The 17th annual Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event is in full swing as the second day of competition gets underway this morning. Twenty combinations completed their dressage tests yesterday in the CCI3* , which this year is serving as a selection trial for the 2018 World Equestrian Games taking place later this year at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti are the division’s overnight leaders on a score of 28.5, followed close behind by Boyd Martin and Ray Price in second place on 29.1 and Waylon Roberts and Lancaster in third place on 30.8. The field is currently separated by exactly 20 penalty points with six pairs left to take their turn in the sandbox this morning.
Tomorrow morning, riders in the CCI3* will set out to tackle Captain Mark Phillips’ 5,795-meter cross-country course, which comprises 32 fences and a total of 40 jumping efforts. Phillips joined the Jersey Fresh team as course designer last year on short notice and didn’t have much time to make any significant changes to the courses for 2017. “We lucked out last year,” said Morgan Rowsell, Jersey Fresh’s longtime course builder who this year is co-designing the two-star courses with Phillips. “We had very little time, and he was very conservative [with his course design]. But, because we got five inches of rain on the day, it was no longer conservative.”
This year, however, the Jersey Shore water complex has received a complete overhaul and 10 new cross-country fences have been added to the three-star courses, built by Rowsell. “Last year we didn’t have enough three-star fences,” he explained. “We did a lot of propping up two-star fences to make it three-star. This year, Brendan Furlong and Furlong & Associates stepped up their sponsorship and had me make 10 three-star jumps, so that really brings us up to the standard that it needs to be. The Furlongs have really shown their dedication to the sport.”
The corner at fence 28B is one of the 10 newly constructed three-star fences on course. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“What’s new as of last year is the front loop of the first four fences,” Rowsell described. “That’s very different than what we’ve had in the past and I think it really gives the horses a chance to get on course, get their legs underneath them, and establish a rhythm. That’s very important for all levels, but specifically for the three-star levels. Establish a rhythm, get the horses’ and the riders’ confidence up and then be able to appropriately challenge them once we get into the interior portion of the park where it’s a little tighter.”
“Mark [Phillips] has done a great job with using the hills and not having to build structures out of earth,” continued Rowsell. “We just made use of what we already had and reconfigured what was there, or as he likes to say, reshuffle the deck. His flow of how it goes from field to field and back again, it’s a small piece of property and he does a good job of making it flow. It’s also the way you approach a jump, he really sets the horse up for success.”
Rowsell made the trip over to Fair Hill early yesterday morning to pick up the aerator that the Horse Park shares with Fair Hill and Plantation Field to make final preparations to the ground for tomorrow. “Footing is everything," he stated. "It’s more important than the fences, it’s more important than the hoopla; you’ve got to have good footing. The horses deserve it. So, if that means getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go get the aerator, that’s what you do!”
“We’ve done a good job with our grass cover as well,” observed Rowsell. “We’ve been fertilizing like crazy. We opened up that new loop [at the beginning of the course] and the grass cover is getting better, it just takes a long time. I think in a year or two even the lower field will have better grass cover than it already has. The Horse Park is very dedicated to the grass. Every year it gets a little bit better, which is great. The Horse Park has always stepped up and tried to do little bit more each year.”
The cedar table at fence 8 is another of the new constructions on course. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders will come out of the box over the first fence, pass immediately through the tree line, and curve left into an open field where they will gallop on a sweeping right-hand track over fences 2 and 3. As they complete the loop they come to the first combination on course: a large brush oxer to a wedge in six strides. If riders elect to take the option of a slightly wider wedge on a longer line, they will be forced to take a longer turn to the bench at fence 5, costing valuable seconds on a course where time will certainly play a role in determining the leaderboard.
The direct route at fence 4AB, a large brush table to a skinny brush wedge. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Back through the tree line and to the left, riders jump fence 6 and continue on to fence 7AB, two left-hand corners. Riders proceed downhill over fence 8, the cedar table, and through the tree line yet again before coming to the newly designed Jersey Shore water complex. This year at the Jersey Shore, riders jump in over a cabin and proceed through the water and onto the island in the middle, where they jump the two skinnies at 9B and C, before passing through the water again.
A view of the three-star line through the Jersey Shore water complex. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders will make a left-hand loop up through the trees to fence 10, an open oxer, and then onto the trakehner at fence 11 before proceeding slightly downhill to fences 12 and 13, a drop to a corner. The track follows the driveway at the main entrance before looping back uphill and to the right over fence 14 and continues on through the trees to fence 15. The terrain goes downhill and then steeply uphill to a skinny log built into the side of a tree.
Looking at fences 12 and 13 from the landing side. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
This takes rider into the back field, where they jump the offset brushes at fence 16AB and pick up the two gallop fences at 17 and 18 before turning right and galloping down to 19AB. The log at A and the corner at B are set on mounds with a dip in the middle, meaning riders will have to navigate the terrain between the two fences while holding their line. A sweeping right-hand turn brings riders to the Back Bay at fence 20.
Both the terrain and the line create the question at Fence 19AB. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
At this point, riders are approximately two-thirds of the way around the course, but there is still plenty of work to do before they pass through the finish flags. Riders proceed to the left into the back field once more to fence 21, an open oxer, and fence 22AB, an imposing ditch brush to a skinny wedge. The track proceeds back up the hill and over the gate at fence 23, then back through the trees and down the hill to the cherry rails at fence 24.
Fence 22AB is similar to the combination at fence 4AB, a large imposing brush to a skinny wedge. This question requires both power and accuracy. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Riders gallop along next to the main driveway once more and proceed over two more of the new three-star fences at 25 and 26 before returning to the Jersey Shore water, this time passing through it in the opposite direction. Riders jump the gate house at the top of the hill before galloping down into the water, where they jump over the cabin in the water and out over the corner.
Fence 28AB, the cabin in the water to the corner. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Through the trees once more and over the second trakehner on course takes riders back to the field in which the course started for the final three fences on course. The track takes riders up a gradual slope and curves to the left over the skinny mushroom at fence 30 and then makes a left-hand loop over the log cabin at fence 31 before brining riders home over the horse shoe at fence 32.
Over the last, the horse shoe! USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.