byNina Fedrizzi| May 19, 2017
A light breeze, warm sun, newly budding trees and lush clover fields… there’s nothing quite like springtime in the Empire State! And for many of the country’s top show jumpers, there’s no place they’d rather be this month than the picturesque show grounds of Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York.
Located just 45 minutes from New York City, the historic, 120-acre property is crisscrossed by hedges and dotted with towering oak trees. Thanks to a $30 million renovation, the farm features state-of-the-art facilities as well as five, all-weather outdoor rings and its famous, grass Grand Prix field, complete with natural and man-made obstacles such as a bank, grob, ditch and open water.
There’s not much we don’t love about this East Coast circuit gem, but if we had to pick, here are five reasons why Old Salem Farm is the place to be this spring.
1. The location couldn’t be better.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Big Apple, Old Salem is easily accessed from major New York City airports as well as by private plane, train (Croton Falls on the Metro-North Line), and—you guessed it—automobile. Founded as ‘Salem View Farms’ by a group of retired policeman in 1964, the barn’s idyllic, hilltop setting has been home to many notable trainers over the years, including George Morris, Ronnie Mutch, Michael Page, and today, Frank Madden. “The grass field is spectacular, and there is a great audience—the show is very much embraced by the local, horse-loving community,” says Katie Dinan.
2. It’s charmed ground for one of America’s top equestrians.
How do you improve upon a first place result in a grand prix class? If you’re 2017 World Cup Final Winner McLain Ward, you take second place as well! In fact, that’s just what Ward did last night, winning the $35,000 Welcome Stake of North Salem CSI3* with HH Carlos Z and taking second place with Tina La Boheme. This event is considered the “hometown show” for the world’s #2-ranked rider, whose Castle Hill Farm in Brewster is located just minutes down the road. Ward famously won the 2015 $50,000 Old Salem Farm Grand Prix with his then-new mount HH Azur, and was victorious with HH Carlos in last year’s $50,000 Old Salem Farm CSI 2* Grand Prix during Week 1. “I love it here,” Ward said after his win last night. “I am proud to be part of these events.”
3. It offers a true taste of the season.
Of course, you can’t beat the Florida circuits for a winter escape, but even there, the long, dog days heat of the South can become oppressive At this point in the show year, Downstate New York’s chirping birds, blooming flowers and crisp mornings and evenings feel like a breath of fresh air—complete with the occasional, passing rain shower or two. “It’s kind of nice to be out in the fresh air after being in the same place for three to four months in a row,” agrees Quentin Judge.
Sure, you’ll want to be prepared for whatever comes (sunscreen, riding in layers, and packing a pair of Wellies is never a bad idea!) but if you could choose to be anywhere in the country in May, Westchester’s quaint North Salem isn’t a bad place to start.
4. You can ride for a good cause.
Giving back has long been an important motto for Old Salem, which has hosted scores of benefit events throughout its history while partnering with various charities and non-profit groups at many of the farm’s 25-plus shows a year. This week, Old Salem will again host its longtime partner, the ASPCA, which brings a number of adoptable dogs and cats each year to the showgrounds in the hopes of placing them in loving, forever homes. In addition, Old Salem also works with local non-profit The Wolf Conservation Center, which will host a benefit ice cream social event on Saturday, May 20th. Finally, the EQUUS Foundation will hold an equine adoption day on Sunday, May 21, with available horses from local rescues on the grounds.
5. The riders love it.
The North American Riders Group has rated Old Salem Farm one of the best equestrian competition venues in North America, and that’s just the start. Year after year, the farm’s Spring Shows draw many of the biggest names in the business, from U.S.A. Olympic team staples Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, to international competitors from around the globe. What makes the Old Salem Horse Shows so special? “It’s a great jumping off point for our summer,” says Quentin Judge. “We head to Spruce Meadows after this, so it’s great to have the horses jumping on the grass and for myself and our riders and horses to get back in that mode after being in the sand rings in Florida for so long.”
Katie Dinan agrees. “It is a special show for me as it is just down the road from my family’s farm. It is where I did my first walk-trot class and also where I won my first Grand Prix. I always look forward to coming here!”
-Photo credits: The Book LLC; Jump Media. All photos courtesy of Jump Media.
Old Salem Farm will be live streaming the Grand Prix Field Friday through Sunday during the Spring Horse Shows at www.oldsalemfarm.net. Old Salem Farm and Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows are also on Facebook, as well as on Twitter and Instagram.