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Mars Essex Horse Trials Country Weekend Attracts Stellar Field of Riders

Far Hills, New Jersey – June 6, 2019 – A stellar field of world-class riders is entered to compete in the third running of the Mars Essex Horse Trials Country Weekend, June 21-23. Taking place at historic Moorland Farm in Far Hills, New Jersey, the event features the newly added Advanced division, which has attracted top riders including four U.S. Olympic veterans.

“I’m really excited that Essex is putting on the event with the Advanced division,” said two-time U.S. Olympic veteran Boyd Martin of Cochranville, PA, who is the reigning US Equestrian CCI5*-L Champion. “I’m bringing a couple of my up-and-coming horses and giving them a spin around the course. I heard that there is a lot of prize money and it’s one of those events that has a bit of history. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Other U.S. Olympic veterans entered include six-time Olympian and two-time Olympic Team Gold medalist Phillip Dutton, 2012 London Olympic veteran Will Coleman and 2016 Rio Olympic veteran Lauren Kieffer.

Also entered are Canadian Olympic veteran Jessica Phoenix, two-time U.S. National champion and two-time Olympic alternate Buck Davidson and Ryan Wood of Australia who will be returning with his mount, Ruby, to defend the championship they won last year in the Preliminary division. Wood has also entered Woodstock Bennett to compete in the Advanced Division.

The Mars Essex Horse Trials is a perfect way to spend a weekend in the country. The picturesque surroundings allow spectators to experience the thrill of the Olympic sport of eventing while enjoying a variety of activities including children’s activities, a classic car show, a farm stand offering fresh farm-to-table food from local markets, demonstrations, and specialties from artisan vendors.

The Children’s Activity Center, sponsored by The Willow School, will offer younger spectators and their parents a fun and creative way to spend the day. The Essex Market will feature a wide range of shopping from saddles and riding boots to jewelry and artwork.

Ryan Wood and his mount, Ruby, will return to defend the Preliminary championship they won in 2018

Ryan Wood and his mount, Ruby, will return to defend the Preliminary championship they won in 2018

Eventing, often referred to as an “equestrian triathlon,” combines the elegance of dressage, the thrill of cross-country, and the precision of show jumping. Eventing provides a rare opportunity for spectators of all ages and interests to witness a discipline that highlights the unique trust and bond between horse and rider. This year, Essex will feature an Advanced division with Olympic-level riders on top horses in addition to other divisions for up-and-coming horses and riders.

About the Mars Essex Horse Trials

For three decades, the famed Essex Horse Trials was a major highlight on the equestrian calendar, attracting top American and international competitors as well as thousands of fans who enjoyed its social aspects as well. The event was originally conceived in 1968 by the Haller Family at Hoopstick Farm. Proceeds from the event benefit the Greater Newark LifeCamp in nearby Pottersville, which provides an enriching day camp experience for approximately 300 Newark-area youths per day for six weeks during July and August.

Moorland Farm, a picturesque 230-acre property, provides the breathtaking setting for the event’s current edition. It is the home of the annual Far Hills Race Meeting, a nationally prestigious steeplechase race meeting held each October.

Mars, Inc., the original sponsor of the Essex Horse Trials, returned in 2017 and continues as the event’s title sponsor. Presenting sponsors include Open Road Auto Group, Peapack-Gladstone Bank, RWJ Barnabas Health, Running ‘S’ Equine Veterinary Services, and AIG.

For additional information, please visit www.essexhorsetrials.org

About MARS EQUESTRIAN

MARS EQUESTRIAN, a brand and sponsorship division within MARS INCORPORATED, is the link between our iconic brands and the equestrian community. For generations, MARS has celebrated a rich equestrian heritage, and through purposeful partnerships, MARS EQUESTRIAN is committed to the sport and building an enduring legacy. From world-class competitions across all equestrian disciplines, to stewarding the power of horses on society and sustainability, MARS EQUESTRIAN is dedicated to our purpose to improve the lives of horses, pets, and the people who love them.

For more information about MARS EQUESTRIAN, please visit www.marsequestrian.com.

The MARS Essex Horse Trials is set to run with high stakes and big names

By Nancy Jaffer

It’s an idea whose time has come—again.

The MARS Essex Horse Trials was a popular stop for eventers during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s—attracting marquee names in the sport–until the 2-star event was discontinued after its 1998 edition. Its revival in 2017 was a success, with Preliminary as the highest-rated division, and Essex went on to solidify its standing in 2018.

Ryan Wood, the 2018 Preliminary winner with Ruby, will be back this year for the new Advanced section and other divisions. (Photo©2018 by Nancy Jaffer)

Ryan Wood, the 2018 Preliminary winner with Ruby, will be back this year for the new Advanced section and other divisions. (Photo©2018 by Nancy Jaffer)

This year, the June 21-23 event presented by MARS Equestrian has upped the stakes. It’s offering an Advanced division for the first time (skipping Intermediate), and the big step forward is being well-rewarded with entries from some of the top riders. Phillip Dutton, the 2016 Olympic eventing individual bronze medalist, will be bringing his best horse, Z, and his close friend, Boyd Martin, also is coming.

“I’ve got a couple of horses who need a run around the Advanced level at this time of the year,” said Boyd, explaining why he decided to enter the competition at Moorland Farm in Far Hills.

“I’ve heard great things about Essex; it’s an event with a lot of history. I’m looking forward to spinning a few around for the first time. It’s always a challenge going to new places, but riding at the very top level, you get to know which are the good events that have the good courses.

The MARS Essex Horse Trials’ Advanced Division has attracted Boyd Martin, whose second-place finish at the Land Rover Kentucky event last month made him the top U.S. rider at that competition. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The MARS Essex Horse Trials’ Advanced Division has attracted Boyd Martin, whose second-place finish at the Land Rover Kentucky event last month made him the top U.S. rider at that competition. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

“It’s a little bit nerve-wracking going to a brand new event. Sometimes it takes a year or two for the designer to figure out the track and the course, but Essex is a great venue and a good course designer, so it should be a good event,” noted Boyd, the highest-placed U.S. rider last month at the 5-star Land Rover Kentucky event, where he finished second.

The rebirth of Essex came about as the result of the 2015 “Gladstone Gathering,” held at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation stables for area equestrians and those interested in the sport.

Jim Brady, whose family once owned Hamilton Farm, the foundation’s home in Gladstone, felt that the area wasn’t hosting as many top-class equestrian events as it once did. He revitalized the old Gladstone Equestrian Association, and came up with the idea for the party.

Essex previously was held at Hamilton Farm, but construction of a golf course meant there wasn’t enough property to continue the event at that site, leading to its cancellation.

Tewksbury resident Ralph Jones attended the Gathering and was inspired to think Essex could be revived.

“I was just thrilled with the idea of starting it over,” Ralph said at the time, and pitched right in. He’s co-chairman with course designer Morgan Rowsell at Moorland, home of October’s Far Hills Race Meeting.

“What says `Essex’ is being able to run on that track,” Morgan commented, noting part of the cross-country course will go over the turf used for the races on the 230-acre property, just down the road from Gladstone..

“It just doesn’t get any better than that footing.”

The addition of the Advanced section is an effort “to gradually bring this event back to its glorious past,” said Ralph, “and to do that, we need to attract more of the professional riders.”

Added Morgan, “it will be an international event at some point. Ralph and I and Julie (Berman, director of operations and hospitality) and the team are dedicated to doing it right.

“The community’s been very eager to be involved,” said Julie. “There’s a lot of buzz on being part of Essex. Everybody wants to be a part of history and bring it forward.”

The five-year plan also includes all-weather footing for the dressage and show jumping, Ralph mentioned.

At the same time, Morgan noted, “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to grow, get sponsorship, keep the sponsors happy, grow again. Everything’s got to balance. You’ve got to have the sponsors, you’ve got to have the money, you’ve got have the good grass.”

Word about Essex has gotten around, and well-known riders are coming in droves. The demand matches the prize money; there’s $10,000 more being offered this year than last year, for a total of $30,000.

Essex Horse Trials co-chairs Ralph Jones and Morgan Rowsell show off the Advanced division’s Liberty Corner Leap, a work in progress during my visit to Moorland Farm. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Essex Horse Trials co-chairs Ralph Jones and Morgan Rowsell show off the Advanced division’s Liberty Corner Leap, a work in progress during my visit to Moorland Farm. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Buck Davidson, a regular visitor who starred in the reborn 2017 Essex edition, will be competing, having recovered from a fall at Land Rover Kentucky that left him with a broken collarbone. Others who will be seen there are Will Coleman, Lauren Kieffer, Sharon White, Colleen Rutledge, Hannah Sue Burnett, Jennie Brannigan, Canada’s Jessica Phoenix and Ireland’s U.S.-based Ryan Wood, back with Ruby, his 2018 Preliminary winner. She’s entered in the Preliminary Essex division, which is more challenging than the Open Prelim division. He’s also is bringing Woodstock Bennett for the Advanced section.

It’s a terrific opportunity for Jerseyans to see top competition close to home (Moorland is a five-minute walk from the Far Hills train station), and it offers a great introduction to eventing for those who enjoy horses but haven’t had a chance to see this discipline in person.

I went over to Moorland on Route 202 to get a look at preparations for this year’s Advanced course. Former U.S. eventing coach Mark Phillips, designer of the Jersey Fresh and Burghley, England, cross-country courses who is Morgan’s mentor, had visited as well. He gave advice and a thumb’s up.

This oxer won’t be in this location for the actual event, but it was placed there for a photograph to show some of the scenic surroundings at Essex. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

This oxer won’t be in this location for the actual event, but it was placed there for a photograph to show some of the scenic surroundings at Essex. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Most interesting to me was work on a timber obstacle that Morgan described as, “big and impressive,” no over-statement there. It will stretch nine feet across, erected over a ditch five feet deep, with a center bar to fill in the gap for this first year of Advanced.

Trees will be placed on the vertical posts to define the jump and enable the horses to judge the scope of the fence. It’s appropriately called the Liberty Corner Leap, named after the road that runs along one side of the property.

Ralph estimates that midday on the Saturday, June 22, will be “prime time” for spectators who want to see the Advanced riders in action on the most challenging route that Essex offers. The Advanced horses will not only go through the impressive water complex, but they also will be jumping in the main arena as the path for their division winds through the property.

“We’re trying to dedicate ourselves to safety as much as possible,” said Morgan. He noted about one-third of the jumps at Training Level and higher have frangible elements, while another third involve brush.

He explained the MIM clip activates to release its rail on horizontal pressure, which is what would happen when the horse is on an upward trajectory, while the frangible pin activates on downward pressure, so if a horse doesn’t get across the entire distance of the obstacle, the pin breaks and the rail drops.

A frangible table jump, donated by Essex supporters Carl and Cassie Segal, also offers a safe alternative on the Advanced course if a horse hits it, folding down on impact. Such tables are very expensive, but Morgan would like to see one added every year.

The MIM clip, left, and frangible pin, right, are safety devices that will be used during the Mars Essex Horse Trials (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The MIM clip, left, and frangible pin, right, are safety devices that will be used during the Mars Essex Horse Trials (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The days at Essex will be busy. Advanced dressage takes place Friday, June 21, and that division’s show jumping will run during the early evening in conjunction with a VIP cocktail party. The Advanced cross-country is set for Saturday, June 22, along with all segments of the Preliminary competition, which features show jumping in the early evening that day, along with a competitors’ party at the Hoopstick Club. The lower levels will take place on the Sunday.

Being billed as the Mars Essex Horse Trials Country Weekend, the fixture has a lot more to offer than sport. A huge car show runs from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the Saturday (the rain date is the Sunday) with more than 200 classic and exotic vehicles expected. The Hoopstick Club offers lunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on the Saturday and a mimosa brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Sunday.

The children’s activity tent, provided by the Willow School, will be open both Saturday and Sunday, as will the Edible Jersey Food Court and the Essex Market vendor village. With MARS Equestrian as the presenting sponsor, it’s no surprise to learn that there will be a MARS candy hunt for children Saturday and Sunday.

The beneficiary of the horse trials is the Greater Newark LifeCamp, located on 90 acres of fields and woodlands in Hunterdon County. It provides an enriching summer day camp experience for 300 Newark-area youths per day for six weeks during July and August. Campers between the ages of 6 and 13 come from the greater Newark public school system, as well as from Newark Charter School Programs.

The mission is to empower youth to succeed by developing life skills, character and leadership through a program outside an urban environment

For more information on Essex or to buy tickets, go to www.essexhorsetrials.org.

The Garden State show blooms in Gladstone

By Nancy Jaffer

The historic U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation stable provides a backdrop for Carley McInerney’s victory gallop after the Garden State Horse Show’s EquiJet Grand Prix. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The historic U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation stable provides a backdrop for Carley McInerney’s victory gallop after the Garden State Horse Show’s EquiJet Grand Prix. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The Junior Essex Troop’s Garden State Horse Show got a makeover with its move this spring to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters in Gladstone, going to one ring from the eight it utilized in its former location at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.

It’s the same scenario as the Monmouth County Horse Show followed when it came to Gladstone from the Horse Park of New Jersey in 2016.  The common denominator of Garden State and Monmouth is manager Tucker Ericson, a respected judge, a sharp organizer and one heck of a bartender.

He’ll pitch in anywhere, but he realizes the importance of hospitality, so when we talked yesterday, he was mixing up Margaritas in the VIP tent.

Tucker noted that about 50 percent of the exhibitors who came to the nine-day show, which ends today, are different from those riding at Monmouth at the Team, which only has a B rating on several days, because Garden State has a double-A rating for hunters and level 4 jumpers that are highlighted by a $25,000 grand prix.

Many of those who came for Garden State were so enthused by the location that Tucker noted  the historic main barn already has been sold out for Monmouth at the Team in August. Garden State is “a nice complement” to the other show, and introduced people to the USET Foundation facility at the same time, Tucker observed.

“We have a lot of exhibitors who were waiting a year to see how successful this would be, if we could pull this off, and I think we’ll get a lot of those people back next year,” he commented..

“I think the trainers have been impressed that we can push through so many trips in a day in this ring, because we have no conflicts, we have posted orders and everyone cooperates.” While Garden State had 475 horses last year with the multiple rings, the show should be approaching that number in Gladstone as it wraps up this afternoon.

“There’s great energy with the entire show watching one ring that it keeps moving. It is challenging to keep everyone happy, but what was nice was a couple of exhibitors said their trainers give them more quality attention because they don’t have to run from ring to ring,” said Tucker.

“When any rider isn’t showing, they’re in hospitality cheering on their fellow teammates from their barn.The support from the sponsors has been tremendous, along with trainers rallying their barns to get hospitality,” Tucker pointed out.

“A one-ring horse show is very hard to break even, if not for the sponsors and the trainers supporting hospitality, then these shows can’t exist. It’s critical for that support to pull this off.”

Carley McInerney and Cortina 200. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Carley McInerney and Cortina 200. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Yesterday afternoon’s feature was the $25,000 EquiJet Grand Prix, which drew 19 starters over the course laid out by Ohio designer Joseph Carnicom, with five coming back for the jump-off. Although there were several professionals in the class, the winner was a junior rider, 17-year-old Randolph High School senior Carley McInerney. Aboard Cortina 200 in her second grand prix, she was clocked in 42.006 by taking advantage of a tight rollback, just ahead of amateur rider Sima Morgello on Azur Van Overis Z (42.480).

Carley, who showed at Garden State when it was in Sussex, said about the show’s new identity, “I love this ring and the property is awesome.”

Of her 13-year-old Holsteiner, Carley noted, “She’s incredibly talented. I couldn’t ask for a better mare. She just tries her heart out every time and I’m so lucky to have her.”

It was the first grand prix for Sima’s mount.

Sima Morgello and Azur Van Overis Z. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Sima Morgello and Azur Van Overis Z. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

“I typically keep him in the medium amateurs to keep him confident and tonight was the first time I have ever asked for him to compete a course that size,” she said.

“It just felt right; he has produced fantastic results the last two weeks because he was also second, third, and fourth at the Longines Masters last week.”

“I thought the course was fantastic and riding at this facility is always such a pleasure,” she added. “I’ve started grooming for myself, so it was a busy day, but luckily for me it is close to home and it’s always a show I enjoy.”

Bastian Schroeder of EquiJet said he likes the new location for Garden State, which his company had also sponsored when it was in Sussex.

“I think this is a good move, because the setting is great, the footing is perfect. The venue deserves a good horse show,” he commented.

The Junior Essex Troop was a military-style organization for boys that had its own farm in West Orange. The boys took care of the horses and developed a camaraderie that has lasted for decades. Though the organization itself has long since disbanded, the bonds that troopers shared are unbreakable.

The show was a feature of the troop year. After the farm was sold in 1983, the show moved to Chubb Park in Chester and then to the Sussex fairgrounds in 1987, where it became New Jersey’s largest show.

It provides a reunion opportunity for the former troopers, who worked tirelessly for decades to stage it. But handling everything was getting harder as the men got older, and things are different with Tucker and his crew overseeing things.

The former troopers are “sitting outside the ring now,  relaxing, realizing they can actually enjoy their show  and take a deep breath and watch people having fun and seeing how the facility creates the event for them,” said Tucker.

“I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” said John Walker, a former trooper and show committee member.

“I’m thrilled we have a bunch of amazing people working with us. It’s been nothing but smooth. I think we needed to make this move for the prestige of the show,” said John.

“I think people like the panache of a boutique show where you’re not just a number.”

Allan Spina of Long Valley, who was a trooper from 1970 to 1979, said “I love the show here. The ambience is amazing and it’s setting the bar much higher than we used to in the past. I think it’s a much better experience for everyone.”

“It’s a different pace, a higher quality and it’s just wonderful. The footing here is just tremendous. It was time to make a change,” said Rodney Seelig, the show’s chairman.

Former manager Tim Cleary agreed.

“I think it was the right move at the right time. Tucker and the Team with all the troopers have done a great job.

Exhibitor Katy Merchant, 17, of Branchburg, has a special feeling for Garden State.

“I grew up competing at Garden State in Sussex, from a very young age. It was my favorite horse show because we’d stay in campers,” she reminisced.

While Katy said the show at the USET Foundation “It’s true to the feeling” she had in Sussex, “it’s much different and I think it’s really going to be successful. I loved it. To have the horses stay in this barn is such an honor. The elevated vibe of it is a good thing.”

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