Olympic veterans Will Coleman of Gordonsville, Va., and Boyd Martin of Cochranville, Pa., won the Advance and Preliminary divisons respectively at the MARS Essex Horse Trials at Moorland Farm on June 22 and 23..
Coleman rode his longtime partner, Obos O'Reilly, to win the Advanced division and Martin rode Luke 140 to win the Preliminary,
On Saturday, Coleman took the lead in the Advanced Division riding the 16-year-old Irish Sporthorse, Obos O'Reilly.
He scored 31.70 in dressage and added four jumping faults in show jumping for an overnight score of 35.70.
JENNIE BRANNIGAN of Coatesville, Pa., on I Bella was second after the first day with 37.30
"I had a great day," said Coleman. "My horse is an old soldier. He's been a very dear horse in our program so we're happy that he's in the lead. I think the real winners today are the people here at Essex. The effort that was put in, the atmosphere and really everything about the event deserves all the praise. This is my first time competing here and I am thrilled to be here."
Then on Sunday, Coleman finished cross country with no jumping and 6.40 time penalties for a three-phase score of 42.10 penalties on his 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse.
"My horse is like an old shoe," said Coleman. "He just feels comfortable and familiar. He's been with me since he was four years old. He's been a wonderful horse for me, and it's great for him to get the win. It's my first time competing here. I thought the event was wonderful. It has everything you want in a marquee event. It's got atmosphere, a great cross country course, a beautiful turf and great going. I think it's wonderful to go full circle back to this area and I hope it can continue for a long time to come. It's such a special event.",
Following Thursday and Friday's heavy rains, course designer Morgan Rowsell shortened the cross country course to 19 fences to ensure optimum conditions for the competitors.
"The course rode great," said Coleman. "I think Morgan did an excellent job with the tracks and I think he deserves a lot of the credit."
Missy Miller of North Salem, N.Y., on Quinn catapulted from 30th place in the Advanced Division dressage to second with a final score of 59.80 penalties.
"It was such a great weekend," said Miller. "I love the Horse Trials here, they do such a great job. My horse tried really hard all weekend. He is amazing. The course rode really well, the striding was great along with the combinations. It such a beautiful venue. I love to compete here."
Megan Kepferle of Long Valley, N.J., was third riding Anakin with an overall score of 61.50 penalties., and finishing fourth was Canadian Olympic veteran Jessica Phoenix with a score of 62.90 on Watson GS after Brannigan withdrew before cross country, but she placed first and second on FE Connory and Hopscotch in Open Preliminary.
THE DAY before, after several days of rain, weather conditions improved immensely for the first day of competition at the Essex Horse Trials, and the crowd responded.
Thousands turned out Saturday to watch top horses and riders compete at Moorland Farm.
Two-time U.S. Olympian Martin led throughout to win the Preliminary Essex Division riding Luke 140.
Martin scored 22.90 in dressage, added 3.20 time faults in the cross country phase and had a single rail in show jumping to finish with a score of 30.10 penalties.
"It was a real honor and privilege to compete here at the MARS Essex Horse Trials," said Martin. "The conditions were tough, but this is an outdoor sport, and the organizers put on a sensational show. I am very, very pleased to win the Preliminary Essex Division and I'm thrilled to be here."
Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 moved up from seventh to second.
After incurring only four time penalties in cross country, Dorr jumped clean in show jumping to finish with a score of 31.10.
Coleman on Steam Engine placed third, moving up from 11th by going clean cross country and having just a single rail down in show jumping for a final score of 33.80.
It was a weekend of horsepower at the third edition of the MARS Essex Horse Trials with more than 5,000 in attendance.
In addition to top competition, the Horse Trials presented a Classic Car Show featuring the MARS No. 18 M&M'S® Toyota car.
A record 500 spectacular cars spanning several decades were entered for the event.