May 15, 2011--There were so many divisions at the Jersey Fresh three day event that I was struggling to keep track of? exactly who did what in which section at the Horse Park of New Jersey.? But I can tell you there was no mistaking the biggest winner of all--Jersey Fresh itself.
There were questions after last year, when it had a relatively light entry, whether the event would even survive. Organizers faced a task raising the needed money, which they did with various activities, including dressage schooling shows and a hoedown. Event director Jane Cory and Lynn Mathews, who works for the state, were among those determined to make Jersey Fresh happen again, and happily, it was quite a success. It attracted more than 100 horses altogether for the Young Horse sections and the CIC and CCI 2- and 3-star competitions. (The main difference between a CIC and a CCI is that the latter has longer cross-country course.)
John Nunn of Bit of Britain tack shops and Dr. Brendan Furlong, who has a practice in New Jersey and is the U.S. eventing team vet, both offered financial incentives for riders to participate. Brendan was watching today's show jumping when I caught up with him and asked him how he thought things were going.
Jane Cory was handling the main presentation duties, in addition to everything else she does. Last year at this time, Horse Park President Dr. Stephen Dey was pinning on the ribbons but sadly, he died in February. The event was dedicated to him, and the cross-country course has now been named for him. He would have loved the way things went this time; he was devoted to the Horse Park.
I spoke with Jane about this year's event and the future of Jersey Fresh.
Today's show jumping course produced by Sally Ike was quite challenging, to the point that only one rider, Will Faudree, was able to produce a double-clear in the 3-star sections.
He did it with Pawlow in the CIC, which had bigger names than the CCI, kind of a switch from the way things usually go. The problem for everyone else boiled down to either making the tight times and risking knockdowns, or leaving the rails in place and getting time penalties.
On the first mount he rode in the section, Andromaque, Will clinched the time but had two rails. That taught him a lesson for his ride on Pawlow, who rose from fifth in dressage to third after cross-country, and then went on to win.
Here's what Will had to say about his show jumping, which left him with a score of 61.1 penalties.
You just heard him say that Pawlow, a 12-year-old Irishbred owned (as is Andromaque) by Jennifer Mosing, has a tendency to be "very quirky."
"Quirky how?" I asked.
It seems that among other things, he can't be clipped, having expressed his opinion to those who tried by removing some of their teeth and sending them to the hospital. He requires extra patience from farrier Jay Mickle, vet Tom Daniels and groom at Barcoe-Cocks, said Will. But it's worth it. This is the first FEI event Will has ever won individually, though he was on the Pan American Games gold medal team with his other horse, Antigua.
Tiana Coudray, who won a 3-star at Jersey Fresh last year with Ringwood Magister, was standing first with Master Hill until show jumping. She dropped the third fence, the final element of the triple and the next-to-last fence to wind up second on 65.4 penalties. Actually, she tied for second with Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda, who had two down in show jumping. But the fact that Tiana was closer to the optimum time (which no one in her division made) gave her the nod.
In the CCI, Andrea Leatherman held her first-place status with Mensa, but barely. Nina Ligon, who rides for her mother's home of Thailand, was just 0.6 penalties behind Andrea on Fernhill Fearless going into the final phase. But Nina had 5 time penalties, which should have given Andrea some breathing room. Not so, since she, too, got the same number--just enough to keep her narrow lead with a total score of 61 penalties.
Until the next-to-last fence, Andrea, who has a perpetual sunny smile, didn't start thinking about the time. At that point, she said, "I kicked and thank goodness I did."
Andrea, who bought Mensa off the track in West Virgina for $5,000 when she was 18 (she's now 26) , is trained by her boyfriend, Buck Davidson. I imagined that might make for some difficult moments, so I asked Buck about that.
As far as the 2-star divisions go, here's what I have to say: Uh-O Canada, the U.S. could be in trouble at this fall's Pan American Games. They only played the north-of-the-border anthem, O Canada once at Jersey Fresh, but it covered both 2-star section winners, Lisa Marie Fergusson with Smart Move in the CCI, the largest division at Jersey Fresh, and Rebecca Howard in the CIC with Roquefort.
They could well be half of the Canadian team at the Pan Ams, which is being run in Mexico at the 2-star level. Not enough countries in the Western Hemisphere have riders capable of handling the 4-star level that is contested in the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games.
However, as the U.S. already is qualified for the Olympics, the Pan Ams basically are a team experience outing for our riders, as coach Mark Phillips told me. He pointed out it's unlikely that any of the American 2-star horses would be getting a promotion quickly enough to make it to the London Olympics by next year.
Rebecca, who rides for The Fork stable in North Carolina, led all the way through her section. She accumulated 8.8 time penalties cross-country with the Dutchbred/thoroughbred cross, but was double-clear in show jumping (the 2-star course was, appropriately, not as difficult as the 3-star course.) She had plenty of breathing room after Australian Kadi Eykamp, who had been second with Double Rivers Really Cool, dropped four rails and herself to eighth place. Rebecca's 52.4-penalty total gave her an 11.3-penalty cushion over runner-up Will Coleman with Obos O'Reilly. Can you tell he's an Irishbred?
Smart Move also held his lead from yesterday with a double-clear for a total of 52.1, to 54.7 for Caitlin Silliman and Catch A Star, another double-clear. Lisa's Welsh cob/thoroughbred cross is quite the personality, known around the barn as "Smarty" for his habit of opening double-ended snaps to let himself out.
Jersey Fresh had several nice touches this year. The competitors' dinner was open to the public, and they had a great band that played equestrian-appropriate tunes, such as "Back in the Saddle Again" and "I've Got Spurs that Jingle, Jangle, Jingle." Tailgating on the cross-country course was introduced, and they made a real effort to fill the vendor area.
Not everything was perfect, of course. The ground was hard in places, which resulted in some footsore horses (Tiana's mount, for instance, was held in the final horse inspection before being passed.) As some pointed out to me, the park was in a tough spot, because if they had worked the ground more and it rained, it could have been a problem.
Riders also took issue with some of the ground jury's decisions and its approach. A group from PRO, the Professional Riders Organization, met with the ground jury this morning to discuss things, including a wide disparity in judges' dressage marks and excusing horses for lameness in dressage.
Buck, who was part of the PRO contingent, said some riders felt they "were talked down to. When we raise concerns, talk to us as human beings, not as little people whose opinions aren't valid. It wasn't okay the way they treated the riders."
Eric Smiley of Ireland, president of the ground jury, said "It's always interesting to listen to riders, because judges are seldom right if it doesn't suit them. It's always interesting to have an opportunity from a judge's point of view to fill the riders in with some of the background information they're not privy to as to how we come to those decisions."
In the case of horses excused in dressage, he said, for example, it wasn't a snap decision by the judges because they had been in contact with the FEI veterinarian who was watching the horses warm up in the collecting ring.
I'm sure these types of conversations will continue, but at least they're talking!
That's it from here, though be sure to look for my photo gallery this week. I'll be sending my next postcards from Devon in June, where I'll give you the rundown on the annual Show Hunter Hall of Fame dinner, the grand prix and everything else happening there.