Caroline Pamukcu Claims First Victory to Kick Off 2023 Essex Horse Trials

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake. Photo by AK Dragoo Photography.

The Essex Horse Trials returned to the historic Hamilton Farm, home of the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, NJ, on Saturday with a packed schedule of dressage and show jumping. Among the busy competitors in multiple divisions was Caroline Pamukcu of Riegelsville, PA, who piloted her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding HSH Blake to top honors in the Advanced Combined Test.


Caroline Pamukcu HSH Blake. Photo by AK Dragoo Photography.

The Essex Horse Trials has become a tradition for families looking to spend an exciting and fun-filled weekend in their own backyard. Featuring some of the nation’s top riders with their Advanced and Intermediate horses competing in the thrilling sport of eventing, the two-day sportfest concludes Sunday with the exhilarating cross-country phase at historic Moorland Farm in Far Hills. 

Pamukcu, 28, rode HSH Blake to an early lead in the Advanced Combined Test with a dressage score of 30.7, giving her one rail in hand over the 34.8 earned by Shannon Lilley of Kennett Square, PA, aboard Ideal HX, Alex Lilley’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, and Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, PA, aboard Christa Schmidt’s 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding Capitol HIM. Pamukcu’s lead helped tremendously in the show jumping phase, as a dropped rail at the second fence didn’t keep her from claiming victory.

“I wasn’t coming here to win, but I knew he had a good dressage test and that we had a rail in hand,” Pamukcu said. “I wasn’t nervous going in today, and I didn’t do any of my normal prep work because I wanted to make it a bit more challenging for me and not such a big deal for him. We’re just using this as training before we hopefully win the gold medal in Poland later this month.” 

Pamukcu and “Blake” are heading for the Nations Cup event in Strzegom, Poland, for their next competition, with their biggest goal to make the Pan American Games in October. After they competed in the Ocala CCI3*-L in April for their last required Games qualification, Blake had a few weeks to rest in the field, and this was his only third jump back.

“I think he’s really ready to rock and roll,” Pamukcu said. “He did the Arena Eventing at Devon last week, and then we set him up for this. At home, we do a lot of fitness work focusing on trot sets and long gallops, but this had been great for those final finishing touches before the rest of the season.

 “Blake is only 8 and still young,” she added. “He did do the Young Horse Championships in France last year and finished in the Top 10, so he doesn’t mind the atmosphere too much, but any opportunity we have to get him exposed to more without putting too much stress on his legs is always great. The team and I brought 18 horses with us this weekend; it’s one of our most favorite venues.”


Hannah Sue Hollberg and Rockster. Photo by AK Dragoo Photography.

Lilley maintained second place with a fault-free round in show jumping, finishing on her dressage score of 34.8, while Hollberg’s rail at Fence #8 dropped her into fourth on 38.8. Taking third with 35.7 was Matthew Brown of Kennett Square, PA, aboard Shelley Onderdonk’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Alderwood.

With her Billy Be Jolly and Cascadella 8, Pamukcu also finished 1-2 on her dressage scores of 24.3 and 25.5 (respectively) in the Open Training division, giving her the overnight lead going into Sunday’s cross-country phase.

“There aren’t a lot of places in this country to get this kind of atmosphere at a venue that’s so historic,” Pamukcu said. “You ride around here, and you almost pinch yourself because you know all the greats of eventing culture have been here before you. It’s just so cool. And I’m a huge fan of Chris Barnard; he’s such an amazing course designer. He’s fair in the stadium, but it’s always hard. For me, it was a no-brainer to compete here, and I’m looking forward to the cross-country tomorrow.”

 Other overnight leaders include Erin Kanara of Cochranville, PA, and Claudia Schultze’s Windchase Lionstar in Open Intermediate (28.6); Hollberg and Tricia Arnold’s Rockster in Open Preliminary (27.3); Sierra Lesny of Camp Hill, PA, and Edith Rameika’s Sebastian in Training Rider (28.1); Lee Maher of Springtown, PA, and Redfield Farm’s Redfield Lennon in Open Novice (18.6); Peyton Brienza of Califon, NJ, and their The Brave Little Toaster tied with Ingrid Johnston of Whitehouse Station, NJ, and her Resplendence in Novice Rider (27.2); Kylie Stangle of Flemington, NJ, and Janina Parmelee’s Redfield Mikke in Open Beginner Novice (24.7); and Jenny Morris of Gladstone, NJ, and her Laugh Out Loud in Beginner Novice Rider (25.9). 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments