By Nancy Jaffer, originally posted on

The MARS Essex Horse Trials didn’t have the weather on its side in the week leading up to this weekend’s competition, but the sun finally shone big time today, and so did the event at Moorland Farm in Far Hills.

The crowd was so large that auxiliary parking had to found, the cross-country course design was masterful and entries were excellent. Essex has a lot of elements that make it special.

“It’s what riders all dream of,” Boyd Martin said about the event after winning the featured Preliminary Essex section with Luke 140. He was first throughout the competition, despite time penalties on cross-country and a rail in show jumping, finishing on 30.10 penalties ahead of Cornelia Dorr with 31.10 aboard Daytona Beach 8.

Boyd Martin and Luke 140, winner of the Preliminary Essex section. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

It was Boyd’s first visit to Essex, but he was so enthusiastic, it certainly won’t be his last—despite soggy ground after days of rain. That led to a bunch of scratches in the Advanced division, which was being held for the first time. But listen to Boyd’s take on the event.

Revived for just three years since its last previous running in 1998, Essex got an amazing 38 entries for its Advanced division’s inaugural run. Only 18 riders showed up for stadium jumping, however, with Boyd on Contestor and Buck Davidson on Erroll Gobey retiring after having rails. None of the competitors jumped a clean round.

Sixteen will try the advanced cross-country at 8 a.m. Sunday. Because of the rain-drenched ground, Advanced could not run dressage and stadium on Friday as planned, and everything had to be rescheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday.

Will Coleman and Obos O’Reilly led the Advanced division at Essex after dressage and stadium jumping. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

Leading the way in Advanced is Will Coleman on Obos O’Reilly with 35.70 penalties. Right behind him is Jennie Brannigan with I Bella on 37.30. Jennie had quite a day Saturday, taking first and second in the Open Preliminary with F.E. Connory and Hopscotch, respectively.

Jennie Brannigan and FE Connory. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

Like Boyd, Will was making his Essex debut, and he was very positive about his experience.

“I think it’s one of the best new events in America. They had bad luck this week with the weather, but I think we’re all just ecstatic with what they’ve done here and really, really excited about coming back next year,” Will said.

Cross-country course designer Morgan Rowsell, who co-chairs Essex with Ralph Jones, noted, “We got six or eight inches of rain over the last week. The only reason the footing is suspect is because the rain just came down and came down. I would rather the riders pull out if they feel this is wrong for their horses. It’s just a bad circumstance, but we’re having a good weekend.

“The riders accept and appreciate our efforts and they will be back next year. Running 16 horses, we’ll make a show of it.”

To hear Morgan’s thoughts about his cross-country course design for the Advanced division, watch this video.

We’ll wrap up our coverage of Essex tomorrow night, so be sure to come back to the website then.

This is a copy of an article that originally appeared on Nancy Jaffer Equestrian Sports and is reproduced here with permission. ©2019 On The Rail LLC and Nancy Jaffer. All rights reserved.