This spring, the grounds of the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event hummed with excitement as it served as the final selection event for the Tokyo Olympics. Now, without ceremony and possibly for good, the longtime spring three-day fixture is gone.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation announced Nov. 30 that the Tryon International May Three-Day (North Carolina) will take Jersey Fresh’s traditional week on the spring eventing calendar and, subject to FEI approval, host a CCI4*-L, CCI4*-S, CCI3*-L, CCI3*-S and CCI1* on May 17-19, 2022, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina.
Under a new eventing calendar process implemented this year, the USEF board of directors did not approve Jersey Fresh’s bids to host a CCI4*-L, CCI3*-L or CCI4*-S for the 2023-2027 competition cycle, effectively ending an event that has been a staple of the East Coast calendar since 2003. Instead, Tryon was awarded the event beginning in 2023. This week’s announcement moves the changeover date up by one year.
The Jersey Fresh board and organizers were disappointed to learn in August that they had lost the CCI4*-L, but they at first voted to run the 2022 event, said Adam Furlong, president of the Horse Park of New Jersey’s board of trustees, hoping to go out on a good note. But after discussions with sponsors and an announcement Oct. 1 that Jersey Fresh also had lost its bid to host the CCI4*-S and CCI3*-L divisions, they made what Furlong called a “heartbreaking” decision in early October to cancel the 2022 event. Many sponsors were wary of investing in an event that would be “dead on arrival,” he said.
“Our sponsors have been incredible for the well-being and the viability of Jersey Fresh for the past several years,” he said. “I would assume that is the case for most events. Three-day eventing is a monumental exercise in capital expenses. The sport as a whole relies incredibly on the generosity of others, so when that is no longer a viable option, we had to make a really tough decision.”
The board and organizers had done their best to respond to feedback from the USEF and participants on ways to improve the event over time, he added.
“In every year that Jersey Fresh has run, it has either received positive feedback from the USEF or in the instances where there has been critical feedback, we quickly and very specifically addressed those concerns, in particular, course design from a couple of years ago,” he said. “We knew we had the application process coming and that we’d always received good scoring from the USEF and continued to increase the positivity towards the event and the investments into the event over the past couple of years.”
Jane Cory, who co-organized the event with Morgan Rowsell, said the event, which is held at the nonprofit Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, struggled to remain competitive with better-funded venues in USEF’s eyes.
“Morgan and I and the Jersey Fresh committee were able to always do whatever we needed to do. There have been obstacles in our path many, many times,” said Cory, who has been involved with the event from its inception, as a volunteer for the first three years, then as organizer. “I don’t think either Morgan or I was really surprised when the bid process came about and we did not win … because we are a smaller venue that doesn’t have a huge amount of money, doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to do all the rings’ footing.
“Because our budget is way more limited than some of the other bigger, destination-y type places now, as much as we could do, we were never going to be able to do as much as they can do. We struggle a lot, and every year there was an improvement, every year things were better, and I think we presented the Horse Park of New Jersey as best as it could be presented, but that isn’t good enough.”
The decision to cancel next year’s competition was “heartbreaking,” Furlong said, but a necessity.
“They wanted us to try to run in 2022, but the reality was really financially undoable,” Cory said. “Morgan and I felt that 2021 was a really, really good year, and we didn’t want to have a half-[baked], bad event in 2022.”
Running the 2022 event would have helped riders in the short-term, Furlong added, but the board needed to look instead at the horse park’s long-term financial picture: “If that’s going to be an event that loses us a significant amount of money—because we’re not going to compromise on the integrity of the event or cut back operational expenses of the show—to a break-even point without severely compromising the values that we have for Jersey Fresh, we can’t afford to.”
Canceling the 2022 three-day will have no financial impact on other horse trials held at the park, he added, whereas running it at a potential loss might have. Furlong hopes the venue will continue to be a training ground for up and coming horses and riders. They were granted an advanced horse trial for the weekend of June 17.
“We always like to talk about how it’s an Olympic-qualifying event or a World Championship-qualifying event, or whatever the case would be based on the particular year, but there’s so much more that goes into that,” he said. “Boyd [Martin] brings his top competition horses, but he also brings a barn full of horses he has in development or his own riders that he has in his program, and those are the developmental aspects that are of equal importance to eventing in the United States.”