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 Carol (Hofmann) Thompson on Salem at the 1966 Monmouth County Horse Show at Wolf Hill Farm.

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Monmouth County Horse Show Celebrates History and Equestrian Excellence at East Freehold Park in New Jersey

Written by: Kenneth Kraus
Client: Monmouth County Horse Show
Release Date: 2005-06-15

Kenneth Kraus for Phelps Media Group, Inc.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kenneth Kraus of Phelps Media Group, Inc. at (561) 753-3389 or at

WEB SITE: Phelps Media Group, Inc. Press Releases and Photos are available for download at

PHOTO CREDIT: Carol (Hofmann) Thompson on Salem at the 1966 Monmouth County Horse Show at Wolf Hill Farm. A Phelps Media Group File Photo

Monmouth County Horse Show Celebrates History and Equestrian Excellence at East Freehold Park in New Jersey

Wellington, Fl – June 15 – The Monmouth County Horse Show, celebrating its 110th anniversary this year, is one of the nation’s longest running and most prestigious horse shows. This year’s event will be held August 17-21, 2005, at East Freehold Park in Freehold, New Jersey.

The show is run under the guidance of the Monmouth Group. The management company is comprised of three long time New Jersey horsemen: Leo Conroy, George Richdale and Mike Maxwell.

First held back in 1895, it’s been an up and down and sometimes tenuous trip for this venerable equestrian showcase. Following a glorious run that lasted almost eighty years, the show fell upon hard times and was, at one point, in danger of becoming just a footnote in the equestrian history books.

The show began as an offshoot of the Monmouth County Hunt and was first held at Wolf Hill Farm, adjacent to Monmouth Race Track in Oceanport. The show became a key part of the summer social schedule for the very prominent members of the hunt, many of whom lived in an enclave in Red Bank, New Jersey, known to some as “Mini Newport.” It was an area of gorgeous homes located along the Navesink River and many of those mansions are still there to this day.

Monmouth Park was shut down and the land was sold in 1893 when the State of New Jersey banned pari-mutuel wagering. While horse racing lay dormant for more than fifty years, the Monmouth County Horse Show began to flourish.

The show reached its heyday in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot and other members of the United States Equestrian Team, as well as superstars like Rodney Jenkins and Dave Kelly made the Monmouth County Horse Show a regular stop on their summer tour. Such famous equines as Snowbound, Tom Boy, Good Twist, Silver Lining, Grey Aero, Act I and Ilion all competed in the Sunday afternoon Open Jumper Stake.

When Monmouth Race Track extended their racing dates, Wolf Hill Farm became unavailable and the Monmouth County Horse Show was without a home until a group of the equestrians petitioned the Freeholders to find a site that would be suitable for the show. East Freehold Park, the current location of the show, was the result of that search. “It was just a piece of land,” recalls Mike Maxwell. “There was nothing there. The first year the show was held there we used snow fencing for the show rings.”

The show’s move to East Freehold Park didn’t sit well with the people that had supported it when it was at Wolf Hill. “When it left Wolf Hill, we lost a lot of the volunteers and staff,” recalls Maxwell. “At Wolf Hill, it was very fancy and like the Hampton Classic. Many of the people involved with the show weren’t really horsemen, but rather did it for all of the social aspects. There were no social amenities those first few years at East Freehold Park,” said a laughing Maxwell. “It was tough. We were working with a piece of land and we were trying to convince people it was going to be as nice as Wolf Hill and that obviously was not going to be the case, at least not right away.”

While a number of the top horsemen supported the move at first, it was obvious that the new facility was going to take a lot of work to keep them coming back. “A lot of the big barns supported us that first year,” Maxwell remembers. “Ronnie Mutch brought his group down from Connecticut, Bernie Traurig was there, Gene Estep won the first Grand Prix at the new facility. So we had some support to begin with, but with so few amenities, a lot of people didn’t return.”

When United States Equestrian Team member Carol Thompson moved to Colt’s Neck, NJ, it created a boon for the Monmouth County Horse Show. “She was a star member of the United States Equestrian Team and she brought new excitement to the area,” said Leo Conroy. “Her participation also brought a renewed vigor and more coverage of the show and brought big time showing a little closer to the local horsemen.” That rejuvenation was short lived however, and the show really began to struggle. “The big money people had moved away or the funds had dried up and for a lot of years the show really floundered,” related Conroy. “In the mid 80’s, the Monmouth County Horse Show was very much in real danger of going under.”

“Ruth and Charlie Koch, who were clients of mine at the time, struggled to hold things together for a number of years,” said Conroy. “Charlie and Ruth, who never really traveled to the good shows, were just unaware of what a big time horse show should be. Eventually, Charlie couldn’t afford to continue subsidizing it and he came to me and asked what he should do. I put him together with another of my customers, George Conway.”

Conway put up ten thousand dollars, secured the dates and kept the Monmouth County Horse Show afloat. “George chaired the meetings and held things together, but the show never really moved to that next level,” admitted Conroy. “George was wonderful, contributing office space, using his secretary for the benefit of the show and he did what it took to keep the show going. But, we didn’t have a charity, we didn’t have a bankroll and most importantly, we didn’t have a direction,” Conroy said.

The show stagnated. The local people weren’t relating to the park personnel, the grounds were not in good shape, the footing wasn’t suitable. According to Conroy, “It wasn’t for lack of effort. It was just that the local people involved at the time just didn’t know any better. And good horse shows were popping up elsewhere and there were more choices for exhibitors,” he said. “And unfortunately, Monmouth wasn’t one of them. The shows on Long Island were drawing people away and down at Culpeper, Charlie Ziff was throwing money out of airplanes,” laughed Conroy.

That’s when the Monmouth Group was formed.

Maxwell recalls the first meeting. “George and Leo and I sat down at a bar one night and we decided that if we really put our minds to it and got behind this project, we could turn this thing around and make it work. It’s a good date. It’s right before Southhampton, and we really thought we could make it fly with enough effort,” he said.

“We were all very excited,” recalls George Richdale. “It wasn't new to any of us, but we had high hopes of creating a premier show here in Jersey. We all hoped that someday it would be compared to the Hampton Classic.”

“That first year, as I look back, was pretty awful,” said Conroy. “None of us knew anything about the jumper classes, we were all neophytes, and it was really pretty bad. It was a local New Jersey Horse Show, catering to a local crowd. And it wasn’t even a very good local show,” he laughed. “We decided that the only way to get to the next level was sponsorship.”

The following year the Monmouth Group joined forces with the Riverview Medical Center.

“We went to them with the program from Devon and talked about the possibilities and we told them that we would like to give them our event. It was that first step on the way to that next level we all wanted to reach,” explained Conroy. “The first few years of that relationship were pretty rocky. We didn’t think that they were doing enough to help us promote the event and they in turn didn’t think the event was generating enough money to help the hospital.”

Maxwell agreed with Conroy. “Riverview always had one foot in and one foot out. They weren’t totally convinced that this was going to be a money maker for them. They always leaned toward their golf outing.”

Enter current Show Chairman, Carol Stillwell.

“Carol brought such enthusiasm and such a high level of energy to the thing. We said why not let her become the chairman and we’ll just be the workers?” Maxwell related. “She added a whole new dimension to the show. It was being run well. As far as the nuts and bolts of running a show, we had that down pretty well to a science. But as far as the sponsors and community involvement, Carol was the one that brought that dimension to the Monmouth County Horse Show.”

“She understood that we, on management side, couldn’t afford to run the show at a loss and that the sponsorship revenue had to be shared,” Conroy said. “She also understood that the hospital had to do much more to promote the event. We were still second to their annual golf outing at the time, but since Carol got involved we’re now Riverview’s number one fund raising event.”

“Carol is certainly a super lady as she has not only boosted the image of the show, but also raised a great deal of money for the enhancement of the Cancer Foundation at Riverview,” said Richdale. “She truly has been the wind under both ours and Riverview’s wings.”

The show has grown tremendously under the stewardship of Stillwell and the three members of the Monmouth Group.

“When Carol became involved, it freed up some capital and gave us the opportunity to move forward,” said Conroy. “We were able to bring in top notch people and to really move the show up to that next level. You know, I may not be a genius as a horse show manager, but I am smart enough to copy what works,” he laughed. “What Gene Mische does at Stadium Jumping works, and I’m trying to do the same. I’ve brought in the best personnel and I’ve let them do what’s necessary to make the show a great event at which to compete.”

“Without a doubt, the biggest improvement has been the footing in the dirt rings,” stated Richdale. “Park personnel have worked very hard to get the footing needed in the dirt rings and they ride better each year. Our grass rings have improved a great deal through the efforts of the park personnel, as well.”

Much of the success of the Monmouth County Horse Show can be attributed to Conroy, Richdale and Maxwell and their ability to work together as a team.

“George Richdale has been a huge part of our success,” Conroy said. “He’s got a great relationship with the park system and those people have been a tremendous help and we’ve all benefited from that. The facility is well maintained, the footing is cared for and we see improvements to the grounds every year. I know he won’t like me saying this, but George is on the other side of seventy five and he works like a guy who is twenty five. He’s amazing. He can do anything with any kind of equipment and machinery. He’s tireless and he will do anything for the exhibitors.”

“Mike Maxwell is our PR guy,” noted Conroy. “He’s the best troubleshooter we’ve got. He really can do just about anything, and does. He’s the perfect balance between George and me.”

“I like to think of myself as the utility infielder,” said Maxwell.

“The greatest thrill for me is having the local trainers and riders supporting us,” said Richdale. “That and watching the show grow from a 400 hundred horse show to nearly 1100 horses in 2004. It has just been amazing to be able to assist Riverview in their quest to establish one of the finest cancer foundations anywhere.”

“It’s been a fun ride for me,” smiled Maxwell. “It’s been fun to watch this show grow from the sad state of affairs it was in when we took over, to being one of the premier shows on the East Coast. We’re pretty much maxed out as far as number of horses we can take, we’ve got the community totally involved and last year, during the Grand Prix, there wasn’t a single parking spot left. The community turned out in droves to see this event and that’s what we’ve been working towards.”

“Some horse shows are cookie cutter and others have a personality,” Conroy suggested. “We think the Monmouth County Horse Show has a personality and a lot of that comes from all of the people that volunteer their time to make it a great event. We have great support from the local people and especially the local horse community. So many of the locals feel they have an investment in the show, and they do. They are a huge part of what makes the Monmouth County Horse Show special.”

“There are so many horse shows that exhibitors have to choose from, we’re just thrilled that they continue to want to come to Monmouth,” adds Maxwell.

The Monmouth County Horse Show is once again a major stop on the East Coast tour, and this year will attract the cream of the equestrian crop, including Olympians Anne Kursinski, Kevin Babington and Nona Garson. Rolex National Show Jumping Champion Jimmy Torano will be joined by Grand Prix of Devon winner and defending Stillwell-Hansen Grand Prix champion, Kent Farrington. And Frank Chapot, who enjoyed the glory days of Monmouth, returns with daughter Laura Chapot for the new glory days.

“I made a commitment to give back to the community and combine my love of horses with that,” said Show Chairman, Carol Stillwell. “The horse show has been gracious enough to allow us to use their venue to raise money.” Through the efforts of the Monmouth Group and Carol Stillwell’s hard work, the Monmouth County Horse Show has been able to contribute almost $100,000 to Riverview from every horse show for the past five years. In 2005, the Monmouth Group hopes to extend that fund raising streak to six years in a row and continue to improve on what is already one of the finest horse shows in America.

PHOTO CREDIT: Carol (Hofmann) Thompson on Salem at the 1966 Monmouth County Horse Show at Wolf Hill Farm. A Phelps Media Group File Photo


EVENT: 110th Annual Monmouth County Horse Show
Ride for Riverview to benefit Riverview Medical Center

WHAT: New Jersey’s Longest Running and Most Prestigious Hunter and Jumper Horse Show. Sanctioned and recognized by: United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) “AA” USEF 3*, American Hunter Jumper Foundation (AHJF), New Jersey Professional Horseman’s Association (NJPHA), New Jersey Horse Show Association (NJHSA), Marshall and Sterling and USGPL, North American League, Washington International Horse Show, A Member Event of the World Champion Hunter Rider Program Tour. (AHJF/WCHR Series)

WHERE: East Freehold Park, Freehold, New Jersey

WHEN: August 17th through 21st, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005
$10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Stake

Saturday, August 20, 2005
$10,000 Paul Miller Automotive Saab/Land Rover of Woodbridge Hunter Classic
Junior, Amateur Owner, Children and Adult Jumpers

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Juliam Farm Leadline Classes
Pipe and Drum Band
$5,000 Junior-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic
$30,000 Stillwell-Hansen Grand Prix

ADMISSION: Admission is free to the public.

PARKING: Parking is free to the public.

VIP SEATING: Spectator Club Tables:
Front Row Tables (seating for 12) $1,500
2nd & 3rd Row Tables (seating for 8) $1,000
Includes lunch Wed through Saturday 12-2, Sunday 1-3
We DO NOT sell individual seats.

Caterer is "David's World Famous"

Kim Tudor - 908-512-2828 or Ellen Tulley – 732-462-0002
or email at:

VENDOR/TRADE: Prices range from $200 to $250 with oversized spaces available. Hook ups and water extra. Vendors, please call Ellen Tully, Chairman - Vendor Organizing Committee at 732-462-0002 for further information. Or email at:

Garden State Parkway to Rte. 9 South. Rte. 9 South to Rte. 18 South. Rte. 18 South to Rte. 537 West. Rte. 527 West to Kozloski Rd. jughandle (right turn). Follow ramp to Kozlowski Road West. Show grounds 1 ½ miles on the right.

From South
Garden State Parkway to Exit 98, Rte. 35 North. Rte. 34 North to Rte. 33 West. Rte. 33 West to Kozlowski Road. Turn right on Kozlowski Rd. Show grounds after first light on left.

From Turnpike
Exit 8 (from South). Take Rte. 33 East, stay on alternate route (not business) to Halls Mills Road East. Halls Mills Road turns into Kozloski Rd. after third light. Show grounds is on left.

THE FACILITY: East Freehold Park
1500 Kozloski Road, Freehold, NJ
(732) 842-4000 or (732) 431-4664

81 beautiful acres of show grounds for horse shows, dog shows, and special events each year, including the Irish Festival. East Freehold Park is the home of the annual Monmouth County Fair. Upwards of 100,000 people enjoy the 5-day late July event. Permanent show rings. Tens of thousands have attended the Monmouth County Horse Show over the years.

HIGHLIGHTS: The 110th Annual Monmouth County Horse Show and the Ride for Riverview will once again benefit the Jane H. and John Marshall Booker Cancer Center at Riverview Medical Center, located in Red Bank, New Jersey. Through the generosity of sponsors and exhibitors, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for this worthwhile cause.

Friday, August 19, 2005
$15,000 Open Jumper Welcome Stake

Saturday, August 20, 2005
“Family Day at Monmouth” 10am-4pm featuring Pony Rides, Face Painting, Clowns, Rides and Games

$10,000 Paul Miller Automotive Saab/Land Rover of Woodbridge Hunter Classic

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Juliam Farms Leadline classes
Pipe and Drum Band
$5,000 Junior-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic
$30,000 Stillwell-Hansen Grand Prix


The Monmouth Group, Inc.

Stadium Jumping, Inc.
1301 Sixth Ave West Suite 406
Bradenton, FL 34205

Prior to August 15 (941) 744-5465
From August 16 (732) 780-3150
(732) 462-8864 fax prior to show

MEDIA CONTACT: Phelps Media Group, Inc.
Kenneth Kraus
Mason Phelps, Jr.
Jennifer Wood
13833 Wellington Trace
Unit E-4 #221
Wellington, Florida 33414

PHOTO CREDIT: Carol (Hofmann) Thompson on Salem at the 1966 Monmouth County Horse Show at Wolf Hill Farm. A Phelps Media Group File Photo


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