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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Smoke Rise Riding Club - Didja Know?

Didja Know?
John Connelly's recent story about Beatrice Kinney and Horses reminded me that Cornie Hubner had written a Didja Know? column about horses, Smoke Rise and the Smoke Rise Riding Club. I share it with you here....

Horse Show

The reopening of the stables in '62 unleashed an unexpected pent up interest in riding.  Several riders had stabled their mounts for five or six years in facilities just ouside the Smoke Rise East Gate, on Fayson Lakes Road.  These were the charter members of the Riding Club that numbered 150 at its peak. The tremendous interest by a majority of juvenile novices, brought a response in Club activity.

A stable of 17 teaching and rental "hacks" under the direction of a retired cavalry officer, provided the aspiring riders the means for lessons and practice.  The first improvised rings were laid out and a local invitational show of limited scope was scheduled.  Most of the novices took part as the accomplished riders demonstrated their techniques. The show was an outstanding success that led to a Class "B" membership in the American Horse Shows Association.

Fortunately, increased membership and finances provided the labor and material to meet the stringent Association specifications.  Many volunteers together with Company equipment, some donated and purchased materials, prepared three rings for practice and competition.  The Smoke Rise grounds with the 25 miles of trails offered one of the most beautiful settings in the East. All was in readiness for the 18 successful Association shows that followed.

With its white fences, judges stands, inside and outside jumping arenas, the acreage provided by the John Talbot Estate had the delicate water color picture look of the sporting English countryside. The equipment had to be manned by qualified personel for all formal shows. Judges, Stewards, Ringmasters, a Veterinarian and a Farrier were chosen from Associaton approved lists and engaged far in advance for adequate fees. These obligations were assumed by the hardy group of devotees and the shows went on to increased participation and enthusiastic spectators.

Parking areas in the ball field and along adjoining roads were provided for over a hundred trailers. These extended from a simple one horse trailer to an elaborate four stall, tack room equipped equine mansion. The camaraderie around their campfires was reflected in the clean competitive spirit shown in the ring.

Early shows somehow always managed to run without apparent trouble. Crises were overcome. One time, unable to make up for delays, darkness fell before the day's events were completed. No field lights being available, all the cars were lined up and the program was completed at the expense of some weakened batteries. The modern lighting system was installed before the next show.

As the popularity of the shows increased, riders were attracted from the tri-state area and as far away as Virginia. Among the notables who were repeaters were Doc Severinsen [of TV fame] and his two children, Mitch Miller [of Sing Along] and his son, and Melanie Smith, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team. The three Leone brothers of the Grand Prix Jumper Tour [the pro golf of riding] where occasional guests of members.

The impact of demonstration by these and other outstanding riders had its effect on our youngsters.  Discipline and dedication, to the exclusion of other diversions, produced outstanding pupils for instruction by the best teachers in the country.  Competing in both indoor and outdoor shows earned thousands of ribbons and sufficient points to quality for the ultimate goal - to compete at the National Madison Garden Horse Show.

With the exception of  Mrs. Ward, these riders who appeared in at the Garden began in Smoke Rise.

Paul Rose captured the Junior Working Hunter Championship on "Gozzi."  His nationally recognized mount, once the terror of competition, was thought to have "passed its peak."

Diane Nifosi on "Russian Caviar" placed third overall in the Amateur Owner Hunter Division. Continuing on a reduced schedule she has been a member of her college team.

Gregory Casey rode "Waverly Lane" and placed in several events. College has limited his riding to occasional shows.

Diane Brady Ward had several years' training before moving to Smoke Rise. She rode "Traveler" [the "Horse of the Year"], placing from 2 to 6 in the Open Jumper classes. Both of her children rode, two days before they were born [?], and her daughter has followed mother who still rides and trains.

Participation by riders like these raised upward of $5,000 for charity at the Annual Show.  Despite the dedicated Club Members and the Chilton Hospital Volunteers, costs of $15,000 rapidly rising, ended the popular performance in 1972.

The active Smoke Rise Riding Club maintains all facilities and offers membership to all.

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The Smoke Rise Riding Club

As Cornie mentions in his closing paragraph, the Smoke Rise Riding Club remains active to this day.  

Here is a description of the club from the Smoke Rise Riding Club About Us page:

"The Smoke Rise Riding Club was founded by John Talbot and other Smoke Rise Residents in 1963, and incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1965. Until his death in 2006 Mr. Talbot remained active in the club, as a Trustee. Horses at Smoke Rise are stabled on his farm. Today The Smoke Rise Riding Club in an independently funded, non-profit, sub-club in the Smoke Rise Community open to anyone interested in stabling horses, taking lessons, competing in equestrian events, or riding for pleasure at Smoke Rise farms."

And further detail:

"Over the years, some of the premier New Jersey horse shows were held here, in the Village Green riding rings and surrounding fields. The club was active until the late 1970s, and was revived in the early 1990s. During the last few years, the club has been building its membership and its show schedule. The club now hosts eight C-rated USA Equestrian shows, and several local shows. The Club's philosophy is to instill self-confidence, self reliance, and maximum responsibility for the horses well being with each rider attending to their own tack and to the horses needs..."

For more information, visit The Smoke Rise Riding Club website.

For those of you who have been active in the Smoke Rise Riding Club, I'd love to hear your stories!
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