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  • Writer's pictureCatie Staszak

New Footing, Same Results? Breaking Down Old Salem Farm’s Surface Switch

Georgina Bloomberg wins on the grass at Old Salem Farm in 2019 (The Book, LLC); Katie Dinan wins on the synthetic surface in 2022 (Randolph PR)

At the 2022 Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows, North Salem, NY’s premier competition venue debuted its brand new International Ring, equipped with a completely renovated surface. After years of being identified by its picturesque, sloping natural grass field, Old Salem’s main ring is now an all-weather synthetic surface.

Many of the country’s best athletes base nearby in the summer, and over the years, locals McLain Ward, Brianne Goutal, Georgina Bloomberg and Katie Dinan have dominated the results. But with a new arena, would that home field advantage remain? Only time will tell, but until then, Prixview has compiled the numbers that illustrate the early impact of the surface switch.

Between 2018 and 2021, the average number of faults in international competition at Old Salem Farm, across all CSI competitors, was 5. In 2022, from four international classes held during the first week of the show series, that average is only slightly higher at 6. While this could be affected by the new surface, one must also take into account the new time fault rule, as well as that while the first week of the series is typically held at the CSI2* level, this year, CSI3* classes kicked off the two-week circuit, with four-star competition on to the calendar this week. It’s also worth noting that the average number of faults has steadily increased every year from 2018—meaning, the sport is truly getting more technical.

McLain Ward has used the Old Salem Farm Spring Series in previous years to debut up-and-coming mounts. The names HH Azur and Clinta certainly come to mind when reviewing Ward’s impressive resume at the venue. With 13 career international victories at Old Salem, he is now co-chair of the Spring Series. This year, Ward has brought out top speed horse Catoki and is using the series to bring back CSI5* Grand Prix winner Noche de Ronda, but current top mounts Contagious and Kasper van het Hellehof are bound for Europe while Short Listed for the 2022 World Championships this summer. Still, Ward remains consistent. His average placing between 2018 and 2021 at Old Salem was 15; this year, that average has only risen slightly to 19.

Katie Dinan’s Grant Road Partners is named after the local Grant Road, just two miles from Old Salem Farm. Dinan has easily taken to the new surface at the venue, with no adjustment needed. Between 2018 and 2021, her average finish position was 19. This year, she is averaging a finish in the top 12. That includes a win in last week’s CSI3* New York Welcome Stake.

Georgina Bloomberg and Brianne Goutal have long been fixtures at Old Salem, coming up through the ranks at the venue with highly decorated junior careers. But these two riders have seen their average finish position drop in 2022 compared to their 2018-2021 averages. Goutal averaged a finish position of 43 last week after averaging a finish among the top 20 between in 2018 and 2021, but this is certainly due to the fact that she had just one international mount last week—a 9-year-old with which she was debuting at the FEI level. Bloomberg, whose average finish also dropped from 18 (2018-2021) to 28 (2022), also has a simple explanation: She has only recently returned to the saddle after missing much of the winter due to injury.

The sample size will increase as time goes on and we see more of this surface in action, but feedback from riders at the venue confirms that while the arena has a new look, much of its natural gradient remains, making for a still-very specific and technical ride. Expect the home field advantage to continue—with fewer divots and rain delays.

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