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World-Class Riding Without Pretension: Old Salem Farm's Spring Horse Show

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One thing no one tells you about horse shows is just how incredibly high the obstacles there actually are. In pictures, they look like the waist-high hurdles used in track and field meets. But in real life, they are towering and intimidating, standing at around four feet tall. Equally intimidating is watching the great muscles rippling on the legs of an airborne horse, jumping high over these massive obstacles.

Welcome to the Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Show.

Old Salem Farm in North Salem is a classic Westchester country farm, and even though the gathering there is competitive at its core, it doesn’t feel that way. Spectators described the scene as “just beautiful” and “relaxed.” They’re right—the pretention that can sometimes accompany equestrian events was noticeably absent; from a grassy hill, casual fans to lifelong trainers to Olympic competitors gathered to watch the competition together. “It’s one of the nicest facilities out here…and it has a country atmosphere, which I think is probably what everyone is looking for,” said spectator Leslie Simmons, who travelled with her teenage daughter from Long Island to cheer on friends in the competition.

Molly Ashe and Whistler in the $50,000 Old Salem Farm Grand Prix, presented by The Kincade Group.

A crowd gathers ringside to watch the $50,000 Old Salem Farm Grand Prix, presented by The Kincade Group. 

Events started last week and are scheduled through May 17. Westchester Magazine visited the farm Friday, May 8, to watch Olympic and amateur riders compete in the $35,000 New York Welcome Stake. Competitors attempted to clear the obstacles quickly and without knocking any poles down. At the jump-off, Swiss rider Beat Mändli and steed Zander ended a clear round—a run with no faults—at 37.883 seconds, which was enough to land them first place.

“This was one of the biggest classes I jumped with him, and you always have high expectations, but I am happy with the horse and how he jumped,” said Mändli of his victory. In second place came Maggie McAlary, behind Mändli by just 2 seconds. Olympian Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden placed third.

Beat Mändli and Zander after winning the $35,000 Welcome Stake, presented by Old Salem Farm.

Getting these horses to jump is a daunting task that takes years of patience and training. Just ask Old Salem Farm’s head trainer, Frank Madden.

“You can’t neglect a horse and rider and just come here and expect that you can have it work. It’s a day-to-day regime,” he said. “What you see here today is the end result of a lot of hard work and attention to detail.”

Madden trains horses that are based at the farm, and works to get them to their peak in time for the spring shows as well as the Old Salem Farm’s American Gold Cup in September. For Kristen Carollo, who trains horses at Bedford Hills’ Courtyard Farm, all of the work paid off. “Everybody rode beautifully today and we got great ribbons. Let’s hope the rest of the weekend goes as well,” said Carollo.

Though the horses are clearly the main attraction, there were other types of competitions and events happening at the farm. One field hosted the (slightly pompous) canine puissance, while other fields were used for smaller jumping competitions or were open for practice.

A full list of upcoming events at Old Salem Farm is available on their website.

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