The Essex Horse Trials, an iconic pre-Olympic-qualifying three-day event held at the United States Equestrian Team (USET) headquarters until 1998, was conceived in the 1960s as a competition for young riders. Until that time, good courses and well-built fences rarely filtered down to the lower competitive levels of the sport.
In 1968, thanks to the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Elliot Haller – and behind the driving force of their son Roger – “Hoopstick Farm” in Bedminster, NJ, became the first home of the Essex Horse Trials. The first event was held in the fall of that year and two levels of competition were offered, Training and Preliminary, in a one-day horse trials format.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the event continued to grow, attracting both American and international competitors, expanding to a three-day format and eventually moving to the USET headquarters in Gladstone, NJ. The Essex Horse Trials became a major international event with the best-of-the-best competing for U.S. Team positions at both the Olympic Games and World Championships.
After a 19-year hiatus (the original event ended in 1998, its 30th anniversary year), the Essex Horse Trials returned to the Eventing calendar in June of 2017 – starting anew much as it began, offering two days of competition for Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, with long-range plans to expand upper-level divisions.
Essex also took up residence at its new home – Moorland Farm, situated on 230 pastoral acres in the heart of Central New Jersey and home to the iconic Far Hills Race Meeting steeplechase event, which attracts over 40,000 spectators each fall. Since the 1980s, Far Hills Race Meeting Association, Inc., has raised millions of dollars for healthcare in the region.
The Essex Horse Trials Organizing Committee welcomed more than 250 competitive entries for the June 2017 reintroduction of the Event, and was host to thousands who visited Moorland Farm to watch the competition and take part in the many festivities that made this much-anticipated weekend such a great success.
The 2018 running of the Essex Horse Trials Country Weekend will take place June 23-24 of next year.
Read more about the history of the Essex Horse Trials in a special memoir written by Essex Board of Directors and Organizing Committee Member, as well as former Essex competitor, Sally Ike – click here.