The sound of horse hooves breezing around a training track at sunrise in New Jersey leads to more than just a winner’s circle. Here, the horse industry translates into real dollars, creating an agricultural ripple effect across the state for everyone from veterinarians to hay farmers. New Jersey is home to the U.S. Equestrian Team, hosts the Hambletonian Stakes, the richest race in the world for trotters, and supports tens of thousands of horses across the state. In fact, New Jersey is one of the leading states in terms of horses per square mile.
Showplace Farms, opened in the 1970s, symbolizes the quiet excellence of New Jersey’s equine business. A privately owned, standardbred training facility, Showplace Farms is located in Monmouth County. The facility, which houses approximately 400 race horses, valued at $25 million, knows a thing or two about developing equine athletes. For decades, Showplace Farms has produced far too many champions to list.
More like a self-contained city, Showplace Farms works with 70 veterinarians, operates a cafeteria and farrier services, and employs approximately 25 full- and part-time staff. Feed dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and tack suppliers are just a few of the supplemental industries that Showplace helps to sustain. And that’s not all. The boost to the local economy is undeniable.
“We are the largest taxpayer in this county, paying $100,000 in taxes,” says Bix DiMeo, general manager of the facility for 20 years.
While private, Showplace will open its doors to support education and raise awareness about the importance of the equine industry, giving tours to schools and local nonprofits, according to DiMeo. Showplace falls under the auspices of the New Jersey Racing Commission, which regulates the industry, and only licensed trainers are allowed to work at the facility.
Dedicated to its clients, Showplace continually seeks ways to improve services.
“We’re always looking at new technology or equipment to offer at the facility. We’re all about service to our clients,” DiMeo says.
Just off Route 195 in Monmouth County sits the Horse Park of New Jersey at Stone Tavern, a 185-acre facility that is home to countless show events throughout the year including the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day event held each May. Most weekends and many weekdays from March through November will see the Park bustling with action. Major events that have been held at the Horse Park include the 1994 National Hunter Pony Finals and the 2004 final mandatory outing for horses and riders competing for a place on the U.S. Olympic team for three-day eventing. The Park also hosts the annual New Jersey Festival of Horses, a full day of activities designed to enlighten visitors about the horse’s important role in the state’s economy.
In Logan Township, the Gloucester County DREAM Park opened in 2008, offering a wide range of events throughout the year. Located on 200 acres on the Delaware River, the facility features state-of-the art equipment, a main arena (indoor) with stadium seating, an indoor practice arena, multiple rings, heated stables, sheds, temporary horse boarding, RV parking with electric and water hookups and riding trails.
“We have a robust agritourism and equine industry along with historic sites, wineries, arts and entertainment,” says Robert Damminger, Gloucester County Freeholder Director.
Venues like the DREAM Park promote the county and bring visitors to the region, where they spend their recreational dollars. Between 2008 and 2010, Gloucester tourism expenditures increased by $90.5 million, a 17.8 percent increase, the largest tourism growth rate in the state. Shows are booked throughout the year with highlights including the Garden State Paint Horse Club Shows, Eastern Pennsylvania Reining Horse Association, Bulls and Barrel Racing, and Hunter Jumper shows.