Postcard: 2017 Jersey Fresh International Three Day Event

Despite sheets of cold rain that drenched competitors and spectators on cross-country day, the reviews were good for an event that has often struggled, but now seems to be on the right track.

May 14, 2017—The theme of this postcard from Jersey Fresh is persistence, the key to success. Again and again over the weekend, I was reminded how important it is not to get discouraged and give up.

A case in point is Jersey Fresh, which has had its share of problems over the years. But in its fifteenth renewal, a bold move to a new cross-country course designer, Mark Phillips, drew approval from the riders. The best news was that his layout proved safe even under hideous weather conditions.

It sometimes seems as if keeping this event going at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown has been an uphill battle, but the positive comments from riders and others on the scene are encouraging for a competition that holds an important place on the calendar.

There are many supporting it. B.W. Furlong & Associates has been a loyal presenting sponsor, fans who purchased tailgating spots came out despite the storm and hundreds of volunteers did yeoman work to make sure the cross-country course remained safe during the downpour.

I heard so many stories at Jersey Fresh about success that came only after disappointment and in some cases, disaster. Last year, for instance, Phillip Dutton retired Mr. Candyman on the Jersey Fresh cross-country route, “because I think it scared him a bit too much.”

It was a different story this time, as the horse, who “didn’t have a lot of confidence in himself” now feels “that he can go out there and own that cross-country course.”

It was a rainy day at the redesigned “Jersey Shore” water complex, where Phillip Dutton sailed through on Mr. Candyman. Photo copyright 2017 by Nancy Jaffer

As Phillip commented, “he’s starting to put himself on the map. It looks like he has a big future.

“To win at this level is a great achievement and cements my idea that he’s ready for a 4-star now,” continued Phillip, noting his mount wasn’t discouraged on cross-country by the conditions that discouraged me, as I shivered through hours of photographing competitors who had it far harder than I did.

“I liked the way he kind of handled things and was kind of mature about it, even though he was slipping, he didn’t get rattled by it,” Phillip observed about the personable Holsteiner who logged his first CCI win by going clear in the show jumping under very welcome sunny skies.

Lizzy Jahnke was second on Princeton, a New Zealand thoroughbred, coming up from tenth after dressage, while Australian Dom Schramm finished third with Bollytair B.

Talk about not getting discouraged. “It’s mine and the horse’s first CCI 3-star,” said Dom.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I’m finally getting 3-star out of the way. I’ve sort of had to shake the monkey off my back a bit. It feels good.”

In the 2-star CCI, we all were impressed by 19-year-old Cornelia Dorr who struggled—and succeeded—to stay on after getting nearly dislodged from Sir Patico MH at the redesigned Jersey Shore water complex. (Check out my photo at

She was standing third after cross-country on the attractive spotted Dutch/thoroughbred cross, but alas, he had a heel grab and was spun at this morning’s horse inspection. Cornelia didn’t look back because she had the leader in the division, Louis M, and kept her placing despite a rail down over Sally Ike’s thoughtfully designed cross-country course.

Cornelia Dorr won the CCI 2-star on Louis M Photo copyright 2017 by Nancy Jaffer

“I didn’t need to win; my goal was just to complete,” said Cornelia, who has put off college in favor of another kind of learning as a working student for Sharon White.

Phillip, a veteran of decades of eventing and Cornelia are opposite ends of the age spectrum, so how nice to see each of them winning a CCI. It speaks to the universality of horse sports that happily ignores age; it’s ability that counts.

Runner-up Boyd Martin got CCI 2-star winner Cornelia Dorr and third-place Jennie Brannigan in a clinch for a few laughs at Jersey Fresh. Photo copyright 2017 by Nancy Jaffer

The irrepressible Jennie Brannigan, riding Twilightslastgleam, was third in the division behind runner-up Boyd Martin and Kyra. Jennie’s mount, a homebred thoroughbred owned by Nina Gardner, had been so difficult as a youngster that he didn’t even get a tattoo at the track—they wanted him out of there.

“He was bucking everyone off. He broke my knee a couple of years ago. He was really a tricky horse to start. But it was always worth it because I knew he was talented,” said Jennie. Persistence once again paid off.

Not one to hold a grudge, Jennie (who has a part-time gig galloping racehorses) moved up from eighth in dressage to fourth after a double-clear cross-country trip. When Sir Patico dropped out, she was third and stayed there with a fault-free show jumping performance.

Marilyn Little, who got the lead in the CIC 3-star in dressage with RF Scandalous and never gave it up, told me how the mare was eliminated from every event she entered at the beginning of her career (except for the first one, where her score was a whopping 119.5 penalties). By the time Marilyn came along to look at her in 2014, professionals weren’t interested in the prospect. Marilyn, however, saw her potential.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous had a rail down in show jumping but still prevailed to keep her lead and win the CIC 3-star. Photo copyright 2017 by Nancy Jaffer

She envisioned the mare as a gold medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games and that came true as double gold, one each for Marilyn and the team. The 12-year-old Oldenburg she calls Kitty did have a fence down in the show jumping today, her first since 2015, Marilyn said, but her lead over Boyd Martin and Testserleg was such that she could have dropped two more rails and still won.

The next stop for Kitty, who particularly shines in the dressage phase, is her first 4-star, in Luhmuhlen, Germany. We all know how important that could be with the World Equestrian Games coming up next year in Tryon, N.C.

I asked Marilyn about Luhmuhlen and what she hopes for in that trip. Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch the video about what she had to say. 

Lauren Kieffer used the CIC 2-star as a prep for DA Duras who is taking a trip to the Bramham, England, event. Lauren will be spending the summer in Britain with her horses, who include her 2016 Olympic mount, Veronica.

Duras never gave up the lead Lauren established with him in dressage, and added only 4 time penalties from cross-country to that score. In second place, Sharon White recouped from having to retire on cross-country at Rolex Kentucky last month with Cooley on Show, who started out sixth here in dressage, moved up to second after cross-country and stayed there today.

Victory in the CIC 2-star went to Lauren Kieffer and DA Duras Photo copyright 2017 by Nancy Jaffer

She also was awarded the new Philippa Humphreys Memorial Sportsmanship Award, dedicated to a rider who died in a cross-country fall at Jersey Fresh last year. The money that went with it goes to a college fund for Philippa’s daughter, Millie.

The award “kept the weekend in perspective,” said Sharon.

“The one thing about Philippa…she loved her relationship with her horses, and that’s what this is all about,” Sharon noted.

“The important thing about the weekend is you’re out there with your horse and doing it for the joy of being with them.”

After the problems in Kentucky, “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t scare him there, so I brought him here to make sure he was feeling good. This was really useful,” said Sharon who will be joining Marilyn at Luhmuhlen.

“I think the courses were really successful for everyone in the poor conditions,” she noted, referring to the weather.

The man of the hour was course designer Mark Phillips, so I chatted with him about his views on how things went at Jersey Fresh. Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch our video conversation.

For complete results visit

Next up for me is this week’s Dutta Corp./USEF Dressage National Championships at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation in Gladstone, N.J. Great to be staying close to home for awhile.

Check back starting Wednesday at for photos of the competition, and a postcard filling in the details next Sunday.

Until then,

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