Fair Hill takes a breath

With the reclassification of eventing competitions to offer a 5-star level for the first time, Fair Hill, Md., the nominee for what would have been the USA’s second 4-star event, is doing a half-halt until the requirements are revealed for the highest level event approved by the FEI (international equestrian Federation)

Last July, the U.S. Equestrian Federation approved the recommendation to award a fall 4-star to Fair Hill in 2019. The USA’s only 4-star to this point is the Land Rover Kentucky event, formerly Rolex Kentucky.

While the FEI approved the 5-star concept last month at its annual meeting, it has yet to state the requirements for that and its other levels. Fair Hill of course wants to run the highest level in the sport, but before the public/private partnership continues working on its project at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, it needs to know what the requirements are.

The signature Fair Hill fence on the cross-country course. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The organization is “taking a breath,” as competition manager Ann Haller put it.

“We understand the FEI’s decision to reorganize the star system and the requirements for each level,” said Carla Geiersbach, Fair Hill International’s executive director.

“However, until we know these new requirements, it makes no sense to move forward blindly.  We don’t want to build a state-of-the-art facility to the wrong specifications.  We are committed to presenting an event at the pinnacle of the sport and will march ahead as soon as the FEI releases its new parameters,”

Fair Hill International will mark its 30th anniversary in 2018 with its usual CCI3* and CCI2* event Oct. 18-21, 2018. While the 4-star originally was slated for 2019, with the delay on the FEI releasing specifications, it now appears likely to be held for the first time in 2020.

Sam Slater, president of the Fair Hill Foundation, the coalition’s fundraising partner said, “We remain committed to bringing world class equestrian sporting opportunities to this corner of Maryland. Fair Hill has so much to offer the community, and proposed upgrades will really enhance the facility. As always, thank you to all of our donors, partners, and friends for their committed support.”

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A terrific eventing competition won’t be happening this year

The Wellington Eventing Showcase, which introduced hunter/jumper/dressage fans to eventing at the Winter Equestrian Festival, will not be held in February. It was a huge hit for the last three years (Boyd Martin won it every time) with a highlight in 2017 seeing riders gallop through the VIP tent to take a fence right in the midst of the party.

Boyd Martin on Welcome Shadow jumping through the VIP tent at the 2017 Wellington Eventing Showcase. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The unrecognized competition with a $100,000 purse was staged on the grounds of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, a short canter from the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center where most of the WEF is presented.

Cross-country—the final phase in this format–ran on the derby field at Global. The next day, a show jumping grand prix was held there. That was always a bit dicey on that first weekend of February, because the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup jumping qualifier also ran on that Sunday about a mile away at Deeridge Farm. I remember rushing from Deeridge to Global to catch the last of the WEF jumping class, and some of the riders also did a bit of dashing to participate in both.

Carly Weilminster of Equestrian Sport Productions said WEF organizers “had been given feedback from the show jumping riders that they’d prefer to do all of the FEI classes during the week on the grass instead of just the Grand Prix on Sunday. So we moved the Grand Prix to Saturday and all of the qualifying classes are now on the grass.”

The Saturday class, the 4-star $205,000 Net Jets Grand Prix, begins at the odd time of 11 a.m. at Global. Saturday night’s class is the Great Charity Challenge in the main arena at PBIEC at 6:30 p.m. Since the Longines class is on Sunday, it wouldn’t work to have a WEF class that afternoon, leaving Saturday morning as the window of opportunity.

Carly said organizers had hoped “to still be able to do the Showcase, but it posed a big logistical challenge with stabling and the field usage, etc” so it was called off. She added “We’re going to re-evaluate the week next year, but would still like to host the event.”

Lack of sponsorship also was a problem, as Equestrian Sport Productions is putting its efforts into September’s FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina and finding sponsors for that is taking precedence.


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Have a gut issue? Rutgers Equine Science Center has answers


Gastrointestinal  Health and Management will be the theme of the Rutgers Equines Science Center’s Horse Management Seminar, hosted with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, from 8:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

“I seem to be getting more and more gut health-targeted questions,” said Dr. Carey Williams, extension equine specialist and associate director of extension for the Equine Science Center.

“Our goal in presenting this workshop is to explain what some of the digestive concerns might be and how we can keep our horse’s gut, and therefore our horses, healthy.  We will also go over some current and future research from Rutgers on equine gut health.”

The morning will start with topics including “How does physically effective fiber behave in the equine gut?–A visual tour” by Dr. Burt Staniar from Penn State. He will follow that presentation with news about research from his lab and others with “An overview of recent research studying physically effective fiber and equine gastrointestinal health.” Later in the morning, Dr. Mary Durando from Equine Sports Medicine Consultants, will focus on “Equine Gastric Ulcers Syndrome”.

The afternoon will start with “The Equine Microbiome” by Dr. Amy Biddle of the University of Delaware. A panel discussion from the three main speakers will follow. Carey and her doctoral student, Jennifer Weinert, also will offer presentations on  research into “Gastrointestinal Health and Management of Eventing Horses: Survey Results”  and “Microbiome and Metabolism of Horses on Pasture: Future Study”.

Complete program, registration information and the seminar brochure are posted on the Equine Science Center website at esc.rutgers.edu. Reach  Carey Williams at (848) 932-5529 or carey.williams@rutgers.edu. Space is limited, so be sure to register.

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Merton fined and suspended for Hampton Classic incident

The U.S. Equestrian Federation has fined Jazz Johnson Merton $5,000 and issued a two-month suspension for “unsportsmanlike behavior toward her horse, Joe Cool.”

On a widely circulated video that made headlines here and abroad, the Tewksbury resident is seen directing a kick toward the horse’s belly after she fell off during her round in the 3-foot, 3-inch division for older amateur-owners at the 2017 Hampton Classic.

The suspension runs Aug. 1-Sept. 30, which includes the 2018 Hampton Classic.

Contacted for comment, she cited the apology she issued after the incident.

It stated, “One of the greatest pleasures in my life has been riding and showing horses, and I have enjoyed this hobby since I was a little girl. In the recent incident at the Hampton Classic, I had a very inappropriate emotional response to my horse’s behavior, one that I have never had before. I was scared and angry, and reacted very badly. For that I am deeply sorry.

“My reaction was short lived, and immediately after I realized my mistake, I got back on to jump a schooling fence in order to finish the day on a trusting note with this horse.”

She promised, “I will never again exhibit this unprofessional display of aggression and poor sportsmanship.”

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Not a good weekend for showing

Yes, it’s cold outside in New Jersey. Which is why the Jan. 5-7 CJL show at Duncraven in Titusville and the Hunter Farms Jan. 6-7 and Palermo shows on those dates have been cancelled, along with the Jan. 6 barrel racing at the Horse Park of New Jersey.

If you’re on the East Coast and planned on showing this weekend, be sure to check to make sure your show hasn’t been cancelled because of the weather.

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UPDATE: Olympic gold medalist William Steinkraus is gone

William Steinkraus, the chairman emeritus of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation and the first American to win an Olympic individual gold medal in any equestrian sport, died Nov. 29 at the age of 92.

Although he was a pillar of the U.S. show jumping squad for decades, Bill’s accomplishments weren’t limited to riding. He was a serious violinist, his insight made him a perceptive television commentator, he wrote several books and was an exemplary editor, as well as heading the USET for years.

“He was a renaissance man. He knew something about everything,” his 1960 Olympic teammate George Morris said today after learning about the death of the friend that he called his mentor.

“I learned so many things from Billy. He was a great riding teacher on a high level,” George commented.

Bill Steinkraus with his 1960 Olympic silver medal teammates Frank Chapot (seated) and George Morris (right). (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Beyond that, Bill was “impeccably mannered, impeccably dressed,” George continued, noting he was meticulous not only in his horsemanship, but in everything he did.

Bonnie Jenkins, executive director of the USET Foundation, noted, “He was one of the original founders and leaders of the USET and also the foundation; somebody who I think every generation still looks up to. He was a true icon and someone we were so proud to have representing this country.”

During the years when the U.S. rose to prominence internationally in show jumping, his honors included the King George V Cup in 1955, followed by the German Championship in 1959.

A series of Nations’ Cup triumphs preceded and followed his glorious 1968 individual gold with Snowbound in Mexico City.

He won more than 100 grands prix in his career and three Olympic team medals. Among them was a bronze at Helsinki in 1952 as the fledgling civilian squad took over international competition responsibilities from the Army. For the next 20 years, he was captain of the U.S. team until he retired in 1972.

The graduate of Yale University, who served in Burma during World War II, spent several years after the war in concert management before working on Wall Street as a security analyst. He went on to the publishing industry, where his employment included being the editor in chief at Winchester Press.

Bill played key roles in governance of equestrian sport. He became the president of the USET, then its chairman and finally, chairman emeritus. He also served for eight years as a member of the FEI (international equestrian federation) Bureau and president of the FEI World Cup. He was an Olympic TV commentator at Montreal, Los Angeles and Seoul and several World Championships as well as serving as an Olympic judge at Barcelona.

He was one of the first inductees of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, and a member of the New York Sports, Madison Square Garden, National Horse Show, Washington Horse Show and Fairfield County Sports Halls of Fame.

Bill is survived by three sons, Eric, Philip and his wife Stefanie, and Edward and his wife Beth and four grandchildren, Grace, Abigail , Griffin and Clark.

Services were private. Donation’s in Bill’s memory may be made to the USET Foundation, which can be reached at www.uset.org. A memorial service is being planned for the spring.

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Get motivated at a clinic in Sussex County

Working on your equestrian new year’s resolutions? Daniel Stewart can help. He provided an inspirational keynote speech at December’s U.S. Hunter Jumper Association annual meeting in Texas, and this month, he’ll be closer to home at Chelsea Nix’s Penwick Eventing in Sussex County.

He is featured in a clinic there Jan. 20 and 21. While the jumper riding slots are filled, you can always try—maybe someone will drop out. There is room in the dressage portion of the clinic and auditors are invited as well.

Daniel is both a riding coach and a  motivational speaker. He talks about building a team, “trust is a must,” and mentioned how your head and heart are more important than your hands and heels when it comes to riding. One of his mantras is, “turn life’s little setbacks into life’s little comebacks.” You get the idea.

For more information about the session in Hampton Township, contact Chelsea@penwickeventing.com. For more about Daniel, go to www.pressureproofacademy.com

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Car service aims to get revelers home safe in Wellington

U.S. Dressage Team Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover and trainer Tom Wright are among many who are mourning the deaths of two young people in a single-car crash in Wellington, Fla., last month, when the vehicle went across a median at a high rate of speed. Christian Kennedy, 21, and the driver, 19-year-old Dana McWilliams were killed; the back seat passenger, Elaine O’Halloran, 24, was critically injured.

The incident raised unwelcome memories of the 2016 accident that killed show jumper Andres Rodriguez, whose blood alcohol count was over the limit, and Sophie Walker. While both were in their 30s, that accident and others brought to the fore the issue of drinking and driving among young people in the self-proclaimed winter equestrian capital of the world.

Robert and Tom have mobilized in an effort to stop further tragedies. Last weekend was the kick-off of having celebrity “bouncers” at bars to help guide drivers who have had too much to drink to waiting limos. The “bouncers” the first night were TV star Carson Kressley and Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig, who were available to drive home the cars of those who opted for limo service. The second day, Canadian show jumper Tiffany Foster and hunter trainer Bob Crandall were the bouncers.

Tom had started the limo project in 2016, but following Robert pitched in to help expand it following the death of Christian, whom Robert had named as one of the Future Stars in a program that he is renaming in the promising dressage riders’s memory.

The original program was “quiet,” said Robert, who wanted to expand it and make it more visible. Now it’s called the Get Home Safe Project, and it’s highly visible.

“Kids are going to do what they’re going to do, even if you tell them to abstain,” said Robert. “What we can do is give them better choices in that moment and hope they avail themselves of that better choice.”

The cars will be at the Players Club and the Grille, both popular drinking spots.

Robert Dover and Robert Ross sponsored the car service on Saturday, while Juan Gando, the owner of the Grille, sponsored the cars on Sunday. The vehicles cost $650 per evening, so more sponsorship is needed. Those willing to make a contribution should contact Robert at rdover2@aol.com  or Tom at tjwuphill@aol.com. Bouncers are also needed. Those who are not celebrities are welcome to become bouncers because, “if you come out and want to be a bouncer, you become a celebrity in my mind,” Robert said.

“I am just glad that there is something, even if it’s not really enough, that could come from this tragedy that is even the slightest bit positive,” Robert said.

A funeral and celebration for Christian’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 9 at Nan’s Cottage (the home of Maria Baber, 540 Ampthill Road, Cartersville, Va.) All are welcome. The best airports are either Richmond or Charlottesville. Those attending are advised to dress warmly and riding clothes are encouraged.

In lieu of flowers, donations are being sought that will be used for equestrian training scholarships and for action to change unsafe driving and behaviors, first in Palm Beach County, and then the nation. Donations may be made to the Christian Kennedy Foundation on GoFundMe.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up for Elaine O’Halloran, who worked as a groom for show jumper David Blake. Elaine has undergone surgery, but has substantial rehab ahead of her. She did not have medical insurance. The goal of the page is to raise $500,000. Here is the link to donate: https://www.gofundme.com/elaine-ohalloran-medical-fund

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Where will the WEG be in 2022?

The Samorin Equestrian Center in Slovakia, which was on line to stage the 2022 FEI World Equestrian Games, has declined to sign the host agreement and the search is on for a new venue for the compilation of eight disciplines.

This is reminiscent of the problem with the 2018 WEG, which was given to Bromont in Quebec. Federal funding for the project was not available, and the Tryon, N.C., equestrian center replaced Bromont for next year’s competition. Since the WEG began in 1990, several cities that agreed to host the WEG withdrew, and their replacements had varying results.

Bidding will be reopened and a decision on the 2022 site is expected in November 2019. As FEI President Ingmar De Vos noted, that is more time than Tryon had to get ready.




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O’Connor gets FEI nod

Former U.S. Equestrian Federation President David O’Connor today was elected chairman of the FEI (international equestrian federation) eventing committee. The decision came at the FEI’s annual meeting in Uruguay, where he got twice as many votes as the other contender, Alec Lochore of Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic eventing manager.

The 2000 Olympic eventing individual gold medalist and formerly the U.S. eventing technical director, David replaces Guiseppe Della Chiesa of Italy, whose term was up.

David is also head of the FEI eventing safety sub-committee. Although he was in line to be second vice president of the FEI, the FEI President Ingmar DeVos noted David has a full plate of responsibilities. For that reason, the other candidate, Mark Samuel of Canada, got the post. Mark, a former show jumper, is president of the FEI Group IV, which includes the U.S. as well as Canada and several other countries.





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