on Macao and Mallory Chambers of Flanders with the quirky Urithmic, both of whom are trained by Heather Mason of Flying Change Farm in Lebanon, helped boost the Young Rider squad to the top of the podium over seven other teams.

They earned 63.868 percent and 64.474 percent respectively. The high score for the squad and the entire competition, as the only rider to score above 70 percent, was Nicholas Hansen of Catawissa, Pa., aboard Ritter Benno with 72.263. The fourth Region I team member, Lian Wolfe of New Hope, Pa., on Zimba, was marked at 62.026.

Nicholas, who is in his third NAJYRC, brought Elizabeth’s horse with his mount in a four-horse trailer on the long trek west.

Heather noted that fundraising so Elizabeth and Mallory could make the trip only went so far. Mallory, a Centenary University student, shipped Urithmic commercially. She was able to find a $3,600 alternative to an original bid of $5,800, but hitching a ride with Nicholas was a money-saver for Elizabeth, who couldn’t afford a commercial shipper. That’s an example of teamwork going beyond the competition arena.

The Region I team total was 66.868, just edging the Canadian squad from Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, which had a score of 66.737.

The bronze medal went to the composite team from Regions 4, 5 and 7 with 65.474.

Nicholas, who trains with Canada’s Jacquie Brooks, called the Colorado competition “invaluable. When you have an opportunity to compete against people who are riding at your level, but then have a chance to ride against people from different countries at the same time, you form bonds that you have for the rest of your life,” he said.

Elizabeth, 20, planned to compete in eventing at NAJYRC, but when her mount came down with Lyme disease, she opted instead for dressage and turned to her mother’s “good horse with a good temperament,” who has just started Prix St. Georges.

Heather owns Urithmic, a talented but troubled horse, and has put in a lot of effort with him.

“He had been with a rough trainer and it blew his mind,” said Heather, noting he’s a difficult combination of “lazy and explosive” with a penchant for rearing and bolting.

After training him to Grand Prix, Heather “put him on the back burner” for about a year until handing the Dutch warmblood off to 21-year-old Mallory, her working student, a C2 with the Spring Valley Pony Club.

“I saw she was a brave rider,” Heather remarked.

Urithmic has a permanent home with her.

“I would never sell him,” she said, explaining the unreliable horse is useful “as long as he’s managed correctly.”

She’ll be working on more ring familiarization with Mallory preparing for the next day of competition, because Urithmic spooked in the canter depart during the team test.

Mason, who competed at Young Riders’ twice herself and earned a team bronze medal, was happy to be back at the international continental competition.

“It’s always a big deal,” she explained.

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Rolex Central Park Show set for Sept.

The third edition of the Rolex Central Park Horse Show is coming to the Wollman Rink Sept. 21-25, featuring Arabians, show jumping, hunters and dressage.

Jumper riders already confirming their appearance including McLain Ward, Georgina Bloomberg, Laura Kraut and Kent Farrington. while it is expected that German Olympic multi-gold medalist Isabell Werth will appear to defend her title in the dressage freestyle.

The schedule gets under way Sept. 21 with an Arabian show. The next evening offers three jumper classes, ending with the puissance making its debut at the show. On Sept. 23, the afternoon belongs to the dressage Grand Prix, while the evening feature is the $216,000 CSI 3-star grand prix.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, the hunters take over with the Duchossois Cup and competition for ponies and juniors. That evening, the dressage freestyle runs under the lights.

The final day of the show runs from noon-3 p.m., with free admission to watch a variety of equestrian exhibitions. Tickets are available online at http://bit.ly/29LwkkD.

 

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New Jersey’s horse industry needs a unified voice

Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center, gave an address last week to the state Equine Advisory Board calling for a unified voice in the New Jersey horse industry, and a why the different facets of the industry must support each other.

She made some important points. Here is her entire address:

In New Jersey, where the horse is the state animal, the equine industry is invaluable as a major factor for improving the quality of life for New Jersey residents by preserving open space, providing outdoor sport and recreation, building a solid foundation for youth development, and providing mental and physical therapy to adjudicated youth and handicapped persons.

The New Jersey equine industry, valued at $4 billion, produces an economic impact of $1.1 billion comprised of the $278.2 million spent annually for racing-related operations, not including racetracks; $262.4 million spent annually by non-racing operations, $117.8 million spent annually by equine owners without operations, $502 million spent annually by New Jersey racetracks. The industry employs approximately 13,000 persons and generates $160 million in tax revenue, annually. Horses are found on 7,200 facilities on 176,000 acres in every county statewide. (The New Jersey Equine Industry: 2007 Economic Impact, Rutgers Equine Science Center).

Horse racing and the horse industry are essential to the well-being of New Jersey in many ways. There exists a delicate the balance between the future of horse racing, the preservation of the New Jersey equine industry and the importance of the equine industry to traditional agricultural, open space and quality of life for the residents of the state.

Why should non-racing equine interests care

about racing’s future?

Racing is not the only equine discipline that will lose if New Jersey racing does not receive the “shot in the arm” it so desperately needs, by expanding casino gaming outside of Atlantic City.

The future of young people who would like to make a living in the horse industry in New Jersey is in jeopardy. Why stay?

The New Jersey Equine Advisory Board’s (EAB) annual budget to support the Horse Park of New Jersey and the sport and recreation segments of the horse industry, predominantly, including 4-H Youth Development programs is correlated to a percentage of the pari-mutuel handle from racing. The EAB annual budget which was $498,000 in 1990 declined to a new low of $162,500 in 2015. This budget will disappear if racing is not saved in New Jersey.

The “top shelf” level of services New Jersey horse enthusiasts have come to expect such as equine veterinary clinics and feed and supply stores are at risk, because, while they are frequented and supported by sport horse competition and

recreational users, a predominant economic flow to these entities is from the racing industry.

The entire infrastructure supporting ALL segments of the horse industry is in jeopardy.

The racing industry was there to support the development of the Horse Park of New Jersey, which exists primarily for non-racing interests. It is time for the entire industry to rally around once and for all to let the public and the legislature know that the future of horse racing in New Jersey will impact horse owners of every breed and discipline; as it will open space, traditional agricultural production and quality of life. Use the tool kit (Economic Impact Report and the accompanying DVD; available at esc.rutgers.edu) provided by the Rutgers Equine Science Center to tell the story of the importance of the New Jersey Equine Industry to legislators and policy decision makers. YOU can make a difference.

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It’s over–Bromont loses 2018 WEG

WEG sj day 3 sept. 4 2014 bromont fence 300dpiThe FEI (international equestrian federation) pulled the plug today on the Bromont equestrian facility’s ill-fated effort to stage the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The finances just weren’t there to enable the Quebec venue to host the compilation of eight disciplines.

Now the FEI is exploring alternatives for the eighth edition of the often-troubled concept. It is handicapped by the fact that locations such as the Wellington, Fla., or Tryon, N.C. showgrounds, which could handle the WEG on short notice, have sponsorship from Rolex, a former FEI sponsor. The federation’s current sponsor is a rival high-end watch company, Longines.

Bromont, which is in the middle of its two-week jumper show, also hosts major eventing and driving competitions.

Why not scrap the total WEG package and host groupings of sports? The European championships, for instance, have held show jumping, dressage and para-dressage at the same venue. WEG, which has grown from six disciplines to eight since it began in 1990 with a successful run in Stockholm.

Prior to that, world championships in each discipline were held separately. In 1986, for instance, show jumping was at Aachen, Germany; eventing in Australia, dressage in Canada and driving in England.

The last straw in a history of financial turmoil for the Bromont effort was the federal government’s decision this month not to put any money toward the project.

While expressing sadness over the situation, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said, “We have been working very closely with the COJEM (organizing committee) board and all levels of the organization since the Games were allocated to Canada in mid-2014 and have known for some time that the Bromont team was facing major financial difficulties.”

In fact, after Bromont’s problems became evident early-on, the FEI reopened the bidding process but in the end, Bromont seemed to be the only alternative, so it was allowed to continue.

“This has been a very difficult decision to come to terms with,” said Rosaire Houde, chairman of the COJEM board. The recent departure of key board members signaled the beginning of the end for Bromont.

“Since the new board took over, we have left no stone unturned in our quest to find solid funding to support the Games, but sadly this has not been forthcoming.”

The two organization mutually decided to end the contract.

“It is something I personally bitterly regret but it was the only responsible course of action,” the COJEM chairman stated.

The FEI pointed out that when Ireland dropped out as WEG host in 1998, Rome stepped in with less than two years to go and held a successful WEG. However, it did not include endurance, which went elsewhere, or reining and para-dressage, which were not part of the WEG at that point.

The FEI is hoping to make an announcement “shortly” about an alternative. With the Olympics getting under way next month, riders around the world are already thinking about their next major international championship, so the WEG has a spot on the calendar that the FEI must hasten to fill.

At the same time, it will have to make sure the host, if there is only one (see my comment above about doing the world championships in groups instead of in one event) is viable both economically and in terms of its facilities.

 

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