Dressage and drive in Gladstone

It was a two-fer Saturday at Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, home of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation. While ridden dressage was going on in the arena behind the historic stable during the Dutta Corp. U.S. national championships, driven dressage was the order of the day on another part of the property.

The Gladstone Equestrian Association was presenting its annual combined test and horse driving trials in picture-perfect surroundings. Driving has been an annual feature for decades at the facility, which hosted the World Pairs Championship in 1993.

Suzann Johnson of Whitehouse Station competing in the single training horse division at the Gladstone Horse Driving Trials. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy
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It will be quite a payday for riders at the Mars Essex Horse Trials

The revival of the Mars Essex Horse Trials in Far Hills June 24-25 is being done in style at Moorland Farm, home of the Far Hills Steeplechase Race Meeting each October.

A total of $25,000 in prize money will be split among the first three finishers in eight divisions, with the lion’s share of $5,000 going to the winner of the open preliminary section.

Essex, which was last held in 1998 after 30 years in the Somerset Hills, is attracting such competitors as Buck Davidson, the mother-daughter combo of Marilyn Payne and Holly Payne Caravella, and the likes of Ryan Wood and Jennie Brannigan, who are expected as well.

All the divisions except beginner novice will run over a two-day format, so the organizers are giving riders four tickets for guests and admission to a Saturday night cocktail party, since most will have to stay over.

Presenting sponsors are the Open Road Auto Group, Peapack-Gladstone Bank, RWJ Barnabas Health and Running S Equine Veterinary Services.

General admission is $10, good for both days. There also is an opportunity to buy other admission packages, including tailgating on the 230-acre property and a chance to enjoy the Hoopstick Club next to the show jumping arena, with a view of the water complex.

There will be a vendor village and food will be available from the Farmstand.

For more information and tickets, go to www.essexhorsetrials.org.

Holly Payne Caravella at last year’s preview of the Mars Essex Horse Trials. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)
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Get ready for the Month of the Horse in New Jersey

Start out New Jersey’s Month of the Horse June 1 with a visit to the Concord Stud Farm, 20 Harvey Road in Cream Ridge. David Meirs III and his family have created a well-known Standardbred breeding and foaling facility at the 249-acre farm.

You won’t be alone. State Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher and New Jersey Equestrian of the Year Jamie Leuenberger will be on hand as well for a 10 a.m. tour.

Get an insight into the farm’s ecological practices, which include using fly wasps to combat the fly population and sheep and goats for weed control.

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There’s still time to catch the Devon Horse Show

The Devon Horse Show runs through Sunday, so don’t miss a chance to see one of the country’s great fixtures. There’s a reason it’s 121 years old–tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand for success at the country’s largest multi-breed show, which benefits Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Special features include the Budweiser Clydesdales, and there’s a grand prix Saturday night June 3. Sunday June 4 is devoted to breeding and young horse classes, as well as a sale of all the plants used to decorate the show rings.

For tickets, go to www.devonhorseshow.net or phone (610) 688-2554.

Kevin Babington and Mark Q, winners of the 2016 Sapphire Grand Prix at Devon. (Photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer)

 

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It’s polo season again in Hunterdon County

It’s perfect weather for tailgating at a polo match. The opportunity comes up June 10, when the Hunterdon Foundation presents the Hunterdon Polo Classic to benefit local charities, including the Hunterdon Art Museum and Riding with HEART.

Gates open at noon at Fieldview Farm in Pittstown. Tickets are $35 (children under 12 are free) and can be bought on line or until June 9 at the following businesses: Bishop’s Supermarket, Whitehouse Station; Bourbon Street Liquors, Califon, Clinton, Lebanon and Flemington; Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, Bernardsville and Coach Stop Saddlery, Bedminster.

Rain date is June 11. For more information, go to www.hunterdonpolo.org.

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Hunt clinic set for Stillwater

Eager to ride to the hounds, but worried about how to do it with some expertise? Here’s the solution. Field hunter clinics are being held by local hunt volunteers June 9 and 14 at Chammings Showgrounds in Stillwater.

What will you learn? How to handle obstacles and varied terrain, along with hunt basics and etiquette. Meet other equestrians and enjoy dinner, the proceeds of which will benefit the pony club.

The fee is $35/clinic, $5 for spectators. Call 908-343-9631 or email rldhunters@gmail.com.

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O’Connor resigns his post as U.S. eventing technical advisor

David O’Connor (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

David O’Connor, who won an individual Olympic eventing gold medal and served as the first president of the United States Equestrian Federation, has resigned his position as U.S. Eventing Technical Advisor to focus on duties with the FEI (international equestrian federation).

David chairs the FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group and may do even more with the FEI in the future. He also will continue to offer his services as a trainer.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to step away from this group of riders, owners, support personnel and sponsors,” he said.

“But the structural changes made with the newly created technical advisor position don’t allow me to do what I felt has always been my mainstay. That is, helping to drive the necessary changes for eventing that are in the best interests of the athlete, horse, and owner,” David noted.

“I have lived by these constructs through my time as a competitor, through to my current role as Technical Advisor and they will continue to guide me going forward.”

Under the new arrangement, he was to work with USEF eventing managing director Joanie Morris “in the development and implementation of eventing plans, pathway, program and systems that will help grow programs for developing and elite athlete.”

His role was “adjusted to focus more on management of the programs and the athletes’ personal programs and goals, rather than hands-on coaching.”

As David explained the parameters of his new contract to me last December, “The personal coaches (of individual riders) are a very strong side of the program that’s going to be pushed, and the assessment of markers of what you expect within three months, six months, a year, for progression of horses and riders.

“These will be agreed upon with the rider and myself and documented, so there is a very clear path that we, and they, can judge whether the system that they have is actually working,” he added.

David, who coached the Canadian team to a silver medal in the 2010 World Equestrian Games, became technical advisor and chef d’equipe for the U.S. team after the 2012 Olympics. The U.S. eventing team was seventh at the 2012 Games, so hopes were high and a great deal was expected when David took over.

But there was disappointment when the 2014 World Equestrian Games squad also did not finish under difficult conditions in France. Things seemed back on track after the U.S. won double gold at the 2-star-rated 2015 Pan American Games to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.  At the Rio Olympics, however, the team was eliminated again, though Phillip Dutton did win an individual bronze medal in Brazil.

While a new contract for a coach or technical advisor usually runs for four years, David’s second contract signed in 2016 was for two years. Show jumping coach Robert Ridland had a four-year renewal after his teams earned bronze at the 2014 WEG and silver at the Rio Olympics. Dressage technical advisor Robert Dover, whose team won bronze in Rio, got a two-year contract, but he had stated he was unsure about continuing in the role for another four years, as he had personal interests he wanted to pursue.

Although Americans have been going over to Europe regularly to train and compete, it has been nine years since a U.S. competitor won Rolex Kentucky, the country’s only 4-star event, where foreign riders filled the first three slots this year.

I asked David what’s going wrong with American eventing. He feels both the older and younger riders are riding better, and have the skill sets to be competitive, but they need to be bolder and more aggressive.

“Over many years, David has been a leader for US Equestrian as a whole and for eventing in particular,” remarked Murray Kessler, president of USEF.

“We reluctantly accept David’s resignation and support his desire to focus on chairing the Fédération Equestre International (FEI) Risk Management committee to help design programs that mitigate risk for the sport and promote horse welfare. It is reassuring to know that David will remain a leader in our sport, continue to provide input to our programs and that our mutual interests will remain intertwined. We thank him for everything he has done.”

Now USEF has to hustle to find a replacement for David, with the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C., little more than a year away.

The question is, what will that person’s role be?

“I think they’ll have to take a look at that, whether it’s a general manager like baseball or football, or someone who helps deal with the horse sport side,” David said. “Everyone’s going to have to decide what direction they want to go down and have it go from there.

“I was fully committed and put all my energy and my thought process into it but it was the time to go on to the next for the program,” he said.

As for himself, he said, “I’m looking forward, I’m not looking backwards. I’m optimistic about what the future’s going to bring.

“I’ve been involved in high performance since I was 18 years old, and now I’m 55. I enjoy teaching emerging athletes and I have always done that and I’ll look into continuing that side of the equation, but not the official one, because that’s Leslie’s (Law) job.”

David added he and his wife, Karen, might even open a barn again, but noted the two of them haven’t had a chance to talk about it.

“It’s not like I’m leaving the sport,” he pointed out.

“We’ll see what opportunities are available.”

 

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Another goodbye for a top event horse

Just five days after Ballynoe Castle RM said a formal farewell to his fans at Rolex Kentucky, another U.S. 4-star horse is bowing out. Sinead Halpin decided to retire Manoir De Carneville.

While noting “it is one of the hardest decisions in a horseman’s life to decide when a horse’s competitive journey has reached its limits,” Sinead and her team have decided this is the moment, after the Frenchbred chestnut known as Tate has logged 30 FEI starts, six 4-stars and eighteen 3-stars, along with a slot in the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville at Rolex Kentucky. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Sinead explained that while nothing has dimmed Tate’s buoyant personality, “age and a few chronic injuries are catching up to Tate physically and the maintenance required to keep him fighting fit is becoming excessive and uncomfortable for all of us responsible for his well-being.”

She began her partnership with Tate in 2007, when her stepfather, Jim Cogdell, bought the horse as a 7-year-old. He would go on to be on the U.S. high performance list for nine years.

One of his most remembered achievements, along with a second place at the Burghley 4-star in England, was finishing as the best American entry at Rolex Kentucky in third place, earning him and Sinead the Rolex/USEF National CCI4-star championship. He also was the alternate for the 2012 Olympics.

The horse belongs to a syndicate of Christine Turner, Tim Holekamp, Margaret MacGregor, Brian Callanan, Kristin Michaloski and Bernadette Cogdell, Sinead’s mother.

Tate will be the mascot at Sinead’s farms in Long Valley and Citra, Fla.

“If the working students are lucky, they might even get the occasional lesson on him,” said Sinead.

“But mainly, Tate will get to rule the farm and judge all the youngsters coming up … that flared nostril seems to say it all.”

And Sinead said it all by commenting, “To Tate, my beautiful horse and forever partner, you have changed my world. I have no idea what forces brought us together but together we have traveled the world, pushed each other for greatness, picked each other up in weakness and together achieved things I only dreamed possible, Thank you with all of my heart.”

 

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Kent’s Number One!

For the first time, Kent Farrington moved to the top place in the international Longines show jumping rankings this month, 23 points ahead of compatriot McLain Ward, who had risen to number one following his April victory in the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Omaha. So even though their spots on the list have changed, U.S. riders still dominate the top of the standings.

Germany’s Daniel Deusser is third and Eric Lamaze of Canada stands fourth, giving North America three places in the top 10.

Kent didn’t come to Omaha because he thought his best candidate for the competition, Creedance, wasn’t ready for such a test. But Creedance shone in several Global Champions Tour outings in Shanghai and Miami, with a second place in the former and a victory in the latter, though his results also were mixed and included retirements in classes in both shows.

 

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Kursinski and three others named to Show Jumping Hall of Fame

Olympic show jumping medalist Anne Kursinski of Frenchtown will be inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame next month at the Devon Horse Show.

A veteran of three Olympics, she finished fourth at the 1988 Games at Starman, owned by Fran Steinwedell, who is also being inducted into the Hall. Fran’s other horses included Livius, on whom Anne took team and individual gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games.

Anne, a two-timeAmerican Horse Shows Association Horsewoman of the Year, is also an author, trainer and active in equestrian governance, serving on the USEF board of directors.

Fran was president of the Flintridge Riding Club, where she worked with Jimmy Williams to develop show jumping on the West Coast. She initiated the Grand Prix of Flintridge, the second ever held on the west coast and one of the first FEI World Cup Qualifiers in the west. She was also a founding member of the American Grandprix Association (AGA), and she has served on many boards including the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA) for 20 years. She was PCHA Horsewoman of the year in 1992.

The mother of Francie Steinwedell Carvin, who won both the ASPCA Maclay and the USEF Medal classes as a junior, Steinwedell was the first person ever to reach 35 years as a member of the USET Gold Medal Club.

Also being inducted is The Natural, the first show jumper sold for $1 million. He won the 1987 World Cup finals with Katherine Burdsall (now Heller), who also rode him on the 1986 U.S. gold medal world championships team.

The horse also was shown by Katie Monahan (now Prudent), Terry Rudd, Rodney Jenkins and Alice Debany, who won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with him at Spruce Meadows in Canada.

He was retired in 1994 and died in 2008 at the age of 31.

Recognized for his many governance roles, Walter B. Devereux III who will be inducted posthumously was a polo devotee who served as president of the National Horse Show Association.

Walter owned several hunters and jumpers with his wife Bunny and their daughters, Lindly and Anne, also rode and competed. Always ready to do what he could to help support the sport, Devereux purchased and then permanently loaned the legendary jumpsd Sinjon to the USET, where he became a hugely successful mount for Olympic riders George Morris, Kathy Kusner, and Bill Steinkraus. Sinjon won many international competitions around the world with those riders, participated on 19 winning Nations’ Cup teams, and helped the U.S. win a team Silver Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics with Morris in the saddle. Sinjon was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1999.

Walter also served as an officer and director of the American Horse Shows Association and the USET, as well as the FEI Bureau.

Walter, who died in 1970, served as a judge of equestrian competition. The Walter B. Devereux Sportsmanship Award is presented annually to the horseman or horsewoman who personifies the ideals of sportsmanship through commitment, dedication and service to the sport.

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