Dressage, Cross Country, Show jumping- Oh My!
In spring there is no better time for horses than the Jersey Fresh International Three Day Event that took place May 10-14th, 2017 at the Horse Park of New Jersey. Medalists and high-level competitors converge on the Garden State from around the world for dressage, cross country, and show jumping.
A perhaps little known fact about New Jersey, is that it is very horse-centric. Surprised? Don’t be. You can read my post on A History of Horses in the Garden State to get an overview.
For those of you who don’t know, eventers are rider/horse teams that compete in dressage, cross country, and show jumping in three days. They are the triathletes of the equestrian world. Most horses and equestrians concentrate in a single discipline. But to compete successfully in three different disciplines and concurrently…..well, it’s unbelievably taxing.
The weather was a bit iffy as spring tends to be. Thursday had mild temperatures and a mix of sun and clouds- near perfect for a day of dressage. My favorite time of day is early in the morning, watching pre ride (aka warm up). It’s quiet, no spectators, and just the riders, trainers, and horses. Perfection.
I admit as an amateur equestrian I was a bit fan girl when Phillip Dutton rode over and began to chat up the gentlemen I was speaking with. I didn’t catch his name but I was having a conversation with him about his rescue dog, Tequila. (Yes, of course I found out the dog’s name!) But the medalist knew him and it took everything I had not to squeal. His horse, Mr. Candyman (Elmo) is GORGEOUS. Yes, I admit I did an inner fangirl over the horse. Even if you don’t like horses, it’s hard not to revel in their beauty.
I made a graceful exit so as not to interrupt their conversation and moved to change my vantage point for photos. I tend to concentrate on the form of horses and the way they move. It is my goal to provide sports massage with these high level athletes as part of their wellness program. If anyone needs stretching and tension release, it’s eventers.
The Grand Prix arena was beautifully outfitted for the riders. Riders performed their dressage tests side by side while spectators sat on the grassy knolls, or stood ring side.
Jersey Fresh International is a family-friendly and dog-friendly event. Of course, for everyone’s safety there are rules. But I’ve never been to a horse show where dogs were not present. They seem to go hand in hand.
Saturday, May 13, 2017 was a bit of a wash out. The rain began late the night before and the schedule for the day was moved earlier to get as clean a field as possible for cross country. The 3 1/2 mile course featured two water obstacles, one of which was coined the “Jersey Shore”. The course held up well for the 116 rides.
It was my first time photographing cross country, and boy was it hard. These horses and riders are fast. I definitely had my work cut out for me, but it was exhilarating to watch in person. On top of that, it was pouring rain. I was nervous to even bring my camera but I spoke with local photographer and eventer, Callie Heroux, and she gave me some waterproofing advice in advance of the day. (Thanks Callie!)
Despite the bad weather, there were a lot of double clear rounds throughout the day. Buck Davidson came out of the tack near the end of his second run and was thankfully okay. They were able to catch his horse quickly. Cornelia Dorr almost lost her seat coming through the Jersey Shore water obstacle on Sir Patico MH, but quickly regained her balance to gallop on successfully.
The sheer level of horsemanship is awesome. Up and down hills, narrow jumps, through water, and full out galloping in the pouring rain. You don’t have to love horses to respect the skill it takes to ride cross country safely and as quickly as possible.
Standing in the pouring rain for hours was totally worth it. For the cross country results, visit Eventing Nation. Next up, Mother’s Day and Show Jumping!
The weather Sunday won the blue ribbon for most improved. 70 degrees and sunny, for which I was incredibly grateful after being soaked through the previous day. I brought a reluctant husband and three young daughters to watch the stadium jumping on the last day of this year’s Jersey Fresh.
While they did get distracted easily, the nature of the sport kept their interest more than expected. My oldest daughter wants to be a Grand Prix jumper, so I told her these would be the people to watch.
There is nothing quite like the thundering of hooves and horse and rider pairs jumping 1.25 meters to keep your attention. But, luckily Jersey Fresh is a family-friendly event and there were wonderful events for children. Pony rides, painting Breyer horses, and face painting. Still, we had a wonderful time watches the jumpers. For the results, visit Eventing Nation.
It’s hard to pick a favorite part of Jersey Fresh International 2017. But I will. I really enjoyed watching the riders ride the cross country course. The rain was brutal, but it really tested the riders and horses, and everyone did an amazing job. I’m so glad I was able to attend this year and all the riders finished safely.