The ESDCTA New Jersey Horse Trials is held once yearly at the end of September at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, New Jersey (Area II) where they offer Beginner Novice through Advanced levels. ESDCTA is also involved in organizing and hosting unrecognized events and combined tests, dressage shows, clinics, and cross-country schoolings throughout the northeastern region.
The Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association (ESDCTA) was originally formed in 1969 and incorporated as a non-profit educational organization in 1970. During the early years, ESDCTA was involved in organizing several horse trials in the northeast region, including the Gladstone Team Trials at the USET and Somerset Hills Horse Trials. In the late 1990s, several events in the area had closed their doors, and a member of the ESDCTA committee had the idea to start a new event at the Horse Park of New Jersey, which was still relatively new at the time.
When ESDCTA first began to host competitions at the Horse Park nearly 20 years ago the facility was still in the early stages of development, but it has expanded impressively since then. “There were three large rings where dressage and show jumping were held and a somewhat small piece of property,” described Gary Maholic, ESDCTA New Jersey Horse Trials’ organizer. “Since then, the Horse Park has added a carriage driving ring, a lunging ring, and a large indoor arena! They’ve also acquired neighboring land to allow a huge expansion of the cross-country courses.” The Horse Park of New Jersey now covers 185 acres and hosts competitions and schooling events for a variety of disciplines, including dressage, western and combined driving.
With the expansion of the property from its original footprint to the current 185-acre parcel, the cross-country courses were also able to grow and evolve. “With the new land, we are able to have very open rolling cross-country courses,” said Maholic. “Even though we’re on the edge of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, there are still some hills to contend with. We have fabulous water complexes, banks, and ditches, and the fields are kept in great condition.” Morgan Rowsell is ESDCTA’s current cross-country course designer, and he also designs for the Horse Park at New Jersey Horse Trials, which run two events during the summer months.
New Jersey’s horse country has a rich history and is home to historic sites such as Hamilton Farm, home of the USET Foundation, and Moorpark Farm, home of the Far Hills Race Meeting and new site of the revived Essex Horse Trials. The equestrian community is very supportive of one another in pursuit of their common goal: the support and promotion of horse sport. When asked about people who have contributed to ESDCTA over the years, Maholic shared a story of Paul Adams, the owner of nearby Flora Lea Farms. “The story that comes to mind is the Paul Adams Memorial bench, which was donated in memory of Paul Adams, the owner of Flora Lea Farms. Flora Lea, which is in Medford, New Jersey (about half an hour south of the Horse Park) has been hosting events for many years and they have been very supportive in getting eventing at the Horse Park off the ground. The bench was part of the (then) new Preliminary course.”
ESDCTA may only take place once a year, but Maholic enjoys getting to work at the Horse Park with a great team to make the event happen. “I think [ESDCTA is special because] of the great facilities coupled with the organizing team. Everyone knows each other, they know their jobs and this makes for a very relaxed atmosphere to come and compete . . . I look forward to seeing all the familiar faces – the volunteers that come back and support us year after year, as well as the competitors who regularly compete there.”
What does Maholic most want eventers to know about coming to compete at the ESDCTA New Jersey Horse Trials? “The Horse Park has grown and changed. If you haven’t competed there in a while, you may not recognize the place!”
The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A-Z series.
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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