And they’re off!
Did everyone watch the race on Saturday? It was so thrilling, I even put down the mint julep I had in one hoof (in celebration of the Derby) and the taco I had in the other (in celebration of Cinco de Mayo) to cheer for my athletic friends! What a great race!
This weekend, some noteworthy equine athletes will be participating in an event located nearby to the place that I call home…the Horse Park of New Jersey! This competition will showcase the equestrian sport of 3-day eventing, and is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s “Jersey Fresh” initiative. The event, which runs from Friday (5/11) through Sunday (5/13), attracts some of the nation’s best riders and is fantastic fun for the entire family!
Equine eventing originated in the military where it was used as a way to measure the fitness of military horses. To succeed, both rider and horse must be highly trained in three disciplines – dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. The horse and rider combinations compete consecutively over the series of three days and at the end, individual scores from each event are totaled together and the highest ranking horse and rider pair are declared the champion.
The competition begins Friday with the dressage portion of the “Jersey Fresh” competition. Dressage is a French term meaning “training”. It tests riders and their horses in a per-determined series of complicated movements performed in an enclosed arena. Competitors are judged on precision, smoothness, suppleness and obedience of the horse. In advanced levels of competition, these movements are sometimes put to music, making the horses look like they’re dancing!
Saturday is the cross-country phase; it is usually the most popular amongst spectators, and there’s good reason why! During the cross-country portion of the trial, riders and horses are tested for endurance as they gallop a three-mile track containing 30 jumping obstacles. These jumps are designed to mimic natural obstacles such as logs, ditches, and streams. It takes an immense amount of stamina, strategy, and symphony between horse and rider to complete the course successfully. Check out the video below of one rider’s “helmet cam” riding the cross country course at the 2010 Jersey Fresh competition!
Sunday is the show-jumping phase, where horses and riders must negotiate between 12 and 15 jumps roughly four feet in height within an enclosed jumping arena. Competitors must complete the initial course in a set amount of time without knocking down any of the rails or having any refusals in order to make it to the “jump-off”. The jump-off is a shortened course, consisting of 6 to 10 jumps, that is timed from start to finish. The rider who completes the jump-off in the shortest amount of time is the winner of this phase.
So round up your family and friends and come out to the Horse Park this weekend for some fun and excitement, and celebrate the versatility of our equine athletes! While you’re there, make sure you say hello to the Rutgers student volunteers, who will be working behind the scenes to make sure the event runs smoothly!