FAR HILLS, N.J. — The tradition continued at the Mars Essex Horse Trials with the successful revival of the second competition, June 23 and 24, following a 19-year absence. This June also marked 50 years since the event was founded by the Haller Family at their Hoopstick Fam.
Australia's Ryan Wood captured the win in the $20,000 Preliminary Essex on June 23. Riding Ruby, owned by Summit Sporthorses Ltd. of Ringoes, N.J., the pair led from start to finish going clear in both cross country and show jumping to finish on their dressage score of 27.70.
"This event is phenomenal. This was my first time here and I can't wait to come back. I will be promoting it to everyone in Pennsylvania," said Wood. "It means a lot to win here and to win for Ilona (English) on her homebred horse. To come to Essex and take out the top division and win the silver cup is very special."
Wood, who is based out of West Grove, Pa., entered three mounts in the Preliminary Essex and he needed every one of them to secure his victory.
"I was lucky to have two practices on the course before piloting Ruby around. I was a victim of a rail on each of my other horses," said Wood. "It was interesting to see the rails coming down. The first jump looked like the softest one on the course, but it came down more than any other jump and the treble looked tough and it jumped better than any other combination on the track. It was all very well thought out. Chris Barnard is a master at designing show jumping tracks."
Michael Walton and Brave New World moved up from sixth place following cross country to the runner-up spot scoring 32.90. Hallie Coon finished in third place on Cooley SOS with a score of 36.20, moving way up from spot 21 in dressage and top 12 in cross country.
In the Open Preliminary division, Kaitlin Clasing of Unionville, Pa., took top honors riding Warren LVS with a final score of 29.80. They were second going into show jumping and clinched the win going clear after final rider Elizabeth Bortuzzo and Belongs To Teufer knocked down three rails to finish second with a score of 35.10.
"We were double clear in cross country. My horse is so talented and really special. He really handled it like a pro," said Clasing of the Morgan Rowsell-designed cross country course. "They put so much care into the courses and the footing. Everything is so well done here for the lower level horses, which is important for a horse like 'Beans' because this could be a stepping stone for things to come in the future. It was a great day."
Juliana Hutchings-Sebring of Fair Hill, Md., won the Preliminary Rider division on Welbourne winning on their dressage score of 37.50.
"I heard the announcer say that we were in the lead in show jumping and then I heard my horse nick a rail and I was saying to myself, 'please don't fall, please don't fall,' because I knew I couldn't afford to have a rail. He's turned into a really great horse," said Hutchings-Sebring. "This is such a fantastic event, it was really exciting. It felt like a much bigger event than for the level that I competed in. It felt like the atmosphere of a two-star or even bigger because of the spectators, so it was exciting for us. It's nice to take a win home to my students."
Three novice divisions were also held on June 23. Jennifer Eddy and Fernhill Cascum Marco took top honors in the Open Novice division. Lauren Chumley and Santa Barbara DASH won the Novice Rider "A" division and Tara Brienza won the Novice Rider "B" division on Highlander.
The June 24 lineup featured Open Training, Training Rider "A" and "B" divisions as well as three Beginner Novice divisions. Nicole Marcantonio and Guinevere took top honors in Beginner Novice "A" division. Tara Astacio won the Beginner Novice Rider "B" division on Money to Burn and Elizabeth Stewart took home the blue ribbon in the Open Beginner Novice division on Speedy P.
In the Training Divisions, Dale Eddy and Poker Run won Open Training, capturing the lead in dressage and adding only 1.20 time penalties in cross country to finish with a three-phase score of 28.90. The massive Training Rider "A" division was won by Dawn Eastabrooks and Valito. The pair took the lead in dressage with a score of 30.50 and defeated 28 other horse-and-rider combinations going clear in both cross country and show jumping to finish on their dressage score.
"It was amazing. I have had Valito since he was four years old and he's 13 now. We did not always have a successful run, but today he showed his true potential. I always knew he had it in him," said Eastabrooks. "It meant everything to win. It was the best day of my life other than having my children. I couldn't have done it without the help of my trainers Meg Kepferle and Corey Edwards. It was a magical day."
Donna White and High Stakes also felt the magic of the afternoon winning the Training Rider "B" division. The pair finished fourth in last year's Mars Essex Horse Trials.
"It was nice to come back and win. The course rode great, it was one of the more challenging ones and it rode really well," said White. "This event is so well done. The property is beautiful and it's so nice to have such a great event right in your backyard. We'll definitely keep coming back."
Morgan Rowsell, the Mars Essex Trials cross country course designer and co-organizer, is counting on that.
"It was a great follow-up to last year. We're getting better and better every year," said Rowsell. "To bring an event like this back takes a herculean effort and I'm positive that with the support we have from the community, Moorland Farm, and the Far Hills Racing Association, the sky is the limit."
"We couldn't be happier with how everything went with this year's event," said Ralph Jones, co-organizer of the Mars Essex Horse Trials. "The turnout we got from the riders and the support we received from the local community is everything we could have hoped for. Our plan is to continue to build on the tradition of the Mars Essex Horse Trials and this year was another great step forward."
Mars, Inc. played a significant role in the success of the renewed event. They signed on as the title sponsor in 2017 and continued their generous support again this year. Mars Equestrian Director Geoffrey Galant was on hand to assist with the awards.
"The event is wonderful. Ralph, Morgan, Guy and their whole team have done an amazing job bringing this event back to life," said Galant. "As a company we are honored to be a sponsor. We manufacture products for horses, pets and people and this event brings all those elements together in one place. New Jersey is the home state of our confectionary business, our headquarters is located here. I can't think of a better way to honor and give back to the community than by sponsoring this event."
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.
The Mars Essex Horse Trials, located at the historic Moorland Farm, also offered a host of family friendly activities including a Mars Candy Hunt and a Children's Activity Center, sponsored by The Willow School. The Essex Fox Hounds paraded their pack of hounds in the arena on Saturday and on Sunday the Tewksbury Foot Bassets will have their turn. In addition to exciting competition there was a classic car show and plenty of shopping in the Essex Market.
About Essex Horse Trials
For three decades, the Essex Horse Trials was one of the highlights of 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 as a competition for young riders.
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, and Running 'S' Equine Veterinary Services.
For additional information and tickets, please visit www.essexhorsetrials.org.
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