Two for the show

Photographs by Bob Rozycki

Off a long, winding road in the heart of Westchester County’s horse country, amid manses and sprawling estates, stands Old Salem Farm. It’s 120 rolling acres of pristine paddocks, pastures and a Grand Prix field, whose pastoral grace complements state-of-the-art training, boarding and sales facilities.

So it was no surprise when Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced that the North Salem farm would once again play host to the American Gold Cup Equestrian Competition, one of international show jumping’s most prestigious events. The Gold Cup, to be contested Sept. 11-15, is expected to draw some 10,000 people to the county and add at least $6 million to its coffers.

Not to mention a national viewership: The 43rd annual competition, a qualifier for the World Cup, will be broadcast by NBC Sept. 22 at 4:30 p.m.

“This is going to put a spotlight on Westchester, not only around the country, but around the world,” Astorino says at a recent press conference at the farm. “It’s also an opportunity for those who don’t know much about the sport.”

The Gold Cup will feature 600 horses and 300 riders from around the globe in various classes – amateur and professional, children’s, junior and adult. There’s no doubt, however, that the highlight will be the $200,000 Grand Prix, which the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) has designated as a CSI 4*-W World Cup Qualifier, making it key for those hoping to compete at the 2014 World Cup Finals in Lyon, France.

It’s hard to imagine a better preparatory stage than Old Salem Farm, which underwent a $30 million renovation, adding luster to a tawny stone and timber site that is home to 26 annual competitions, including the Spring Horse Shows (May 7-12, 14-19). Besides three indoor arenas, four outdoor riding rings and the Grand Prix field, there is the renovated 67-stall barn, a boarders’ lounge where you can relax after a lesson or get some work done while your loved ones ride and a gym, complete with women’s and men’s locker rooms.

Those who experience this for the first or the umpteenth time this September will just be the tip of the economic iceberg. Astorino, who is spearheading the “Meet Me in Westchester County” marketing campaign, says he expects Gold Cup attendees to be dining in and exploring the area, swelling the $6 million in anticipated revenues and adding to the $2.4 billion industry in New York state.

Of the 202,000 horses statewide, more than 70 percent are involved in showing and recreation. Concern for their safety has grown over the years. That’s why Valerie Angeli, senior director of equine and special projects at The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), says her organization was “honored” to be one of the charitable partners of this year’s Gold Cup. The other partner is JustWorld International, which strives to improve the lives of children in developing countries. The selection of the ASPCA, founded on April 10, 1866 to aid abused horses, “sends a message of humane and responsible horsemanship,” she says.

Asked about the environmental impact of the Gold Cup on Old Salem’s sedate surroundings, Astorino says that the county will work with the town of North Salem and the North Salem Central School District to ensure both a flow in traffic and ample parking for participants and visitors. Among those participants will be McLain Ward, a member of the U.S. teams that struck gold in show jumping at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Ward, who was born in Mount Kisco and grew up in North Salem, lives in Brewster, where his family owns Castle Hill Farm. Posing for pictures at Old Salem with one of its horses, 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood Campino, Ward says he still has a few goals in the show jumping arena. Having his name etched on the Gold Cup is one of them, in part because it’s in his own backyard.

“I’m happy to compete here and sleep in my own bed.”

He’s not the only one to love having the Gold Cup in Westchester.  Founded in 1970, the Cup has been contested in Cleveland, Tampa, Philadelphia and Devon, Pa., before coming to Old Salem Farm last year.

Michael Morrissey, president of Stadium Jumping and Cup organizer, says “We know we’ve found a home for a long time to come.”

Old Salem Farm is at 190 June Road in North Salem. For more information, call (914) 669-5610 or visit oldsalemfarm.net.

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