Category: Press (page 3 of 15)

The MARS Essex Horse Trials: “It’s what riders all dream of”

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.

The MARS Essex Horse Trials winds up with a win from a top combination

By Nancy Jaffer, originally posted on

A veteran pairing won the featured Advanced division at the MARS Essex Horse Trials today, as Will Coleman and the dependable Obos O’Reilly took the title by a wide margin.

MARS Essex Horse Trials Advanced division winner Will Coleman with Obos O’Reilly. (Photo©2018 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

Their beautiful trip around the formerly soggy course at Moorland Farm in Far Hills put a happy ending on a tumultuous few days for the division, being held at the event for the first time.

It drew 38 entries and an array of high-profile riders in addition to Will, who has been on the Olympic and FEI World Equestrian Games teams.

They included Olympic multi-medalist Phillip Dutton, Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin (who wound up winning the Preliminary Essex division yesterday). Those three, however, were among a total of 26 scratches in the Advanced ranks, with 18 bowing out after dressage, two retiring in stadium jumping and six overnight withdrawals.

A week of rain preceding the event, which was revived three years ago after a 19-year absence from the calendar, made things difficult despite impressive efforts by the organizers. The Advanced dressage and stadium jumping, which were supposed to be held Friday, were put off until Saturday, and the cross-country moved from Saturday to Sunday to allow the ground more time to dry.

There is no all-weather footing at Moorland, home of the Far Hills Race Meeting, so the grass surface for stadium jumping was not optimum, despite lots of divot-stomping and being rolled by heavy equipment. Some riders decided it was better to err on the side of caution than to take a chance with their horses. There were no fault-free trips in stadium among the 19 who did ride.

Although the footing was much improved this morning, course designer and event co-manager Morgan Rowsell felt it hadn’t tightened up enough. He decided to leave out nine jumping efforts on the last line, ending the course at the Buckeye Brush, a narrow obstacle after the Mars Sustainable Bay water jump.

“There was only one good question after that, so why force them to run through the deep going,” Morgan explained.

“Why not just play it safe,” added Morgan, noting the riders had expressed some concerns about the surface.

In the end, 11 horses started on cross-country. There were two falls on course, both at the airy Ditch Me Once oxer over a stream, six strides from the Von Stade road crossing, but those involved—human and equine—were able to walk away.

The course drew praise from those who did finish.

“I thought it rode great. It’s a shame we didn’t get to run all of it,” said Will, who complimented Morgan’s efforts. At the same time, he understood why some riders scratched as they were thinking ahead to future competitions, such as Phillip Dutton with Z, who is going to Aachen this summer.

Will Coleman cruised through the MARS Sustainability Bay water obstacle with Obos O’Reilly. Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

I chatted with Will about his time at Essex, an event he cited for its “character,” and the regard he has for Obos.

Missy Miller made a big leap from 30th place after dressage to finish second on Quinn. She trains with Phillip Dutton, and although he and so many others scratched, she saddled up for cross-country and rode beautifully, finishing on 59.8 penalties.

It was only the second time Missy and Quinn have done Advanced, so you can see why she had a big smile on her face.

Missy Miller and Quinn. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Hometown favorite Meg Kepferle of Long Valley was thrilled with Anakin, who finished third on 61.5 penalties after placing 23d in dressage.

“I never thought I would get to this level, to be honest,” she said, after joyfully crossing the finish line.

“After all the rain and the chaos of the weekend, in the back of my mind I was going to scratch,” she recalled.

However, “It just kept working out,” she said, noting how good her show jumping phase was, with only one rail down on a very difficult course set by Chris Barnard.

Meg Kepferle and Anakin at the Von Stade road crossing on the Essex Advanced course. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

Meg made her final decision about running today with some outside help.

“I’m lucky to have some good advisors who told me it’s going to be fine. It was really good.”

Juli Sebring, who finished last in dressage in 38th place, made up for it on cross-country with Welbourne, winding up seventh overall with 121.8 penalties.

She got socked with time penalties because she stopped after veering off into the wrong galloping lane after the first fence, but when she learned she wasn’t eliminated for that, she literally got back on track and came home with a big smile on her face.

“My horse rode amazingly well. The footing rode fine,” she said.

Essex and the classic car show that ran with it today at the venue benefitted from weekend weather as sunny as the week was rainy. Attendance for the weekend was approximately 5,000, as ticket holders took advantage of vendors and activities for children in addition to watching the competition.

Mark and Carolynne Corigliano of Peapack with their 1921 Rolls-Royce at the Essex Horse Trials’ classic car show, just as a younger “sibling” of their vehicle was entering the show on the left. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

The efforts of the energetic volunteers drew raves from exhibitors about how helpful and friendly they were. I asked Ruth Beesch, who events at a low level and keeps her horse in nearby Tewksbury, why she decided to volunteer at Essex as an “event ambassador” who explains the sport to sponsors.

“It’s a local event that’s already becoming a premier event,” she told me.

“If those of us who are locals and love eventing and love our horses and our horse community don’t come out and volunteer for something like this, there’s something wrong with us.”

Erik Duvander, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s eventing performance manager, was helping move jumps to secure the best footing on approaches to the fences for the Advanced stadium jumping on Saturday. A first time visitor to the event, he was enthusiastic about its potential and decided to pitch in.

Essex is definitely on the rise, despite the weather situation that affects any outdoor sport.

“We want to continue to grow the event and improve the event,” said Guy Torsillieri, who as the race meeting’s key player with Ron Kennedy, is the Essex event’s landlord.

“We had record rains. We never had it this wet, ever. We’re really good at making hard ground soft, but we’re not too good at making soft ground hard,” Guy observed.

Through the efforts of MARS Equestrian and other sponsors, he said that without losing the flavor of a smaller competition, “we’re positioned to make this an even better event.”

Will Coleman is presented with a check for $9,500 for winning the Advanced division at the MARS Essex Horse Trials. With him are Essex co-chairs Ralph Jones and Morgan Rowsell, Greg Staller, Kathleen MacDonnell of Marsh & McLennan Agency, Sue Webber of AIG, Bridgett McIntosh and Geoffrey Galant of MARS Equestrian, former NJ Gov. Christie Whitman and Guy Torsillieri. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)

As Ralph Jones, who serves as the event’s co-chairman with Morgan noted, “We did the best we could. It was nice to have the armada of the Far Hills Race Meeting behind us to do some work on the course, because that showed the riders we would do everything we could for their safety during the competition, and that made a big difference to them, so I think we earned their respect.”

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.

After a rain delay, the MARS Essex Horse Trials is ready to run

By Nancy Jaffer, originally posted on

What do you do on the first day of your eventing competition, when downpour after downpour has drenched the venue that was groomed to perfection by months of intensive work, and the ground so soggy it’s positively squishy?

Course designer Morgan Rowsell at the water complex. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Ralph Jones, co-organizer of the MARS Essex Horse Trials. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

That was the problem facing the MARS Essex Horse Trials organizers Ralph Jones, Morgan Rowsell and their team this morning at Moorland Farm in Far Hills.

They took action, consulted with riders, made safety and horse welfare their first considerations,

and cancelled competition for the day.

Then they figured out how to shoehorn the Advanced division dressage and show jumping into Saturday’s schedule, which now starts with dressage at 7:30 a.m., and moved the Advanced cross-country into Sunday (starting at 8 a.m.)

Meanwhile, sunshine and a stiff breeze was drying out the footing, which should shape up nicely at the home of the Far Hills Race Meeting. The classic car show that was set for Saturday was moved until Sunday, and everything is a go.

The course is beautiful, especially the water complex, where tailgaters will be able to see all the action while enjoying their buffets.

I talked about the situation with Morgan, who is the cross-country course designer. Listen to what he had to say after we walked the course with him and dozens of other people.

Everyone was on hand for a VIP cocktail party that was supposed to be held while the Advanced show jumping was running. But the Essex Foxhounds filled the gap admirably at short notice with a brief exhibition that was enjoyed by the crowd.

The Essex Foxhounds in the show jumping arena. (Photo©2019 by Lawrence J. Nagy)


Essex, which ran as a 2-star until 1998, was revived in 2017 after a 19-year absence from the scene. In just three years, it has attracted a following.

The addition of an Advanced division this year has drawn a host of prominent riders, including Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton, Will Coleman and last year’s Preliminary winner, Ryan Wood. There are lots of other competitors you’d recognize too.

It makes for a great day out in the country, with shopping in a vendor village and activities for children to fill in the gaps for those who want a break from the horses. Go to for details. Come back to every night for an Essex update.

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.

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