The weather fully cooperated for the three days of the Garden State Combined Test and Combined Driving Event, held Sept. 15-17 at the Horse Park of New Jersey (HPNJ). The show is a fundraiser for the HPNJ, and offers first-rate tailgating opportunities on Sunday, the marathon day. The event was also a selection trial for both the 2018 Single Horse Championship in Horst aan de Maas in the Netherlands and the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon. N.C.
This year’s Garden State CDE featured new cones equipment for that section of the competition, including new FEI-specifications cones, markers and measuring sticks. A major grant from Harmony Sporthorses, along with additional support from Gail Aumiller and Kent Brownridge, provided the funds for what is now known as the Harmony Sporthorses Cones Arena.
Dr. Judy Canavan, Oley, Pa., was a major organizer of the CDE and also tasted victory in one of the most crowded divisions, the intermediate single horse. She won with Emily, a 14-year-old chestnut Friesian/Thoroughbred cross. The mare was bred by Bill Peacock of Texas, and Canavan has owned her for three years. “She was in a pasture, not being used, for about two or three years, so we have spent a fair amount of time getting her back into condition. We compete her here and at Gladstone, Elk Creek (Fair Hill. Md.), Southern Pines, N.C. and at Katydid in South Carolina,” she said. Canavan also competes the mare in ridden dressage, and the pair has three scores towards their bronze medal and will be competing at the Colonel Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships in October at the Virginia Horse Center.
Different types of equines excel at combined driving, and the breeds competing at this year’s event ran the gamut. While warmbloods of various breeds were well-represented, so were Morgans, Haflingers, Dutch Harness horses, Welsh ponies and Welsh cobs. At least one Andalusian, Connemara, Gypsy, Cleveland Bay and Dales were in competition.
Perhaps the least known breed competing was Tracey Higgins’ Over Der, a Norsk Koldboldstaver. He was driven in the training single pony/junior driver by Lillian Mikulski. The Norsk Koldboldstaver, or “coldblooded trotter,” is a rare Norwegian breed sometimes raced in harness in Scandinavia. It’s quite likely that the 12-year-old bay gelding is the only one of his breed in the U.S.
The event consisted of an American Driving Society (ADS) sanctioned combined test on Friday and an ADS/United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) CDE on Saturday and Sunday. The CDE covers levels from Training to USEF Advanced. The Intermediate level (for the CDE) was also sanctioned by both the ADS and USEF.
This year, intermediate was also sanctioned by both the USEF and ADS. “This is the first CDE in the nation where intermediate was sanctioned by the USEF. Training and preliminary were sanctioned by the ADS. Between the two we had over 75 competitors,” said Canavan. Those competitors came from all over the Eastern Seaboard, from Vermont to Florida. There were three four-in-hand turnouts: Daniel Rosenthal, N.J., who competed his four bay Dartmoors in preliminary multiple pony; Jim Fairclough, Newton, N.J., with his Austrian and Dutch warmbloods and Paul Maye, Va. with his Dutch warmbloods. The latter competed in the advanced multiple horse division, with Fairclough taking first place.
Canavan, an equine veterinarian, praised the work of the volunteers, calling them “wonderful.” She notes that local colleges were very supportive. “We had students from Delaware Valley University, Centenary College and Rutgers University helping on Sunday. Mid-Atlantic Equine Center, in Ringoes, ran the vet box before the start of E. Dr. Diane Simoncini ran the vet box at the end of B. When the marathon was over the vets ran a lecture and question and answer session for all the students.
Rochelle “Shelly” Temple, Windsor, S.C., served as president of the Ground Jury, a post she also held two years ago. She has competed at the Garden State CDE many times in the past. When asked about this year’s event, Temple replied, “I've never seen the Horse Park look so good! The new cones and cones equipment looked great and [course designer] Richard Nicoll always does such a great job with the courses. There were many options in the obstacles, which makes them fun to drive.” She adds that the officials worked well as a team and the show ran smoothly. “We were very lucky to have great weather. The volunteers at the show were especially good and the experienced ones helped to train the newer ones. It was fun to see new drivers as well as old friends at the show,” she said.