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Friday, January 14, 2011

Tricorne Farm Riding School (TFRS)

My parents must have known this place was the right one to really begin my equestrian career, because my initials were "TF." It was my OWN riding school! :-)  My mom tells me they found it through an acquaintance of hers, whose daughter rode there and liked it. I sure was lucky my folks were willing to put me in lessons at all, because I've heard from a lot of women that they simply weren't allowed.

Tricorne was located about two miles from my home in suburban Holmdel, New Jersey. Yes, that's right, the land of oil refineries, strip malls and Mafia dons with itchy trigger fingers - funny that we also boasted the largest number of horses outside of the state of Texas (or so I was always told). Just to really make my point, within a five mile radius of my home were at least two other riding establishments, and once a couple of backyard horses got out and wound up running wild in our own yard. That is a great story in itself. My poor dad was doing dishes at 2:00 AM after a dinner party where spirits had been liberally poured. He thought he'd really gone 'round the bend when he heard thundering hooves and looked out the window to see equines dodging the swingset. I myself was furious when I got up the next morning and saw actual hoofprints in the yard; as far as I was concerned, it should have been "finders keepers," and I was beside myself thinking Dad could have played cowboy, lassoed one of the runaways, and I would have awoken to my personal dream of my Very Own Horse tied to a tree outside my window. ARGH!

Anyway, Tricorne was set on about 10 hilly acres. A secondary road ran across the front of the property, by the main riding arena and a couple of pastures. There was a long dirt driveway uphill to the parking area in front of the barn complex. The original barn was a huge old thing; it basically was a gigantic hayloft, on top of stalls for boarder's horses underneath it (I wish I knew when it had been built, because I bet it was historically significant). There were wings of stabling off to the left and the right. The right side was all boarders, and the left was where the school horses lived, aka "my" domain. I think there was probably room for around 35 horses altogether.

We had a really interesting indoor arena in addition to the outdoor ring. It was quite large, around 150' by 50', and constructed of cinderblocks with a "real" roof (albeit draped with thousands of dirty cobwebs). It probably would have withstood hurricane-force winds. The footing was tanbark or some other kind of brown dirt. I wound up eating plenty of it, so I know how it tasted, but I'm not sure what it was. Needless to say, there was no sprinkler system, so a bunch of horses churning around in there meant the air was absolutely FULL of dust. That's what I meant by eating it - although yes, I also hit the deck quite a few times! And forget about blowing your nose afterwards (gross).

There were pastures on all sides of the barn complex, and the large one behind the school horse barn that was their pasture also had a riding track that ran around the inside. When it was time for the schoolies to go out, they simply opened the back door and went down the aisle unclipping chains from the standing stalls. The horses would back out and crowd down the aisle to freedom. When the horses would come back in, the process would be reversed, and we all knew we'd better be out of the way when they came charging back in the barn to get to their feed. What amazed me was every one of those horses knew exactly where his stall was and would head straight for it.

If you caught that - yes, I'm afraid almost all of the school horses lived in standing stalls. There were a couple of "special" ones that were accorded box stalls, but the majority spent their indoor time in a narrow space, haltered and chained to their mangers, with another chain behind their butts. I can't remember if there were windows; if there were, I'm sure they were covered in dust and cobwebs, like everything else. Once in a while someone would slip his halter (all geldings) and we'd find him turned around, quite excited to see what was going on for a change. Now I would be shocked to find standing stalls in a barn but I guess back then it was not unusual.

Everyone at Tricorne rode Hunter/Jumper. Even if I'd wanted to ride Western, I have no idea where that would have been possible in NJ at that time. George Morris and Hunterdon up in Hunterdon County were held up as the ultimate pinnacle of hunter excellence, and even the rich kids at my barn spoke in hushed tones about the privileged youth and horses that rode/resided there. "You don't even tack up your own horse..." Nowadays, that's commonplace, but to a kid who thoroughly enjoyed her hours grooming and tacking school horses it actually didn't sound like too much fun - except when it was boiling hot or freezing cold. To this day, of course, many of the top Jr. H/J riders come out of New Jersey barns and trainers... Beacon Hill, Quiet Winter, etc. Those establishments are all in the nearby area of Colts Neck, NJ. 

Tricorne enjoyed a good reputation, but I don't think it was ever viewed as a "top-notch" stable. We had our share of wealthy boarders, but it wasn't a fancy place, and their focus was evenly divided between the boarders and the academy students. It was reasonably safe, the horses were well-fed, the facility was nice enough, and the trainers were good. They held twice-yearly academy shows. This suited me and my family just fine. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities provided to me there to ride and show without having to own my own pony or horse, and I am also forever grateful that my parents were willing to put up with and finance the "horse habit."

Now that I've described the facility, I'll get to the good part in my next post - the HORSES.

(Sorry there are no photos with this post - I have none of just the farm. But there are plenty coming with me in them!)


  1. How I came to your blog is by sentiment.

    My boyfriend was out meeting friends after work so, after a long day, decided to stay home and watch the old TV. After a little clicking around, I saw the Black Stallion was on AMC. Taking full advantage that said BF was not home, I of course started to watch. I remember my mother taking me to see the movie and of course it was because I loved horses and at the time I had one of my own.

    Like so many of us do, I grabbed the laptop and started to Google: Tricorne Farm. This is how I found your blog. This is also where I assume as children we must have crossed paths. I too learned how to ride at Tricorne. Mr. Mac, Little John, Huckleberry Finn. I am 42 and these names are burned into my memory better than anything I ever learned in school or people I have worked with. I too spent hours at Tricorne and I am forever grateful to Mr. & Mrs. Stafford who taught me to ride and who helped me to convince my parents to buy me the best friend I ever had as a child. A liver chestnut pony named Herbie (or more fancy Sir Herbert).

    You will be glad to know that I have been riding on and off since I was a kid. I live in NYC and if you can believe it I have found barns in the area to ride in. Like you, I hope to have an off track thoroughbred in my future too.

  2. Hi, I too rode at Tricorne Farm. This would have been in the 1960's. I started out riding school horses, Tarbaby, Wave, Frolic, Schaeffer are some I remember. I loved the Near-by Riding shop and to visit with Mr. Geant. I ended up buying Chester Two who was a great first horse. The hours spent riding the trials and the horse shows are ones I will never forget.

    1. Ann,
      I can't believe finding this! I also remember Thumper, Conrad, Benny (racing name High Bracket), Petit Four, and the first Chester who wasn't as nice as Two was. I loved Jim, the retired steeplechaser the most.. I took lessons from Peggy Saverese and Ilsa ? from 1960 until my father said no more... Lisa Kelly (aka Louise) MTHS'70

    2. I also took lessons at Tricorne, Benny was my favorite horse to ride. I was warned not to ride him in a show, he would think he's in a race and tense up, I did anyway and he threw me over a back on him and finished with a blue ribbon. I don't think my hip has ever been the same. I miss Benny.

  3. I too have fond memories of Tricorne Farm. I remember Frolic and Schaeffer, and also Thumper and Conrad. I think the horses were not unhappy in their straight stalls - they had plenty of turnout and grazing time in that large pasture, and they all had time off (at pasture) between the lesson sessions.
    It was a great place to learn to ride.

  4. I started my riding career in the 1950's, not long after Tricorn (no e at the time) opened. When I started Peggy was Peggy Savarese (married to Armand, the trainer/owner with her). Armand died of a heart attack suddenly, and Peggy was left to run the stable. I rode Stormy in my first horse show and on my first hunt as well as Me Too, Thumper, Tar Baby, Benny (aka High Bracket - a beautiful bay TB), and there was Barnegat Bay, Jubilee, and Tricorn's First, down in the lower barn with the boarders.

    I taught beginners in my senior year in high school. I also helped Peggy out with the Sunday family lessons, and that is where she met Fred Stafford. That year, in the school show, I made the mistake of trying a heavy duty spur on Schaeffer in the open jumping class. He did great and was clean until we came to the in gate. He had enough and, much to my surprise, jumped right out of the ring, right into Mr. Geant, and, I think, dislocated his shoulder. A big embarassment and a big lesson for me. There were several people, including Andy, Peggy's daughter, who showed seriously and qualified for the Medal/Maclay National championships. It was a simpler time.

    The farm was 50 acres at the time. The farm next door was owned by the McLain family - active in the Monmouth County hunt. They sold it to a family from Va., Mark and Nora Thoman. Nora had gone to Sweetbriar and was a student of Capt. Littauer (I believe she edited one of his books). I believe she introduced Peggy to "the Captain" and he came to the farm for a clinic or two.

    I had to give up riding when I went to college and my family moved to Wisconsin. I started again after I retired and have found a wonderfully friendly barn in rural Virginia, where I have been able to rekindle my love of horses and riding.

    Thank you Peggy, and all of the people and horses who started my love of this sport. What a great way to grow up and learn life's lessons in a wonderful environment

  5. Ann, Robin and Barbara - I sincerely apologize. I was so excited to read your comments about Tricorne but every time they came in I was too busy to reply. (I think I responded to Pistachio on another post but you're included, too!) I hope you all see this response!

    It's wonderful that you all share my extremely fond memories of Tricorne. Thank you for the reminders of horses that I rode and had forgotten: Tarbaby, Shaeffer, and Conrad. I have recalled another - Jack Be Nimble. I think I was allowed on him exactly once: he was "special," and lived in a box stall across the aisle from the straight stalls. Jack was a smallish chestnut, if I recall correctly.

    While I do remember the Staffords - it was Peggy who gave me permission to ride as their youngest student ever - I am fuzzy on the chronology of ownership/management. I started there in 1968, and I do not remember Mr. Geant at all. Was he an instructor? At some point the Staffords sold the farm or the Busches moved in to run it. They lived in a grey saltbox-style house up on the hillside past the indoor arena.

    I actually don't recall who taught me at Tricorne when I was really little. I DO remember "Major" Mike Maxwell, who was there from when I was about 8 - 11. Then a younger gal - the name Michelle comes to mind - took over. Shortly after that, I transferred to another barn, which I haven't posted about yet (need to do that). I can't believe Capt. Littauer came for clinics, holy cow! Or that the farm was 50 acres... it absolutely breaks my heart that Tricorne is no more, along with the other barn next door. All covered in McMansions and condos. I have always hoped and prayed that no horse bones were disturbed when they dug the basements. :-(

    Barbara, that is some story about Shaeffer jumping right out of the ring! I would have died of embarrassment. It's wonderful that you are riding again - I'm jealous that you're in VA, which sure is some gorgeous horse country.

    The name "Nearby Riding Shop" rings a bell, so I'll have to ask my mom if she ever took me there. I remember going to someone's house over in Rumson who had used gear and getting some stuff there, and I definitely recall a number of visits to Kislins in Red Bank. Got some of those horrid stiff breeches with leg buttons there. :-) Thank God for Lycra!

    Do you guys remember Blair Pinsley? Her mom and dad owned Kislins and she rode at Tricorne. She was a very successful Jr. and I got to see her in the Maclay Finals at MSG, which was a big thrill (not that she ever gave me the time of day, alas).

    I could spend hours yarning away about all the good times at Tricorne... playing on hay bales in the loft... feeding carrots to boarders... slurping Mountain Dew from the soda machine on broiling hot days during summer camp (I can't see a can of that stuff without being taken right back)... how proud I was to ride in front of the family at the shows. Ah, memories. Thanks for reading!

  6. Add me to the list of googlers! I went to Tricorne from 1973 to 1975 in the summers. I have some old photos I can share. I remember horse names: Easy was a former racehorse with a wheeze. Little John a painted pony, Jack a bay pony my favorite, I dimly remember a Dutch and a Tar baby?? Anyway post if you'd like the pix. They are a riot. Great great description of the place. All those KITTENS too!

  7. Welcome! There is a picture of me riding Easy in the Tricorne blog post after this one. God bless him, yes, he had a bad case of heaves. Sadly, I was riding the day a trailer came and took him away forever. I'm sure we know where he went. :-( And yes, Tar Baby! I can see him now - large and black, of course. Little John was everyone's favorite. Did you know he lived to be like 40 years old? Dutch I do not recall, but I wrote about Jack Be Nimble in my comment above.

    If you want to send me a link to your photos that would be super!!! (Online album I could access would be great) I'll make a whole new Tricorne post, in fact. It gives me great pleasure to relive those days with others who knew my special equine friends. :-)

  8. I also learned to ride at Tricorn farm, and I say "learned" with only the loosest form of the word. I started at 8 years old- which would make the year about 1977. My momories are not quite as fond as yours and I marvel at how unwavering my love of horses must have been that week after week I braved the terror and pain of my riding lesson so that I could actually be near real horses. Sometimes a child's memory has merciful gaps where the contuinity of the story is never put into scrutiny. For me the largest gap regards where was my mother... as she had to drive me to the lesson- but I also recall that we had a ritual after the lesson in the parking lot. I had to do a turn in front of her as she inspected my riding outfit for dirt- to see if I'd finally managed to get through a whole lesson without coming off. I didn't really question it then, but now as an adult I really have to wonder about that. She knew that I was coming off just about every lesson and yet she couldn't be bothered to sit around and watch? (or maybe be there to take me to the hospital if I ever did manage to hurt myself?) ...and where could she even go in an hour? So, the dirt of the indoor you described so perfectly- I knew it well... I knew a terrified feeling of laying sprawled in it- trying desperatly to inhale- the odd expressions of other students looking down at me without dismounting- their horses looked more concerned. A girth looks strange from this angle... the bottom of the stirrup I lost hanging there empty- maybe they were not concerned that I was OK, but if someone might pull me out of the way so the group lesson could go on... huuuu huuuu huuuuu... my diaphram tried desperatly to drag a breath of that powdered gritty manure dust into my lungs while my tears made peat colored patterns on my face- the Tricorn farm version of glitter on glue.

    I don't remember the names of any of the horses, nor the teacher, but I believe that she was the daughter of the owner and that teaching a group lesson was a family chore to her, much worse than taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn with a reel mower. I think she smoked during the lesson and she had a raspy voice- maybe it was just the result of breathing that dirty air in the arena. I just remember "heels down" being barked with regularity- echoing around in there like the repetetive alarm of a bird scaring predator call- with very little effect on the residents circling the cavernous space.

    And one time I brought a slice of apple for my horse, and I gave it to him while he was still bridled- and I got such a verbal working over... as if an old school horse might actually choke on an apple.

    There is more to the story- but I think it goes to another post.

  9. Oh, my goodness - Sarah, I am SO sorry that you had to endure all that! (Yes, your comments are coming through and I'll reply to everything) If you read my posts about Little Ranch ("Little Hope For Me," Parts I and II) you'll know that I completely understand. I had a miserable time there yet many, many other girls have fond memories of the place.

    You came on the scene at Tricorne after I was already gone (1975), and I don't think that is a coincidence. Once again, I'm sure there are other people who would disagree that maybe the quality of the instruction wasn't the greatest then, but your experience mirrors mine so we'll just go with it. There also was a phase for me at Tricorne in earlier years, where the then-instructor scared the pants off of me and I fell off more often, so I really do get it. You're desperate to be with horses, you want to ride, and it hurts psychologically and physically when things don't go well. You sound like the same kind of sensitive kid I was, too, which makes things even worse. But feeling like everything is wrong can happen no what your age. It's so important to find a barn where you're comfortable in all ways. Riding is just too darn expensive, for one thing, to waste time being miserable!

    I must admit I chuckled at your mention of girths and stirrups looking funny from the ground up. They sure do, and I think EVERY rider around would agree. We've all been there!

    I hope you have gone on to have many wonderful riding experiences, as I have. I'm glad you're enjoying reading here and I do love hearing from people!

  10. Yup I remember tricorn farms, my first riding "school", and my sadistic instructor Peggy. I was very young, about five, in the sixties and my first "lesson" from Peggy. I got on the horse and into the ring and she smacked the back of my horse to go over the jump. Well it was only me that went over the jump. I kept going back though and I was finally allowed to go on the trail with Peggy and "the big girls". I showed, won ribbons and later was bestowed with my own horse. I didn't board him at tricorn though. Funny, the woman who owned that stable was mean too but I was able to avoid her. Peggy was the owner who inherited it when she was widowed. Enjoyed your blog and the other posts. I loved living in Middletown. I live in Miami and love telling people how beautiful and 'horsey' NewJersey is. I visited Middletown 3 years ago, still beautiful.

  11. Someone mentioned the woman into her 80's who went fox hunting. Its true, thats where I kept Blue Boy, I think it was Cherry Hill Road (Possibly not though), she had a beautiful stable.

  12. A snow day and a trip down memory lane while clearing out my mom's house in preparation for a sale have me revisiting this blog. I think I can supply some answers to the queries above. The woman who fox hunted into her 80's may have been Mrs. Armstrong. She owned a nearby stable. I remember she had a very weather beaten face and belonged to Monmouth Beach Club. I have taken up fox hunting since my last post, and hope to continue it into MY 80's!

    Mr. Geant helped out with the farm work. I am not sure if he was an employee or just liked being around the horses.

    For those who remember Conrad, he was named after one of the male riding students who had red hair and freckles.

    I recall hearing that Blair Pinsley won the Junior Hunter Championship at the National Horse Show in the late 1960s. She had a sister who rode as well, Shawn.

    I found some old pictures of Stormy, Tar Baby, Benny, Barnegat Bay, and Inventory as well as an old pamphlet for the farm that I will attempt to post for anyone who is interested.

    I believe that Jim was from Ireland and was owned by a student named Susy Walker, then became a school horse when she finished high school.

    Sarah, I am sorry you did not have the great experience that I did. I know there were some challenges farm faced in the 70's and it sounds like you got the worst of it.

    1. Hi Barbara. I would love a picture of Barney. I took care of him during the last 6 months of his life.

  13. I also took lessons at Tricorn. I loved the lessons. I remember my father talking about wanting to buy the house across the street on the hill over looking the farm. He never bought the houses and I continued lessons at Baymar Farms.

  14. I grew up riding at Congo Jones School of Horsemanship in Lincroft, but showed a few times at Tricorne. Mrs. Armstrong was a truly nasty piece of work BUT when she was in her 90s and in a nursing home, doctors started giving her antidepressants because she was so vicious to the nurses and staff. The last year of her life she was a sweet old lady. Really a shame someone didn't recognize her problem sooner.

    1. All these posts brought back so many memories. I lived right across Newman Springs Road from Congo Joneses place. When I was very young I used to go up to the farm right after school every day no matter what the weather He would put me up on a school horse so that it would get enough exercise during the winter months As a result I pretty much got a free lesson every day After I got married I had my own little thoroughbred that I kept up there only for nostalgie reasons and it was cheap After that I made my living training believe it or not trotters and Pacers and ended up to be very successful If there's anyone else out there that road with me at Congos I would love to hear from you

  15. Wow, this is such a time-travel back in time! I took lessons, then later on taught beginners, at Congo's, but at some point, my mother wanted me to go to a "better" place, so I went to Tricorn. I think it was in 1967, and I took lessons with Shawn Pinsley. I remember Elsa or Elka, a German lady who kindly pushed me beyond where I thought I could go, especially in jumping. I usually rode Thumper, and loved that boy! I eventually went back to Congo's, mostly because I liked the camaraderie. Wow, what memories!

    1. Wow-- who are you? I grew up there too!! Message me on Facebook or email LINEFRITZY@ GMAIL.COM.

  16. What year were you at Tricorne? I show jumped for them back in 78-83. In your picture it looks like you are riding Smokey...I used to ride Peter Pan.

  17. What a trip down memory lane here! I rode here in the 70's for some time and then moved to a farm in Middletown with my sisters. I moved my horse back to Tricorne in 1980 when my parents bought the hay field from Mr. Busch.I loved the farm, looked forward to spending every day after school here with my friends Kevin Wall Erica Broberg Lisa Ruggiero Lauren Scott and Chip Weber. Wish my own children had the experience of hanging out with Ginger Busch and Alby at the barn.....

  18. What a trip down memory lane here! I rode here in the 70's for some time and then moved to a farm in Middletown with my sisters. I moved my horse back to Tricorne in 1980 when my parents bought the hay field from Mr. Busch.I loved the farm, looked forward to spending every day after school here with my friends Kevin Wall Erica Broberg Lisa Ruggiero Lauren Scott and Chip Weber. Wish my own children had the experience of hanging out with Ginger Busch and Alby at the barn.....

  19. This was a treat, thanks to all. My lifelong obsession with horses began at Tricorne, and continued after moving to Texas in 1967. I know I rode with some of you in the sixties and we fought over the same horses. I have photos of receiving my first blue ribbon, happily holding Shaeffer's reins while he looked on totally bored. When I was allowed on Barnegat Bay I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! - Holly Flynn Williams, Denver CO

  20. Barnegat Bay

    I whispered, “I love you”
    and then, “Goodbye”
    face buried deep
    in his warm winter coat.
    Snow crunching hoof steps,
    trusting, he followed us
    down to the pines
    where I’d whistled in winter.
    The smell of sedative,
    the rifle cracked hard
    and his young body fell
    onto knees that betrayed.
    I shoveled my tears,
    leapt out of boyhood,
    “A man now,” they said.
    I dared not show them.

  21. Boy what a blast from the past. As a girl I took lessons at Congo Jones School of Horsemanship. Started over on Swimming River Road at a riding school by the reservoir where the instructor was a teenage girl. Her parents owned the place.but I don't recall the name. Took one lesson from her and she was just an evil bitch. My mom asked her mom where she learned and it was Congo Jones so we switched immediately to him. As a girl I always dreamed of taking lessons at Tricorn Farms but never did. Latter in life I took lessons with some work buddies out in Howell. But I can't recall the name of the stable. After all my buddies quite taking lessons I stayed with it and took lesson with Kathy Poppy in Colts Neck. But that was 20 or more years ago. Thinking of taking it up again here in Texas.

    1. Reynard's by the reservoir, used to rent horses by the hour. I remember the daughter! I went to Tricorne starting in 1966. Tarbaby, Thumper, EZ Duzit, Trooper Jim, Bucky, Frolic, Petit Four, Conrad, little Beverly the gorgeous Welsh pony, Little John, Dapper Dan, Schaefer, Linus, Hojo, Queenie (she was Fred's and used to foxhunt). Took lessons from Elsa, Peggy, Fred, and Andy the daughter. Remember some boarder horses Patent Pending, Constant Knight, Burgundy Miss, Teddy (So Be It, the big grey it said on his name plate), Chester, Hasty Trade, Captain Hook the pony. Names burned into my brain all those years ago!

    2. You probably rode with my sister, Valerie. We all took lessons with Elsa! My sister rode Dapper Dan a lot as well as Queenie. I had a horse that took off on me during a lesson, scared me to death! Great times.

  22. Boy what a blast from the past. As a girl I took lessons at Congo Jones School of Horsemanship. Started over on Swimming River Road at a riding school by the reservoir where the instructor was a teenage girl. Her parents owned the place.but I don't recall the name. Took one lesson from her and she was just an evil bitch. My mom asked her mom where she learned and it was Congo Jones so we switched immediately to him. As a girl I always dreamed of taking lessons at Tricorn Farms but never did. Latter in life I took lessons with some work buddies out in Howell. But I can't recall the name of the stable. After all my buddies quite taking lessons I stayed with it and took lesson with Kathy Poppy in Colts Neck. But that was 20 or more years ago. Thinking of taking it up again here in Texas.

  23. Hi. I, along with my brother and sister, rode at Tricorne Farm in the 60’s. My sister, Valerie, was the bigger rider of us. She did all the shows and won a lot of ribbons. I remember Valerie being given Queenie to ride when she was about 8 for the musical bags competition. Valerie was tiny and Queenie was not. I remember Thumper, Dapper Dan and Robin. I also remember the Bushes and they took over the farm. We bought a horse and boarded him next door with the Nankervis(?). Valerie took lessons with Elsa and years later Blair Pinsley gave Valerie some train advice with her horse, Gypsy. I love horses. Thanks for posting this. Vickey Podell O’


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