Sussex Horse Show legacy produces a leader

By Nancy Jaffer
December 24, 2015

Robin Rost Fairclough on Patriot at the Sussex County Horse Show, 2007. (Photo by Reflections Photography)

The Middlesex County Horse Show moved to Monmouth County, New Jersey, several years ago. The Monmouth County show moves to Somerset County, New Jersey in 2016. But the Sussex County Horse Show, which marks its 80th anniversary this August, is staying put.It’s under new leadership — Robin Rost Fairclough, who has the right pedigree to be chairman of the show committee. Her late father, Robert Rost, took Sussex from a low-key affair when he arrived on the scene in 1955 to the big time.

“It was his favorite show,” she said of her father, who at one time managed a mini-series of prominent shows in the region: Orange County, New York; Sussex, known fondly as Branchville (some people still call it that after its original location) and Monmouth.

“His dedication to the show was immense,” she commented, noting that he also was the chairman. Doc Rost (he was a veterinarian) brought Sussex to the point where it was a regular stop for some of the country’s best riders, such as Bernie Traurig and Rodney Jenkins in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Things are different today, with many shows vying for the same dates and the same riders. There is intense competition among the shows, not like the era when exhibitors came to the same show year after year because there weren’t many choices. Organizing a show is different too, and far more complicated than it used to be.

“It’s a lot of time-consuming effort,” acknowledged Robin, a trainer and show jumper, about her efforts with Sussex. But she loves the show, which in effect is a legacy from her father, making  it doubly important.

“That’s why I’ve stayed on and stayed this involved,” she explained.

Robin Rost Fairclough as a child with her father, Dr. Robert Rost. (Photo by Budd)

The show has a new manager, Bill Yeager, who manages the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s finals. He is from Virginia and at the time when Mike Rheinheimer managed Sussex, Bill also was on board.Expect some changes for 2016 in the fixture that always has extra cachet because the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show runs with the New Jersey State Fair on the showgrounds in Augusta, N.J., Aug. 5-14. There’s nothing like the backdrop of a ferris wheel to add some excitment.

“We hope to bring back some fun classes, perhaps a speed derby, or some fun night class,” Robin reported.

“For entertainment, we want to bring team pulling back because the crowd always wants to see the draft horses,” she said. Watching the big horses put their shoulders into the harness and take their cargo across the finish line was a longtime feature of the show in its glory days. Robin added organizers also are hoping to increase prize money for grand prix, but are not sure yet what the purse will be.

While she’s looking for an improvement in the footing, fundraising is slow.

On the other hand, she pointed out, “The fair is going to stand behind us because they use the facility for other events. So they’re going to try to help us as much as possible to improve the over-all horse show facility.”

She called relations with the fair “excellent.” Having a new fair manager, Gary Larson, who’s from the area, is a help.

For the 80th, the plan is to bring back some featured players from the old days, Robin said.

“We’re going to reach out to as many as possible and make it another major event in New Jersey.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+